Shrink-wrapping Consciousness

by rsbakker

Aphorsim of the Day I: Perception is simply introspection with strategic agnosia.

Aphorism of the Day II: What does the brain look like when viewed from within? The world.

Another philosophical eye-crosser alert. I find all this stuff embarrassing for some reason. Evidence of my crackpotitude, perhaps…

In order to linguistically communicate with other brains, the brain needs to first track its own processing, then condense and translate it into a linear code. I see experience as a kind of translational possibility space, where everything that can be spoken about is ‘rendered’ for possible translation into speech–this is the working hypothesis I’ve used for years now, anyway. Consciousness as the staging area for dynamic data compression and linguistic transmission. Given the opportunistic vagaries of evolution, it has doubtless been yoked to many other uses, but I see this as the primary developmental engine of consciousness, you might say. This has been my guiding fable.

For some reason, the hominid brain developed a secondary brain, a neural fifth column, to infiltrate and monitor the most reproductively pertinent functions of the original. So I am interested in neural reflexivity: Hofstadter’s Metamagical Themas and Godel, Escher, and Bach, which I read with avid excitment in the late 80’s, have undoubtedly influenced me in innumerable ways. But I know when Strange Loops came out I was very excited to see where his musings had led him, but actually never bothered purchasing the thing after thumbing through it at the book store. 

For me, the seminal question was one of what we might expect when a brain that has been successfully tracking its environments over millions of years begins, in a relatively wholesale fashion, tracking itself. This is what led me to the Blind Brain Hypothesis: the idea that the structure of experience is the result of a brain that is structurally and developmentally unable to see itself as another brain in its environment. Why each brain, although part of the environment it tracks, comprises a kind of environmental blindspot–and why it finds it so difficult to reconcile its third-person and first-person versions of itself (or why there is a mind-body problem). I came up with a number of things: process asymmetry, the way growing more circuits to track existing circuits simply adds to the amount of untracked circuitry; evolutionary youth, the way these new circuits lack the hundred million plus year pedigree of the circuits used to track external environments; evolutionary serendipity, the way these circuits had to earn their keep across the caprice of environmental change; positional invariability, the way the brain is hardwired to its internal environment, and so cannot sample it the way it can its external. There’s others that I can’t remember…

And a lot of interesting things seemed to fall out of these musings: the possibility, for instance, that intentionality could be structurally and developmentally mandated such that we could assume that any ETI we encounter possesses its own version of it. Or the interesting possibility of multiple awarenesses inhabiting the same brain, each, perhaps, as convinced as the others that they are the sole owner/operator.

Encapsulation Theory, which I have in no way explained, arose from this as well.

But time is short, so it’ll have to wait for my next (eye-crossing) post.