all 5 comments

[–]magnora7 2 insightful - 1 funny2 insightful - 0 funny3 insightful - 1 funny -  (4 children)

I think plant consciousness is very interesting. It's really one of the untapped frontiers of science, because it's obvious plants are alive and respond to their environment. They have hormone and immune systems and complex movement patterns that respond to weather and sunlight variations... it doesn't seem to be that much more far fetched to say a plant would have an subjective experience than to say the same about an insect or a bacteria even.

[–]monkey 2 insightful - 1 funny2 insightful - 0 funny3 insightful - 1 funny -  (3 children)

a plant would have an subjective experience than to say the same about an insect or a bacteria even.

Or a rock? Piece of cheese? Where are you going to draw the line?

Consciousness is one of the great remaining mysteries, but it does seem to be produced by the brain, in that it is affected by brain injury, and not affected by injuries to other body parts. Plants lack any centralised organ like the brain, so what part of a plant could produce the phenomenon of consciousness, bizarre and mysterious as it is?

[–]magnora7 2 insightful - 1 funny2 insightful - 0 funny3 insightful - 1 funny -  (2 children)

I don't think there is a line, just varying degrees of complexity.

I disagree that it's produced by the brain. You can remove half the brain and the person is still conscious.

It's very possible your consciousness is a democracy of lower-level consciousnesses, even down to the sub-atomic level.

If atoms don't have free will, then how can a brain made of atoms have free will?

[–]monkey 2 insightful - 1 funny2 insightful - 0 funny3 insightful - 1 funny -  (1 child)

I don't think there is a line, just varying degrees of complexity.

Are you saying there might be varying degrees of consciousness? Interested to hear what that means, as it seems to me one is either conscious or not. Of course, one consciousness may have different "tools" than another e.g. a cat doesn't have the depth of knowledge we humans have learnt from the culture we are born into, an octopus has a much more detailed perception of its environment to a human due to its superior eyesight but in all cases, there is a conscious self that exists.

It's very possible your consciousness is a democracy of lower-level consciousnesses, even down to the sub-atomic level.

From my own subjective experience, the "committee of consciousnesses" idea does seem to have potential validity. I have wondered whether the consciousness I call "me" is not the only consciousness contained within my body. For instance, I might be making a coffee - or rather some part of me is making the coffee while that"me" is daydreaming about some irrelevant nonsense such as the look that cute cashier gave me. The part of me making the coffee is using my senses, accessing my memory, activating my muscles and generally doing a pretty good job of being my personal barista. However sometimes it'll encounter a problem that it doesn't know how to solve, and it will suspend its activity and request my attention. So I wake up from my sweet daydream of that cashier's eyes, and realise that I'm about to put a couple of spoonfuls of rice into my drink instead of sugar. I can then fix the problem and get the coffee I want. It's as if my body has a Tesla-like autopilot system capable of making decisions at a more primitive level than "me". There are other similar cases that I notice that give me the impression that my brain has various subsystems capable of working autonomously yet seemingly all ultimately under the aegis of that conscious "me". I do wonder if any of these subsystems have their own distinct consciousness.

If atoms don't have free will, then how can a brain made of atoms have free will?

I don't believe atoms have free will, they seem steadfastly deterministic - if they weren't, we wouldn't be able to communicate reliably with computers like we are doing now.

I also read an interesting angle of free will on Reddit recently, where someone was proposing that we do not have free will, and we are in fact bound to seek to fulfill our desires. According to this idea, we don't ever make a free choice, rather we make calculated decisions to best satisfy our desires. Those desires are given to us by the physical structure of our brain (which encompasses genetically determined structure and learned knowledge).

[–]magnora7 1 insightful - 1 funny1 insightful - 0 funny2 insightful - 1 funny -  (0 children)

Of course, one consciousness may have different "tools" than another e.g. a cat doesn't have the depth of knowledge we humans have learnt from the culture we are born into, an octopus has a much more detailed perception of its environment to a human due to its superior eyesight but in all cases, there is a conscious self that exists.

There are two things we have to be careful not to confuse. The the core awareness or sense of existing that is the same in every being we can call "awareness". Then the "toolbox" we can call consciousness. So there are levels of consciousness (or mind, to use another word) but awareness is binary. A system has awareness or it doesn't.

And I'm saying that all material systems have awareness. They may have a very limited consciousness "toolbox", but the core of the awareness is there.

If matter didn't contain awareness, then where would it come from? Why would this phenomena suddenly arise at a certain level of complexity? It seems more likely to be inherent in the matter, and more complexity allows for more range of expression, aka the consciousness is a bigger toolbox for the awareness.

It's as if my body has a Tesla-like autopilot system capable of making decisions at a more primitive level than "me".

Yes, I like the way you put this. It's also literally a different brain structure too. The automatic movements you've done a thousand times, those are all stored in the cerebellum, which is that little separate brain at the back. It's literally separated!

Plus there are people who have split-brain, where their corpus collosum is split, that's the part that connects the two hemispheres. Then, each side of their body can be independently aware and thinking different thoughts and doing different actions, and also regarding the other half of the body as foreign. It's like two beings trapped in one, and that seems to be because the two halves of the brain are split. This also lends more credence to the "committee of consciousness" idea.

I don't believe atoms have free will, they seem steadfastly deterministic - if they weren't, we wouldn't be able to communicate reliably with computers like we are doing now.

It's true they are in most cases, but consider radioactive decay. We cannot predict when an atomic nucleus will explode apart and decay in to smaller nuclei. We know the average but we cannot predict it for any one atom. This could be one area that is an expression of free will. The signals of consciousness would be extremely subtle and would represent a low energy output relative to the total energy of the system. (Aka you don't use anywhere close to 100% of your energy when you communicate, nor does any being)

Plus there's brownian motion which is similarly non-deterministic.

we do not have free will, and we are in fact bound to seek to fulfill our desires.

It's possible. I've always maintained that we have the illusion of free will, because we cannot predict the future because our brains are not complicated enough to represent the universe, just a portion of it. We are to be forever surprised by our own ignorance, because we have so many gaps in our knowledge. So perhaps in that way we are free, or so it appears to ourselves. There are still things to discover and explore.

Even though a rollercoaster is on set (predetermined) tracks, that doesn't mean you know what it's like until you ride it. It doesn't mean the rollercoaster isn't fun.

I feel like people need to believe in free will because they have to believe their choices matter, for emotional reasons. Even though the world wouldn't actually be different if that were the case, just their belief of it.

Maybe the whole freewill vs not-freewill is a false dichotomy, and it's something more subtle than either of those.

I suppose we'll never be able to truly know until we understand how consciousness arises, and the relationship between awareness and matter.