Emergence

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Reply Fri 20 Feb, 2009 04:06 pm
I want to dedicate this thread to anything in general to do with emergence, but mainly I want some answers to fix some problems with my youthful conceptions of what emergence really is.

I mean, in reviewing that one consciousness thread for example; the idea that consciousness is emergent from a process, a system, a bunch of simple (generally speaking) interactions between certain bodily processes procuring it.

So is consciousness a part of the system then? It does not seem to be a two-way process, symbiotic to the system, only emergent from it. So if not a part of the system, then where is the consciousness? Is it a system in and of itself, symbiotic with the bodily system. Then what would this separate system be composed of? And how would you describe such a one way relation to two systems.

Whatever is emergent from a system cannot simply be fluff, not part of a process.

Emergence must only be possible as perceived. Yet all this talk of associating it with the brain, the cosmos, etc. Am I completely off here on contemplating the absurdity of such a thing as emergence?
 
KaseiJin
 
Reply Sun 22 Feb, 2009 11:55 pm
@Holiday20310401,
Please let me look over that thread from which this one seems, at least, to have sprung, and, if I may ask, please do expound (in the meantime) a little more on your concept of emergence, and more precisely just what that might be imaged as.

I will then, in time (and if proper) get back here and help you test some of these things. Please bear with me.
 
Bones-O
 
Reply Mon 23 Feb, 2009 02:56 pm
@Holiday20310401,
Emergence is when a system has a property that no part of that system has. Emergent phenomena are those that could, in principle, be entirely derived from more fundamental considerations. For instance, an atom considered alone cannot be said to be gaseous, liquid or solid. These properties describe systems of atoms only. Nonetheless, the fundamental interactions of the system's components (atoms) completely determine such macroscopic properties. In general, the more complex a system is, i.e. the larger its number of units and the larger the number of ways of them interacting, the more potential there exists for emergent phenomena.

In relation to consciousness, we know the brain to be made up of billions of neurons, none of which we have any reason to believe is conscious, and these neurons are related via synaptic connections. This is an incredibly complex, and dynamic, system. We know that phenomena do emerge from this system; for instance, there are no computers in the brain and yet the brain is a computer.

Of course, any talk of consciousness-as-emergent requires a clear definition of consciousness. If one is conscious of something, one holds information about it; conversely if one has no information about something one cannot be conscious of it. So information at least plays a crucial part of consciousness. Information is held in the brain via connections between neurons. None of this information is actually held by a particular neuron but by a system of neurons. This is itself a case of emergence: a network of neurons has important properties that neurons individually don't have.
 
Kielicious
 
Reply Mon 23 Feb, 2009 04:39 pm
@Bones-O,
To talk about emergence is to talk about the unknown. We have no idea how or what emergence is entirely but from empirical observation there is something going on...we just dont know as of yet. In regards to your question of whether the emergent phenomenon is apart of the system, I believe so. In fact it is wholly dependent on its parts because the phenomenon wouldnt be there if the parts werent there to interact with one another.

The thing that alot of people seem to be so standoffish about the idea is because its such an unknown phenomenon that people often correlate it with the supernatural or some mystic force. Hell, even the wiki article about emergence in the strong sense says "almost approaches magic." So you can see the hostility behind such a hypothesis. I find that the disconnect behind all this is because a) we dont know much about the phenomenon and b) emergence is highly counter-intuitive.

The extreme relational cooperation of a school of fish or a flock of birds is amazing and seems to be ordered form the bottom up rather than the top down. Also, when trying to explain reality away with a reductionist method, important variables are left out of the equation that the reductionists cannot account for. I wish I could be more specific and answer your question entirely but for now its all an unknown mystery.
 
Holiday20310401
 
Reply Mon 23 Feb, 2009 10:21 pm
@Kielicious,
Well lets say the 'top' as we seem to call it, and the 'down' (bottom, whatever) can be labeled with numbers.

1 being the most bottom and 10 being the most top. Are there some real terms I could use? And downward causation is going from 10 to 1. Anyways, we could say 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10 are all completely separate from one another. There is no intrinsic, actual relationship between them all. There is no actual causality between them all. This is just a thought, not sure about anything as of yet.
 
Aedes
 
Reply Mon 23 Feb, 2009 10:30 pm
@Holiday20310401,
Holiday20310401;50313 wrote:
we could say 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10 are all completely separate from one another. There is no intrinsic, actual relationship between them all.
No causality, but aren't they all mathematical functions of one another? 2 can be defined as 1/5 of 10, 1/4.5 of 9, 1/4 of 8, 1/3.5 of 9, etc. In the end they may all be reducible to functions of 1.
 
Holiday20310401
 
Reply Mon 23 Feb, 2009 10:34 pm
@Aedes,
The numbers were only an analogy though. To assert such objective value would be a fallacy because (I think anyways) emergence is only a phenomenon so much as it can be perceived. No actuality involved. Coincidentally, extension and emergence seem to go hand in hand.
 
Aedes
 
Reply Mon 23 Feb, 2009 10:40 pm
@Holiday20310401,
This is all a new conversation to me (as such). I guess you could speak of emergence only metaphysically, right? Like to speak of a person as the sum of all the things that constitute a living Homo sapiens. This is because "person" is a conceptual entity that we recognize, but is not defined by physical constituents. On the other hand, to speak of a "human" that way (human being the common name for us as an organism) is a physical entity, not a conceptual entity, and thus not really an example of emergence. Am I following?
 
KaseiJin
 
Reply Mon 23 Feb, 2009 10:49 pm
@Holiday20310401,
I have come across several models, but the more recent paper I've seen dealing with consciousness puts level 6 at the bottom. Now this is all pretty much focusing on access consciousness and phenomenal consciousness, and is not giving any (or much at all) consideration for the underlying base--which I am of the position for keeping in mind even when looking at consciousness; viz. conscious state.

Thanks for the input and information there, Bones-O! and Kielicious. I am quite certain that we'll eventually come to the spot where we'd have to conclude that consciousness is a continuum of levels, and that projections cognized lead to what is usually considered (or called) a state of consciousness, whereas brain's conscious state (again, a continuum) doesn't always project to that level of cognition.

The concept of emergence, then, is very much to be seen just as has been well worded in the above posts. The complexity is so massive with so great a number of possible states, that we can only best describe it as an emergent phenomenon. That said, I am of the position that the evidence sufficiently supports the understanding that consciousness is part of the system--brain.

I would argue that the bottom to top inquiry will have to be overlaid and adjusted with and against the top to bottom inquiry. Consciousness, as it is primarily defined in the English language, is not talking about something beyond ganglion/brain structures.
 
Holiday20310401
 
Reply Mon 23 Feb, 2009 10:51 pm
@Aedes,
Isn't physical a concept in itself as well? But irrelevant.... But the sum of parts... how do we define parts? Are they actual, or determined conceptually? And their influence on the system is based on a pattern we chose conceptually. Though that point I guess is irrelevant because... well no... a pattern is subjective.
 
Holiday20310401
 
Reply Mon 23 Feb, 2009 10:57 pm
@KaseiJin,
KaseiJin wrote:


The concept of emergence, then, is very much to be seen just as has been well worded in the above posts. The complexity is so massive with so great a number of possible states, that we can only best describe it as an emergent phenomenon. That said, I am of the position that the evidence sufficiently supports the understanding that consciousness is part of the system--brain.


I can't resist concurring with how blatant it is the consciousness is simply the brain's doing.

Also, is there any of those articles online that you'd recommend?Smile
 
KaseiJin
 
Reply Tue 24 Feb, 2009 12:52 am
@Holiday20310401,
I'd be happy to point out, or quote parts of them, but it would not be good to do too much, I'd think. These are papers (from among the many) in journals such Cognition and Consciousness, Brain and Cognition, The Journal of Neuroscience, Trends in Neuroscience, Brain and Behaviour, Science, Nature, and Scientific American. While I recieve some on-line, only being a member would get one past the abstracts. I think Science, Scientific American and Nature may be in most good city libraries; perhaps.

One fairly recent good book I'd recommend, is The Neurology of Consciousness--Cognitive Neruoscience and Neuropathology by Steven Laureys and Giulio Tononi; Academic Press, ELSEVIER, 2009. (although having some degree of pre-study before going directly into it would be advisable; it's not for straight reading, per se.)

I will, though--and am sure others will too--post here so as to help elucidate the subject of emergence, and how conscious, and ,by extension, consciousness play into that model.

EDIT:

Oops. Apologies; I didn't see the first post first. Yes, the parts are real. If a person has problems with neuronal columns in the prefrontal cortex, or problems with density, they are going to have consciousness problems, just as much as a person whose substantia nigra and ralphe nucleus are greately derpived of dopamine, are going to have problems with motor execution.
 
click here
 
Reply Thu 26 Feb, 2009 03:01 am
@Bones-O,
Bones-O! wrote:

Of course, any talk of consciousness-as-emergent requires a clear definition of consciousness. If one is conscious of something, one holds information about it; conversely if one has no information about something one cannot be conscious of it. So information at least plays a crucial part of consciousness. Information is held in the brain via connections between neurons. None of this information is actually held by a particular neuron but by a system of neurons. This is itself a case of emergence: a network of neurons has important properties that neurons individually don't have.


Maybe I don't fully understand your definition of consciousness but wouldn't what you define as consciousness also be applied to computers and their hardrives/ram?
 
Bones-O
 
Reply Thu 26 Feb, 2009 02:28 pm
@click here,
click here wrote:
Maybe I don't fully understand your definition of consciousness but wouldn't what you define as consciousness also be applied to computers and their hardrives/ram?

I didn't define consciousness. I said if we're going to get in depth about it we'd have to. In the mean time I gave some of its aspects: that of holding information about something. This is also an aspect of computers, yes. The information in computers is similarly emergent: a 0 or 1 on its own means nothing. However a relation between (sequence of) 0s and 1s does.
 
click here
 
Reply Fri 27 Feb, 2009 01:24 am
@Bones-O,
Bones-O! wrote:
I didn't define consciousness. I said if we're going to get in depth about it we'd have to. In the mean time I gave some of its aspects: that of holding information about something. This is also an aspect of computers, yes. The information in computers is similarly emergent: a 0 or 1 on its own means nothing. However a relation between (sequence of) 0s and 1s does.


So where would you say the difference between a computer and a person is in speaking of consciousness? Or would you define it as something potentially obtainable by computers?
 
nameless
 
Reply Fri 27 Feb, 2009 03:31 am
@Holiday20310401,
Existence, moment a' moment, 'emerges' from Mind to Consciousness via Conscious Perspectives/Souls/us. There never is anything other than Consciousness/Mind. The Copenhagen interpretation of QM calls 'Mind/Consciousness' the "Ground of all Being".
Existence is an 'epiphany'...
 
Bones-O
 
Reply Fri 27 Feb, 2009 01:00 pm
@click here,
click here wrote:
So where would you say the difference between a computer and a person is in speaking of consciousness? Or would you define it as something potentially obtainable by computers?

One major difference is resource. A computer only accepts input, i.e. information provided for that computer. Conscious beings on the other hand absorb huge amounts of information and can seek it out.

Another is reason: information held by a computer must be provided as above or processed as per strict instructions - it cannot be inferred or deduced, i.e. a computer cannot learn.

Another is simply that the brain is more dynamic: the brain can program itself (think about spinal injuries as an example); a computer cannot.

Obviously computer scientists are aiming toward mirroring the capacities of human brains. But I think the time when we can build a conscious computer would be exactly the time we could build a human brain... a long way off.
 
click here
 
Reply Sat 28 Feb, 2009 04:04 am
@Bones-O,
Bones-O! wrote:
One major difference is resource. A computer only accepts input, i.e. information provided for that computer. Conscious beings on the other hand absorb huge amounts of information and can seek it out.

Another is reason: information held by a computer must be provided as above or processed as per strict instructions - it cannot be inferred or deduced, i.e. a computer cannot learn.

Another is simply that the brain is more dynamic: the brain can program itself (think about spinal injuries as an example); a computer cannot.

Obviously computer scientists are aiming toward mirroring the capacities of human brains. But I think the time when we can build a conscious computer would be exactly the time we could build a human brain... a long way off.


Hmm this could break off into a completely new topic. "Robots with consciousness demand 'rights' "
 
 

 
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