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Is consciousness just a subroutine in a “big loop” operating system?

 
Poldano
 
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Poldano
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24 August 2018 17:22
 

The article below suggests that consciousness is episodic, occurring about once every quarter second. The rest of the time we’re eminently distractable. Of course, we’re not conscious of the gaps, because they happen unconsciously. Only if the focus of consciousness changes will we be conscious of it. The gaps are filled in by the neural mechanics of consciousness to be experienced as a continuous stream, for the most part.

https://www.inverse.com/article/48300-why-is-it-hard-to-focus-research-humans

The “big loop” reference is my own first impression. The cyclic and regular episodes remind me of the most basic structure of a reactive computer program, the sort that is used to run devices. It is a big loop, which services various inputs in a cycle, generally calling subroutines to handle the details of each different input, and the integration of information from a collection of inputs. We sometimes referred to this program model as “Big Loop Technology”.

Here’s a quote from the article:

About four times every second, the brain stops taking snapshots of individual points of focus — like your friend on the corner in Times Square — and collects background information about the environment. Without you knowing it, the brain absorbs the sound of the crowd, the feeling of the freezing December air — which it later uses to stitch together a narrative of the complete Times Square Experience.

 
 
GAD
 
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24 August 2018 21:38
 

Interesting for sure, but I don’t see what is new as this has been the belief for sometime.

 
 
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25 August 2018 00:12
 

What is somewhat surprising to me is that the system appears to be driven by an internal timer, rather than external events, even during wakefulness. I had not seen research suggesting specifically that before.

 
 
Antisocialdarwinist
 
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Antisocialdarwinist
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25 August 2018 14:22
 

The problem with this article is that they never define what they mean by “consciousness.” I would say that “consciousness” according to the definition I’ve come to prefer is running all the time, at least when we’re awake, but is only periodically focused on the present. Just because you’re not “conscious” of the task at hand doesn’t mean “consciousness” isn’t running. It’s running, but it’s focused on something other than the task at hand: wool-gathering.

In fact, most of what we do every day doesn’t require us to be “conscious” of it at all, at least not according to my preferred definition of consciousness.

 
 
Jb8989
 
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26 August 2018 10:42
 

It’s hard not to use consciousness interchangeably with attention. I think they’re very similar from an empirical standpoint, but then again their closeness also tells a story about how we focus to apply some skills while were unaware of using others.

I can’t imagine that this phenomena is purely timing based, because I’d speculate that memory and emotions trigger our attention constantly and just as much if not more than time. What level of observation once triggered is even a separate issue.

Let’s say that you smell something that reminds you of this awesome memory.  In turn this smell causes you to shift your attention inward on the content of that memory, but maybe you’re actually driving your car to work. You’re still focused on the road, but you’re actually attending to the memory with a little more cognitive power than the road. Consciousness is neither of these things, but rather the background enabling both to happen simultaneously.

[ Edited: 26 August 2018 10:45 by Jb8989]
 
 
Ground
 
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27 August 2018 07:01
 

While “consciousness” belongs to common parlance there is no scientific evidence that something exists of which the linguistic expression “consciousness” might be the appropriate designation. This being so talking about “consciousness” in the affirmative belongs to the sphere of speculative belief.

 
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27 August 2018 23:10
 
Ground - 27 August 2018 07:01 AM

While “consciousness” belongs to common parlance there is no scientific evidence that something exists of which the linguistic expression “consciousness” might be the appropriate designation. This being so talking about “consciousness” in the affirmative belongs to the sphere of speculative belief.

I think your comment is more appropriate to the Hall of Philosphy than this one, but I will answer briefly from what I consider to be a scientific perspective.

It is obvious that there are some phenomena that we attribute to “consciousness”, however loosely that is defined. It is also clear that we attribute both subjective phenomena and collective observation to such a theoretical process or entity. The only way I can think of to further understand the phenomena, and in turn to define the term, or if necessary to dispose of it or break it into multiple distinct processes or entities, is to observe, perform experiments, and collect data on the phenomena that the term consciousness generally and ambiguously refers to. At the same time, we need to keep an open mind that any definitions we use are tentative and forever subject to change, should more data or better explanations for the referenced phenomena become available.

 
 
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27 August 2018 23:17
 
Antisocialdarwinist - 25 August 2018 02:22 PM

The problem with this article is that they never define what they mean by “consciousness.” I would say that “consciousness” according to the definition I’ve come to prefer is running all the time, at least when we’re awake, but is only periodically focused on the present. Just because you’re not “conscious” of the task at hand doesn’t mean “consciousness” isn’t running. It’s running, but it’s focused on something other than the task at hand: wool-gathering.

In fact, most of what we do every day doesn’t require us to be “conscious” of it at all, at least not according to my preferred definition of consciousness.

Well, yeah.

I am willing to tolerate the ambiguity of definition and usage until we actually know something measurable in the general conceptual vicinity of what we’re trying to talk about. Oh, and also take with a couple of bags of salt the terminology that scientists, philosophers, and pop culture use to refer to what it is they are actually observing, measuring, theorizing, or blathering about.

 

 
 
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27 August 2018 23:29
 
Jb8989 - 26 August 2018 10:42 AM

It’s hard not to use consciousness interchangeably with attention. I think they’re very similar from an empirical standpoint, but then again their closeness also tells a story about how we focus to apply some skills while were unaware of using others.

I can’t imagine that this phenomena is purely timing based, because I’d speculate that memory and emotions trigger our attention constantly and just as much if not more than time. What level of observation once triggered is even a separate issue.

Let’s say that you smell something that reminds you of this awesome memory.  In turn this smell causes you to shift your attention inward on the content of that memory, but maybe you’re actually driving your car to work. You’re still focused on the road, but you’re actually attending to the memory with a little more cognitive power than the road. Consciousness is neither of these things, but rather the background enabling both to happen simultaneously.

With implicit reference to my previous two posts, I really don’t know the precise difference between consciousness and attention. With respect to the duration of the cycles in the originally referenced article, we are likely to be neither conscious of nor attentive to actual neurological events at that level of granularity. What we experience subjectively is post-edited into a continuous stream. Perhaps the “conscious” episodes are the “frames” of that movie, which can be edited into memories that can be recalled, and the interstices remain entirely unconscious and unmemorable. A shift in attention could be a suspension of one topic of attention (for want of a better term) and another, which then becomes the new stream. I find it difficult to conceive of these processes, and even more difficult to talk about them, with the terminology currently available.

 
 
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28 August 2018 05:28
 
Poldano - 27 August 2018 11:10 PM
Ground - 27 August 2018 07:01 AM

While “consciousness” belongs to common parlance there is no scientific evidence that something exists of which the linguistic expression “consciousness” might be the appropriate designation. This being so talking about “consciousness” in the affirmative belongs to the sphere of speculative belief.

I think your comment is more appropriate to the Hall of Philosphy than this one, but I will answer briefly from what I consider to be a scientific perspective.

It is obvious that there are some phenomena that we attribute to “consciousness”, however loosely that is defined. ..

In the same way as it is obvious that there are some phenomena that the theists attribute to “god’s will”. What you refer to as “we” may be a larger community of believers compared with the theists but that doesn’t render “consciousness” a valid designation of a scientifically established existent.

 
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28 August 2018 15:43
 
Poldano - 27 August 2018 11:29 PM
Jb8989 - 26 August 2018 10:42 AM

It’s hard not to use consciousness interchangeably with attention. I think they’re very similar from an empirical standpoint, but then again their closeness also tells a story about how we focus to apply some skills while were unaware of using others.

I can’t imagine that this phenomena is purely timing based, because I’d speculate that memory and emotions trigger our attention constantly and just as much if not more than time. What level of observation once triggered is even a separate issue.

Let’s say that you smell something that reminds you of this awesome memory.  In turn this smell causes you to shift your attention inward on the content of that memory, but maybe you’re actually driving your car to work. You’re still focused on the road, but you’re actually attending to the memory with a little more cognitive power than the road. Consciousness is neither of these things, but rather the background enabling both to happen simultaneously.

With implicit reference to my previous two posts, I really don’t know the precise difference between consciousness and attention. With respect to the duration of the cycles in the originally referenced article, we are likely to be neither conscious of nor attentive to actual neurological events at that level of granularity. What we experience subjectively is post-edited into a continuous stream. Perhaps the “conscious” episodes are the “frames” of that movie, which can be edited into memories that can be recalled, and the interstices remain entirely unconscious and unmemorable. A shift in attention could be a suspension of one topic of attention (for want of a better term) and another, which then becomes the new stream. I find it difficult to conceive of these processes, and even more difficult to talk about them, with the terminology currently available.

Yeah me, too. I probably should have read the article in entirety before posting my comment, because it kind of addresses a distinction between consciousness and attention if even by accident.

Consciousness, focus, awareness, attention and perception are all terms I’ve seen used pretty interchangeably to define mental activity doing something willfully. Hell, even the use of willfully right there is me doing the same thing.

I’ve learned that it’s hard to describe human action as something mutually exclusive from that of the environment’s, but once your past that idea that article makes incredibly good sense.

 

 
 
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28 August 2018 16:21
 
Poldano - 27 August 2018 11:17 PM
Antisocialdarwinist - 25 August 2018 02:22 PM

The problem with this article is that they never define what they mean by “consciousness.” I would say that “consciousness” according to the definition I’ve come to prefer is running all the time, at least when we’re awake, but is only periodically focused on the present. Just because you’re not “conscious” of the task at hand doesn’t mean “consciousness” isn’t running. It’s running, but it’s focused on something other than the task at hand: wool-gathering.

In fact, most of what we do every day doesn’t require us to be “conscious” of it at all, at least not according to my preferred definition of consciousness.

Well, yeah.

I am willing to tolerate the ambiguity of definition and usage until we actually know something measurable in the general conceptual vicinity of what we’re trying to talk about. Oh, and also take with a couple of bags of salt the terminology that scientists, philosophers, and pop culture use to refer to what it is they are actually observing, measuring, theorizing, or blathering about.

I’m not sure I agree here. There is no objectively correct definition of “consciousness.” Since the word means different things to different people, I think it makes sense to identify which definition is at play before blathering about it. If, for example, consciousness is synonymous with attention, then that leads to a different “something measurable” than if consciousness is defined according to panpsychism. From that standpoint, “knowing something measurable” without knowing what you’re measuring seems to me like putting the cart before the horse.

It all depends on what you’re trying to get out of your definition of consciousness: the purpose or reason for defining it one way instead of another. If I want my cat to be conscious, but not my smartphone, then I’ll prefer a definition that serves that purpose.

 
 
LadyJane
 
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28 August 2018 16:56
 

Aside from lacking a concise definition of consciousness the article had a couple of glaring moments of weirdness. 

Like this:

This hypothesis is based on the fact that the teams noticed nearly identical neural patterns of attention (the “rhythms of distractability”) in both the humans and macaques. For a trait to still be so similar in species that diverged from a common ancestor billions of years ago, it very likely must provide a useful evolutionary advantage that has been preserved by natural selection.

The problem here is that the divergence of humans and macaques was roughly twenty five million years ago.  As opposed to billions.

Then this little number:

Thousands of years of the struggle for survival have wired us to be distracted.

This somehow went from billions to thousands with respect to human evolution.  Which is confusing.  I can’t decipher what struggle the author is referring to exactly.  Perhaps she got distracted.

 
 
Antisocialdarwinist
 
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28 August 2018 17:09
 
LadyJane - 28 August 2018 04:56 PM

Aside from lacking a concise definition of consciousness the article had a couple of glaring moments of weirdness. 

Like this:

This hypothesis is based on the fact that the teams noticed nearly identical neural patterns of attention (the “rhythms of distractability”) in both the humans and macaques. For a trait to still be so similar in species that diverged from a common ancestor billions of years ago, it very likely must provide a useful evolutionary advantage that has been preserved by natural selection.

The problem here is that the divergence of humans and macaques was roughly twenty five million years ago.  As opposed to billions.

Then this little number:

Thousands of years of the struggle for survival have wired us to be distracted.

This somehow went from billions to thousands with respect to human evolution.  Which is confusing.  I can’t decipher what struggle the author is referring to exactly.  Perhaps she got distracted.

Good catch! Apparently, those thousands of years of struggling for survival that wired us to be distracted happened before we diverged from the macaques. Ha ha.

 
 
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28 August 2018 21:02
 
Ground - 28 August 2018 05:28 AM
Poldano - 27 August 2018 11:10 PM
Ground - 27 August 2018 07:01 AM

While “consciousness” belongs to common parlance there is no scientific evidence that something exists of which the linguistic expression “consciousness” might be the appropriate designation. This being so talking about “consciousness” in the affirmative belongs to the sphere of speculative belief.

I think your comment is more appropriate to the Hall of Philosphy than this one, but I will answer briefly from what I consider to be a scientific perspective.

It is obvious that there are some phenomena that we attribute to “consciousness”, however loosely that is defined. ..

In the same way as it is obvious that there are some phenomena that the theists attribute to “god’s will”. What you refer to as “we” may be a larger community of believers compared with the theists but that doesn’t render “consciousness” a valid designation of a scientifically established existent.

To be as succinct as possible. so what?

Your comment is appropriate to the philosophy forum. Science requires a philosophical position that accepts tentative definitions of terms and tentative identification and description of objects. If you wish, I will open a topic in that forum related to the question, with the title Does Consciousness Exist?, unless you provide another title that you prefer.

 
 
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31 August 2018 10:28
 
Poldano - 28 August 2018 09:02 PM
Ground - 28 August 2018 05:28 AM
Poldano - 27 August 2018 11:10 PM
Ground - 27 August 2018 07:01 AM

While “consciousness” belongs to common parlance there is no scientific evidence that something exists of which the linguistic expression “consciousness” might be the appropriate designation. This being so talking about “consciousness” in the affirmative belongs to the sphere of speculative belief.

I think your comment is more appropriate to the Hall of Philosphy than this one, but I will answer briefly from what I consider to be a scientific perspective.

It is obvious that there are some phenomena that we attribute to “consciousness”, however loosely that is defined. ..

In the same way as it is obvious that there are some phenomena that the theists attribute to “god’s will”. What you refer to as “we” may be a larger community of believers compared with the theists but that doesn’t render “consciousness” a valid designation of a scientifically established existent.

To be as succinct as possible. so what?

Your comment is appropriate to the philosophy forum. Science requires a philosophical position that accepts tentative definitions of terms and tentative identification and description of objects. If you wish, I will open a topic in that forum related to the question, with the title Does Consciousness Exist?, unless you provide another title that you prefer.

I understand that you are admitting that psychology is a variant of religion since it is dominated by belief. So what you are seeking actually is an exchange of beliefs.
The question “Does Consciousness Exist?” is as irrational as the question “Do ghosts exist?” or the the question of this thread “Is consciousness just a subroutine in a “big loop” operating system?”
How about a thread “What’s the color of the horn of a rabbit?” *lol* smile

 
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