[ExI] Semiotics and Computability

Jeff Davis jrd1415 at gmail.com
Sat Feb 13 21:02:48 UTC 2010

I think maybe I've figured out where Gordon is coming from, so I'll
attempt an explanation.  Also, I find myself in agreement with him,
partly.  I think a substantial portion of the problem other posters
have had with Gordon stems from an INCOMPLETE understanding of and
consequently an INCOMPLETE addressing of his thesis.

I'm gonna try to not get all flowery and elaborate here, just semi-
sort of bare bones.

Gordon says he rejects the concept of mind-body dualism.  Rather, he
asserts a timeworn philosophical alternative, that of an inseparable
unity, a mind-body unity if you will.  Then when others propose a
simulation of mind, Gordon objects, seeming to me, and logically, to
be saying you can't get a faithful recreation of mind if you leave out
the body part.

The recent comments regarding amoeba consciousness and the nature of
pain, combined with a years-long backlog of free-floating yet related
bits finally coalesced for me into an epiphany.  And so I have come to
agree with Gordon, partly.

All the talk of neuron by neuron replacements is fine as far as it
goes, but Gordon is reasonable in rejecting this -- though I wish he
would have explained himself better -- based on the principle of
incompleteness.  Half a thing is not the thing.

The 'body' part is missing.  To faithfully reproduce the
mind/persona/organism you have to reproduce the whole body, all the
somatic cells, neural and non, with their particular and varied
influences on the persona.

At this point I will state, without elaboration, that I have come to
believe that consciousness arises at the cellular level, and that any
variant of consciousness in a highly complex multi-cellular organisms
-- in particular, it's penultimate form in humans, of cognitive
ability and an awareness self and universe -- arises from a
combination of somatic and cerebral consciousness.  To make things
worse -- again without elaboration -- it is difficult for me to avoid
the further conclusion that the bulk of the phenomenon of
consciousness comes from the contribution of the somatic cells.  To
soften this seemingly outrageous assertion -- that the God-like nature
of man ...

"What a piece of work is a man, how noble in reason, how infinite in
faculties; in form and moving how express and admirable, in action how
like an angel, in apprehension how like a god: the beauty of the
world, the paragon of animals!

...is more about the influence of gut, bone, blood, and sinew, than
brain -- let me remind that the mammalian brain with all its glorious
capability is a relatively recent add-on to the ancient partnership of
sensory apparatus and the less glamorous support soma.

That said, returning to the idea of an authentic simulation, I believe
if the simulation includes the somatic contribution, thus
comprehensively simulating both mind and body, that there is no reason
the simulation won't fully and faithfully remanifest the original
mind-body persona.

What do you think Gordon?  Does this work for you, or no?

Now I'll elaborate a little on how I got here.

Some previously unconnected bits.

Years ago,  I chanced to wonder what it must be like to be a liver
cell; to live in a world where all the glory was reserved for
'elitest' neural tissue.  Cells are cells, and logically should be
equal.  Some conundrum there.

I used to visualize the human body devoid of all but neural tissue --
remember the old plastic educational toy, the visible man?  I would
think of this -- the brain and the neural filigree extending out from
it -- as the "real" person, and would demote the remainder to a lower
order, mechanistic, almost lifeless status.  Same conundrum as above,
but unrecognized at the time.

Then I chanced upon Paul Pietsch's "Shufflebrain"


where the author writes of memory and seemingly-deliberative behavior
in single-celled organisms.   From this I concluded that information
processing need not be the exclusive province of multicellular neural

Then Nova or the National Geographic channel produced a program about
the microscopic world.  They advertised it with a bit of video showing
living paramecium, about three or four seconds worth.  I never saw the
program, but I saw that video clip five or six times, and it had a
huge impact.  A paramecium swims along, impressively vigorous and
vital in its movement, then it stops for a moment, deliberates
(processes information?) and then heads off in a different direction.
Call me a fool, call it anthropomorphic projection, but I swear I saw
deliberation and intentionality.  The scene I saw was a scene of life,
and life is recognizable from just these features.

Then Jef Albright posted re Nolopsism


where, on page three (lucky, since
I haven't read the whole thing yet) the author, speaking of mental
events, writes:

"...having or feeling a pain is identified with a neurological event,
but the pain itself is distinct from the having of the pain — it is
not an event."

It was at this point that Gordon mentioned amoebas and pain, and all
the bits fell into place.

That pain is a scream from the distant somatic cells, conveyed by
neural tissue, yes, but an example of the tangible distant
assertiveness of non-neural tissue under assault.

But this new notion of an active somatic consciousness had further
implications.  Biology is ***EVOLVED***.  The evolutionary process
takes place in an environment where ***ALL*** extant physical
mechanisms are at play.  So three and a half billion years ago, when
bacterial life first appeared, any quirk of physical mechanism and
morphology which might afford a selection advantage, would have been
evolutionarily selected and genetically preserved.  It is on this
basis that I conclude that deliberation (information processing) and
intentionality emerged very early in biological evolution because of
its clear survival advantage.  Emerged in bacteria probably, and then
over the next 3 billion years was subject to further refinement,
because evolution never sleeps.  Then eukaryotic cells emerged, single
cells at first -- amoeba and paramecium -- followed, as we know, by
the Cambrian explosion.  Which led to macroscopic multi-cellular
organisms  -- humans among them -- creatures composed of the
descendants of those first single cell creatures, and bringing with
them the advantages of cellular consciousness, even further refined by
the unstinting influence of evolution.

Enough embarrassment for one day.

Best, Jeff Davis

 "Everything's hard till you know how to do it."
                         Ray Charles

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