[ExI] Newbie Question: Consciousness and Intelligence

The Avantguardian avantguardian2020 at yahoo.com
Mon Feb 15 18:12:14 UTC 2010

----- Original Message ----
> From: Stathis Papaioannou <stathisp at gmail.com>
> To: gordon.swobe at yahoo.com; ExI chat list <extropy-chat at lists.extropy.org>
> Sent: Sat, February 13, 2010 2:04:12 PM
> Subject: Re: [ExI] Newbie Question: Consciousness and Intelligence
> On 14 February 2010 08:23, Gordon Swobe <> ymailto="mailto:gts_2000 at yahoo.com" 
> href="mailto:gts_2000 at yahoo.com">gts_2000 at yahoo.com> wrote:

> It seems to me obvious that amoebas and other single-celled organisms have some 
> intelligence: they can find food and procreate and so on. But because they lack 
> nervous systems, it looks to me like these simple creatures live out their 
> entire lives unconsciously.

Intelligence and consciousness are not independent phenomenon. I tend to view consciousness as awareness. When somebody is anesthetised, they become unconscious because they lack awareness of external or internal phenomena. In so far as an amoeba is more aware of its environment than an deeply anesthetised human, I would say it does have a small measure of consciousness. If one puts a drop of acid on the skin of an anesthetised person that person would not react. If I put a droplet of acid on a microscope slide adjacent to an amoeba, the amoeba would run as fast and as far is its little pseudopodia could carry it.
Ameobae do have sensory apparatus and they do process sensory information. Their senses are not as rich as that of people, being mostly chemical receptors and the like, but the same could be said of a single neuron. Indeed an amoeba is probably more intelligent/conscious than an individual neuron. Why? I would bet an amoeba could survive in someone's brain longer than a neuron could survive in a pond.
At what point does intelligence lead to consciousness? That is like asking, "at what temperature does something get hot?" It's completely relative. For a person whose body temperature is 37 degrees Centigrade, boiling water is hot. But a person is hotter relative to the rings of saturn than boiling water is relative to a person. I am starting to think that a similar argument could be used for intelligence and consciousness. And consequently zombies are bogus.

> What about flatworms?

They are capable learning. That has been demonstrated.
Incidently, I don't think consciousness is either an evolutionary "spandrel" or simply an epiphenomenon. Women pointedly do choose mates who *pay attention* to them. As such natural selection does assess consciousness as a fitness function via sexual selection if not by the more primitive fitness function of figuring out that one is being stalked by a predator. 

Stuart LaForge 

"Never express yourself more clearly than you think." - Niels Bohr 


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