[ExI] The alleged existence of consciousness

Gordon Swobe gts_2000 at yahoo.com
Thu Feb 18 22:39:51 UTC 2010

--- On Tue, 2/16/10, Stathis Papaioannou <stathisp at gmail.com> wrote:

>> Seems to me consciousness amounts to just another
>> biological process like digestion...
> But digestion is nothing over and above the chemical breakdown of food 
> in the gut. Similarly, consciousness is nothing over and above the 
> enacting of intelligent behaviour.

I think we can and will one day create unconscious robots that *act* like they have consciousness. We already have some unconscious robots that act conscious for certain tasks. Do you really disagree with this?

In any case I want to take a moment to address your claim that "consciousness is a necessary by-product of intelligence".

I notice first that the claim needs some disambiguation. I don't believe evolution scientists use that vocabulary. Generally they classify traits as either adaptive or non-adaptive. 

Adaptive traits increase the probability that the host's genes will propagate. Eyesight serves as a good example of an adaptive trait.

Non-adaptive traits do not increase the probability that the host's genes will propagate. The red color of human blood serves as a good example of a non-adaptive trait. Blood looks red because hemoglobin contains iron, and hemoglobin carries precious oxygen to the cells. The redness of blood appears only as a "byproduct" of something else that has adaptive value.

Now then should we consider consciousness an adaptive trait or a non-adaptive trait? I think it clearly qualifies as an adaptive trait, and I think you will agree. Conscious awareness enhances intelligence and gives the organism more flexibility in dealing with multiple stimuli simultaneously. 

As evidence of this we need only look at nature: conscious organisms like humans exhibit more complex and intelligent behaviors than do unconscious organisms like plants and microbes.



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