[ExI] My guesses about GPTs consciousness

Ben Zaiboc ben at zaiboc.net
Sun Apr 16 21:56:33 UTC 2023

On 16/04/2023 19:07, extropy-chat-request at lists.extropy.org wrote:
> On Sun, Apr 16, 2023 at 12:25 AM Rafal Smigrodzki via extropy-chat 
> <extropy-chat at lists.extropy.org> wrote:
>     On Sun, Apr 9, 2023 at 12:16 PM Jason Resch via extropy-chat
>     <extropy-chat at lists.extropy.org> wrote:
>         Smart doorbell systems able to detect the presence of a person
>         in proximity to a door and alter behavior accordingly have
>         some primitive sensory capacity. One cannot sense without
>         consciousness.
>     ### I am not so sure about that. Are you familiar with the
>     phenomenon of blindsight? Patients with certain brain lesions who
>     claim to be unaware (not consciously aware of) a visual target and
>     yet physically react to the target when present?

I'm sure that sensing without consciousness is not only possible but common.

Blindsight is just one of probably very many examples.

And it's not difficult to explain.

We can view the brain as having a large number of modules, each one 
specialised for a particular task - sensory, cognitive, memory, and 
probably more.

These modules have a large degree of autonomy, but also communicate with 
one another. None of them (probably) are conscious as such, but can 
contribute to conscious awareness, under different circumstances and at 
different times, possibly under the control of the various 
attention-directing networks. Consciousness may be somethihg that kind 
of floats above, or rides on, these interacting systems. So in this 
view, sensing without consciousness happens all the time, and some of 
the sensory information gets passed on to the higher-level processes 
that feed into conscious perception.

This would explain a lot of observations about the brain, such as 
blindsight and the 'deciding to press a button' experiment, where we 
seem to make the decision before becoming aware of it. The decision is 
made in one or more of these lower-level modules, before being passed up 
to the attentional networks. In the case of blindsight, it would be 
explainable as a lesion somewhere between the modules that process 
visual input and the attentional systems, while leaving intact the links 
to the motor cortex modules and their control systems. It also sheds 
light on the observation that we are full of contradictions, and can 
hold opposing views without necessarily suffering from cognitive dissonance.

An interesting (and rather scary, imo) fictional exploration of 
blindsight and it's implications is a primary theme of some of Peter 
Watts' books (Echopraxia, Blindsight). They are kind of 'what if 
philosophical zombies really were possible?' stories. (Sanity warning: 
Read them at your peril. Should be avoided by easily-disturbed people).

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