Monday, November 23, 2009

The Awareness Apparatus

OK, it's about time I posted something representing a bit of my own "philosophie," and so to start it off, here's a copy of a comment first posted at Jonah Lehrer's blog, The Frontal Cortex,

It might make more sense to read the blog post first, which was about Reverse-Engineering, where computer scientists were attempting to artificially recreate the brain, but here goes my take on their chances anyway:

"The brain is a piece of meat that is, metaphorically speaking, operationally aware of itself - a self-actuating choice making mechanism that can use such awareness to apply and direct energy by its own choice. It can determine its own options or add to its available set through its own feedback assessment system.
Our human brain, in short, has awareness of its own operational purposes. We simply don't have that yet in our computers.
All a computer would arguably be "aware" of are the programs in its memory, and of the results of whatever it is required by those programs to add to that memory. There is no awareness of the meaning of the symbols outside of that memory, no ability to seek out and retrieve sensations that it could use in its calculative processes before converting the input to symbols that mean something to the computer itself, and that would allow it to make choices through an assessment process outside of the restrictions of its programing.
Not that one could never be constructed that could - but only because one can never say never with any degree of certainty.
Posted by: royniles | November 23, 2009 4:07 PM"

So what is this "awareness" anyway, especially if not quite the same as consciousness (a subject for another time and place). Because it would seem that for life to form at all, such forms needed to "see" their own existence as problematic and thus to have a need for an awareness of some aspect of their metaphorical "self" as a functional necessity. But with catch 22 being that some element of molecular awareness seems needed for awareness to exist at all.
So is awareness in some sense a property of all energy systems? And as a consequence self-activating choice making mechanisms - i.e., "life"- can use such awareness constructively? Because the very need for choice implies there's an action function available to apply and direct that energy accordingly.

Awareness would then seem (at least to me) to be a functional aspect of memory. There arguably would be no awareness as we understand it (or think we do) in a system with no necessity for an accessible memory for purposes of computation. And the period of retention of sensory input needed for such operational necessity would seem equal to the "awareness" needed to make the calculated choice. We think of feeling "awareness" as somehow both instant and constant, but we may feel it only after a delay between input to memory and the calculated choice that triggers an action. (Or not - this glimpse of the muse has been far from clear.)

But so far it would appear that awareness begins with the retention of any of the forms of sensory submission that a calculative process must use to make a choice between or among its own set of options - with some form of "memory" retainment perhaps applying to any information driven process that can be made to detect a signal to get the ball rolling.
Returning me to what I'd posted at the start about the brain as a self-actuating choice making mechanism that can use such awareness to apply and direct energy by its own choice - and can determine its own options or add to its available set of such through its own feedback assessment system.
Letting us see again that our human brain is a machine aware of its own operational purposes. And in my view representative of all living and calculating entities in that respect.

Now as to that action function I mentioned ----------