007c-Awareness miscellaneous thoughts
I want to tell a story about that tree that falls in the forest and about thermostats.
If a tree falls in the forest and no one is around does it make a sound?
This chestnut has two parts to it that make for confusion. One part is "no one is around" and the other part is "a tree falls in the forest". The "no one is around" bit refers to the absence of awareness. The "tree falls in the forest" bit refers to our representations or ideas.
I want to talk about the awareness bit now, and come back to the representation bit in a latter section.
No one disputes that we are aware of things. But what does that mean to be aware of things? What is awareness?
We naturally say our mind is aware, or I am aware, or consciousness is the source of awareness. But these ways of describing where awareness comes from, like Descarte's "Cogito Ergo Sum" are descriptions we overlay atop awareness. These are explanatory descriptions of the source of experience or the source of awareness. But it doesn't tell us what awareness is.
That falling tree question is one which gets to our lack of awareness of the tree falling in the forest. We only have this "idea" that a tree fell. Because it is only an idea, and ideas do not make sounds, we may conclude that no sound was made. it was not heard, therefore it was not made. Of course we also have the idea that trees which fall make sounds and therefore it made a sound.
We have the awareness of both situations. This creates a conflict in experience that we resolve by assuming the tree falls in the forest making a sound because of our past experiences and categorizing our lack of awareness as a situation where we would have heard the sound had we been there. We categorize the different information in our awareness to make sense of the conflict inherent in the question.
This is an important key to what awareness is. The contents of awareness or experience can be contradictory. We construct ideas, models, descriptions, theories about the those experiences to resolve the contradictions.
We do not have to posit the existence of a mind or consciousness to accept that there is awareness. And even though I have argued that AW:X is X, I have not said what AW is. And to understand that AW is something different than information I want to talk about thermostats.
what does a thermostat do? In a typical home thermostat, a mercury switch is operated by a thermometer, usually a bimetallic coiled strip. As the coiled strip expands or contracts due to temperature, it tilts the mercury switch in one direction or another and thereby makes an electrical connection in the glass vial of the mercury switch. In the simplest terms, a thermostat is a switch activated by temperature.
Whether or not this switching starts a heater or cooling system does not affect it's behavior. Heating or cooling affects the expansion or contraction of the bimetallic coiled strip. A thermometer does not know that it starts a heating or cooling system. it is simply a mechanism that changes due to temperature.
Is the thermostat aware of the temperature? No. If we were to suggest that the thermostat were aware, we would also have to suggest that the walls and roof of the building the thermostat resides in were aware of the temperature, because they are expanding and contracting just as the bimetallic coil is expanding and contracting due to temperature changes. We do not believe that the creaking noises of expansion and contraction of buildings is some sort of communication process any more than we assume that the switch activated through the expansion of the bimetallic coil is a form of communication. Both are physical processes. Neither shows awareness.
How do we know there is no awareness taking place in those processes?
Certainly the process is mechanistic. Can a mechanistic process be aware?
How do we distinguish between a mechanistic or purely physical processes and processes which show awareness?
Firstly, awareness is not mechanistic, because the quality of being mechanistic is a content of awareness. Causality is a an idea we have about physical and other kinds of processes. Those are contents of awareness. Awareness must be a precondition to identify mechanisms, mechanistic, or causal processes.
Secondly, awareness is not mechanistic because it is not necessarily responsive. Awareness does not equate to action. Being aware of a temperature change does not mean a behavior or action will take place. And even if an action does occur, the kind of action is not always the same.
The reason for this is that the content of awareness, the temperature, is not the only content of awareness. And thus a behavioral change may be triggered by a temperature change, but it is not CAUSED by the temperature. Causes of behavior in creatures which are aware are mysterious because we cannot be certain what all the contents of the awareness are. Thus behaviors may be generated based on hidden contents.
Thirdly, awareness driven action or behaviors may be erroneous or mistaken. Mechanisms do not make errors. By definition a mechanism cannot make errors. When we say a mechanism makes an error, we are making a category error. It is no more correct to say a mechanism made an error than it is to say the wind made an error (wind is produced by pressure mechanisms)
A person may turn up the heat because they feel cold. Not because the temperature is actually colder. This may point to a hidden content of awareness, but not necessarily. Creatures which show awareness make errors. This may be because the contents of awareness are not singular and may be contradictory. Thus a choice is made for when an action is taken.
Without a singular content of awareness, a selection among contents must be made or not made. These contents may contradict each other. Such contradictions are the basis for errors. If a mechanism or physical process is used to make a selection, the process must follow an algorithm, some other causal process, or it must be random. Because awareness does not necessitate action, selection by a creature that is aware is a choice, and thus may be random, follow a causal process, or follow an algorithm, or be some other kind of selection process.
The fourth reason awareness is not mechanistic is because of choice or free will. Choice, can be a meta-selection process. Mechanisms do not have processes where by they can select the type of selection process to be used to make a sub-selection. Awareness is not necessarily tied to these kinds of selection or representational processes(causal, random, algorithm), and even if it were, awareness is not tied to any ONE of those processes. Awareness does not exclude nested selection processes.
Awareness allows for selection, and selection processes to be arbitrary. That is, action itself may be arbitrary. It is not random, or mechanistic, or algorithmic. Arbitrariness is a signal quality that only occurs in processes affected by awareness. Other processes are explicitly not arbitrary. We often assign arbitrary qualities to physical occurrences such as earthquakes or the weather, but we also assign intention (to god or gods) to these same events as well. This assignment of motive to physical events is itself arbitrary. (it's driven by arbitrary representations as we will explore later)
The fifth reason is intent. In physical processes, we may think random processes are arbitrary, or processes which are affected by miniscule antecedents (chaos theory) are arbitrary. but this is a mischaracterization of those processes. Arbitrariness implies intent. Intent means action based on some idea or ideology. Mechanistic processes do not show intent. Intent is not necessarily a function of awareness, but it is a content of awareness that can be a hidden content that affects action. The assignment of intent to physical processes is a projection of our own way of acting. Mechanisms neither assign, nor have intents about their actions.
A sixth reason, related to intent, is style. Style is the way of performing an action. The sytle of action may be the manifestation of intent. Style is a subject, or a content of awareness that can affect action. Style of action reflects choice. But style may also show preference or individual characteristics. Style may show personality.
Mechanisms do not show style. variations in mechanistic action are causal, not stylistic. Style indicates a preference for a type or detail of action. Mechanisms do not show preferences.
Clumsy or elegant behaviors are (grossly) similar actions. We may report them as being the same, when in fact they are markedly different. This is a difference of style. A robot can shoot baskets, but they are not Michael Jordon. A person can probably employ a variety of styles on the same task. This fact is the opposite of a mechanistism.
Where style indicates a personality, we may see a mechanistic connection to style. But this is an error. We may see representational models (personality) affecting behavior and action in the form of style. If we interpret a mechanistic action as having a style, it is a projection of our own ideas, and not a function of the mechanism. Mechanisms do not show personality.
A seventh reason, ordinary insanity. When we consider what a person is like who is insane, or neurotic, or with a variety of mental issues, we think of their behavior NOT as being full of style and awareness, but as increasingly mechanistic. The more mechanistic we see a person acting, the less we think of them as human. In science fiction, the robots that go insane are those robots that devolve to mechanistic behaviors. There is no reasoning with them because there is no variation in their activities.
The classic pop phrase to describe insanity is: repeating the same thing over and over again expecting different results. that is explicitly mechanistic. It is absent awareness, imagination, or attention. All words which refer to something explicitly non-mechanistic. machines do not show imagination.
awareness driven action is not necessarily causal.
awareness driven action is not necessarily accurate, and it often varies. it is therefore not perfectly predictable.
awareness is not necessarily active or reactive.
awareness has content
the content of awareness is not singular - the content may be contradictory.
the content of awareness may be hidden from observers
responses in awareness may be unpredictable because they are responses to hidden content.
creatures that show awareness must make choices because of the variety of contents of awareness. choices may be algorithmic, random, or follow some other pattern.
Patterns in choice are contents of awareness. choices and actions may be arbitrary. There is no restriction that any or every choice could be arbitrary.
creatures that show awareness show intent, styles, and preferences.
awareness has the correlate of 'non-aware' or mechanistic behavior, action, or defect.