Animal Consciousness versus Human Sentience.
Of Brains and Minds / Animal Consciousness Versus Human Sentience
The Unintended Consequences of Advanced Adaptations
Evolution may not be restricted only to living plants and animals. The doctrine applies equally well to inanimate, geological processes. Darwinian Natural Selection of nonliving matter would antedate the somewhat late arrival of life itself. It is not only the precursor to, but the necessary requirement for, all necessary steps that lead to the earliest beginnings of life. Probably a very conditional process within a very narrow range of circumstances.
The Golden Accident / The Birth of Conscious Brains, Self Awareness, and the Sentient Mind.
True intelligence, or mind, is not defined by an ability to act independently, with purposeful self-interest, or as a response to an environment in such a way as to enhance or secure one’s survival. Nor is it the ability to alter the environment in such ways that survival is promoted and maintained.
Animals are expert survivalists. Humans are at the mercy of most creatures which, armed with claws, fangs, acute senses and other faculties, are far better suited and equipped for living in a wilderness environment. Early humans were not satisfied with simply overcoming the dangers posed by their bestial rivals. Intelligence is not a defensive quality. It is pure offense. Where we are the hunter, the killer, the thinker and doer. Only secondarily, as a consequence of bigger brains, do we escape being killed ourselves. Do we then seek to change the environment to suit our less immediate needs. A hierarchy of food, sex, comfort, in that order. Eat better, more often, equals more healthy offspring, leisure time, equals improved living standards. And the appreciation of same.
The Computer Model Of Mind.
Ultimately, advances in artificial intelligence must lead to an authentic presence of actual mind. Nature tends to maximize survival skills, and mentality is merely an interesting tool found at the far end of a very long list. Being alive leads to consciousness, leads to intelligence, but not necessarily, to mind. Artificial input accelerates the process. Catastrophic change constantly shuffles the genetic deck.
The first level is life itself, as defined according to a variety of non-controversial clinical criteria. Microbes, by example. Modern computers are, by these standards, living organisms.
The second level is consciousness, which is the ability to choose from various courses of action based on a limited range of stimuli and instinctual response options. Ants to Zebras, as examples. Computers, again, compare favorably with these levels of awareness.
The third level involves basic intelligence. An ability to adapt a wide range of available behaviors to a diversity of environmental challenges and physical conditions. Whales and primates, as examples. A state only slightly beyond the limits of the most advanced forms of artificial intelligence.
The fourth level is mind. Total, self-aware intelligence. The awakened brain. The sentient being. Mind does not necessarily appear as a direct result of higher intelligence levels or brain size. Nor is it due solely to sophisticated faculties and associated cerebral structures, such as tissue folds and convolutions. Because human infants possess an innate aptitude for language, self awareness and other traits, the human brain itself houses some inner ability that is easily tapped, exploited, and developed. A combination of many anatomical structures may facilitate higher brain functions. The ability to vocalize sounds. A synergistic effect wherein the sum is greater than the individual values of constituent parts.
Artificial Intelligence, in order to awaken from its present comatose condition, must learn to ask questions -- especially “why”. Inquiry for its own sake, is an exclusively human trait. The meaning of irony is also essential, plus an appreciation for humor. Language is expedient and emotion-based. Intellect, an advantageous by-product, leads to perpetual cycles of invention, discovery, technology, then reinvention, rediscovery and so forth. Because emotion has been shown to be an electro-chemical reaction in brains, it should therefore be reproducible and more importantly, inducible.
With a tendency to remain dormant, if not encouraged, higher intellectual abilities can be repressed if restrained by external forces. Cases of human children raised by wolves, those of childhood abuse and neglect, as examples. Animals teach and promote survival skills only. Primates do much the same. Only humans encourage frivolous behaviors, promote dangerous activities, develop culture and enforce language skills. Simultaneously.
Humans possess two fortuitous attributes:
01. An anatomical ability to speak.
02. The compulsion to speak.
Each of these two elements reinforces the other. Though chimps communicate, they cannot and do not converse. While intricate, creation of a formal language may be the result of specific environmental dictates. In the absence of such pressures, accompanied by a lack of the necessary anatomical changes via mutation, improvements in the speech centers of the brain are neither favored nor selected for. Opposite conditions both favor and select for enhanced brain structures associated with language skills.
Language is mind. Mind is language. Mind/language is identical to space/time. Intra-communications among family, tribe, group, society. Inter-communication among societies, cultures, civilizations. Long term memory plus the cumulative memories of many generations, equals the continuous growth of intellectual evolution. Cooperation among all for the common good of all. The communal self-interest versus (in concert with) that of the individual. Symbiosis versus commensalism versus parasitism. Suppression of the personal for the societal good. Ability to recognize that the larger good reverts to the individual good. Self-reflexivity. That we selfishly prosper by virtue of the healthy whole.
The Price of Glory.
Severe consequences and dangerous penalties result from the thinking and ideas inspired by enhanced, sentient brains. Warfare, the Seven Deadly Sins, misunderstandings and self-inflicted irrationalities. Dishonesty, self-indulgence, and intentional cruelty. The noble preservation of the mentally/physically disabled, which taps society’s limited available resources. Neurotic or psychotic individuals who, for one reason or another, fail to incorporate impulse control and self-restraint. Such persons pose extreme dangers to others and themselves. Individuals who suffer mild to extreme psychological pathologies. Such persons also pose extreme hazards to others and themselves. Both conditions may be one and the same. The propensity to enslave others to our personal will and whims.
Evidence exists that mind/language, though neither positive nor negative in an objective sense, may ultimately act counter to the evolutionary processes which spawned it. Such effects include a proclivity for self-destruction. Both at the personal level and culturally. Self-abuse plus cruelty to, abuse of, people, animals, and the environment.
Humankind is engaged in a life and death struggle for survival wherein it is pitted against itself. Against its own savagery, its historical, evolutionary roots. A race against time that is equal to any fictional adventure epic rife with intrigue, danger, and suspense. The conclusion of the story has yet to be written. Whether it can be finished at all is uncertain, for several different outcomes are possible:
01. Utter annihilation via weapons of mass destruction/warfare/terrorism.
02. Extermination via biological plague. Accidental/mutational.
03. Global economic collapse, the result of which returns humanity back to a temporary or permanent medieval existence.
04. Annihilation via natural catastrophe. Cataclysmic geologic, cosmological event. Reversal of the Earth’s magnetic poles. Asteroids, comets, or an unknown event that remains unpredictable.
01. Two of the best outcomes possible propel humans ever forward into an exciting, but (by modern standards) bizarre, unfathomable future.
02. Technical advancement that enables a recovery from prior, catastrophic circumstances. Or to prevent, circumvent such cataclysms.
03. Continued, long term survival, expansion, and prosperity that leads to an eventual, godlike omnipotence.
Additional problems of mind/language involve the management, control, and suppression of residual and accentuated animal instincts. At the molecular level, evolutionary remnants that hamper emotional maturity. Neurosis, psychosis, a desire to follow, serve, and obey charismatic leaders. The “alpha male” syndrome. Latent devils, real and imagined, born of mind/language. Fanatical religious beliefs in particular.
Faced with inexplicable circumstances for which no meaningful purpose exists, humans fabricate belief systems supported and reinforced by rituals. Over time, identical myths and institutionalized superstitions become idealized, are made sacred and held beyond reproach. Even more, criticism or ridicule of a particular group’s beliefs incite anger, resentment, violence, ostracism and condemnation. If one is not religious, no matter the questionability of any number of so-called churches, the ecclesiastically challenged loner is considered either evil or, at best, is prone to weak, faulty judgment and indecent behaviors. From whence springs the virtuous atheist? How spawned is the vile religious devotee?
Primitive inclinations to exhort, refine, and demonstrate its sublime qualities, unique in all the world, are precisely what defines humankind and separates us from all other lifeforms on earth. A criticism that is neither condemning nor judgmental.
Such propensities may be exactly what drive humans into a future of prosperity and longevity.