About Eldon Taylor
Progressive Awareness Articles
Progressive Awareness Studies
Take the Subliminal
Truth About Subliminal Programs
(2.2MB PDF download)
Eldon Taylor's Blog
Choices and Illusions
New Best Selling Book
by Eldon Taylor
the Mind Mint
Self Help Superstore
to Our Newsletter
Man and Machine?
By Eldon Taylor
A popular idea now-a-days is the notion of the ghost in the machine.
From scientific articles to entertainment, this reference is to the idea
of consciousness. Once again, the study of consciousness
is occupying the minds of science and science fiction.
Just after the turn of the century, science basically abandoned the study
of consciousness per se' on the grounds that it was too ambiguous
and non-quantifiable. However, the development of artificial intelligence,
so-called thinking computers, interactive virtual reality environments
and non-local action, or action at a distance, has placed the study
of consciousness in the fore front of many minds.
What is consciousness? This issue is devoted to some
of the intrigue involved in efforts to create "thinking machines"
modeled after man, minus of course, his limitations.
Language is often thought to be the tool of consciousness
and evidence for the kind of consciousness that makes
man different from monkeys. Indeed, language has often been referred to
as the "jewel of cognition." Some scientists
have argued that Neanderthal man possessed advanced talking ability. This
assertion is largely based upon a neck bone found in 1988 (SN: 4/24/93,
p.262). Other scientists argue for a more recent origin to speech. Recent
in this sense is between 50 and 100 thousand years ago. By contrast, early
origin theorists date the beginning of language at over 2 million years
The evolution and history of language has a bearing on certain philosophical
issues where consciousness is concerned. For example,
take any date for the first appearance of language. Let's for fun just
assume some hairy bi-pedal creature that has never spoken. Is this creature
conscious? Conscious in the sense of
man? Now one day the creature utters some meaningful form of speech. Not
a grunt or guttural sound like all animals, but some form, beginning,
of speech. Is the animal now conscious?
What is the difference between the consciousness of animals and
man? What is intended by distinguishing between the two
conscious forms as different and why? If a primate species shows
the ability to learn, remember and associate learnings, some insist this
is evidence for reason. Most flatly refuse to recognize it as such. Is
it possible that by recognizing the field of consciousness as
one worthy and ripe for study, that mans' consciousness will
lose its unique elevated status? What precisely is it that one
means by consciousness anyway?
Certainly reason preceded language. It would be rather odd if it were
the other way around. Still, that's an interesting thought.
Some seem to reason only with the tools of their language. In other words,
their reason is limited by the rules and definitions of their language.
Plus, there is some argument in favor of certain language structure as
having greater or lesser faculties for developing logical thinking.
Literal languages, for example, such as German, tend to encourage the
development of logical thinkers. However intriguing all
this may be, it still stands to reason that reason preceded the conceptualization
and development of speech. As such, one is hard pressed to limit the consciousness
of a species on the basis of sound patterns called speech.
Oh, and it gets still tougher. For there are sound patterns that resemble
speech uttered by so-called non-conscious animals such
as whales and dolphins. So, what is consciousness?
Is consciousness a matter of wakefulness? No, it can't
be just that for one can be a conscious being and still be asleep.
Is consciousness memory? Well, according to the experiments
of Cleve Baxter, plants exhibit memory. Where science abandoned
the study of consciousness years ago, the problems inherent to
describing consciousness have proliferated during the
absence. The advent of animal studies, plant studies and synthetic or
artificial intelligence have greatly complicated the matters of consciousness.
Or perhaps, in the alternative, simplified them.
Language and the Brain
For most people, parts of the left brain handle the affairs
of language. Brain hemispheric studies including the now popular
Positron Emission Tomography (PET) scans show that the
right ear sends acoustic information to the left hemisphere.
Well, according to Marc Hauser of Harvard University
and Karin Andersson of Radcliff College in Cambridge,
rhesus monkeys "display a similar cerebral setup, with the left half
of the brain often taking responsibility for vocalizations intended to
signal aggression" (SN: 5/21/94, p333). If this is true, does this
mean that the anatomical evidence for language processing is evidence
for consciousness in the sense that we normally think
of mankind's consciousness. If not, what are the differences?
Consciousness and the Brain
For many, mind equals brain. Mind is a more general terms
that refers to the processes handled by brain. Therefore, mind
is often an interchangeable term with consciousness. Is mind
equal to brain? The chief area of enquiry offering evidence one way or
another to this question is a discipline often held in poor regard. Still,
literally thousands of laboratory experiments in scientific parapsychology
demonstrate that there are many aspects of mind that
can not be reduced to anatomical or material brain.
For example, data clearly supports the "reality" of
telepathy, clairvoyance and psychokinesis. This seems obvious
to this commentator, but then the biographies of some of the world's most
respected people provide a richer picture than that found in science.
However, the point is simple. Whether it is from the genius of Einstein
or the laboratory of a modern parapsychologist, mind is not equal
to brain! What does this mean with respect to consciousness?
A wonderful Star Trek adventure that I can
remember had the Enterprise actually forming its own consciousness
and then creating a new life form. Somehow, as Mr. Data explained,
the activity of the starship's computers and records began to take on
a "more than the sum of the parts" activity, form its own neural
network and so forth. Will machines ever become conscious?
Simulated Creatures Evolve and Learn
This was the headline in a recent Science News publication: Simulated
Creatures Evolve and Learn. The article by Richard Lipkin
went on to cite the work of Karl Sims of Thinking Machines in
Cambridge, Mass., who "devised a simulated evolutionary
system in which virtual creatures compete for resources in a
three-dimensional arena...The creatures, resembling toy-block robots,
enter one-on-one contests in which they vie for control of a desired object---an
extra cube. Winners---deemed more fit---reproduce, while losers bear no
offspring. Sims endows the virtual environment with physical parameters,
such as gravity and friction, and restricts behaviors to plausible physical
actions" (SN: 7/23/94, p63). Sims believes that it may be easier
to evolve virtual entities with intelligent behavior than to create them
from scratch. Artificial intelligence researchers have
long sought to develop the so-called thinking machine.
Unlike Sims, most begin by attempting to model the computer after the
patterns of man. For some, this is the neural model of the brain while
for others it is the deductive/inductive model of reason. Perhaps Sims'
method is more man-like than the other two. Mankind is thought to have
evolved. Does this help us understand consciousness?
Oh, and what about the collective of consciousness? Will
machines soon be contributing to this field of consciousness?
Will a machine ever dream?
Dreams, Intuition and Consciousness
The "Genius Hypothesis" advanced by Ervin
Laszlo and reported in the Journal of Scientific Exploration
(Vol.8, No.2, pp257-267, 1994), asserts that the minds "of unusually
creative people are in spontaneous, direct, though usually not conscious,
interaction with other minds in the creative process itself."
Laszlo's paper sheds light on the "archetypal experience"
described by Carl Jung while using history, physics,
psychology, artistic production and cultural development to clearly suggest
the strong possibility (in this commentators opinion, the only real possibility)
that not only do minds communicate, but they do so at a distance as well!
Is the collective, or the shared consciousness experience,
an independent consciousness? Is it possible that unique
(individual) conscious entities participate as transceivers,
sending and receiving, and that the total of consciousness
is this collective? Does the collective have
a plan, a will, does it dream? Or is it just a repository? Does it have
a neural network or some analogous something that we might refer to as
a non-spatial field? I mean, its not organic or silicone is it?
Conscious of Consciousness
Perhaps consciousness is something that has to do with being conscious
of consciousness. I mean, are monkeys truly conscious
of being conscious? Could they even entertain the idea of consciousness
without an object? Or consciousness as a character in
someone else's dream? Does a monkey ask itself if it really exists?
Is that a fair direction to take our questions regarding consciousness?
After all, are we not likely to be forced to admit the notion of "devolution"
if we do? Are there not all together too many homo sapien sapiens on the
planet that don't give the proverbial "hoot" about who they
are or where they came from. How many of these people ask the question,
"Do I really exist?" Will silicone ask the question, "Who
am I?" If the Japanese have their way, the answer is---probably!
A "Darwin Machine" is being created by researchers at ATR laboratories
in Kyoto, Japan. The artificial brain which uses an evolving neural network
is due to be completed by 2001. Hugo de Garis, an ATR scientist, says
the purpose is to produce a silicone brain with more than 1 billion artificial
Science News says the machine "will come in the form of a neural
network and will exist within a massively parallel computer. To create
such a complex system, the researchers will have the network build itself.
'Cellular automata,' each one a distinct computer program, will actually
forge their own linkages."
This approach, called "evolutionary engineering," provides
for the growth of the silicone brain via connections. "The neural
net grows when cellular automata send 'growth signals' to each other,
then connect via synapses."
(And you thought genetic engineering was something to wonder about).
Consciousness Without a Definition
Defining consciousness turns out to be a process somewhat
a-kin to searching for the core of an onion. As we enter the new year,
and perhaps entertain thoughts of the upcoming turn of the century, revisiting
consciousness is more than a philosophical exercise or
a scientific enquiry. It is a duty, even a moral imperative, to re-evaluate
the nature of consciousness for this inherently devises
the strategy by which mankind treats itself and all life. For me, and
I suspect for many others, many changes are seen as necessary for the
human race to actualize the highest of its potentials. As in history,
most certainly some of these changes will be brought about by difficult
times. I am reminded of something Martin Luther King said, "I can
never be what I ought to be, until you are what you ought to be."
King went on to point out that it was precisely the inter-related fabric
of life that each of us was interdependent upon.
Perhaps, it is the inter-related nature of all life, consciousness
itself, that we are interdependent upon. Perhaps, just perhaps, mankind
will only know his highest most noble self when he offers the deepest
of respect for all life. Perhaps the invigorated enthusiasm searching
for a firm hold on this stuff called consciousness will
eventually give rise to the respect I speak of.
Thank you and BE WELL & HAPPY!
back to articles