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Author Topic: The Mind, What Is It?  (Read 15722 times)

another_someone

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The Mind, What Is It?
« Reply #25 on: 15/09/2007 13:46:13 »
I would assert that there is a difference between memory and a record. And bear in mind I speak as a psychologist, not a physicist or chemist.

To me a record of something is nothing more than a series of symbols (or waves in the case of analog recording). Memory, on the other hand, is a process. It involves storing, keeping & retrieving data; it is a dynamic process. When a book is printed, or a computer file written, that data is static (unless the computer data gets corrupted, but that's a different matter). Human memory (and maybe that of other animals) is dynamic. Memory and interpretation of memories are interwoven. We may remember a particular incident; but, later, other information about that incident may come to light that amends our interpretation or even the memory itself.

That there is a process involved is evident from the fact that we do not have consistent, immediate recall. How many times have we not been able to remember something but then it suddenly comes to us "out of the blue"? You can argue that this is evidence only of a poorly-functioning system. I, however, take it as evidence of dynamicism.

Memories do not remain in the same place in our brains. They are shifted from short- to long-term memory (some argue there is an intermediate stage of medium-term memory also). I have a theory of dreams that involves this process.

But are you not confusing a specific implementation with the general functionality?

That you want to define the concept of memory as a dynamic process that is more akin to the act of memorising and recalling, rather than merely take the narrower notion of the stored memory itself, is a semantic difference, and I have no problem with it.

On the other hand, I cannot see that the implementation specifics (that you have separate short and long term memories) has any bearing on the notion of self?

Even when looking back at the wider issue of what is the mind, one can only realistically answer the question if one steps back from implementation specific issues.
« Last Edit: 15/09/2007 13:49:07 by another_someone »
 

Offline DoctorBeaver

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« Reply #26 on: 15/09/2007 13:46:32 »
In that context, the only impact that having control over the scent might imply is that an individual might be able to pretend to be someone they are not.

Not at all. It could choose how much of the truth to reveal. For instance, if a male smells a female, it may wish to leave a sent that says "I'm virile & strong". Under other circumstances it may choose to say "I'm feeling friendly" or "Don't mess with me coz I'm in a bad mood & I'm well hard!".

None of those need be deceitful.
 

Offline DoctorBeaver

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« Reply #27 on: 15/09/2007 13:49:10 »
Short- & long-term memory could have a bearing on one's concept of self. Short-term memory is transient and only holds 7 quanta of information. We could not form much of an opinion of self based on such limited, transient data.

Admittedly, it would give the ability to recognise that we had not suddenly popped into existence in that instant, but not much more.
 

another_someone

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« Reply #28 on: 15/09/2007 13:51:17 »
In that context, the only impact that having control over the scent might imply is that an individual might be able to pretend to be someone they are not.

Not at all. It could choose how much of the truth to reveal. For instance, if a male smells a female, it may wish to leave a sent that says "I'm virile & strong". Under other circumstances it may choose to say "I'm feeling friendly" or "Don't mess with me coz I'm in a bad mood & I'm well hard!".

None of those need be deceitful.

Can you be sure it cannot?

Has it been demonstrated that the information left in the scent is always context independent?
 

another_someone

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« Reply #29 on: 15/09/2007 13:54:11 »
Short- & long-term memory could have a bearing on one's concept of self. Short-term memory is transient and only holds 7 quanta of information. We could not form much of an opinion of self based on such limited, transient data.

Admittedly, it would give the ability to recognise that we had not suddenly popped into existence in that instant, but not much more.

Whether or not this is the case, it is still an implementation issue.

If the brain had no separate short term memory, but had a single level memory system that functioned with the speed of short term memory, but the capacity of long term memory - would such a system be incapable of determining the notion of 'self'?
 

Offline DoctorBeaver

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« Reply #30 on: 15/09/2007 22:41:29 »
Short- & long-term memory could have a bearing on one's concept of self. Short-term memory is transient and only holds 7 quanta of information. We could not form much of an opinion of self based on such limited, transient data.

Admittedly, it would give the ability to recognise that we had not suddenly popped into existence in that instant, but not much more.

Whether or not this is the case, it is still an implementation issue.

If the brain had no separate short term memory, but had a single level memory system that functioned with the speed of short term memory, but the capacity of long term memory - would such a system be incapable of determining the notion of 'self'?

Exactly the opposite. My contention was that a lack of long-term memory would preclude a concept of self in any meaningful respect.

Maybe I am presuming with regard animals having no control over their scent; but I have read many papers, articles & books on animals and not once have I seen any suggestion that they may be able to control it.
 

another_someone

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« Reply #31 on: 15/09/2007 23:29:21 »
Exactly the opposite. My contention was that a lack of long-term memory would preclude a concept of self in any meaningful respect.

But, as I indicated above, individual cells can record (and read and write) to DNA, and thus have long term memory; and ofcourse, species as a whole also use DNA for long term memory (in that case long term exceeds the life of an individual organism).

Another form of long term memory that animals have is the immune system (not sure if it is true of all animals, since there exists multiple types of immune system, and some do not rely on memory - but I would think it true of all vertebrates).

Maybe I am presuming with regard animals having no control over their scent; but I have read many papers, articles & books on animals and not once have I seen any suggestion that they may be able to control it.

As I said before, even if they do not control the exact message contained within the scent, the fact that they can control whether or not to send that message at all amounts to sufficient control for our purposes.

It is speculation as to whether finer detailed control is or is not possible, but for a long time it was assumed that animals (aside from humans) did teach their young, did not use tools, and did not use language.  All of these assumptions, now that we have looked closer, have turned out to be false.  My concern is that this is an area people have just not looked at, and since smell is as important a means of communication as sound or vision, I personally think it improbable that it is not subject to the same level of control (at least amongst those animals for which it is a prime means of communication).
 

Offline DoctorBeaver

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« Reply #32 on: 16/09/2007 07:51:29 »
Whether you class DNA as a memory or a record is immaterial to the discussion at hand. My point is that long-term memory is necessary for self-awareness to be meaningful. I made no stipulation as to the physical form or structure of the agent holding the memory.

Also, I did not say that having a long-term memory automatically means one has self-awareness. I believe I'm right in saying that trees carry a record of soil & atmospheric conditions prevalent as they were growing (where's Stuart when you need him!). That could, and often is, much longer than the lifespan of a human; but are trees self-aware? I know some (I won't mention Prince Charles and his hydrangea) believe they are, but until any sort of evidence is put forward to support that theory, I will remain believing it not to be the case.

Calling DNA or the immune system a memory is, as you said earlier, a question of semantics. It just happens not to be the definition I use.

As to whether animals can choose whether or not to leave scent is another debatable point. How much of that is instinct? Many times I've taken, especially male, dogs for a walk, they've sniffed at something & tried to urinate on it to no avail. Was theirs a conscious decision to try to spray or was it an instinctive impulse? And that, of course, raises the question of where instincts reside, and I think that is a question for another thread.
 

another_someone

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« Reply #33 on: 16/09/2007 11:16:36 »
Whether you class DNA as a memory or a record is immaterial to the discussion at hand. My point is that long-term memory is necessary for self-awareness to be meaningful. I made no stipulation as to the physical form or structure of the agent holding the memory.

Also, I did not say that having a long-term memory automatically means one has self-awareness. I believe I'm right in saying that trees carry a record of soil & atmospheric conditions prevalent as they were growing (where's Stuart when you need him!). That could, and often is, much longer than the lifespan of a human; but are trees self-aware? I know some (I won't mention Prince Charles and his hydrangea) believe they are, but until any sort of evidence is put forward to support that theory, I will remain believing it not to be the case.

If you are referring to tree rings, then I would accept your distinction between a record and a memory in this case, because the tree, as far as I am aware, has to access to this information, even though the information does exist.  Whether there are other biochemical records that the tree is actively able to access is another question.

In the case of cellular DNA, the cell does have access to this memory, and so it is more than merely a record.

The problem is that while I accept that memory is required for self awareness, but some memory is required for living organism to function (if only because they almost all have internal clocks, which require at least a memory of passing time; and also inevitably has some forms of modal behaviour that depends on a past event influencing present action).

The question is, to what extent is memory required for self-awareness that is greater than required for basic life itself?

You say a young baby is not self-aware - but aside from the communication difficulties (and this goes back to whether self-awareness requires language), how do you determine that a baby is not self aware?  Is an Alzheimer's patient self aware?  Is someone with severe amnesia self-aware?

I suppose there are distinctions here between being aware of the self (to have an ego), and having a notion of an identity (to be able to relate to, and form relationships with others, and so identify oneself within the collective and not merely in isolation of one's environment). But even here, certainly in any multicellular organism, the individual cells must be able to relate to their neighbours, and arguably many single cell life forms will selectively interact with others in group action, and so can be said to have a relationship with others.


As to whether animals can choose whether or not to leave scent is another debatable point. How much of that is instinct? Many times I've taken, especially male, dogs for a walk, they've sniffed at something & tried to urinate on it to no avail. Was theirs a conscious decision to try to spray or was it an instinctive impulse? And that, of course, raises the question of where instincts reside, and I think that is a question for another thread.

I suspect the difference here is primarily the difference between the view of psychology and behaviourology.  You are trying to empathise with the subject, and arguing from a perspective where you you can form such an empathy, whereas I am trying merely to observe, and arguing only from observed action.  I would not expect you to get inside the mind of a daffodil, because ofcourse a daffodil does not have a brain in the sense that you would understand it; yet even a daffodil must process information in some way, as all life must process information.  The question still remains in what ways are the behaviour of a daffodil fundamentally similar (as well as differences that are inevitable due to its different physiological capabilities) from that of a human being.

In that context - what is it about observable behaviour that can demonstrate a notion of self?
 

Offline Titanscape

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« Reply #34 on: 18/09/2007 16:22:44 »
"Animals" some argue "do not have a soul."

Moths have complex chemistry and reproduce, finding eachother, and the opposite sex, with complex chemical releases, but they do not really have minds, do they?

Cats have instincts, I doubt humans do. My cat pooing in it's box with no kitty litter, will still try to cover it, moving it's paws to move as if, an imaginary substance. There is none. On card board or concrete...

Dogs spraying trees is the same in my view.

Whales, big brains and all, have instincts, and beach themselves, unable to adapt.

Awareness and adaption are relative in my view. Comprehension, seeking pleasure and peace and dominion too. Not essentially the latter.

Some defective people are called "vegetables." You could argue a person with brain trauma is not self aware anymore. Or with advanced Alzeimers. But none have returned. Comprehension of concepts, and concepts from memory, matter here.

Logic, comprehension, retainment, producing expression. We can determine or accept a purpose and devise tools and create.

I doubt a dog marking a tree has much self awareness, it is instinctively territorial. They have only small senses of relationship and other, pack sense. Pack ego, team work.

Animals cannot repent and choose destiny. Even apes, scarecly forsee the changes in season. We can see history and the future through culture and interaction, understanding similarities and differences in eachother, even to be able to operate on the brain to give well being. And to psycho analyse... or destroy, another or self.

Belief and prayer are human. Choosing or accepting ambition, discerning truth, fact, theory, hypothesis, obedience, rebellion. Animals ambitions are instinctive.

Do we have a mind when asleep?

Do the brain dead still have a mind?

Has it substance, mass...?
« Last Edit: 18/09/2007 16:49:56 by Titanscape »
 

Offline dkv

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« Reply #35 on: 18/09/2007 21:30:38 »
Do we have a mind when asleep?
REP: Yes.

Do the brain dead still have a mind?
REP:Yes

Has it substance, mass...?
REP: Yes

I said nothing about the soul.
Life builds strategies to move towards sustainable pleasure.
All life activities can be understood within this framework of TSP.

 

another_someone

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The Mind, What Is It?
« Reply #36 on: 18/09/2007 22:22:55 »
Do we have a mind when asleep?
REP: Yes.

Do the brain dead still have a mind?
REP:Yes

Has it substance, mass...?
REP: Yes

I said nothing about the soul.
Life builds strategies to move towards sustainable pleasure.
All life activities can be understood within this framework of TSP.



I have moved your TSP contributions to a new thread, so they can be discussed without stopping the flow on this thread.

You can find the posts at http://www.thenakedscientists.com/forum/index.php?topic=10148.0
 

Offline that mad man

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« Reply #37 on: 19/09/2007 22:32:01 »
Could there be some uncertainty principle involved in the storing of information in the brain?

If the brain is constantly updating/renewing and moving data about then we can never find out/tell exactly where that data is being stored.

From what I have read, the brain works in an analogue fashion and not digital, not sure what difference that would make as to how data would be processed in the brain though.  ???

At what age does a baby become self aware?

I remember about some test that were done on young babies that could crawl. They were placed on glass tables and allowed to crawl, every one when reaching the edge didn't go further.

Bee
 

another_someone

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« Reply #38 on: 20/09/2007 01:28:31 »
If the brain is constantly updating/renewing and moving data about then we can never find out/tell exactly where that data is being stored.

From what I have read, the brain works in an analogue fashion and not digital, not sure what difference that would make as to how data would be processed in the brain though.  ???

As you say, the memory is an analogue system, and more important, is a distributed network.  As far as we know, memory is spread throughout the brain as a neural network, so there is no one place where the memory is, so physically finding it is not the issue that it is when memories are stored in discrete locations.
 

Offline Titanscape

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« Reply #39 on: 21/09/2007 06:45:19 »
Babies yet unborn , suck their thumbs. We and other new born creatures crave comfort, the rhythm of a beating heart and gentle contact.

Babies brains keep growing under foetal growth hormone for a year and a half roughly if I remember right. Which means neurone division, biggerness, and more cells, then also a problem with links forming between cells, maybe synapse breaks due to growth. Not good for memory...

A baby is like unexposed film and is yet without character.

The "soul" is a Biblical and philosophical word, "mind" more scientific.

But the "soul" means , "mind, will and emotions."

The spirit and it's heart are another thing.

My earliet memories are as a three year old. Excitement in being spun around in a seat. Running up stairs to turn on lights and playing with a cord, remote control car. Lying back with a carton of milk, as if it were a bottle and spilling it, on my vest... and my father getting angry. As he worked on a Steinbeck machine.

My younger brother appeared from two and three to be aware he had possessions and did not like them being taken from him. Expressing will and emotion and recognition.

As soon as they say "ma" and "da" I think they are aware of others and from before the wording starts.

Babies begin to be able to focus and show hand eye co-ordiantion quite young, they have hanging toys. They begin to understand and smile, laugh... and from the moment they are born usually they can cry, emotions there.

When is there anything of a mind? As yet unborn?

Where does it come from?

As a Christian I believe a Zygote, first cell of a person, is a spirit, but I am not sure if there is a mind. If it has mass, how much, is it heavy, or only begins to have mind...?



« Last Edit: 21/09/2007 07:05:00 by Titanscape »
 

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