Everything, even a rock, has some degree of consciousness


#1

Originally published at: http://boingboing.net/2017/08/23/everything-even-a-rock-has-s.html


#2

My theory is that consciousness is a phenomenon that arises out of complex systems but we can only recognize it’s existence when said system results in something that can take in information and react.


#3

I’ll pass this on to my stump of a boss, he’ll be delighted.


#4

This made me think of this 2003 Academy Award animated short film nominee by Chris Stenner and Heidi Wittlinger: https://youtu.be/HOPwXNFU7oU


#5

This is why I don’t tell anyone that I have a degree in philosophy.


#6

This was all in my manifesto more than a decade ago.

It was not a best seller.


#7

Try selling it to the TGOP, they’ll buy anything.


#8

Hmm, I caught a rancid whiff of Deepak Chopra there for a second.


#9

The technical term for the idea of rocks having some degree of consciousness is “woo” or sometimes “woo-woo”.


#10

An alternative explanation is that there’s no such thing as consciousness. It’s just a made up word for a meaningless concept like “ether.”

Or

All rocks are just playing possum.


#11

I don’t think there is really a chance there is no such thing as consciousness. While what consciousness is might not be anything like what we’d think it might be, I think we have a pretty good case that when we talk about being conscious we are talking about something rather than nothing.


#12

This is why I believe in ghosts. Well, sort of believe in ghosts. There is always the possibility of reducing what appears to be supernatural to a physics problem, more than likely at a quantum level.


#13

Well I mean, in biology we love to talk about processes in terms of scale, and the positive correlation between temporal and physical scale (the larger an entity is, the slower it takes.) Maybe rocks, as a part of the larger entity that is the geosphere, simply operate on that scale of millions of years. Like Tolkein’s Ents, but even slower. Too slow for me to really put any effort into thinking about.


#14

Oh, that’s EXACTLY why I tell people I have a degree in philosophy! The conversations I have with total strangers! So much fun!

Then again, my PhD is in aesthetics, so I get into all of that “what is art?” crap.


#15

So… do I need to apologize to my toilet, or is it cool with it?


#16

So, his hypothesis is midi-chlorians and the Force, then?


#17

Rocks. Hm.

Wonder if this applies to space toys.


#18

Look, there you go thinking a thought. Everybody look quick. Cogitat, illa sit igitur.


#19

Two questions arise: First, why do we assume that ‘consciousness’ is so basic a category that it applies at all levels of nature? Humans have the quality of ‘preference in movie genre.’ Does it then follow that we should investigate if rocks also happen, at some level and to some degree, to prefer horror to action movies, say? Why is consciousness more primitive? Obviously, it matters to us, but consciousness could just be what it feels like to be a brain. We tend to wear clothing a lot, but we don’t assume that clothing has to interface with the nature of the universe at a fundamental level.

Second, what would it mean for a rock to be, to some degree, conscious? How does that correspond to our notion of what consciousness is?


#20

I don’t think consciousness is what we represent it as. I think it (and likely free will; same concept) is like a garbage collector/ crash recovery system for the neural system.

E.g:
Something is a infinite logic loop: fuck it. She did it because she wanted to do it. Summarize that crap, store it as a reference somewhere, use to identify dumb crap later. Maybe we’ll get lucky with it at some point and make a useful connection to help us eat more food.