Arrow of awareness, consciousness and control

[From Rick Marken (960502.1100)]


Implicit in the method of levels is the idea that the direction of the arrow
of consciousness is always "downwards" in the control hierarchy.

Bill Powers (960502.0500 MDT)

While I agree that this is the only natural way to say it, this language
is misleading. It implies that consciousness or awareness does something
to whatever is the object of consciousness or awareness.

Yes. It's like drawing "vision" with an arrow pointing out from the eye
toward the "object of sight".

Awareness is some kind of receiver.

Yes. I know. But, linguistic problems aside, I think it is interesting that
awareness seems only to receive inputs from a level of the control hierarchy
that is lower than the current point of view of the conscious "observer";
consciousness cannot be "turned around" (apparently) to receive inputs from
higher levels of the control hierarchy.


The "I" that is willing the change in perception is the same "I" that was
observing the controlled perception.

isaac kurtzer (960502?)

sorry, but the "I" that was observing the controlled perception is the
same "I" that OBSERVES the willing

Actually, I (whoever _that_ is) experience two levels of consciousness (two
I's) in this situation (where I willfully wave my own hand in fromt of my
face). There is the "I" that is aware of and willing the arbitrary change in
hand position; and there is another I (farther "back") that is aware of this
awareness/willing. This second "I" is the one that is aware of consciousness
as a phenomenon and seems to allow me to talk about consciousness as an
"observed" phenmenon. I'm not sure whether this second "I" is really a
different consciousness (a meta-consciousness) or just part of the same
consciousness that is willing the changes in the perception of which I am
aware. (Caution: If there were a Surgeon General, I'm sure she who recommend
that you not think about these things while on LSD;- ))

Chris Cherpas (960501.1524 PT) asks:

have we already excluded the possibility that awareness is controlled?

I haven't. I think "willing" changes in a perception of which one is aware
(like arbitrarily waving your hand in fromt of you face) is clearly a control
process. So this is one sense in which awareness is controlled. I think I
have also been assuming that awareness is controlled in the sense that we
control what we become aware of. I think of _attention_ as a process of
moving awareness from one place to another; so attention (from my point of
view) is a control process. I see to be able to control the locus of my
awareness, to some extent. I can move my awareness from the computer screen
to my hands typing to the feel of the keys on my fingers; all this while
hierarchical control is going on. So I can control the location from which my
awareness receives inputs (just as I can control the direction of my gaze). I
think the "method of levels" is based on the assumption that we can control,
not only awareness, but also the point of view from which we become aware
("going up a level" implies the ability to intentionally move the "I" of
awareness from one point of view to another). I think consciousness is a
control process; a "meta" control process; "meta" to the hierarchical control
of perception process which would go on silently and invisibly if there were
no consciousness. Without consciousness, we would be purposeful creatures,
but we wouldn't be aware of it.

Peter Cariani (960502)

Peter asked:

Where is the "observer"?

I said:

"Outside" of the neural signals (perceptions) that are observed;

Peter replies:

Yes, it's all become crystal clear to me now. Why, yes! They must be
<outside> the neurons carrying the signals (whichever those are).

Now that this is clear, it must also be clear to you that a simple control
system (like a thermostat) cannot be conscious _at all_ becuase there is no
"observer" system that recieves signals from the thermostat; the signals in a
control system cannot observe themselves.


What is a "self-producing" system and how do you distinguish it from one
that is not self-producing?


Consider a set of chemical reactions...One can make a directed graph of the
reaction network and using graph-theoretic (or logical entailment)
procedures find those sets of substrates that form closed loops... This is
an operational definition of "autopoiesis" and I believe that it is the best
operational definition for living organization ("life", as we know it) that
we have. Neural signals can be considered in similar terms. Ok?

Way to complicated for me. What I can make of it is that a "self producing"
system is a closed loop system. Is this true? If so, does it matter whether
the feedback effects in the loop are positive or negative? Also, why are they
called "self-producing" systems?

How about them optical interferometry telescopes that were in yesterday's
science section of the New York Times?

If it wasn't in The Hollywood Reporter it didn't happen;-)