Consciousness, Hard and Soft PCT, Attention, Etc

[From Rick Marken (960430.1400)]


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

Stefan Balke (960430.1530 CET):

This is a very interesting perspective, but how can you be sure whether you
are just inventing a rationalization or whether you really raised your
consciousness (going up a level) in order to see the higher order perception?

Right now, I have no way to be sure. The only thing that would increase my
surety (about the downward direction of the arrow of consciousness) is
experimental test. I think it might be possible to test this in a conflict
resolution experiment. The idea would be to introduce the conflict above or
below the control level of which the subject is currently aware (what the
subject is aware of could be determined by asking questions like "what are
you doing"). If the conflict is introduced below the (control) level of
awareness then it should be resolved quickly; if it is above the level of
awareness it should be much more difficult to resolve.

Bruce Gregory (960430.1215 EDT):

Re: Soft and Hard PCT

I like your distinction between Soft and Hard PCT. You say:

the "Soft" school [believes] that an autonomous "force" (consciousness) can
intervene and redirect elements of the system...[the] "Hard" school ...
[believes] there is no need to invoke a consciousness or awareness out
side the hierarchical system -- consciousness and awareness are part
and parcel of the hierarchical system.

What's missing here is an explanaiton of _why_ the Soft school has a separate
consciousness system and the Hard school does not. The reason is this (I
think): Those of us in the Soft school know that when we are aware of
controlling we are doing something (observing) that is separate from what we
are observing (controlling). Since we already have a model of the aspect of
ourselves that does the controlling, we know that a separate model is needed
for the aspect of ourselves that does the observing of that controlling. The
latter model we call "consciousness"; we don't know how to build that model
yet (snce we have no data), but we know that such a model is needed.

The Hard school doesn't think a separate consciousness model is needed,
either because 1) they don't understand that that the ability to observe
their own controlling implies the existence of an observer system that is
separate from the controlling system or 2) they imagine (without
demonstration) that one sufficiently "complex" or "organized" system can be,
at the same time, both a controlling system and the system that is aware of
its own controlling (thisstrikes me as being like imagining that a
sufficiently complex and organized TV can be, at the same time, both the
producer of an image and the observer of that image).

Richard Thurman (960430.0815):

I hoped that by talking about post-commissurotomy research we (those
interested in the issue) might agree that one can be 'aware' of, yet not be
paying attention to many variables.

I don't see this.

Maybe we should try defining these terms in a way that could be linked to an
actual model. I think "awareness" might be defined as "the perception of a
perception". I am aware of a perception when I am perceiving the fact that
that perception exists; the distance from my nose to the computer screen is a
perception that is always there; but I am aware of it only when I perceive
the fact that that perception is happening.

I think of "attention" as the process of becoming aware of a perception;
coming to perceive that a perception is present. Before I was aware of the
perception of the distance between my nose and the computer screen, I was
aware of some other perception (like the screen itself). The process of
moving awareness from one perception to another is what I would
call "attention" (or "shifting attention" but I would prefer calling
attention the process of "shifting awareness").

Martin Taylor (960430 11:30) --

One of the functions of attention seems to be to restrict what would
otherwise be multiple parallel streams of processing down to one (or a small

So "attention" is a control system, controlling the number of "parallel
streams of information" and keeping the number of streams equal to a
reference level of one. But why would attention be doing this? To protect our
single bus information processors from "information overload"? :wink: