Re: virus: kurzweil cuts the mustard

Tim Rhodes (
Fri, 8 Jan 1999 23:01:06 -0800

Mark Cidade wrote:

> What about dolphins, could they be conscious? Personally, I don't think so
>because I think language and communication has a lot do with consciousness.
>They do have a pretty sophisticated way of communicating to each other.
>It's not just communicating to each other, but also thinking to one's self
>in some way that constitutes consciousness in the self-aware sense. I doubt
>that what dolphins say to each other is something a dolphin would need to
>say to itself, and it's probably because the language isn't complex enough
>for that.

There are some assumptions in your statements that I'm not so sure about, but I couldn't quite figure out how to put my finger on it until I got to your sig. line:

> "It is not the consciousness of men
> that determines their being, but,
> on the contrary, their social being
> that determines their consciousness." - Karl Marx

What if consciousness is not developed as a byproduct of language, but rather of social interaction? Consciousness is primarily the internal modelling of ones environment and ones relationship to it--simply bootstrapped to the N-th degree. Social animals are required to do a great deal of this. They have to in order to live together with minimal (or only ritualized) conflicts. They need to be able to make complex predictions about the behavior of the other members of their social/familial group and the impact their actions will have on the behaviors of those others, just to make it
throught the day. What if the real distinction is not between the language users and those who do not, but rather between social animals (mammals?) and those which are not societal?

I offer that all social animals have consciousness, developed to varying degrees. That the real difference between humans and other social animals is only one of complexity of consciousness--specifically symbol manipulation. Dolphins do not _lack_ consciousness--they are quite self-aware, in fact--what they lack is the _additional_emergent_quality_ of expressing their counsiousness in a symbolic form.

-Prof. Tim