Sunday, September 5, 2010

Brother, can you spare a conscious moment?

Brother can you spare a conscious moment?

Jack Kirby’s Machine Man, and Knight Rider’s KITT and the Enterprise’s Data and any consciousness-carrying fictional Artificial Intelligence may all seem to think like men, but while we can explore their behavioral overlap, they are not strictly, logically categorized as human. But while Marvel’s Avenger mainstay the Vision might wrestle with his love for the Scarlet Witch and androids from Bladerunner to Johnny Five may have humane reactions such as exploring the soul’s existence and nature--- how we determine if "Five is Alive" is either a matter of religious persuasion or the slant of your inner will...
to empower whatever fantasies you prefer.

The question of "is he intelligent?" is one more squarely in line with tested scientific inquiry. But if the principle question's "is he conscious?" we find a much-more inclusive category of life. We will quickly explore some of its definitions.

But with those situations, we’re discussing psychological space. To do that, we need a mind. So before we skirt a few issues with that experience, let’s ask the question first: can anything that is not human be conscious? Even humans, when unconscious, are not ruled out of humanity by definition.

Can anything conscious ...not be people?

Well, consider the paramecium. We can dive into the inorganic-supported consciousness in a bit. The paramecium somehow knows how to mate, fight, feed, move, and many other things that we find in creatures with brains. The paramecium has no brain. It depends on the information’s organic basis in organelles called microtubules. Information concurrent with a general disposition to prolong life does not require a brain.

We may not understand consciousness well enough yet to say for certain about how much the paramecium’s microscopic body, too small for neurons, contains a state of existence that overlaps with human consciousness, but I’ve already mentioned the similarities that come to mind quickly.

Are we not MACHINE men?

Now, the paramecium and the machine, with their programs dictating parameters for behavior, are very much alike in practice. Yet machine life, as we have so far known it, has yet to take on self-preservation, much less the full complement of rich life enjoyed by the paramecium. But Japanese artificial intelligence tends to present researches feeling a bond with their subjects that reflects the animism traditionally found in their culture. That is to say: everything is part of life, and all things contain some part of life within them, and so, all things are living.

I like to consider Jack Kirby’s decision to make Machine Man in 1977, especially inspired somehow by Kubrick’s 2001 property. His new super hero heralds the massive invasion of Japanese robots coming over the next decade---and with just a few groundbreaking “robot” animations pioneered in the vein of science fiction cartoons such as the one translated into English as “Battle of the Planets,” the late 1970s, with its Godzilla-filled afternoons, “The Space Giants” and “Ultra Man” and more in syndication, a soul or mind or consciousness wandering into a confused but heartfelt chunk of machine man touches the spirit of the times faithfully.

Kirby also has a hero he doesn’t have to give a soap opera romance; indeed, initially he is meant to be the metallic Adam, traversing his father’s world, sometimes drawing him up from his circuits in moments of anguish. X-51 carries a consciousness that thinks of itself as Aaron Stack, but, bluntly dealing with the reality of his existence, tells others to call him Machine Man. What is he? Well, he insists, if you just deal with him as you would like any person to deal with you, all that will matter is, “are we not men?” And he really sees no reason you and he shouldn’t do just that.

Knob Hunting

Paola Zizzi, an Italian physicist, has taken descriptions from Hammeroff’s work on O-R theory (the microtubules thing discussed above) and done some calculations. The tiny ten to the negative thirty third power-second, directly after the Big Bang, contains a moment where reality is suspended above all multiple realities. Now, bear with me, okay? In that tiny window of time, everything that is becoming existence, the universe, and more, has a instance of consciousness. From that instant, all consciousness discovered within the universe exists.

Now, if that is true, we can only postulate that any vehicle for consciousness shares a basic source. So there is an existential kinship, in light of her theory, among all that generate consciousness through their given native apparatus---be it a microtubule, in a sea of differing amounts of other microtubules, perhaps grouping as neurons, perhaps emulating the structure in some new way. In other words, whether you have the brains of a paramecium, or something else along the spectrum of thinking existence, Zizzi speculates we all share parts of a common consciousness, though ownership is only determined by experience, which is the stimulant of individuation.

In other words, you need to live your own life, to be your own person, but we are all visitors to a greater corridor, in which our choices of doors depend chiefly on our means of discovering the knobs.

That knob hunting is the driving principle in the adventures of my surreal and silly cohorts, the Stuckwayze people in our Integr8d Soul comics, just as it drove Aaron Stack to look for a place in a world he never made---that made HIM, for that matter. What can you do but go on the road and find your own beat? You are, after all, like no one else ever made.

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