A companion blog, The Metacognition Project, has been created to focus specifically on metacognition and related consciousness processes. Newest essay on TMP: Goals and Problems, part two

Thursday, July 31, 2008

The Madness – Part Four

Mentioned briefly in The Madness – Part Two was a construct, the consciousness system of order (CSO), in the context of self-referencing behavior.  By way of a little background on this idea:

A system of order creates the probability structure for the occurrence of events.  The physical system of order (PSO) generates, by its rules, a probability that great masses of hydrogen gas might be compressed by gravity to the point of igniting nuclear reactions.  That probability is one.  The physical system of order also generates, again by its rules, a probability that the various elements would combine in such a fashion that a self-replicating, energy consuming, negative entropy device might occur.  The probability is positive, but vanishingly small.  For such a device to have a reasonably large probability a new system of order, based in the physical system, but with all the properties of another system must exist.  The probability of such a system organizing out of the physical system of order is very tiny and thus such systems seem to be exceedingly rare. 

The living system of order (LSO) with its own rules and structures gives the existence of a bacteria a probability of one.  A quick examination of this system of order demonstrates its properties: a means of capturing certain consequences of events, a means of storing the information of those captured consequences and a process to implement aspects of the stored consequences.  The living system of order functions these properties in the DNA/protein relationship.  The operation of these properties is evolution.  The LSO has vast potential to produce millions, even billions, of different though basically similarly patterned organisms, but the probability of the rules of the living system of order (in combination with the physical system of order) producing a bow and arrows is positive and vanishingly small.

A bow and arrows requires another system of order to have a high enough probability to actually exist.  There is a very tiny positive probability that the living system of order can organize a design that will create the properties of consciousness; essentially create time as malleable phenomenon, imagination as construction tool and communication/language as reservoir for story.  The consciousness system of order does not have direct analogies for its properties in the living system of order – it is a separate and unique system – but it still collects consequences, stores them and implements the stored elements.  In the consciousness system of order a bow and arrows has a probability of one, along with airplanes and toasters.

There is a major difference between the relationship of the LSO to the PSO and the relationship of the CSO to the LSO and the PSO.  The living system of order cannot reference its own functions outside of the rules of the physical system of order.  The evolution, no matter how bizarre, of a creature is always within the immediate boundaries of biophysical reality.  The CSO, on the other hand, can, like a juggler, create conditions that are so unlikely in either the LSO or the PSO that the nearly improbable can exist but only for relatively short times. 

In its origin the consciousness system of order was completely and intimately connected to and received its primary order from the biophysical space.  Its power lay in using information from the environment in completely new ways.  Consciousness created time and controlled it.  Before consciousness there was no past and no future.  Events from the past could be collected and stored in the community group as story and rearranged into designs that never existed before.  These designs could be imagined as existing and sometimes made to exist.  The speed with which humans with this tool could adapt left the rest of the organic world standing still, like a science fiction movie of a character with super-speed.

But the CSO had no obligatory referencing sources as did the LSO.  It had evolved with the biophysical as its reference and there had never been either reason or opportunity to fix solidly that relationship.  And quickly the CSO began to reference its own productions and give them just as much importance as the biophysical reality.  It simply had no designs for discrimination.  As the consciousness order became self-referencing it was also creating changes in social organization and new physical objects.  It has become possible today to reference only activities and objects that are 5, 10, even a 100 levels removed from being based in biophysical reality and to live most of life there except for birth, parts of childhood and death. 

There are millions of ways to be self-referenced and only one way to be referenced in reality.  Add to this fact that there is no built-in way to tell the difference and you have the ingredients for the true Madness of human existence.

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