Rick Ryan


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Consciousness is the abnormal state of a living organism. "Sleeping" (unconsciousness) is the normal state.

In consolidating ideas from various disciplines (evolution, biology, psychology, etc) I had to ask myself, "What is the REASON consciousness exists?" The question originated after I had read a proposal that from an evolutionary standpoint, "sleep" was counter-intuitive as a trait that should survive in an evolving organism. While sleeping (unconscious) an organism is at more risk to danger, for instance from predatory attack. So why would "the need to sleep" have survived an evolutionary process? Wouldn't "constant consciousness" have been a more survivable trait to expect to evolve?

After considerable thought, it seems that consciousness (and the level of it) may have evolved dependant on an organism's need to be "mobile" in it's environment, in order to meet the two basic needs of any organism,,,acquire nutrients to ensure it's own future survival (it needs to "eat"), and to reproduce to ensure the continuation of it's species (it needs to "mate"). It appears to me the more complex the organism has evolved, the more mobile it may need to be to accomplish these two things within it's environment. And a higher level of consciousness it may need to successfully move about within it's environment.

But once it has accomplished these two goals, a return to an unconscious state makes sense...it is the least energy consuming state of an organism. Being conscious and moving around expends much more energy and would not be the preferred state of an organism. Thus, "sleep"...the return to the unconscious "normal" state, would not have been eliminated by evolution. It is the state where the organism can repair itself from any "damage" incurred during consciouness, and then maintain itself at the lowest energy consumption level until the need exits to "eat" or reproduce becomes dominant again, at which point it returns to the abnormal state of consciousness to accomplish those things. The cycle then continues.

Consciousness is the abnormal state.

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      Sep 5 2012: Hey Ed. - I'm just a normal person. Like I said on my other debate thread, wish I did know more than I do. Sad to realise on the slippery slope of being bypassed for younger, quicker, more informed minds and you are right, that is the natural order of things. Just found big statements generate more debate more quickly but the idea is to debate and not bait. Love TED for the people who I will never meet in real time but who might be more or less on my wave-length. Fought all my life to get a decent education but it's hard to survive in school and sometimes you have to get the job first and then get the education at night school or wherever you can. There was another TED person who had a tortoise and hare for his icon. Actually quite a slow thinker, just a fast typist.
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          Sep 5 2012: Hello Ed - I am not an English eccentric but a N.Z.original. Finally waking up after years asleep. Had a really hard life in England. Want to go home but have to take appropriate gifts as have been away nearly four decades. Want to offer my skills in counselling and advocacy, just need to get the paperwork to prove it hence feeling urgency about university degree and frustration over health issues. You are so right and that is why I keep yaking on about the power of the old spiritual texts, not for their information but for their wisdom about relationships and who we are. You might enjoy a book by a lady called Petruska Clarkson, which is the seminal model of the framework I use. It is more of a chinese puzzle than a linear on-off way of thinking about people. 'Clarkson's Five Relational Model'. What she forgot is how important real people are, all her knowledge and wisdom did not sustain her in old age and scared of losing her cognitive faculties she decided to take her own life. Tragic waste. You are right, in dealing with people it is always better to think of the whole person and also that they are multi-faceted. Some of us cope on our own in real time and TED is my comfort blanket while I make some really hard choices.
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      Sep 4 2012: I'm going to find the title of that book about the 'vain brain' etc for you Don. it's all about dreaming big, then practical testing, then evaluation. You are so clever.
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      Sep 4 2012: O.K. not the book I originally talked about but one you might enjoy more. The Heart of Listening - A Visionary Approach to Cranio-Sacral work. Hugh Milne. Seen in translated into French and I think German. You can probably take a quick peek at it on Amazon before committing to buying it, just in case it feels a bit wierd. Sounds a bit 'drippy hippy' but still good source of ideas. Will continue to look for other book.
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      Sep 6 2012: Hi Don,
      I agree with Ramachandran to a large extent. Where he finds his departure from the "hard-wired" model is the phenomena of "plasticity" not the basic dynamic of neural modelling.
      Let me explain:
      Plasticity has several expressions;
      Firstly, plasticity is present in the "hard-wired" model of a static network by way of the synapses changing potentiation dynamically. For instance, a network trained to recognise the letter Q might settle on the letter O on its way to learning that Q is not O. You can observe this with a simple back-propogation model. As teh "training" progresses, the topology of teh synaptic potentials changes - this is a form of plasticity - it is very fast.

      Secondly, brain neurons can grow new synaptic connections. This allows for pre-trained networks to connect (association) or for a saturated network to co-opt surrounding neurons for additional "training". This is a slower process.

      Thirdly, the brain can grow new neurons. This is even slower and builds on the second process.

      Types 2 and 3 are not easily modelled in a computer.

      On top of that, one sees a network of networks - and the human brain has discrete network "modules" that are pre-defined and accupy discrete functions. But all in the brain is not so discretely allocated - much of it forms up around experience - and plasticity enables this.

      Minsky also has problems reconciling pure mathematical topology with observations in brains - he proposes a network solution to provide a choice of solutions from neural to heuristic - with the inference that we will find non-neural solutions in brain structures.

      Personally, I predict that the capacity to form multiple autobiographical selves is the key to overcoming the mathematical constraints of topology (particularly the exclusive-or problem) - having convergent pairs allows for new levels of mathematical solution - but relies on having a social "partner" to function. This suggests that the entire neural system must be open. (contd.)
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      Sep 6 2012: I'll also add that the phenomenon of "framing" as illustrated by Lakoff solves another of teh mathematical problems of early neural models - framing overcomes the data storage limits of a static network. Framing allows for the re-use of a datum by way of additional entry/exit vectors provided by framing. Once again, this concept opens-up the system and can only operate in "context" - here it is demonstrated again that a neural system cannot function in the absense of environment or community.
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          Sep 6 2012: As usual Don, your clarity and eye for detail is superb!

          I have to admit that restating my ideas here propelled me to have another look at some of the online literature for confirmation and/or development of my central thesis (the dynamics of perception in an open system). And I got stuck in another 6 hours of Sapolsky lectures! WHat got me hooked was that he was using one of my favourite books to demonstrate the partial fall of reductionism - i.e James Gliek's "Chaos".
          It's rather odd, I'd previously sat through a couple hours of Chomski's lectures in which reductionism and its philosophical relationship with materialism/dualism was explored.
          The names keep going round and round. ANd I ask, what is this phenomenon of "greatness"? Why is it that so few can dominate when it is manifest that there are many just as good?
          I know, I have exploited that phenomenon on the past, but I never really asked why the dynamic arises.
          I'll sleep on it ;)
          In the mean time, I'll forgive myself for the odd expression of annyance with ignorance.
          God? surely there might be one - but not in a box and not under a bushel that requires major engineering to lift. The most obvious place to look is where there is more than nothing - and that, as it turns out, is everything ;)
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          Sep 7 2012: AH yes, but the mind requires absolutes.
          What it forgets is that absolutes are transitory.

          I am reminded of the forgotten halls of power that reside within us.
          Certainly they are formidable, but even there, one will find limits.

          For instance, did you know that humans have ear-movement muscles justa as cats and dogs? With practice, one can move one's ears. Similarly, we have muscles that can move our scalps - I have no idea why this is so, but, with practice you can also move your scalp. It is useful to move your scalp because it helps relieve headache - these are the miscles that cause pain when tension is refered there by stress or brain dysfunction.
          Also, even though there are no muscles in your lung and nasal tissues, one can relax them if they are inflamed by histamine reactions - this particular trick saved my life once. And I no longer have need of nasal de-congestants nor suffer from life-threatening asthma.
          These hidden halls of power - why have we lost them? What is it we have traded for our mechanistic civillisation? How can we still look down at our ancestors? How can we be confused that they refrained for 200 thousand years to indulge in this madness we call civillisation?
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          Sep 7 2012: Ah yes - we are not here without challenges.

          All of us trees - all of us clinging despeately on this big rock called Earth.

          Up go our leaves, down go our roots.

          All questing along the primal rule: BE!

          Here we are humans - the latest expression of what it means to be alive - as far as we know (which .. isn't all that far, but enough).

          I can give so much - as can we all. The enormity of potential is breathtaking - and there are 7 billion of us!!!

          So what's wrong? How come mirracles are not floating past us every single second?

          It is this:

          You must go flip, then flop.

          everyone are afraid of "flip" because no one plans how to do "flop".

          What is "flip and flop"?

          Flip is becoming what you are not.

          Why flip?

          Because that is where "others" are - to join them you must flip what you are!

          But f you just "flip" you will be trapped - and lose yourself.

          Here - try this:

          Before you "flip" - plan your "flop".

          Then .. those you touch - they come back with you - and you with them.

          SO - what is it to be this beautiful human?

          It is the plan to bring all others into our love.

          Before we "flip" out into the dark places,
          we must know how to "flop - and all those we touch come in with us - and we go into them.
          Rise - rise to your challenge - find the flop - then flip, flip, flip - and bring us all back home.


          Don't lose your way.
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    Sep 4 2012: Hey Don, thank you so much. There is a book I have been reading lately and I can't remember the name or the author. Something along the lines of the 'vain' brain. I understood the book to be saying that humans are so successful because we do literally delude ourselves as individuals. Different bits of the brain have different functions and help us to see the world. It's a really new book and it is from the new discoveries in the cross over between neuroscience and psychology. Yes, ultimately we have to be able to pay the bills and it is truly frightening to realise society doesn't want you anymore and doesn't care how you feed yourself let alone your family. Always prefer evidence-based progress but like you said also need the freedom to dream big and play with ideas because that is where the new hypothesis come from. Like to offer the metaphor of a bonsai tree. Old wisdom is hanging on in there for a reason, some of it is baloney but some of it can be useful. All fruit falls eventually. Hope I am making some sense here.
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    Sep 1 2012: I think our Conscious minds handle our physical needs and feed-our-soul through our experiences of this life's thread...Our Unconscious state is our true self, our soul, which includes our: intuition, imagination, sense of self.
    And I believe Ed Schulte explains that, these unconscious-energy-sources resonate a creative energy which creates Expansion / Intelligence /me

    Both Conscious and Unconscious are always working at the same time - but when we tune into the Unconscious more directly - we feel 'alive' - free - and at peace - as our self-energy connects with all energy sources
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    Aug 31 2012: About 20 years ago I had the same thoughts as you express here.

    Now I rather would like to call what we experience while awake a state of consciousness among many.
    To my view normal consciousness is active as long as we reflect on our memory while there are many other states of consciousness that we call dream state or a hypnotical state and even many more.
    Whether we hallicunate or experience stories and imagery of a different kind it all is a conscious registration that only enters our memory as we are at the same time awake. (Memory is active.)
    What we call a subconscious level is everything that wasn't recorded by memory. With some effort it is possible to do this afterwards and to make things conscious that were subconscious before.

    As you say, it takes a lot of energy to become conscious of any experience and it needs a certain voltage of brain activity while there is a limit of data that one can be aware of.
    Transporting all data of any event into memory from the subconscious level learns that almost nothing reached consciousness in a direct way and it was only that part that was relevant at that time.

    The price for waking consciousness is that we need lots of calories and if that isn't available different states emerge: a kind of twilight zone between being awake and sleeping. Hermits used hunger to be in that state and learned to communicate with their subconscious content.
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      Aug 31 2012: Thoughtfull inputs. Thanks.

      Would you think there is a definite boundary between consciousness and unconsciouness then? Would there be any living organisms that were totally unconscious...or maybe better said...have no consciouness at all? Or are the concepts of consciousness and unconsciousness just something we as Humans have "invented" to try and understand our own existance?
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        Sep 1 2012: This subject isn't an easy one.

        As I see it, consciousness is the one and only thing in existence.
        As the world reflects in a mirror that same way any organism reflects its surroundings.
        The part of it we call consciousness is that part of it all that is registered and recorded by the body.

        This ability has been developed during evolution layer after layer.

        Humans notice changes within their body which make them feel a unit apart from the world and that unit they refer to with words as I and me or self.
        With this an inner dialogue becomes possible for they now have a point of reference.
        Everything that is not self they call world and that world they start to scrutinize and catalogue. This we call memory.
        They get confused by a myriad of things that they start to name and separate. The more they distinguish the more things fall apart which can be recombined in various ways. So we start to think and become creative.

        The usual notion of consciousness is that constant reference between memory and that on what has our focus or we put our attention to which we lay upon the memory we've built and present a total of the world.

        This construct we call reality because we hold it for real as nevertheless we constantly change parts and bits from that memorized world with facts that fit better to our ideal of perfection.

        So to answer your question: Nothing is unconscious but the way any human being is conscious is special for it is creative and by this feature can act on its own accord to serve personal motives.
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    Sep 11 2012: Is that it? What happened to the laughter and the fun. Anyway conversation is on-going so going to continue to chat. Referencing Jung's work about the collective unconscious and cultural artefact s. What is the purpose of sleep. Have referenced Anthony Gormley's talk here on TED and want to reference the inspiring talk by Vikram Patel: Mental Health for all by involving all. TED today. Am a trainee counsellor and have experience in advocacy and project management. Also have time management skills and business and administration skills. As I said in an earlier post on TED after watching Elizabeth Gilbert's talk. The muse is within us but not from nowhere. The muse is us in the total package plus a unique combination of experiences that it would be impossible to replicate. The ideas have been much discussed in science fiction. I still reference Isaac Asimov and his 'I, Robot' book. People are not robots and no robot will ever be a human. Humans are nurtured from the moment of their creation by the hormones of their mother's body. Babies already have a blueprint in their genetic codes but right from the moment the egg and sperm fuse, a unique chain of events starts. Referencing Beethoven (I think) or one of the great musicians. Women must be allowed the freedom of choice because they are the ones who soak up the environmental toxins both physically and metaphorically. Mother Nature looks after the female because females can only have a few babies within their lifespan. A man is quite capable of fathering many. Look at the new research about the genetic changes an ageing father passes on. This is why men also need to be allowed freedom to choose their partners. In matters of the heart no-one should interfere, not anarchy and chaos just respect. Mother Nature will not allow a dysfunctional organism to survive. So summary no machine can replicate a human, impossible. Machines to do the donkey work yes and give people space to dream, hope, give.
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    Sep 10 2012: Don't yoiu think the sound of the wind in the trees is a bit like the rythmic sound of the waves at times ? Love my tree analogies. Trees are a metaphor for a world in minature i.e. they support a whole eco-system of things seen and unseen. Mankind likes fruits of the tree and likes them sweet not bitter. Mankind likes some of the fungus that grows around the tree roots, such as truffles. Insects like the nectar of the flowers and pollinate the trrees as a result or are part of the lifecycle of the tree by putting their larvae in the fruit. Have seen documentaries about the role of the Marula Tree in Africa, think of Manuka honey from N.Z., know willow tree bark gives us aspirin. Do any of the tree bark fungi, like honey fungus have any uses for humans? Bit upset yesterday to read new proposed U.K. citizen surveillance could block my access to Wikipedia. Wikipedia is not academically correct but where else would I be able to demonstrate my knowledge about the '£10 pom' assisted migration scheme to N.Z. and Australia. Demonstrate my knowledge of the Hei-tiki and other Maori symbology. Getting my face on TED so you can see am a real person. Throat still swollen from ACDF surgery in March when photo taken but desperate to take son on 'once in a lifetime' opportunity he had given me. Love my son so much, he is my hero. Won't tell him that until he is older but tell him every day how much I love him and am so proud of him.
  • Sep 9 2012: Hi Rick, if you don't mind, I'll leave a link here to a book about the human mind, from a Swedenborgian perspective.
    I hope it will give some ideas that might make sense of consciousness as it relates to humans and so how it relates to animals. Basically, many people eat a lot and often. That does not mean eating is normal and not eating is abnormal. Same with sleep although we need both.

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    Sep 9 2012: Have a look at the talk by Anthony Gormley, a sculptor, posted on TED talks today 9th September 2012. It is about finding creativity in noticing the blue horizon and wondering what is beyond. It is about a person in time, a person who at a certain point in their life, given their own unique lived experience and the people around them produces something that resonates with other people. Personally I think Anthony Gormley's men on the shores of the River Mersey are his masterpiece. Hugely evocative for so many people. I so enjoyed his explanations of his sculptures and his time line analogy and photos. What he did not say in his speech is I am a wonderful, unique person. What he said was I am a moment in time who has caught the zeitgeist more than once. He also said he is not interested in creating art for money. He wants to communicate an idea. What a star.
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    Sep 8 2012: Quick revision - New formula C=EIIR2=C. Creativity has consequences. Take time to think about the consequences and take responsibility by planning for all eventualities. In planning have courage and well read the other posts again. My name is Elizabeth Anne Muncey and my new formula is C=EIIR2=C. Hoping it works for me. Hope it works for everyone iin whatever they are dreaming of but remember responsibility too.
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    Sep 8 2012: BTW there are lots of minds like mine. Look for us in the modern monasteries. Look at the eldest children who supported their younger siblings to achieve great things. Look at the single mothers fighting to educate their children. Look at the middle aged ladeis who return to university. Look at the older men and women, whoi may just need an interpreter to bridge the gap between the generations. We are the quiet ones. Some are in prison, some are in hospital, some are in asylums. Look at the ones who have had opportunites to educate themselves in their time incarcerated. Think of education as occupational therapy in the modern monasteries of prisons and psychiatric wards, not correctional education as in you willl do this or that but education as in what would you be interested in studying to help you be a creative and constructive citizen. Love to you all. Please come and play. My name by the way is Elizabeth Anne Muncey and my new formula is EIIR2=C. Like I said think about it in the context of what you know about the world. Use nature as a metaphor if it helps. Trees seem to work best for me.
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    Sep 8 2012: Please see previous two posts. C=EIIR2. Creation = Energy plus TTr2 (Pie r 2). Liking this so much, this is the maths formula for a circle. Creation = Sun's energy plus a single cell. Creation = Sun's energy plus a planet at just the right distance and angle. Creation = the combinatons of earth, air, water, fire plus an event, a moment in time.
    03:00 hours here so must get some sleep but not taking ball home, leaving it with you to play with. Rick. Mitch and Don and anyone else. Rick (Checkov), Mitch (Scotty), Don (Dr. McCoy) Me (Spock), TED (Uhura). Just looking for a captain and a navigator (Sulu). James Zhang where are you ?
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    Sep 8 2012: See most recent post before this one. C = EIIR 2. the 2 is meant to be squared like Einsten's E=mc2
    Creation = positive energy, postive intelligence, postive intererst and positive rest
    Dreams come from the memory and the processing of the informatioin of the day plus speculation about what might be. That is why hope and faith and gratitude are so important plus a leader or an idea for creativity.
    Nightmares come from negativity because there are no dreams, little sleep, no nourishment and no hope.
    My deep love is for people and their environment Don. Just working on getting the evidence for my skills and knowledge.
    G'day sports - who wants to play ball ?
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    Sep 8 2012: Had an idea Rick, try this for size. C = EIIR. Creation = Energy, Intelligence, Interest, Rest.
    Thank you to Mitch for teasing me and Don for being my guiding star.
    Rick does this help ? What would you put in as Creation = EIIR. Could substitute Intelligence for Focus and Interest with idea. Could say Leadership = Faith Hope Charity and the support of the people is that rignt Mr. Obamna.
    Suggest Leadership actually Logic, Communication, Humanity, Technology and Teamwork, just like the helm of the Starship Enterprise. Maybe Creation = Enterprise, Initiative, Ideas and Results.
    Look I've brought the football, who wants to play ? .
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    Sep 6 2012: Don I think my father feels shame about me and my son. My stepmother sees me as a big threat to her and her daughter. My father chose to stay with her. I e-mail occasionally, very tactfully. I can't get my son to talk to his grandfather which is such a shame. Am still thinking about how to get around this one, will be a case of 'dropping by' enroute to N.Z. at some point. My father knows how to survive on very little being a war baby and one of eight, born in 1940s. It is a wonderful world. Love stories. I think that is what is behind the slavish following of 'celebrities' these days. Lots of complicated, difficult lives. No access to the extended family links. You still have a mind like a knife and a lot of wisdom. The 'kids' do still need you even if they are big people in their own minds. You've still got time to tell them your side of the story, ask them to drop by 'for a cup of tea and a slice of cake'. If that doesn't work then there's the 'just in the neighbourhood and wanted to drop by'. Doesn't have to be in person. Send them a postcard with an appropriate picture on it if that is what feels safe and take it from there. One of my best memories is being out in the shed with my grandfather. He helped my little sister make a little model table. I was a bit more independant and wanted to make my own design. He just let me get on with it. It wasn't a patch on what they created but I learned quite a lot that day. So many people today just don't get that opportunity hence nasty movies like 'Hansel and Gretel: Witchhunters'. Times are getting tougher, there is a global recession and there are going to be food shortages because of global warming. Your whole generation know just how to manage under these conditions. Perhaps if people thought about what moved you on and used appropriate ideas from what worked then, things don't have to be so tough this time round.
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        Sep 6 2012: I'll look at your poem in a moment. But here is something that might add to the discussion:

        The last defence on the ramparts of enlightenment is
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        Sep 6 2012: Hey Don, it's O.K. Have my comforter in TED. Totally agree with you about hope. Totally understand what you mean about being a child of rage. Grateful to you for the time you have spent and will be looking on the links you posted. Sounds like you have paid a huge price for loving your wife and I have heard you. Witnessing amd remembering. Life is random and chaotic and faith and hope are so important. Thank you Don.
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    Sep 6 2012: This might sound a bit odd but this is what I want technology to focus on, not how better to kill people off but how to help everyone communicate. I have a soft-ware package called Dragon Naturally Speaking on my lap-top and the screen is set to maximum brightness. I am very lucky that I learned to type on an electronic keyboard, my Mum learned on a manual and still hits the keyboard so hard the machine can't cope. My mother is also a great pianist and the only way to get some expression in piano playings is to sometimes hit the keys really hard and sometimes to use the soft pedal. Don maximum light for the eyes, find a buddy to do the typing and keep going because it is excellent for here and now short-term memory maintenance. As you know long-term memory is the last to go. Just watch the meds they try to push your way, yes to the gentler ones for blood pressure and diabetes no to the heavy duty ones that supposedly hellp you stay sane but actually put you to sleep for the convenience of the carers and wreck your kidneys. Not sure if you know about an excelent chairity here called Age Concern U.K. who do also have an international branch. (Like my tree metaphors). They borrowed an Australian idea called 'Men in Sheds' aimed at people like you. So much knowledge, so little way to get it out there in a society that says once you are past 70 you've had it. So not true. One of my friends is 92 and his energy source is sheer 'bloodymindedness'. He has a protein and vegetable rich diet and half a pint of weak beer a day. Has the bone density of a 70 year old. Keep going with the posts but don't sit still for too long, do have a gentle stretch every so often too.
  • Sep 5 2012: Hi, Rick,
    judging from your comment " Thanks all. I've been reading all the replies......" your questions are : How ? and Why ? If humans are chosen , why we are chosen and who decides ?
    I think there is no reasonable explanation for that , in this realm logic and language break down.
    We have a strong intuition for a free will, but we don't know how we exercise it; it is the 'below' level and so is above. Somehow the act of choice the result of choice and the chooser are ONE.
    Something like this :)
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    Sep 4 2012: To me Ryan the brain is the cherry on the top. It is part of the nervous system in it's physical manifestation and also processes the information of all the other sensory stimulus of the body. Bits of it have been chopped away surgically and the effects on behaviour and personality noted. People with damaged brains have been studied. For me the jury is still out about just how important the brain is, agree it is fundamental to regulatory processes in the body. Want to return to your ideas about species differentiation. Charles Darwin is one of the original thinkers on this one with his observations on all the different types of birds in the Galapogos Islands. I want to play with the idea that 'higher consciousness' has a function. Suggest it is to monitor environment for hazards. A creature that can successfully negotiate a hazard lives another day. In the next day it might breed, it might die or it might live another day. Is that more what you were getting at ?
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      Sep 4 2012: Yes, but not only to monitor for hazards but to make judgements while negotiating that environment in the search for "food" and "reproduction"...the organism's two primary needs. Everything after meeting those two primary requirements for the organism to survive itself (and the continued survival of the species) seem to be "extras" that may or may not require the organism to maintain a conscious state...or at least a higher conscious state if we consider "sleep" a lower conscious state.

      I became intrigued about this whole idea numerous years ago when I read a book where one "scientist" posited that consciousness was a natural result of the increased complexity of an organism. The more complex the organism evolved, the more likely it would "have" a consciousness. In that regard, I would have to conclude (and agree) there are different levels of consciousness. Most people would think I exhibit a higher level of consciouness than a tree (well...at least if they are my friends). But the book never expalined the REASON for that consciouness developing as the organism became more complex. That's where my topic question originated. What would the REASON a more complex organism would develop consciousness?

      So I guess my question now is the one I asked a couple posts ago. Is there a definite "line" where consciousness exists in SOME organisms, but not in others? I know this may cross into the philosophical area of something like, "Is there One Big Cosmic Consciouness?" and the complexity of the organism may just reach a point where the organism can "plug into" that consciousness at varyng levels of "awareness" as needed by the organism to meet it's basic fundamental needs..."eat" and "reproduce". What does it mean to have a "higher consciousness"?

      Do you think ALL living organisms are conscious, at just different levels? Or can some have none?
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        Sep 4 2012: I like the first hypothesis and actually no I don't think the second is true. It might be something to do with the lifespan of the organism as well as it's complexity. Humans are far more complex than trees but trees live much longer and some species can live for hundreds of years. Trees expend far less energy than we do, they don't run around but their focus is truly limited i.e. getting enough leaves out there to gather enough energy to continue to exist. Some people do think trees can talk, some scientists have used recording equipment to listen in on a tree and the noises when they are slowed down are really remarkable apparently. There was also a Hollywood film about trees using pheromones to communicate with each other and killing off humans. Sure in real life it is really complex and involves a whole host of factors and a lot of research is available about the eco-systems of trees. Humans aren't that interested in trees even though they play such a vital role in the maintenance of the gases in our atmosphere and stabilizing land mass. Keep cutting them down for paper and firewood when they take so long to grow back. England lost vast swathes of forest when Henry the eigth wanted to increase his fleet. Elizabeth I went on to dominate the known world. Today some may say U.K. is reaping a bitter harvest. Anyway been reading a fascinating book called 'Beyond the Blue Horizon'. The book is about seafaring but as an air voyager you will also know the metaphor. What people forget is the role of hope in the development of humans. Without getting into religious/philosophical country do you get what I mean by a blue horizon and it's motivating power for some and fear factor for others ?
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        Sep 5 2012: Rick, Elizabeth is on the right track.

        The brain being part of the nervous system has little to do with consciousness as such.

        The brain in primates has developed a special layer devised for movements through the trees. Moving hands and feet separately and don't forget the control over 20 fingers on all fours uses lots of coordination managed from the brain. To reach the branch at a distant you needed to have a perfect 3D vision for depths.
        (differentiating right- left brain half)
        As you know this is done by comparison the two images and subtracting the angel.

        Here we start to think because comparing and calculating is all what it is about. The ability to create time by projecting the past in the future from repetitive events and structure life in the process is the way primates started to image the world.
        Especially as we came to the ground and our hands came free to hold and manipulate objects this trait developed exponential up till we made tools and figures that were solid images.

        We hold that image we create of the world to reflect on as we are awake for it contains our separate self that is continuously in a dialogue with the so called reality.

        During this process over the ages we made consciousness into knowledge. This in turn was coded in language to power up the process. This activity uses lots of energy and is always slow in its reaction on real events for it lost its spontaneity.

        We know many things but not consciousness because it is that what knows, what is.
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    Sep 4 2012: Thanks all. I've been reading all the replies and they have given me new things to think about. Obviously the topic ended up focusing on human consciousness...probably due to the examples I used in my topic post. Originally I intended the topic to deal with all life forms in general, but the direction it took has also been enlightening.

    From an "all life forms" perspective, what do you think the reason for the development of "higher level consciousness" was then? Someone mentioned humans, dolphins, and whales having "higher levels of consciousness". Why would that have developed? I have seen a TED video that posits the development of any "brain" was primarily to control movement of the species within the environment...something needed to develop to control the "muscles" (sic) of the organism. But that doesn't account for the need of a "higher level consciousness".

    I'm also concerned that not all species appear to have the same "sleep" or unconscious state needs. As mentioned by some here, obviously not all species are "awake at day...asleep at night" creatures. Many species are just the opposite...their "conscious state" is nocturnal. And the needs for the amount of "unconsciousness" seem to vary greatly, as mentioned about hibernating species.

    So, why the vast differences between species? Is there a common denominator at the foundation of it all? What would account for all the variations of "sleep" requirements (unconsciousness states) between the different species? Granted, if our "sleep" is just a lower level of consciousness, where does the line between conscious/unconscious exist? And why? That's what I was getting at with my original topic post.

    Frans's "layer by layer" evolution for humans seems logical, but why would that have been solely a human development?

    All the replies have been fascinating so far, so don't be afraid to keep 'em coming even if they wander off my original intent of the question..
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      Sep 4 2012: Rick, so glad you are pleased with posts so far. The bit about other higher sentient creatures was from me but is not new knowledge. It's all out there via the internet. O.K. many people do not see the internet as academically valid and you do need to be careful. What is it some of the more aggressive New Yorkers have been called recently about their abusive words to Republicans ? Thrilled to see Obama has got the healthcare package through, a safety net for millions of Americans. There's plenty of dubious theories and evidence out there too. How do you sort the wheat from the chaff if you have an education system that reserves teaching of appropriate filters only to the elite who can afford to pay for the teaching. Back to your question. In very hot countries people are active early morning and late evening and rest during the hottest hours of the day. In colder countries people are active during daylight hours. As you move further north/south daylight exists for months with no night and vice versa. People now cover the planet but electric light is new. I believe a great number of mental health issues might be to do with lack of exposure to appropriate lighting levels. I am talking about the warmth and light intensity of the sun which still cannot be matched by technology unless in a therapeutic environment. You might like to look at research about people who work night shifts or split shifts.
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        Sep 4 2012: I'm familiar with the day/night shift research and the implications of it. I worked many primarily night shift oriented jobs in my military career and we were made aware of how that could negatively impact performance, which is a good thing to be aware of when you are dealing with nuclear weapons. ;-)

        Agree with the mental health aspects too. I've read numerous studies about that.

        Thanks for the inputs!
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          Sep 4 2012: Well crazy is as crazy does. Sure you know about 'cat's eyes'. Someone noticed how they glow in the dark and knew cats see better than us. Result - airport runway markers, civilian application motorway (Freeway ?) lane markers. Moving on - fish that glow, bioluminescence, more technolgy. Thinking about evolution, at some point it made sense for some creatures to move out of the ocean onto land. Eventually they evolved into us. Sound like a young child because that was when I learned about that and never got a more sophisticated vocabulary. As an adult have studied Jung's ideas about a universal sub-conscious and playing with that idea extrapolated maybe Jung was talking about an organism's best fit for it's environment. Of course humans being social animals, our environment involves relationships not just with our physical surroundings but each other. Back to your original idea, suggest constant consciousness is not possible, first comes mental exhaustion then psychosis then death. Alternatively physical exhaustion leads to loss of consciousness then death. Constant conscious awareness is too much, sleep is a filter that allows time for incorporation of the data as already suggested by someone else. You will note the statistic about psychiatric patients dying young. It's not just the Maths, it's the meds. So it's all about an appropriate level of energy, a cost/benefit analysis by Nature if you like. Maybe I'll go away and look at sleep patterns at sea for the big creatures like whales.
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    Sep 4 2012: P.S. Is there any method of printing out these conversations because I physically cannot carry my lap-top out of my house and I would be so worried about damaging it or having it stolen if I did because I am really dependent on it, as I am physically disabled.
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        Sep 6 2012: Don thank you so much. Even though I am in my forties I do miss my own Dad very much. He now lives in South Africa, I took my son to visit when my son was just over a year old and have a great photo of us sitting on the steps of the Govermnent buildings (at Pretoria?). Day still vivid in my mind for many reasons. Love my laptop for Google Earth and the chance to go travelling and chat to people like you. Thank you so much for advice. You can see my other posts on my profile. In real time my big dream is to set up a neuro-rehabilitation unit for trauma and abuse survivors. A type of sanctuary or haven like a convalescence home of the old days. Just a little fish over here, a slighttly bigger fish on TED but not a shark. Am very interested in the big govenment projects set up during the Depression in the 1930s, the big engineering projects (was the Hoover dam one of them?). That's why I say it is so important not to dismiss people's knowledge even if there is a disconnect in the vocabulary the different generations use. Don't like 2000 character limit per post because in summarising my ideas, I feel I have to use really florid language and people find it so provocative. Just want to have a chat most times but end up shouting and no-one likes a woman who shouts too much. Thank you again Don and keep posting, you really are remarkable for hanging on in there with this new technology. My father had an apprenticeship with The Post Oiffce and trained as a telephone engineer. He was very clever and later worked as a systems diagnostic and repair technician. He is fluent in three languages. He is my hero.
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    Sep 4 2012: Hey loving the ideas in this one, what a conversation ! Humans are hugely complex. I would suggest it is not an off-on issue that is not asleep to awake to asleep. I would like to explore further the idea of unconsious to conscious. My vocabulary is different to yours but hope we can understand each other enough to share the ideas. As you said Mother Nature eliminates disfunctional organisms. As you said what seems to distinguish the higher level organisms which include whales and dolphins by the way, is 'self-awareness'. What seems to have led to human success, is firstly the ability to exploit our environment and secondly the ability not to exploit our enviromnent too much. I want you to look at the whole conversation particularly Mitch's comments about the role of dreaming. I also want you to have a look at the TED talk Elizabeth Gilbert posted about creativity. In today's society the muse is said to reside within us. Personally I think the muse is located in our subconscious and we need to be asleep to keep healthy within ourselves. What we do not need is to be asleep when others are trying to physically kill us off. I think it is that basic and that is what helped humans survive in the beginning. I think we are looking at harmony and tolerance now the planet is full up with human beings. Mother Nature will police the big issues.
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      Sep 4 2012: Yes.
      This is why it is so important to really look at things before making conclusions.
      Truly look at the words, listen to the voice. Then look beyond them, look into them.
      Grab that gift-horse by the throat and put a microscope down it's gob - it might be full of Ancient Greeks who are not interested in your well-being..
      You might not find a pack of murderous enemies in there, but you will learn a little about the digestive tract of equines ;)
      A good link Don, and entirely consistent with the dynamics of topological self-organising systems such as brains.

      My post below deals with insight - it is a different process to intuition - but it's nice to see the contrast with the process presented by Kahneman.
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          Sep 4 2012: OK I'm listening ot the link now (at 26:30 so far) and I'm getting the same insight-flash - "tools".
          I thought it best to record that here as a primary factor before the remainder of the talk overwhelms my early impressions.
          Motor neurons
          framing and context
          Contriving a world of falsehood
          Inhibitory neural structures.
          The principle of unity in social species.
          Empathy as a hard-wired property of social species.
          Naratives and parables.
          I have to keep reminding myself that I've been following these insights closely since the early 90's and have done my own neural modeling in computers etc.
          And I keep hearing the same names pop-up - Damasio and Minsky. There are other significant advancements published on TED by equally gifted luminaries - just search neural and brain .. throw in conectome and computational and you have most of the great thinkers of our time right there.

          I have written on all these subjects on TED and other places. It all simply follows from the basic neural net dynamic and evolutionary development of fields of agency.
          It is certainly refreshing to hear and see George Lakoff articulate these principles so clearly - but for me it's like just nodding about what bears do in the woods.

          OK - back to tools. Tools will be the next big breakthrough of neural and cognitive sciences. It is already out there, but will take a year or so for the penny to drop. It has to do with brain mapping of the 3rd arm in a monkey. The 3rd arm was a robotic arm connected into the monkey's brain and shown to the monkey via a video hookup.
          To begin with the monkey found teh robot arm moving with his real right arm. Then, he learned to manipulate that arm by moving his right arm, then he learned how to manipulate that arem without using his right arm - he had re-mapped his breain to include the 3rd arm as a fully integrated part of his body.

          Also - I am impressed at your mental agility Don - I would hope to be as nimble when I reach 80!
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    Sep 3 2012: HI Rick,

    It's a good question! Good questions are rare ;)

    I'll have a go at an answer that might lead you to other good questions.

    Firstly, it's a good idea to remember that we are humans - it is usually a wrong-turn to project our human attributes onto other species .. it's kinda inevitable to do that, but keeping the caveat in mind helps get at the truth.

    Being a vertibrate with the kind of neural structure that vertibrates have, we have also gotten some house-keeping functions in order to maintain our neural mechanisms. The more "brain" you have, the more house-keeping it requires, and for us higher-primates, we get a bonus - we can take into account factors that lie outside the imediate environmental pressures - sleep gives us that power.

    sleep - it prepares the brain to make associations by pre-sensitising connection potentials between fully potentiated synaptic maps. This is a process called "dreaming".
    THis can only happen by turning the frontal cortex off - i.e. remove the "executive" so that maps acquired during the day can be sorted into potential association (outside the context of imediate survival that the executive "consciousness" imposes). THese may be confirmed on the following day(s) while the executive is dealing with imediate environmental needs(survival) - the pre-potentiated associations developed in "dreaming" give rise to a thing we call "insight" and it's very clever and powerful.
    The net result is an enhanced field of perception - which leads to an enhanced field of agency which leads to an enhanced field of adaptability that leads to an enhanced margin of survival.

    On that basis, sleep(unconsciousness) is a newcomer that has arisen through evolution.

    Oh - and don't confuse the human left frontal cortex with consciousness - sleep also requires a disconnect of the anterior brain-stem where part of the proto-self resides - so it is very possible that consciousness is maintained in other parts of the system in non-humans.
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        Sep 4 2012: Hey Don. Don't think it is the knowledge at fault with Mitch, just the vocabulary. It is a very American thing to talk in a 'positive way', not from your generation but from the younger generation who have been educated in an information culture. Information drives technological and scientific progress but you are right, there is more to life than what we know. Mitch is right in that there is more to us than our brains. To Mitch I would suggest look at the information the brain receives. Not just through the eyes, which are literally external manifestations of the brain but the other sensory organs like skin. Also through the sensations from the internal organs which the brain experiences through hormones and other chemical changes in the body. My problem is that I use a different vocabulary to both of you. I have also noticed I seem to have forgotten how to use commas. I have more to say to you Don but will put it on the main conversation thread.
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        Sep 4 2012: Hi Don,

        I am neither a hobbyist nor a scientist in the traditional definitions - I am a practitioner.
        For instance, my neural networking experimentation was first a general exploration of topology, but culminated in m,y inclusion in a neural net project for a major banking network...

        It is pointless in my world view to pick up skills that you have no use for - certainly, after realising that I had sufficient resources to survive, the pressure for financial security no longer dominated such choices. Likewise I have no need for recognition and feely publish here on TED and other places. You can check any of my claims with published scientists and obtain corroberation.

        @Elizabeth. I can certainly spin perceptions in my audience if I so wish by using semantic tricks, however my true audience will realise that I am very precise with the words I use to ensure absolute framing (if not the spelling ;). I expect my gift horse to be examined microscopically from both ends and welcome any identification of flaws there-in. I assure you, my target audience understand me perfectly.
        I certainly do understand the concept of the internal melleiu(sp?) as outlined by Damasio. In fact it is his observation that lead me to complete my understanding of the role of "self" in self organising systems and postulate the iterative, adaptive model of space/metaspace that is serving me handsomely at the moment. In fact, the full development of that occured right here in TED forums - which I have used as my journal for a few years now. This is the era of open systems.

        (edit: I do not discard the writings of a major thinker until I fully inderstand the concepts - including follow-up of sources and data where needed, great thinkers do not have a monopoly on insight - no expert is above us, as many seem to think - it is our duty to build on their gift - and give it on to all).
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        Sep 4 2012: LOL - forgive that last post - I do have an ego ;)

        What do I think? I think people should respect themselves more - I think they should not automatically defer to anyone.
        I think they should not resort to distortions for self esteem and I think it's bad form to gain stature from climbing on tall people and pretend tallness. IF one has stature, one will find themselves being lifted up.
        Those who make claims should quote sources as well as claim insights - so others may follow.
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          Sep 4 2012: Love you Mitch. Also need to think about words I use, not English but whatever. Not a tall poppy, you are right all sources need to be accredited. 2000 characters per post on TED and still not able to summarise effectively.
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        Sep 4 2012: Sorry Don, got off on a tangent.
        THe work of Lakoff is the extension of the work of the broad insights across neural theory, neurobiology, behaviourology and cognitive theory - as applied to political behaviour.
        He puts it together very elegantly - and in so doing, demonstrates the explosive power of the new paradigm. It can be applied to cut through false assumptions quite well, and I like the introducvtion of the 2 types of thinking. I was waiting for him to mention the process of type#1 thinking to prompt type#2 thinking - intuitive resort to deliberate thinking i.e. the intuition trained to to use an extrinsic tool rather than an intrinsic body part. That's why I mentioned the 3-armed monkey.

        I totally dissagree with the statement that unconsciousness is the "normal" state. By normal, I read "the default state of lifeforms".
        By way of my arguement previously stated - unconsciousness is a relatively recent adaptation. In that statement I identified the purpose of unconsciousness in higher vertibrates - how "dreaming" lays the potential for "insight" that reaches beyond the imediate survival pressures.
        Dreams are the result of "wandering" association - the tentative joining of what is already learned and confirmed by experience. This sets up sensitivities that can be triggered into full understanding of causality that may not be otherwise perceived - but they only get triggered if there is a corroorative experience to "cement" the connection.
        FOr instance, one might observe that there is a rabbit and the sun is setting - all you notice is the rabbit - it's food and you try to catch it and fail. During sleep you might dream of a rabit hopping out of the setting sun. The next day you see the sun setting - and there is the rabbit - the tentative connection in the dream is triggered = "rabbits graze at sunset". So the next day you get there early and wait for the rabbit to emerge on sunset and you grab him. You eat, you survive, and your children dream.
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        Sep 4 2012: Hi Don,

        The admiration's mutual my friend.

        It's not judgement - it's excitement. These brilliant scientists and researchers bring their inspirations to us with light in their eyes - this puts light in my eyes and I see new things they did not bring and my heart cries yes! and next! And - everyone come pick up these beutiful diamonds! If it's a court, then I must be the jester - or a hostile witness ;) There are limits to TED text boxes and youtube videos that create a poverty that invites enrichment.

        Short stories? yes, but sometimes the journey is long to escape a wrong story.
        Framing for instance. It is inductive as well as informative.
        The frame of the author's assertion of the unconscious default imputes the supremacy of humans and a justification for antipathy to non-human species. It disgusts me and I will make the journey long enough for all to exit his hideous frame.
        Dormancy is not equivalent to unconsciousness.
        All life forms that have a field of agency have an executive function to determine which course of action to take. Although this will take many forms from species to species - it is consciousness none the less.
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    Sep 2 2012: The entire biological purpose of consciousness is to perpetuate our DNA by being able to feed, procreate and protect our DNA as it continues to live on in new life forms (read make a living). The fact we spend 2/3rds of our lives awake defeats the argument for unconsciousness being the natural state. The accident that occurred in human beings is that due to our vast memory reserves and analytical pattern recognitions skills in our genetic makeup, we suddenly found ourselves with time on our hands for superfluous creative and philosophical adventures. We got carried away with our cognitive tools and started to "Imagine" other ways of living. And that did not just apply to art, cities, farming etc but to even larger spheres of imagination like life beyond our selves and death....We need our unconscious state for two main reasons - to recharge our mental batteries with down time and to tune in to the source of our consciousness which seems to takes us back to our limbic and reptilian natures - God is one giant anaconda after all called Ronin!
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      Sep 3 2012: Nice observations!
      Here's another reason for sleep - it prepares the brain to make associations by pre-sensitising connection potentials between fully potentiated synaptic maps.
      THis can only happen by turning the frontal cortex off - i.e. remove the "executive" so that maps acquired during the day can be sorted into potential association for confirmation on the following day(s).
      Of course, it is also necessary to disconnect the lower brain stem to prevent actual physical movements while these speculative pre-associations are occuring.

      Being basically reptilian(as you suggest), we vertibrates are at the mercy of the ambient energy cycles (day and night). So dormancy makes sense - there is no reason to be running around at night bumping into things and using more energy than is available.

      So on that score, Rick is right - there is no need to be "conscious" whilever the organism has no need to maintain it's self-definitions(survival). But I'd suggest to him, that living organisms are defined by their activity to sustain themselves - therefore, sleep is not the default condition - the universe is dynamic.
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    Sep 1 2012: OMG my wife is right I am abnormal 16 hours a day. The only time I am normal no one can tell.

    Is there a cure or am I doomed .... help.

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        Sep 3 2012: Yeeks .... this is bonding at its worst.

        To be the best I can be I need to go into a coma.
  • Sep 1 2012: How deep consciousness differs from deep unconsciousness ?
    I think it is an example of 'Coincidentia oppositorum' The doctrine of coincidentia oppositorum is based on the interpenetration, interdependence and unification of opposites. In simple human language maybe it means: to be conscious of unconscious self.
    Maybe it is not common, but i guess, it's a normal state :)
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    Sep 1 2012: The logic of first para of the post above could be valid if some preys slept all time when predators awake all time.....so it's difficult to prove Sleep to be counter intuitive from evoluitionary standpoint....

    All organism goes thorugh cycle sleep cycle according to complexity , development level as well environmetal factors.....say even a human baby needs more sleep than that of adult....so rather it's seems "sleep" or dormant state is a very much required state for evolutionary process instead of being "counter intuitive"

    Amphibians and repitles goes through seasonal hibernation process basicllay during cold time , that allows them to survive....while some fishes in during summer while wetland get dried goes through astivation in th same way.....

    Interestingly , sleep cycle is different for different species......so far my knowledge goes nocturnal predators mostly preys on nocturnal preys.....that means both are on active state..

    On the other hand , the "awake / active " (want to avoid the word conciousness as not sure whether we can say an amoeba or plant has that or not) also neede to win the war of survival for the reasons explained in original post...
  • Sep 1 2012: Thanks, Rick.
  • Sep 1 2012: It's clear how vital consciousness is for us. In my opinion, the very necessity of consciousness forces us to consider it as a normal state.

    Sleep, for humans, may very well be in the process of being weaned away. Just look at the stats, many working adults are averaging 6-7 hours of sleep per night. The more global competition increases, the less time we have to power down!
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      Sep 1 2012: Agree. But I wonder how long it will take evolution to catch up with the reasons we are sleeping less now in a more industrialized society. I look at the subject of mental illnesses, and scholars in the field say that sleep deprivation may actually be causing some forms of mental illness, or at least the anti-social behaviors attributed to actions people partake in. I don't think any psychologist or psychiatrist would diagnose anyone in an unconscious state as acting mentally ill (although I will concede that excessive sleep is one symptom that a depressed person may exhibit).

      The "necessity of consciousness" you refer to...in our ancestrial past we spent most of our conscious state actually trying to achieve the two needs of an organism. It took our ancestors all day (maybe) to just hunt for or gather food to survive that single day. Today, I can go grocery shopping (hunt for) food, bring it home to my "cave" and store it in my 'fridge. My need to be conscious to "feed" me then takes 3 minutes in the microwave, 20 minutes to eat it, then the need is met. So then....

      Seems to me most of our time spent in the conscious state today is spent trying to fill the leftover conscious time seeking "entertainment", or at least persuing activities not related to the two basic needs. No doubt our ancestors were able to use that extra free conscious time for great things, like new learning opportunites and the development of art, etc. So having that extra conscious time for other than "survival only" was a good thing. Might be the reason we actually rose to the top of the food chain.

      I guess you could say I am still "hunting" for food if I have to go to work for 8 hours to "gather" money (paycheck) to trade-in for food.

      Maybe the processes for acquiring/achieving the two basic needs have just changed?
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    Aug 31 2012: Even though I started the topic, I'll post the first "idea" concerning it, just to expand on it a bit. I'm not trying to confuse things like Intelligence and Consciousness. How intelligent an organism appears to be in it's conscious state is a different topic. I posed the topic idea to examine why Consciousness exists at all, and also why "the need to sleep" (return to the unconscious state of the organism) survived evolutionary development at the fundamental level.

    Looking forward to ideas about this topic.