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    Thread: What is an Organism?

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      What is an Organism?

      An Ant Colony is just as much an organism as a single ant. You can not call two ants in the same colony different organisms any more than you can call one's nervous system and immune system different organisms. They function independently but symbiotically in order to survive. The immune system has its own intelligence free of manipulation by the nervous system.

      And much like how a single organism works, a society has different mechanisms for different tasks, creating an interdependent network in order to survive. In this way, we are all cells within a larger organism. This organism may be a company, a city, or even a religion. Some of these feed-back loops are negative, acquiring homeostasis in order to survive most efficiently. Some of these feed-back loops are positive, such as a monstrous, conquering corporation or inquisitorial religion, which continue to build energy until they erupt like a tornado before dwindling off into nothing. They are simpler, less complex organisms than the biological consideration, but they are essentially still a bundle of organized feedback loops and in the end that's all the definition one needs to describe life.

      Everything works out in the end, sometimes even badly.


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      Forgive me if I'm being annoying here, but how is this anything more than semantics?

      I'm not being cynical, genuinely want you to tell me why I'm wrong
      Abra and Dianeva like this.

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      It relates to the fear of death thread. I was arguing the death of a human being is no worse than the death of a leaf in fall and Alric argued that the tree survives, there's no loss of life when it sheds a leaf.

      My argument is that skin is not what separates life-forms from other life-forms. We are just leaves of our greater beings.

      Everything works out in the end, sometimes even badly.


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      Ah OK, I see.

      But, obviously the death of a human is worse than the death of a leaf, because with the human you have both a loss of consciousness and a large amount of suffering for friends and family. Would you agree with that?

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      No, I think the suffering of friends and family is caused by a misunderstanding of death and that consciousness is a dubious sort of condition that is also vastly misunderstood and overrated.

      I mean I certainly miss someone I know who died recently, and I feel terrible for his family. I'm at a loss for how to comfort them, and I feel like he died well before he had a real chance to fulfill his potential. But I still see all this as relative, and because it's relative, it's hard to pinpoint which sort of death is worse.

      When someone dies, they live on through the effect they had on the world around them. Their body lives on through their children, their mind lives on through every single person that they influenced in some way. A teacher lives on through every student that learned from them. A soldier lives on through every single person that lives because of them. A friend lives on through every experience they shared with someone.

      This is not just fanciful sputtering to help people cope with loss. This greater organism is the real organism. Consciousness is over emphasized, and the whole concept is an accidental hiccup. We have perception and we have reasoning and so we collect a bunch of things and call it me. But it's not me. It is a flaw in our language that I describe things by saying "I perceive." What's really going on is perception. And this perception enables information to be processed to cause a transactional relationship between the perceived and perceiving, where the perceiving can then effect the perceived, and the perceived can effect the perceiving. But again, it's merely a flaw in the structure of our language that the way I describe this process creates the concept of two separate entities. They're not separate, they never were. And we use the term transactional relationship to qualify it in a way digestible by people who think in terms of our language. But our language describes an illusory environment, it attempts to organize life into dichotomies in order to better figure out how to deal with it all. So that it can behave like a human being rather than like a bit of pollen floundering in the wind. And this assertion causes suffering. And understanding death releases the suffering. Attempting to rationalize that we do not have to die because technology will save us excuses one from the most fundamentally enlightening experience possible. Knowing you die, you can die before you die. And then you are free. Trying to hide from death, you can never know freedom. You cling to something we invented in the first place. This thing we call me. This thing which we never had to invent, but once we did it was there and letting it go causes an enormous feeling of vulnerability so it's almost stuck in place. Stuck until we're willing to face absolute vulnerability.

      I'll end with Alan Watts

      Last edited by Omnis Dei; 05-24-2012 at 10:36 PM.
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      Everything works out in the end, sometimes even badly.


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      I read this title wrongly at first...

      The other thread sounds like it's gotten interesting, but even though I started it it's just moving way too quickly for me to read through all the posts now.

      I disagree that consciousness has been invented by language. It's natural, as far as I can tell, and I see no reason to think otherwise, for the brain to perceive itself as an individual, for that to be an 'I'. Perhaps you don't experience consciousness very strongly yourself, and that's why you don't see it as a natural way to look at oneself. I'd be very surprised if even non-human animals didn't have a concept of 'I'. If they do, then consciousness obviously isn't an invention of language.

      The death of a human is worse than the death of a leaf because we value the lives of other humans, but we don't value leaves very much. When a human dies, it causes many negative chemical reactions to go on in our brains which we don't want to occur, so it's natural to try to avoid that. When a leaf dies, no one cares. The reason we get sad when people die isn't because there's some misunderstanding about death. It's because a person to whom we were emotionally attached suddenly isn't there anymore, and it's difficult to cope with that.

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      The concept of me was not born directly from language. But language imprisons our understanding of reality because it causes us to speak in a way which implies certain conditions about reality which are not true.

      And whether or not other animals have gained a concept of me is irrelevant to whether or not it accurately represents reality. Optical illusions reveal how we morph reality in all sorts of ways because evolutionary advantage supported an illusory concept of reality.

      We have perception, we have reasoning, we have bodies. We combined all these things into "me." But this combination was invented. It is not innately true. Worse yet, once we begin associating our identity with our perception, we suffer. Freeing the two from their bondage to each other, we become liberated.

      Everything works out in the end, sometimes even badly.


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      OK, I understand what you're saying now Omnis. I think it's a pretty interesting idea actually...

      Not sure if I agree with you, but at least I can see your point of view.

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      That's okay, I'm not offended if you disagree. But I am interested in why you might disagree.

      Everything works out in the end, sometimes even badly.


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      Just because you call a city an organism, doesn't mean it is conscious or special in any way. It's simply another machine.
      Abraxas

      Quote Originally Posted by OldSparta
      I murdered someone, there was bloody everywhere. On the walls, on my hands. The air smelled metallic, like iron. My mouth... tasted metallic, like iron. The floor was metallic, probably iron

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      Quote Originally Posted by Omnis Dei View Post
      That's okay, I'm not offended if you disagree. But I am interested in why you might disagree.
      Not entirely sure, but probably just because human death is usually associated with a lot more suffering. Maybe if everyone accepts death way in the future then there won't be as much suffering, but the person in question will probably suffer physically before death. A leaf won't.

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      Quote Originally Posted by Abra View Post
      Just because you call a city an organism, doesn't mean it is conscious or special in any way. It's simply another machine.
      What makes a person more than another machine?

      Quote Originally Posted by Pensive Patrick View Post
      Not entirely sure, but probably just because human death is usually associated with a lot more suffering. Maybe if everyone accepts death way in the future then there won't be as much suffering, but the person in question will probably suffer physically before death. A leaf won't.
      Fair enough, death can be painful. So can watching your kids go off to college. Change can be uncomfortable sometimes. I know I get uncomfortable whenever I have to leave the company of an enjoyable person, even if it's just to walk home for the night and I plan to see them again in the future. But I've learned that flow is the way of things, and in fact it's because things change that they're worth savoring. I can understand if someone dies way before their time, it's tragic. But after two people enjoy an extremely happy life together, never taking each other for granted, and one of them dies a few years before the other... I think there's just too many fond memories of that person for the survivor not to feel elated when thinking of them.

      Everything works out in the end, sometimes even badly.


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      Quote Originally Posted by Omnis Dei View Post
      What makes a person more than another machine?
      We're conscious.
      Abraxas

      Quote Originally Posted by OldSparta
      I murdered someone, there was bloody everywhere. On the walls, on my hands. The air smelled metallic, like iron. My mouth... tasted metallic, like iron. The floor was metallic, probably iron

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      Quote Originally Posted by Abra View Post
      We're conscious.
      And what does that mean? What separates our form of perception from the sensory mechanisms of a machine?

      Everything works out in the end, sometimes even badly.


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      Quote Originally Posted by Omnis Dei View Post
      And what does that mean? What separates our form of perception from the sensory mechanisms of a machine?
      I have no idea. Because I don't know how perception works. Nobody really does.

      Until another type of machine can prove its self-awareness, memory, and learning capabilities, prove to me it's having a cohesive and separable experience, it's just another machine to me.
      Abraxas

      Quote Originally Posted by OldSparta
      I murdered someone, there was bloody everywhere. On the walls, on my hands. The air smelled metallic, like iron. My mouth... tasted metallic, like iron. The floor was metallic, probably iron

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      So you're saying you can't tell what the difference is between a conscious person and a machine? (Which by the way, does show learning capabilities. I'm not just talking about a man-made robot, I'm using machine in the general sense, to mean any sort of mechanism. So your immune system is a machine, and your immune system definitely has memory and learning capabilities)

      Do you have anything you can use to distinguish a person from any other sort of machine that isn't circular reasoning?

      Everything works out in the end, sometimes even badly.


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      Until another type of machine can prove its self-awareness, memory, and learning capabilities, prove to me it's having a cohesive and separable experience, it's just another machine to me.
      So, er, that's the difference. I guess.

      Maybe you're right, and my immune system is having an experience in addition to, or as a product of its demonstrated memory and learning. Mere symbol shunting is what's going on in the brain, mere symbol shunting elsewhere, if organized similarly, would be considered to be having an experience, too. I think.

      Fuck, maybe everyone talking to each other forms a vast neural net. But that analogue is something testable, if we develop the correct way to search for it. It starts from understanding how our own minds work, however, since they are the upper limit to the intelligence currently known to humans.
      Abraxas

      Quote Originally Posted by OldSparta
      I murdered someone, there was bloody everywhere. On the walls, on my hands. The air smelled metallic, like iron. My mouth... tasted metallic, like iron. The floor was metallic, probably iron

    18. #18
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      Well I already explained that the immune system has awareness, memory and learning. A city also has awareness, memory and learning, in a sense. Self-awareness is an arbitrary quality. We decided we had this thing we call a self, but that doesn't make it so.

      Everything works out in the end, sometimes even badly.


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      Right-o on your last two sentences.

      But to prove it's having an experience, like we do, or similar to ours, we'd either have to be able to communicate with it (and do a modified turing test--though this doesn't technically prove anything), or show that its characteristics of awareness, learning, and memory stem from the same type of symbol-shunting as our own minds, namely, the breaking, making, weakening and strengthening of connections between threshold-firing signal carriers.

      Show Detail me an example of the latter, and I'll consider more heavily your greater being/consciousness thing.
      Abraxas

      Quote Originally Posted by OldSparta
      I murdered someone, there was bloody everywhere. On the walls, on my hands. The air smelled metallic, like iron. My mouth... tasted metallic, like iron. The floor was metallic, probably iron

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      I never attempted to argue greater consciousness. Just greater being. My argument is that we aren't any more conscious than a city, not to say that both are conscious but rather that what we define as consciousness is nothing more than a process of reacting to perception, and because a greater organism is capable of sensing things in its own way, processing this sensory data and reacting to it, there's no level where you have something which is specifically an organism. We just have different levels of mechanisms.

      Everything works out in the end, sometimes even badly.


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      Ok, in that case, we're definitely apart of a greater being. I assume you've heard of the Gaia hypothesis?

      But how are we no more conscious than a city? You just said, you aren't arguing for a greater consciousness, but a greater being. I am desperately confused. ;___;
      Abraxas

      Quote Originally Posted by OldSparta
      I murdered someone, there was bloody everywhere. On the walls, on my hands. The air smelled metallic, like iron. My mouth... tasted metallic, like iron. The floor was metallic, probably iron

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      Well what exactly do you think consciousness is?

      Everything works out in the end, sometimes even badly.


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      Quote Originally Posted by Omnis Dei View Post
      Well what exactly do you think consciousness is?
      Directly respond to my post, and then I'll directly respond to yours.
      Abraxas

      Quote Originally Posted by OldSparta
      I murdered someone, there was bloody everywhere. On the walls, on my hands. The air smelled metallic, like iron. My mouth... tasted metallic, like iron. The floor was metallic, probably iron

    24. #24
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      You asked how it is we are no more conscious than a city. In order for me to answer this question, first I need to know what you think consciousness is.

      Everything works out in the end, sometimes even badly.


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      Here's what I've come up with:

      The continuous experience of qualia over time as evidenced by awareness, memory, and learning produced via the breaking, making, weakening and strengthening of connections between threshold-firing signal carriers.

      This whole thread I've been neglecting that first part. Forgive me, sensei.
      Last edited by Abra; 05-28-2012 at 07:57 AM.
      Abraxas

      Quote Originally Posted by OldSparta
      I murdered someone, there was bloody everywhere. On the walls, on my hands. The air smelled metallic, like iron. My mouth... tasted metallic, like iron. The floor was metallic, probably iron

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