Thanks for the kind words. Here, from page 64 of Robert Ornstein's 1986 book "The Psychology of Consciousness" (Penguin) is some insight into what consciousness is. Even though this book is rather old compared to what is happening in the field, its worth buying for some of the poems of Indries Shah (including 'The Blind Men and the Elephant') as well as his breadth of knowledge and open mindedness. IMHO, Ornstein has the best account of consciousness yet published in his later book "Evolution of Consciousness" (Touchstone 1993) but there are some real gems in the older book, including the following from page 64:
"There are four main functions of consciousness:
1. Simplification and Selection of information
There is much "editing" that goes on in the mind--from the first cuts as the senses to those of perception, memory, and thinking--but still there is far too much information available at once, so there needs to be a choice in what the organism does at any moment. It is in consciousness that the choice is made.
2. Guiding and overseeing actions
Consciousness connects brain and body states with external occurrences. In order to function in a complex environment, actions must be planned, guided and organized: We must know when and where to walk; when to speak and what to say; when to eat, drink, eliminate, and sleep. These actions must be coordinated with events in the outside world. At any moment the content of consciousness is what we are prepared to act on next.
3. Setting priorities for action
It is not enough for our actions to be coordinated with events in the outside world; they must reflect our internal needs. Pain can flood consciousness in the same way that an emergency fills the front page of a newspaper. The priority system gives certain events, those affecting survival, fast access or a controlling influence on consciousness. Survival and safety come first; while hunger will not intrude as dramatically as does pain, the need will be felt if left unattended.
4. Detecting and resolving discrepancies"
Since the information selected to enter consciousness is usually about changes in the external and internal worlds, when there is a discrepancy between our stored knowledge about the world and an event, it is more likely to come to consciousness. For instance, a woman in a bikini would probably not attract too much attention on the beach, but if she wore the same outfit to a formal dinner it would certainly be noticed. Discrepancies may arise internally,, as well. For instance, you are usually not conscious of your breathing. However, when you have a cold your breathing may enter your consciousness, and this may tell you to slow down or to see a doctor. Consciousness involves actions to reduce the discrepancy, as when you straighten out a crooked painting on the wall because it does not fit with the other paintings."
Ornstein sometimes uses a newspaper analogy, where the consciousness is like the front page, but behind it are "many different levels of awareness, containing our plans and expectations, our assumptions, or our basic knowledge of how to operate in the world." He then goes on to divide awareness into conscious awareness and sub conscious awareness and includes a number of examples.
I think it would be worthwhile if we got a thread going about either or both of these Ornstein books.
And, BTW, I guess you can tell that I am mostly concerned with the *functional design* of consciousness, rather than what it "is." The feeling of being conscious is probably related to the fact that everything you do echoes a sensation such that your belief structure tends to reinforce the unique 'you-ness' of you. But whatever it is, That is not the part that I care about.
I want to find an algorithmic basis for consciousness so that I can design really powerful computers capable of harnessing *CONSCIOUS EFFICIENCY* in their pursuit of knowledge, understanding and communication.
>>> "There are four main functions of consciousness...."
There is a lot of shared code here - most obviously between 1 & 4, and 2 & 3. Figuring out the easiest way to design this might be the hardest part of the job. I'm not a programmer ( I fix 'em, I don't feed 'em), and I'll take a wild guess and say you are pretty good at what you do (<g>), so I think the only way I and others on the forum can help you is to work on developing mechanics in the theory and looking at any problems you bring up.
>>> And, BTW, I guess you can tell that I am mostly concerned with the *functional design* of consciousness, rather than what it "is." The feeling of being conscious is probably related to the fact that everything you do echoes a sensation such that your belief structure tends to reinforce the unique 'you-ness' of you. But whatever it is, that is not the part that I care about. <<<
I think that either you are being modest or you want to stay focused - ie, it is easy to hard turn into side issues in an open forum. For my money, function is meaning. A particular function may be re-usable in many different larger functions, but the particular function is what it is - a circuit that does the same thing over and over again. Only the quantity of energy that flows into it, and the switchable input and output connections to other functions, change.