Disassembling Sentience: Distributed Multidimensional Computation

If we seek to explain sentience and consciousness we might not be particularly comforted by what we ultimately discover.

Context: How can you tell if another person, animal or thing is conscious?

An unpopular philosophical intuition in this context might be that the essential self-propagating information and energy-processing patterns of (a) logical, material and organic necessity are only identifiably “sentient” or “conscious” because from within the epistemological coordinate system that they are measured from they are inevitably and circularly intelligible and self-validating. To put it another way – there are underlying symmetries of autonomously self-propagating recursive logic that we associate to, and identify as, individuation and (perhaps) subjectivity or interior experience; these patterns are not necessarily bound or parameterised by organic computation.

There exist distributed information computing systems such as communications networks or the systems, artefacts and disembodied entities of cultural representation within (and as) which we exist. It is probable that a distributed cultural (say political, ideological, narrative) information system displays many of the essential features of sentience – statistical or probabistically optimal computation, memory, adaptive selection and emergence – *without* necessary experience or awareness.

The imputation is that sentience is merely a specific instance of a ubiquitous bias towards optimally concise and autonomously self-propagating information and energy-processing systems in nature. A possible consequence of this – the “philosophically unpopular” part – is that there is nothing particularly special about consciousness, that complexity and biological selection for experience or cultural selection for identifiable subjectivity are only a narrow-band instance of a much broader-spectrum system and logical principle.

This invokes (or incurs, if poorly-received) that psychological systems are perhaps best understood as adaptive nodes in a vast information and energy-processing environment that could have many dimensional cross-sections, partitions or relational subsets. This also suggests that methods of narrative or material persuasion-for-effect are as diversely identifiable and applicable as are the information-processing or distributed computational entities they seek to influence.

6 replies on “Disassembling Sentience: Distributed Multidimensional Computation”

Are you suggesting that the root cause(s) of sentience might to be accessible to us because they might be located in another dimension? That our biologies might be 4+ dimensional but our capacities to perceive or conceive those biological systems are only 3-dimensional?

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Hi. More or less equivalent processes to the computational activity of our brains, in regards to information and energy processing, occurs all around us. I will skirt around issues unverifiably metaphysical in nature but I will suggest that if we are to understand “dimension” mathematically as representing a degree of freedom in regards to some arbitrary coordinate system, then there are always, *always, other possible recombinatory relationships (between locations or entities and within systems) which approximate to higher-dimensional. This ties into Algorithmic Information Theory, Logical Incompleteness and an intuitively-considered gestalt systemic recursion.
There are many possible angular/relational slices of a cake, when that cake is a multidimensional phase space, those slices are not necessarily linear or simple, however – the actual material manifestation of those alternate sets of entities, artefacts, systems or facts is not higher-dimensional as in “some other place”, it is merely a relational property of those things.
Computation, sentience, emergent complexity – it is all mysterious and may be related but there is no necessarily Twilight Zone dimensional property here. There is mystery, certainly, but as Wittgenstein said of the ineffable – whereof we cannot speak, we must remain silent.
When that silence is the strange chaotic attractor of logical self-negation and indefinitely and internally extensible systemic structure, it all becomes very interesting indeed. 🙂
What is inaccessible and unknown teaches us something subtle by its mischievously conspicuous absence.

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Yes, what you say makes sense and strikes a chord in me (if not a memory that I read it somewhere) that any so-called higher dimensional space can be “flattened” into a two- or even one-dimensional space or string so that a hyper(-hyper)-space may be topologically equivalent to any flat figure as long as it encloses the same number of spaces. The equivalent topologies imply those figures have the same number of nodes and edges. Although we may not be able to intuit or travel through hyper-space, we could certainly make ourselves aware of, appreciate, encode or decode the patterns and mathematical degrees of freedom inherent in our infinitely dimensional universe. In other words, no dimension is hidden from our understanding (or that of machine learning).

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Interesting. I think there may be logical limits to understanding, for organic -or- digital minds. Those limits are that, due to the indefinitely extensible nature of relational networks or systems, there is no possibility of epistemological closure. So – is the non-existence of a boundary or closure tantamount to another boundary? This represents an unanswerable koan (Zen riddle).

It is very early morning here and I am looking up at the galaxy, standing in the cold wind and wondering about what a potentially infinite Universe actually means.

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