Are Insects Conscious?

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The Surprisingly Sophisticated Mind Of An Insect


Quote:Insects appear to be more intelligent and emotionally complex than we give them credit for. Perhaps, new research suggests, they are even conscious.


It amuses me that consciousness is something we have the right to dole out or decide upon. Sentience, problem solving, all that I think we can determine with experiments but it's odd to me to suggest we should assume other living things don't feel pain or have any sense of self. Even lobsters have been observed to play after all.


Quote:Most biologists would agree with me. “When I started studying bees in the late 1980s, the prevailing view was not just that they’re not conscious, but that they are just incapable of any kind of emotion,” Lars Chittka, a sensory and behavioral ecologist at Queen Mary University of London, told me recently. “The whole notion would have seemed just absurd.”

However, a growing collection of new experiments is challenging the old consensus. Far from being six-legged automatons, they can experience feelings akin to pain and suffering, joy and desire. When Chittka gave bumblebees an extra jolt of sucrose, their favorite food, the bees buzzed with delight. Agitated, anxious honeybees, on the other hand, responded with pessimism when researchers shook them to simulate a predatory attack. Other researchers found that they “scream” when under threat. Ants display rudimentary counting abilities, can understand the concept of zero and make tools. Fruit flies learn from their peers. Cockroaches have complex social lives. Fruit flies drown themselves in booze when deprived of mating opportunities. Some earwigs and other insects play dead when threatened by a predator.

In other words, insects have thoughts and feelings. The next question for philosophers and scientists alike is: Do they have consciousness?
'Historically, we may regard materialism as a system of dogma set up to combat orthodox dogma...Accordingly we find that, as ancient orthodoxies disintegrate, materialism more and more gives way to scepticism.'

- Bertrand Russell


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Quote:In other words, insects have thoughts and feelings. The next question for philosophers and scientists alike is: Do they have consciousness?
How, in the name of sanity, can a creature have thoughts and feelings without consciousness???
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My feeling is that consciousness goes all the way down through life - possibly omitting viruses and exosomes. This discussion makes a good case that individual cells are conscious!

http://www.basic.northwestern.edu/g-buehler/FRAME.HTM

The only caveat I have is that the thing we call consciousness may become progressively weirder as you follow that route - but the continuum seems to be real enough.
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Quote:"...they can experience feelings akin to pain and suffering, joy and desire. When Chittka gave bumblebees an extra jolt of sucrose, their favorite food, the bees buzzed with delight. Agitated, anxious honeybees, on the other hand, responded with pessimism when researchers shook them to simulate a predatory attack. Other researchers found that they “scream” when under threat. Ants display rudimentary counting abilities, can understand the concept of zero and make tools. Fruit flies learn from their peers. Cockroaches have complex social lives. Fruit flies drown themselves in booze when deprived of mating opportunities. Some earwigs and other insects play dead when threatened by a predator.

In other words, insects have thoughts and feelings. The next question for philosophers and scientists alike is: Do they have consciousness?"



It strikes me that this writer is ignoring the fundamentals of logic in that he doesn't recognize that all these things that he mentions are observed behaviors and not proof of consciousness and sentience. These creatures could just as likely be automatons exhibiting complex automatic behaviors that in various ways enhance their survival. The playing dead behavior of the earwigs is a good example. And that the bumblebees' buzzing in response to a jolt of sucrose is due to the sentient emotion of delight is really jumping to conclusions. 

Of course I don't know what the answer is, but I do know that we can't really know what this writer so blithely and anthropomorphically assumes.
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(2022-05-24, 01:30 AM)nbtruthman Wrote: It strikes me that this writer is ignoring the fundamentals of logic in that he doesn't recognize that all these things that he mentions are observed behaviors and not proof of consciousness and sentience....

I don't think you are being fair to the writer, because you are quoting her brief summary of research which is making her change her mind.

Ultimately the problem is that any behaviour could in principle be evidence of consciousness or evidence of programmed behaviour. I might be an advanced robot which is being tested with the task of writing ideas on this forum, or I could be me, consciously thinking about what I write!

If I am a robot, I am obviously busy undermining one of my beliefs - that when the hype has settled, AI will not look so intelligent after all.

I underlined 'in principle' because this is the weasely phrase in so many discussions, such as, in principle we could run a QM simulation of the human brain.....

I think there is a continuum all the way down to the cells discussed in the paper I quoted above - I don't think it is meaningful to specify a point where consciousness stops. As the author points out, you can't really claim that organisms without a cerebral cortex can't be conscious, without first understanding what is special about the cerebral cortex. However, as you move to simpler and simpler organisms, it is fair to ask if consciousness has qualitatively changed, I suppose.
(This post was last modified: 2022-05-24, 11:10 AM by David001. Edited 2 times in total.)
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(2022-05-24, 11:02 AM)David001 Wrote: I don't think you are being fair to the writer, because you are quoting her brief summary of research which is making her change her mind.

Ultimately the problem is that any behaviour could in principle be evidence of consciousness or evidence of programmed behaviour. I might be an advanced robot which is being tested with the task of writing ideas on this forum, or I could be me, consciously thinking about what I write!

If I am a robot, I am obviously busy undermining one of my beliefs - that when the hype has settled, AI will not look so intelligent after all.

I underlined 'in principle' because this is the weasely phrase in so many discussions, such as, in principle we could run a QM simulation of the human brain.....

I think there is a continuum all the way down to the cells discussed in the paper I quoted above - I don't think it is meaningful to specify a point where consciousness stops. As the author points out, you can't really claim that organisms without a cerebral cortex can't be conscious, without first understanding what is special about the cerebral cortex. However, as you move to simpler and simpler organisms, it is fair to ask if consciousness has qualitatively changed, I suppose.

Just this. Thumbs Up
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(2022-05-24, 11:02 AM)David001 Wrote: I don't think you are being fair to the writer, because you are quoting her brief summary of research which is making her change her mind.

Ultimately the problem is that any behaviour could in principle be evidence of consciousness or evidence of programmed behaviour. I might be an advanced robot which is being tested with the task of writing ideas on this forum, or I could be me, consciously thinking about what I write!

If I am a robot, I am obviously busy undermining one of my beliefs - that when the hype has settled, AI will not look so intelligent after all.

I underlined 'in principle' because this is the weasely phrase in so many discussions, such as, in principle we could run a QM simulation of the human brain.....

I think there is a continuum all the way down to the cells discussed in the paper I quoted above - I don't think it is meaningful to specify a point where consciousness stops. As the author points out, you can't really claim that organisms without a cerebral cortex can't be conscious, without first understanding what is special about the cerebral cortex. However, as you move to simpler and simpler organisms, it is fair to ask if consciousness has qualitatively changed, I suppose.

I think that the most likely case is that it could be visualized to be analogous to some phenomena of our own technology. Say, drone technology. The smallest drones don't have the payload and power capacity to implement advanced AI capabilities, so their "behavior" is mostly automatic and pre-programmed, or directly controlled by ground operators. But the larger heavier drones have the size and payload capacity to incorporate larger computers and memory systems and sensor arrays, so they even can RF download different AI programs and applications for different situations. In other words, due to their larger size and payload capacity they can achieve various degrees of independent intelligent conscious-seeming behaviors that are RF downloaded from remote locations, to independently accomplish goals such as surveillance and attack against specific types of targets for instance.

I think that the manifestation of spirit, consciousness and sentience in living creatures over the course of "evolution" (whatever that really has been, certainly driven by higher intelligence and not Darwinian) is to a degree analogous to this technological progression. Spirit is omnipresent and attempting to manifest itself in physical living creatures, but limited in the extent and depth of this manifestation by the size and therefore complexity of the intended vehicles - namely the creature's body systems especially neurological. In the smaller simpler creatures behavior is mostly automatic and nonconscious and driven by non-conscious but complex stimulous-response networks. As size and complexity of the animals increased so also did their capacity to manifest intelligence even if limited, then consciousness and then sentience, in other words to progressively manifest Spirit. I won't attempt to even guess at what level of evolution true consciousness and sentience became possible in animals, but it seems to me there must have been a point of transition.
(This post was last modified: 2022-05-24, 04:06 PM by nbtruthman. Edited 8 times in total.)
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(2022-05-24, 03:40 PM)nbtruthman Wrote: I won't attempt to even guess at what level of evolution true consciousness and sentience became possible in animals, but it seems to me there must have been a point of transition.
Have you looked at my link to Guenter Albrecht-Buehler's work? That implies intelligence is present in no small amount in individual cells.

As regards downloading, I really do not think this is relevant at all. The way memory capacity is increasing all that information could be loaded on board in a year or two. Besides we aren't talking about what could be achieved with internet assistance - I mean I could download and read a paper on abstruse mathematical constructions that I would know nothing about.

I presume kids taking exams are still somehow prevented from using the internet to assist them!
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(2022-05-22, 10:28 PM)Sciborg_S_Patel Wrote: The Surprisingly Sophisticated Mind Of An Insect


It amuses me that consciousness is something we have the right to dole out or decide upon. Sentience, problem solving, all that I think we can determine with experiments but it's odd to me to suggest we should assume other living things don't feel pain or have any sense of self. Even lobsters have been observed to play after all.

I strongly agree.  An insect "hive mind" processes information in limited but highly effective ways.  Some constructions are quite astonishing and surely exhibit deep instinctual understanding, understanding expressed as highly adapted behavior.  The pragmatic and cold analysis from the science is mapping how information is active and structural.  The development of order and organization is being run to ground by good science.  Insect informational systems are surely a level in mental evolution. 

Mind is the development of this order, organization and communication channels to activate them.  These self-referenced manipulations in the informational environment are biological intentions.  These wants and needs are not sourced from chemical reactions, but from unconscious mental work directly changing real-world probabilities.  

These adaptive events are measurable as outcomes and sourced to intentional vectors. Mental work changes entropy when it is effective.  There are many articles to read where insect information systems are being documented.  Mental evolution includes insect creativity.

Insects may not have reflexive self-awareness as consciousness, but they get the job done.
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On the question of whether insects have consciousness: a new article uses various professional scientific sources to point out that in one case (ants), their "thinking" is more akin to AI computer processing utilizing algorithms. All computer programs essentially are algorithms, and many animals cleverly utilize them for their most basic life patterns. In their use of computer-like algorithms there is no indication of consciousness, any more than is the case with even the most advanced human-created AI systems.

The following are excerpts from the new article DO ANTS THINK? YES, THEY DO — BUT THEY THINK LIKE COMPUTERS, in Mind Matters at https://mindmatters.ai/2022/05/do-ants-t...computers/:

Quote:The new book by Eric Cassell, Animal Algorithms: Evolution and the Mysterious Origin of Ingenious Instincts (2021) (https://www.discovery.org/b/animal-algorithms/ ), offers some insights into how ants organize themselves using what amount to algorithms, without any central command.

It seems that the ant is doing something that does not rely on individual problem-solving skills....Cassell points out that the ants’ complex colony organization where one queen or several queens lay all the eggs and the other females do all the work is almost exclusively the domain of life forms with very small brains.


Quote:Ants communicate mainly by pheromones, scents that provide information. (These are) scents that provide information. In their book, The Superorganism: The Beauty, Elegance, and Strangeness of Insect Societies (2008), Bert Hölldobler and E. O. Wilson (1929–2021) identified twelve areas of communication mediated by pheromones, including “alarm, attraction, recruitment, grooming, feeding, exchange of fluids and solid particles, group effect, recognition of nestmates, caste determination, control of other individuals competing for reproduction, territoriality, and sexual communication.

What makes pheromones a complex communication system is that most emissions are of several pheromones mingled rather than one only. Some signals are recognized by all ants in the vicinity, others only by the ant’s own species, and others are specific to the ant’s colony.
...........................................
One evolutionary biologist describes the processing of pheromones as equivalent to AND gates and STOP in a computer system. The ant is not so much deciding what to do as responding to an AI-like signal.

My observation: these systems are essentially systems of algorithms coordinated by higher algorithms. Computer programmers have even adapted ant algorithms to the computer.

Quote:From an article in Wired, “WHAT DO ANTS KNOW THAT WE DON’T?” by Deborah Gordon, at https://www.wired.com/2013/07/what-ants-...etworking/ :

"Stanford’s Deborah M. Gordon, a specialist in ant behavior, thinks of the complex algorithms ants use to communicate without personal understanding as the “anternet”:

Ant colonies use dynamic networks of brief interactions to adjust to changing conditions. No individual ant knows what’s going on. Each ant just keeps track of its recent experience meeting other ants, either in one-on-one encounters when ants touch antennae, or when an ant encounters a chemical deposited by another.

One strategy ants use (familiar from our own data networks) is to set up a circuit of permanent highways — like a network of cell phone towers — from which ants search locally. The invasive Argentine ants are experts at this; they’ll find any crumb that lands on your kitchen counter.

The Argentine ants also adjust their paths, shifting from a close to random walk when there are lots of ants around, leading each ant to search thoroughly in a small area, to a straighter path when there are few ants around, thus allowing the whole group to cover more ground.

Like a distributed demand-response network, the aggregated responses of each ant to local conditions generates the outcome for the whole system, without any centralized direction or control.

So the individual ant doesn’t know what’s going on and there is no boss ant in the colony (the queen only lays eggs; she does not rule). That’s where the algorithms come in; the ant uses prepackaged solutions to conventional circumstances like adjusting the search for food according to the numbers of co-workers."
(This post was last modified: 2022-05-31, 05:51 PM by nbtruthman. Edited 2 times in total.)
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