Andrew (perspectivism) wrote,

Webmind CTO Ben Goertzel on C.S. Peirces "Law of Mind"

Right in the middle of his corporate biography "The Webmind AI Engine -- a True Digital Mind in the Making" (April 2001), Goertzel says some philosophically awesome things:

Structured consciousness: There are certain structures associated with consciousness, which are deterministic, cognitive structures, involved with inference, choice, perception/action, self-observation, and so on. These structures are manifested a bit differently in the human brain and in the AI Engine, but they are there in both places.

Raw consciousness: The �raw feel� of consciousness, which I will discuss briefly, here.

What is often called the �hard problem� of consciousness is how to connect the two. Although few others may agree with me on this point, at this point, I believe I know how to do this. The answer can be found in many places; one of my favorite among these is the philosophy of Charles S. Peirce.

Peirce, never one for timid formulations, declared that:

Logical analysis applied to mental phenomena shows that there is but one law of mind, namely, that ideas tend to spread continuously and to affect certain others which stand to them in a peculiar relation of affectability. In this spreading they lose intensity, and especially the power of affecting others, but gain generality and become welded with other ideas.

This is an archetypal vision of mind which I call "mind as relationship" or "mind as network." In modern terminology Peirce's "law of mind" might be rephrased as follows: "The mind is an associative memory network, and its dynamic dictates that each idea stored in the memory is an active agent, continually acting on those other ideas with which the memory associates it."

Peirce proposed a universal system of philosophical categories:

� First: pure being

� Second: reaction, physical response

� Third: relationship

Mind from the point of view of First is raw consciousness, pure presence, pure being. Mind from the point of view of Second is a physical system, a mess of chemical and electrical dynamics. Mind from the point of view of Third is a dynamic, self-reconstructing web of relations, as portrayed in the Law of Mind.

Following a suggestion of my friend, the contemporary philosopher Kent Palmer, I have added an additional element to the Peircean hierarchy:

� Fourth: synergy

In the AI Engine, ideas begin as First, as distinct software objects called Nodes or Links. They interact with each other, which is Second, producing patterns of relationships, Third. In time, stable, self-sustaining ideas develop, which are Fourth. In Peirce�s time, it was metaphysics, today it is computer science!

And consciousness? Raw consciousness is �pure, unstructured experience,� an aspect of Peircean First, which manifests itself in the realm of Third as randomness. Structured consciousness on the other hand is a process that coherentizes mental entities, makes them more �rigidly bounded,� less likely to diffuse into the rest of the mind. The two interact in this way: structured consciousness is the process in which the randomness of raw consciousness has the biggest effect. Structured consciousness amplifies little bits of raw consciousness, as are present in everything, into a major causal force. The AI Engine implements structured consciousness in its system of perception and action schema and short-term memory; the raw consciousness comes along for free. (Webmind)
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