Consciousness as reprogramming

Hat tip to Andrew Sullivan….

Scott Adams (Dilbert) sees human consciousness as unique relative to other animals, including dolphins.

Problem with this is that early Homo sapiens had no idea that their brain, as an organ, subserved consciousness, and yet, no doubt were fully conscious and capable of free-will. So there was certainly no idea as such as “reprogramming”. On the other hand, humans were certainly implicitly aware of their own moods which might be changed through behaviors. But this awareness is certainly not limited to humans. We can see the evidence for such advanced cognition in the Great Apes. Bonobos and Orangutans engage in complex “computer games” with researchers, not for reward (as in juice or food) but rather because they chose to for the intrinsic entertainment of the game.

Money quote from Adams:

Suppose we define a creature to have consciousness and free will if it demonstrates the ability to use the external world to reprogram its own brain toward specific ends. By this definition, reading a book in order to change one’s mood or gain data would be an example of both consciousness and free will. But a monkey using a stick as a tool to get bugs would be nothing more than eating. The monkey is not trying to become a smarter or happier monkey; he’s just feeding his body.