Human imagination is a simulation. One of the recurring ideas of consciousness is the facts of consciousness make it look like a simulation. when we dream, or day dream, or worry, or think through a problem, we are imagining. Imagination is a simulation. Why do I assert this? Because, our imagined experience is felt as if it were real.
Imagination lies at the root of our experience. everyone's eye has a blind spot on the retina where the optic nerve connects. but no one has a blind spot in their vision. We imagine what is in that blind spot automatically (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blind_spot_(vision)
). we are making simulations for what we do not see. When we imagine the future, either of the motion of an object, or the result of an action, we are using our imagination. We are simulating an outcome based on our experience.
Tennis players do not see the ball hit their rackets during a game. They imagine the position of the ball as it moves through space and swing the racket as if the ball were to be in the spot for that swing. Future thinking is an instance where we simulate events for ourselves using our imagination.
Object permanence is a simulated feature. Object permanence is a developed feature of human cognitive function. A damaged brain or an undeveloped brain affect the experience of object permanence.
Is simulation descriptive of how consciousness is a unified experience? That is, when we experience, it is not that we experience only one thing. Rather, our whole experience has many concurrent parts. Memories, sounds, shapes, smells, feelings. These are all part of experience. We distinguish different parts of experience, but our experience always constitutes a whole. Our consciousness is unified.
Simulations raises many questions. For instance, How is a simulation determined or setup? who figures out what the simulation is, that is what are simulation producing facts? If we do not reside in a simulation, how can we create a corollary from our imagined future through prediction for instance to our actual experience. How do the contents of our imagination, which are not sensory experiences, correspond to our sensory experiences unless we rely on a simulation of both?
There is one way a universe may be external and at the same time subjective experience allows observers to differentiate separately. That is when we are all part of the same simulated universe. This could account, in a fashion, for how purely subjective elements could be shared between observers, and how an external "reality" behaves in relation to purely representational elements. The external objects are shared in the simulation by the intelligences in the simulation. We access the same memory address location or simulation object. And this would work because that simulated universe is programmed to be that way.
It's one hypothesis to consider. **see Descartes But in such a simulation, the contents of the mind have the same qualities at the simulation level as the objects of the physical world. In a simulated world, the contents of the mind and contents of sensory experience are all being simulated. The simulation itself does not make distinctions about an external reality and subjective experience par se. These are merely different elements of the simulation. Neither one is more or less real, as all the elements of the simulation have the same "reality". (The movie the matrix demonstrates this sort of model of experience.)
Could there be a reality without representations? - asking the question again:
A representational starting point for explaining "reality" or the "universe" is an argument for idealism. a weak kind perhaps. But the point I want to get across here is that our universe does not exist apart from representations. We can't explain anything in the universe without representations. The whole idea of a knowable universe falls flat without accepting representations as being real and co-existant with the universe itself.
So instead of trying to understand representation as being a by-product of an external, indifferent, objective universe. The evidence seems to show representation as being a necessary component of the universe. Representation is necessary to understand it. Representations are necessary to experience the universe. And they are necessary for arguments against this very proposition. The idea that the universe is separate from our supposedly subjective representations its own counter-argument
Everywhere we look in the universe we encounter not just "stuff" but representations of stuff. Instead of relying on the idea (the representation) of the universe as external why not admit that representations are central? Why do we treat some representational ideas, such as an external, representation free universe, as "true" where the concept itself admits it's contradiction?
There is one argument against the possibility of a representation free universe that I quite like. It is about the number 2. 2 is a very useful representation. How is "2" not part of the universe?
It's an odd problem. Where in the universe is the "2"? If 2 and it's cousins are not part of the universe, how can the universe "behave" in any sort of predictable way? If “2” is there in the universe, where is it?
We are aware of 2, so it must exist. But where or how it exists is another matter entirely. 2 must certainly be part of the universe (or numbers, or quantities, or causality - there many kinds of ideas that we must admit exist and therefore part of the universe) And if we admit that the universe has ideas in it, then we must admit representations, because that is what ideas are. Thus we must admit that representation itself is embedded into the very nature of the universe.
Today, our computer are designed in a way with a materialist bias. They work with the material we use for representations, but do not today work directly make representations. Perhaps the paradigms we are using to achieve artificial intelligence should have different starting points. Instead of relying on mechanistic models for our programming, maybe our computers should work with representations themselves. Work with the stuff upon which the mechanistic models depend.
representation is real:
Are representations fictions? Are representations non-existent?
Of course the answer is no. How do I know that it's "no"? In this case, a good counter-example to the claim "there are no representations" are words. Words, letters, sentences, paragraphs are all representations.
So what is a representation? Very simply it is where one "object" stands in for another. Or it is where one "object" references another. Or when one "object" is associated with another. That is, an object of awareness, and object of experiences represents another object of experience. There are two underlying qualities of representation, similarity and difference.
[show this as venn diagrams and sets. identity set, a for b, and a and b in a set] this set info though is not "universally applicable" it is only one way to show these sorts of relationships and it may or may not be complete.
Similarity and Difference. These are the two "properties" that give rise to representation. At the extreme they are identity (=) and not-identity (!=). P and notP.
Lets look at a box of crayons. They are all crayons. Within the set of crayons, there are the "blue crayons". And within the blue crayons are dark blues and light blues. And individually there are Cyan, Navy, Periwinkle. Similarities and differences. P and nP. = and ≠ (<>).
Do you see how these form sets? [include venn diagram]
This way of creating "sets of things" is a way to represent. It is a counter-example to representations being non-existant, are sets non-existant? Are sets of things derivatives of awareness?
We can show some representations with sets.
Similarity and Difference form a basis for some kinds of representation.
the representational base are objects:
In the first part, I used the term "objects". This word "object" is a representation of it's own. I am using it to refer to the "universe" of "things" that are "instances" of representation. A simplistic way to think of these "objects" is to think of them as nouns (but they can also be verbs).
This is a shorthand way of working with representations at this stage. but "object" seems as useful a way to describe the "contents" of a representation as anything else.
Of course, actions can be representations to. For instance, when we see a 100m race, we say all the "runners" are "running". "Running" in this scenario is as much a representation as "runners". "Running" is a representation of a certain kind of action.
If one of the runners stopped "running" and started "walking" we would note the difference and conceptualize and represent the action with a different word. But not just a different word, a different action altogether. Verbs like run and walk are as much a form of representation as "runners" and "walkers". Actions are also objects of representation and awareness.
This does not mean that representations are dependent on language. The runner that started walking would be engaged in a different kind of action. The difference in the actions can be apprehended by both animals and young children. Those creatures apprehend the difference in action, which is a basic form of representation - differentiation.
starting with experience again:
"Everywhere we look in the universe we encounter not just "stuff" but representations of stuff. "
Stuff - things, objects, actions, events.
look and encounter
I've been writing about "the universe", which is a nice big idea (a representation). But is it just an idea or does it have some basis? This idea of an external world, is it just a representation or is it based on something more? How do we even talk about representations without really talking about experience first?
The external world, and the internal one for that matter, are certainly not based solely on representations. But are encountered through experience. A lot of experiences are certainly pre-verbal and while they may elicit associations, they may be wholly free of associations when first encountered. Smells often have no associated qualities until after they are experienced initially.
Only later, do we make associations with smell. Smells, after they are associatively experienced, evoke memories feelings, and recognition. The idea that it "smells like summer", can only be achieved after having a summer where this association is made.
Smells, like other sensory experiences are free of associations and hence of representations when initially experiencing them. It is only after an experience with sensations that associations and representations can be made. This is learning, associating different objects of experience together. the smell of cut grass needs the cutting of grass to know what that smell is. The smell of wet concrete in the summer requires being around wet concrete in the summer. However, the molecules which induce the smell of something are not the smell. Smells, like all sensory experiences are complex representations that are associated to the sensation. The smell is the perception, the molecular interaction is the sensation.
Perceptions are simulations of sensations. We ordinarily say what we sense things in our dreams. We see, we smell, we taste, we hear, we have internal sensations such as hunger, or vertigo. Obviously in dreams we are perceiving, not sensing. We do not see, or smell, or hear because the sensory medium of sight, smell, sound, tastes are simply not present. This is also true of stories. Stories evoke all kinds of experiences. Stories evoke sensations.
When we cook we taste our food and can tell if "it doesn't taste quite right. It needs more salt." What is that? A sensation of "right"? no. It's the fitting of sensory data into a simulation. Which implies there is more than one level of simulation going on. One where we taste food for what it is, and one where we compare that food to some idea of what the food should taste like.
***And it is the totality of learning. There is nothing else to learning but making associations and representations. - the more associations and representations and sensations one has when learning is exactly what it means to learn more. As discussed earlier, the richer the experience, the greater the awareness. Which is the same as learning more. Later we could show how a richer experience can be shown symbolically to lead to more awareness and hence to more memory and skill formation - eg more learning.