Archive for the ‘week_7’ Category

Week_7 How Consciousness is Classified By Gaurav Bansal

Sunday, February 22nd, 2009

Consciousness is a very abstract term in the sense it is difficult to determine what is, or more interestingly who has, consciousness. Siddarth Ramakrishnan discussed consciousness and how it pertains to animals. Before I dive into the animal aspect of consciousness, I think it is important define the meaning of consciousness. At the beginning of the presentation Ramakrishnan, a definition for consciousness was shown. Of the definitions I found, one in particular that stood out the most, “the state of being characterized by sensations, emotion, volition, and thought.”

Most people will automatically say that human beings have consciousness even though they do not know the exact definition. However if the question is posed for animals, it would generate very different responses. Ramakrishnan gives an example of an animal the shows consciousness, specifically and elephant that was observed to have a sense of self via experimentation that entailed putting an X under its eye and showing it a reflection of itself. I wanted to know what people think relate to whether animals have consciousness or not.

I posed the question of whether animals have consciousness to one of my friends. Immediately he brought up the need to define “emotion.” Emotion is “a state of feeling or mental reaction such as anger or fear.” After thinking about it for a long time, he could not come to distinct answer. He brought up ideas such as whether consciousness is defined as behaving as a human, since as far as we can tell, we are the dominate race. Can a dog love something? Can it act like a human? What about an ant? Eventually it came to the point at which the answer was hinging on whether animals have a sense of self. This circled back to Ramakrishnan presentation related to animals.

I decided to explore more what we consider to be consciousness. It seems that the ultimate deciding factor for most people of constitutes consciousness is the presence of self awareness. I personally believe consciousness is something that describes active thinking and decisions. Though my definition differs from the “text-book” definition I still think animals have consciousness, ranging from dogs to ants. An article I found refutes the idea that dogs have a consciousness.


The mirror test that was discussed by Ramakrishnan was used in this article as a way to prove self-awareness. Though not explicitly stated, the dog did not pass this test. A hide-and-seek game was used as a test to see if a dog can have conscious goals. After a few rounds it became apparent that the dog was going to the same places over and over again, and not understand the rules of the game. I understand the stance they are making, but is it fair to base this conclusion off the observation that a dog does not understand the rules to the game. There are barriers that need to be taken into account when classifying consciousness, such as a language barrier between humans and dogs. For all we know, dogs may think the same things for humans since we do not get what they are trying to say. This debate can also be applied to a goldfish. Some would say that it doesn’t have consciousness, but the physical limitation of a short term memory would contradict any analysis done to prove consciousness or not.

I still stand by my statement that all animals have consciousness, it is just the type of consciousness needs to be redefined for each subject it is being applied to. Our definition works well for humans, but not other animals.

By Gaurav Bansal

Nicolas Nelson Sec1A, Week 7

Sunday, February 22nd, 2009

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Nicolas Nelson Sec1A, Week 7

So consciousness, huh? A good deal of art is intended to enlighten the audience to their lack thereof on a particular topic that they might be inspired to rise up from ignorance.;init:.jpg Pretty much all of science does that. Technology is the interesting point of the triangle this time; it’s not indicative of unawareness—it’s limited by it.

The same way our five frail, imprecise senses of the universe are limited to the electromagnetic radiation, dissociated ions, and forms of pressure parts of our bodies touch, technology is the body limited to human knowledge. It’s sort of the inverse to the mind because what is tangible has a greater influence on the mechanisms of a robot, as opposed to emotions which usually impact a human brain to a vastly greater degree than physical injury. This is innate and derived from generations of evolution and behavior and physical chemical reactions, whereas programmed responses in machines are the byproduct of ingenuity and cleverness.

This goes back to the concept of robots and consciousness. Can they ever “think” or will they just “process,” no matter how advanced they get? Could computers compose poetry? Do animals make “art” or are they simply trained to perform tricks? Honestly, I don’t think any one person has a right to say what is cognizant and what is not, but for the moment I think it’s safe to say that robots at their present state are but machines, computers thus far cannot feel and so cannot write literature with any sort of real value to humanity (unless we force the worth into it by interpreting it through our own feelings), and modern man remains the only species with the capacity to desire to create art independently.

But that said, the elusive asymptote between “conscious” and “not conscious” remains to be defined. Just because we haven’t broached the limit yet doesn’t mean our technology never will, nor evolution’s animalian psyches. The presentations in class used several different definitions to approach the concept, but none of them could contour the same dotted line for all cases. Though it gives people a place to start, there can be no strict formula to scientifically evaluate consciousness. There are always exceptions and fluctuations, and any attempt to discretely, scientifically define awareness is an endeavor to find a rule to that one rule of them all without exception. It takes art, imagination, and intuition to say that a dog and a cat have personas and sentience, the same way science can try to assess a dolphin or chimpanzee’s intelligence quotient. But humans are the only ones who care that they care. Perhaps we should care about that?

Art is inspired by awareness, and its limitations. Dreams from the subconscious are a huge role in metaphorical literature and literal representations. Our susceptibility to a narrow range of photon frequencies gives us an ideally balanced color wheel; in addition to brightness sensors, the retina has three different receptor types for the three respective primary colors. Those few variables paint the vast, foggy sight we have of this diverse world. But without all our entwining, overlapping, intricate layers of further developed consciousness, why would such an aesthetic evolutionary achievement be anything more than a mere adaptation for hunting prey and evading predators? And reproducing. We all know, or at least know of, the beauty in that. Dolphins do too, I suppose, so one might wonder if they’re not right behind (or ahead of) us? Ah, but we have thumbs. Yes, that makes sense: we must be more aware than they are because we have thumbs.

Consciousness by Jessica Young

Sunday, February 22nd, 2009
The topic in lecture this week is one which I became very familiar with during a psychology class I took in High School. The idea of consciousness is a topic that holds particular interest for me in that everyone’s perception of just what consciousness is, is entirely subjective. The concept of conditioning is fascinating because we as humans strive toward individuality, but in actuality have been taught to react to certain stimuli and respond to various situations in a very uniform matter. We start this training from the moment of conception and it is such an integral part of our life that most people don’t even realize that their reactions are learned behaviors.

Another facet to the idea of conditioning which I think is astounding is the human brain’s capability to unknowingly block out certain stimuli. When a person is given a number of tasks to carry out, their focus can become so narrow, that they fail to notice other events occurring simultaneously. This is a perfect example of this concept:

Although this is a rather extreme example of this phenomena, there are other examples that have much more familiar implications, such as someone who runs into a pole as they try to both walk and text. Their mind is so focused on the texting that they fail to notice the pole blocking their pathway.


Another way to study human consciousness is through the practice of hypnosis. My mother actually owns a hypnosis CD and as preparation for this weeks blog, I listened to it this weekend. The aim of the hypnosis was stress relief and let me just say, it worked! The CD started off with a soothing melody and the sound of a woman’s voice directing you to relax various parts of your body in a fixed progression. As this process neared completion, I really felt relaxed. The sensation was one of being at the point of sleep, without fully passing over into the realm of unconsciousness. Your were aware of everything going on in the room around you, but were almost in a comatose state were you felt that you couldn’t move your extremities. The voice of the woman then shifted from being directing to almost suggestive. In the beginning you felt compelled to follow the instructions for relaxation, but after it somehow seemed like everything she was telling you was advice rather than a command. She gave a myriad of different suggestions for eliminating stress from your life, then left it up to you to select the method that was most conducive to your lifestyle, according to your stress level. As the CD neared it’s end, the woman reversed the process of relaxation and began to help the listener unrelax all the parts of the body. At the end, once she had finished the process, she snapped her fingers, allowing the listener to completely exit that state of stillness.



The last state of consciousness that I wanted to discuss was that of out of body experiences. Many claim to have out of body experiences after near death encounters, but I found this woman’s account to be the most compelling:

All in all, I believe that such experiences are rare, but nevertheless true. Some claim that these experiences are entirely caused by chemical reactions within the brain, but I think such people are mistaken.


Week 7 - Animal Consciousness by Natalie Ridling

Sunday, February 22nd, 2009

            Dr. Ramakrishnan’s lecture about consciousness was certainly very interesting.  I thought that what he said about the elephant and the “x” on its head was fascinating.  I would not have expected an elephant to understand that the mark was on its head, but that just shows that as humans, we do not give animals enough credit for what they do know.  It makes perfect sense that they would know or have similar senses to us, but we do not acknowledge that because we communicate in ways that we deem as more advanced.  I really had not thought too much about these ideas until this week, and now a lot of my experiences with my own animals make sense.

            When I was little, we always had cats.  My mom loved cats and my dad didn’t want dogs, so we stuck with cats and gold fish.  He mainly didn’t want dogs because mainly because no one was home during the day to take care of them.  Now that I think about it though, this is one way that we do recognize that animals have needs beyond just food and such.  At the time that I had a conversation with my dad about getting a dog, he expressed that it would not be fair to the dog because both he and my mom were at work teaching all day and I was in school.  We also traveled a lot, so there would have been times when we would have had to put the dog in a kennel while we were out of town.  Basically, because the dog would not have had an “ideal” life, my dad did not want one.  Then, I was the unhappy child who just wanted her way, but now I fully recognize that my dad was making a very wise decision.  I never thought about the dog at the time, but just what I wanted, and that is where the consciousness of the animal was not recognized. 

            We did have a lot of gold fish, usually they came from my dentist, and some had really weird “personality” traits, though they never seemed to make it to adulthood.  One of them actually jumped out of the fish bowl, while others would simply chill out at the bottom of the tank and others would swim in circles.  I think that on some level this is an animal trait that points to them having a conscious mind. 


            Our cat, Rusty, is probably the best example of consciousness.  In the area that we live, there are a lot of coyotes, so each night we would put our outdoor cat in our garage.  We had him trained, so that when we shook the food bag, he would come to the back door of our house and we would let him through the house and into the garage.  At other times during the day, we would let him through too if he came to the back door (it was a big glass door so we could see if he was there) and more of less whined.  On rainy days, we would let Rusty into the garage, but being a silly cat, he would go out of the garage and end up back at the door within minutes of us letting him through.  Clearly he knew exactly how to manipulate his devoted owners.  To me, this clearly demonstrates that animals do know what is going on around them and they have similar thought processes to humans.  The points that Dr. Ramakrishnan brought up were really thought provoking, and I am really glad that we had the opportunity to hear from such an advanced scholar in this field.

 Natalie Ridling


Week 7 / Consciousness / Justin Kiang

Sunday, February 22nd, 2009

This week’s discussion on consciousness turned out to be more interesting than I thought.  On Tuesday I went to class, and saw the big white word “Consciousness” behind the usual boring black background on the projector screen, I said to myself “man, this is going to be a long week”.  To make things better, Professor Vesna turned off all the lights in class at the beginning of the lecture, then started asking questions about if we remember anything from the first day of class.  I fell asleep immediately, nearly putting myself into real life experience of “unconsciousness”.  My friend in class attempt to wake me up failed for more than half an hour, and after that I woke up, realizing we were still on the same topic.  I somehow managed to stay awake for the rest of the lecture, then went home and thought to myself, “why are we talking about consciousness in DESMA?  Why does it matter, or even better, why do we care?”  These questions remained unanswered, and almost deterred me from going to the lecture on Thursday.  However, I realized that these questions will just be left the way it was, that was unanswered in my head, if I skipped lecture on Thursday.
I was glad that I went on Thursday.  Ramakrishnan’s presentation led me to raise interest and concern about this topic — “consciousness”.  Specifically, his presentation about whether consciousness exists in the non-human animal kingdom.  The presentation happened to remind me of one of the lecture in my Life Science class.  There are a lot of scientific definition of “consciousness” that nullifies its existence in animals.  Consciousness may involve thoughts, sensations, perceptions, moods, emotions, dreams, and an awareness of self, although not necessarily any particular one or combination of these.  Animals have been scientifically examined to say they lack these quality for having consciousness”  However, Ramakrishnan’s presentation showed other case studies that have shown otherwise.  Consciousness has been too scientifically definied, and to me, I think its definiation has been tweeked and altered over the span of so many years, with the advance of technology, to favor it’s “ownership” to human beings.  Who are we to judge if animals have consciousness or not?  I believe that we do not have as much understanding to animals as we think we have, and I think it’s disturbing that there are “experts” who come out in public and say something like “Animals do not have emotions”.  I believe all we can say is “We can’t prove animals have the emotions that we, as human being, would understand”.

I have seen some videos and news articles before, and I would like to take this chance to share them here.  First, the following video shows a very touching scene of a lion’s reunion with its owners.


Secondly, the following article shows a gay penguin couple stealing eggs from other straight penguins because they wanted kids on their own.

Now, think again, are animals (and gays too) conscious of themselves?  Do they have consciousness?

Week 7 by Brittany Santoyo

Sunday, February 22nd, 2009

In lecture, Professor Vesna displayed a video based on learned behavior.  This evokes in my mind my Psychology class in high school where we, similarly, discussed the issues of positive reinforcement, negative reinforcement, and no response enforcement.  These are the kinds of feedback that when an unwanted behavior is performed (in negative reinforcement) some form of unconstructive reaction is done in every time the same unwanted behavior is executed.  This, therefore, “teaches” the subject not to perform the same actions again.  However, as discussed in my Psychology class, negative reinforcement, without constant enforcement, is useful in the beginning, but as time passes, the unwanted action returns.  Positive reinforcement is when a subject is constantly “reminded” to perform a certain way by being rewarded with some sort of payment, such as applause or a physical gift.  The more interesting enforcement, on the other hand, is the no response one.  When a behavior is done, the person carrying it out is simply looking for a reaction.  In turn, if no response is received the person learns on their own that it’s not fun to go through the trouble to do something and have nothing as an outcome.  Therefore, the unwanted behavior will no longer occur.  This new behavior is known as conditioned.  All ways of reinforcement work, which kind simply depends on the situation and the organism’s response.  The fact that this kind of operant and classical conditioning is performed and constructive in both animal species and humans is outstanding.  This leads to the belief that humans and animals’ mind processing are not entirely different and that animals may be more similar to our race than we give them credit for.  Leading to the indication that animals do indeed have some form of consciousness.

While contemplating about lecture, a question appeared in my thought. When a person states that it is mind of matter, is it true?  Can one really overcome something physically because they can mentally or does the material world always prevail?  In psychology class, many psychological disorders are discussed, however, in my mind the one that stood out the most was Hypochondria.  This is a disorder in which a person believes that they are contaminated by certain diseases or illnesses when, in reality, they hold no such condition.  They are convinced on their findings and will not be told otherwise.  The perplexing aspect of this disorder is that a hypochondriac can actually produce physical symptoms through their subconscious mind.  If a person stricken by this disorder believes in his head that he has the Bubonic (or Black) Plague, for instance, he can develop a fever, vomiting, and even buboes (tender black boil-like inflamed lymph nodes underneath his armpits).  This means that the person produces true physical symptoms, yet there is no medical prevalence.  All tests for the Bubonic Plague will come up negative because he genuinely does not hold the disease, his brain does.  Nevertheless, if the patient receives fallacious treatment that they believe to be the true treatment for the Plague, his symptoms will vanish.  This proves that the brain, conscious or subconscious, is more powerful and overwhelming than the body (the physical).  For that reason, I supposed that the mind is able to triumph over the corporal aspect of the world. For more on Hypochondria visit

By Brittany Santoyo

Week 7 - Consciousness by Esteban Torres

Sunday, February 22nd, 2009

Week 7 by Esteban Torres

            Our discussion on the subject of Memory prompted me to do some research on my own about the relation between time perception and memory.  In St. Augustine’s Confessions, Augustine establishes that the perception of time is coupled with our brain’s ability to store memory.  If we did not have memory, then we could not understand the concept of duration.  If we did not have memory, we would perceive the present but there would be no perceivable past and so we would have no idea what time even is.  Our perception of time is that it moves forward, from past towards the future.  But we can only understand time as something that moves forward because we have a memory of the past.  Imagine if you could not store any memory.  You would perceive the present in disconnected fragments, completely confused and without continuation. 

            Another interesting component of week seven’s discussion was Dr. Ramachandran’s study of phantom limbs and their connection to the brain.  It is unbelievable how people with amputated limbs can feel pain in an area of their body that no longer exists.  Trying to understand this myself, I thought of the closest example of this odd feeling that I have come to.  Sometimes, when I have been wearing a hat for the entire day, at some point I have to take it off.  But I forget that I’ve taken it off and I still have the sensation that I am wearing a hat.  I might reach for it to take it off and then I realize I am not wearing my hat even though I have felt it there the entire time.  Once I realize the hat is not there (I am conscious of the reality of the hat), I don’t feel it anymore. 

            The concept of the matrix is one that many people consider at some point and is more or less the topic discussed in the documentary “What the Bleep do we know?”  In the documentary, they discuss the theories of quantum physics.  They explain how the theory of quantum physics states that one single particle can be in two places at the same time, and so there is no certain place that that particle has to be in.  From this and other thoughts they draw that the location of the particle is given by the observer.  Like in the matrix, they suggest we are essentially alone.  A mind over matter concept.  One of the examples they use is that if a person wills it enough, that he can walk on water.  So you actually can have control of your own world.  They seem to be saying our universe is our minds.  I do not personally believe this idea.  And I don’t reject it simply because it is scary, but because deep down I know that what is around me is real, and not just a reality relative to me.  I don’t think we are alone here.  I don’t think that if I willed it enough, I could get a call from Natalie Portman because the universe is essentially just a universe of my mind.  I might not have a logical approach to my beliefs, but some things you just know.  



“The Experience and Perception of Time ().” Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. 22 Feb. 2009 <>.


Sunday, February 22nd, 2009


Consciousness plays an incredibly important role in the lives of both humans and animals alike. Consciousness is closely related to memory. When a person remembers something, he thinks about it or thinks back to it. To be conscious is also to be able to think. On a more technical level, they are closely related because they both make use of the brain to function. For memory, the brain has to access the memories and recreate them in the person’s mind. Similarly, the brain must work to process the many different sensory inputs received everyday from being conscious.

The human memory works in many different ways. These include process dissociation, implicit learning, recall versus recognition, and subliminal versus supraliminal learning, and that is just mentioning a few of them. There are still many more types of memory not mentioned, and the thing that ties them all together is the role that consciousness plays in all of them. Their functions are facilitated by consciousness. Consciousness controls the brain’s cognitive functions, which are necessary to help the workings of the memory. This is also why memory and consciousness are related.

Consciousness can be described as a sort of “global workspace” that is constantly broadcasting information throughout the brain. A significant percent of the broadcast information is stored in the brain as memory, available for further reference later. The first step to developing memory, however, is the functioning of the consciousness.

Extending this discussion to animals, consciousness still plays a major role. However, when applying the discussion to animals the angle would have to change slightly. Instead of analyzing the relation between consciousness and memory in animals, it is more appropriate to talk about animalistic instincts and survival consciousness. Animals use their consciousness to sense approaching dangers and react accordingly. For example, an octopus could change color to blend into the environment in order to escape from predators. A bee or other flying insects could take off into flight to achieve the same end. Being able to escape in time is all thanks to the animals’ consciousness, which senses the animals’ surrounding and increases awareness.

These are only a few examples of animals demonstrating great conscious awareness in protecting themselves from danger. There are also other examples of animal consciousness in other aspects, such as obtaining food or simple navigation. Animals are no apparently no less conscious of their surroundings than humans are, the only differences being the responses generated by the senses. The sensory inputs are all the same, thanks to consciousness, but animals and humans will most likely react differently. However, the point is that the importance of consciousness and the role that it plays is undeniable and is extremely interesting.

The subject of consciousness has been studied extensively by researchers, who wish to find out and investigate just exactly what kind of a role it plays in the lives of humans and animals alike. So far, it is apparent that it controls sensory inputs and facilitates memory and thinking, but its uses may be broader and deeper than that. The subject of consciousness is definitely worthy of more research and study to fully understand its functions.

Wen Wu

Animal Conscious -Andrew Ruesch

Sunday, February 22nd, 2009

psyche-6-05-vandenbos51I thought Dr. Ramakrishnan’s lecture on consciousness was thought provoking. Everyone can agree that humans have a conscious although we do not really think much about wither or not animals do. Consciousness is something that is hard to define and it is inane to think that you can really define it. I do not fully understand how to wrap my head around this idea because I feel that your consciousness is something that just happens without any thought being put into it. 

Dr. Ramakrishnan gave the example of the elephant who can see and understand that there is an X, on its head. Although did say that these elephants cannot form formal thoughts. Who is to decided that what forming a formal thought is? How can we decipher between noticing something, and forming a thought about it?

Having written and read the paragraph I wrote first, I might have answered my question, but without consciously knowing it. So that difference I am explaining here is: consciously doing, saying, or writing something without putting “thought” into it Vs. understanding what you are thinking and then communicating it. So in other words what Ramakrishnan is saying about elephants is that they can see something that is wrong and make that distinction, but they can not understand why they make that distinction.

In a completely different topic, I am a true believer that dogs have a clear conscious; my dog Charlie is a prime example of this. On a typical weekend day at home my family and I would go out to the market and buy groceries. We would leave the trashcan in its usually spot under the sink. When we got home we could see Charlie had gotten into the trash, even without going to look under the sink. Charlie would be by the back door with his head down near the ground, and we would know exactly what he had done. Making it clear that he knew that this was wrong, although maybe this is where Ramakrishnan’s idea that the elephants that do not have these “formal” thoughts come into play. It is possibility that Charlie did not have the capacity to understand that he should not do this again, because he got in trouble for doing it the first time. –or maybe the temptation was just to strong.


I also found it interesting in Professor Vesna said in her lecture about the frogs that have pigment inside their skin that they can stretch in order to camouflage their skin and body. And I now can understand how consciousness plays into that. -How and when the frog demes it necessary to camouflage itself, making a conscious decition.


But how does this play into technology and art? I see how the frog and its skin play into the idea of natural art, but what about technology? These are some questions I think we should converse about in our discussion.


consciousness   [kon-shuhs-nis] Show IPA Pronunciation 



the state of being conscious; awareness of one’s own existence, sensations, thoughts, surroundings, etc.


the thoughts and feelings, collectively, of an individual or of an aggregate of people: the moral consciousness of a nation.


full activity of the mind and senses, as in waking life: to regain consciousness after fainting.


awareness of something for what it is; internal knowledge: consciousness of wrongdoing.


concern, interest, or acute awareness: class consciousness.


the mental activity of which a person is aware as contrasted with unconscious mental processes.

-Andrew Ruesch


Sunday, February 22nd, 2009

Consciousness as a philosophical idea is a difficult topic for us to grasp.  The idea of consciousness is important for us to grasp in relation to art because it helps us to define what is art.  As science advances studies of our consciousness enable us to understand what art does to us and how art can interact with society.  There have been studies of animals and their own capability of consciousness.  As science and technology advances the idea of consciousness becomes more important in relation to AI.  When does a man made creation cross the line into consciousness and what parameters can we evaluate that consciousness by.  For my midterm project I did a study on how neural networks can be used to create works of art.  The legalities of artwork, and who owns it have been explored in the recent case of Shepard Fairy being sued by the AP for copyright infringement because his painting was based on a photo taken by a reporter.  The AP is arguing that the photographer made an original piece of art that Shepard Fairy copyrighted without any significant changes.  However Shepard Fairy’s team is arguing that because the photographer had no intention of creating a work of art, it is not covered under copyright law.

There is an elephant who’s owner claimed was painting a self portrait.  Whether this is a work of art created by the elephant or by the person who trained the elephant is in question.  This question relates back to law’s definition of art which is, that if the artist intended to create a work of art then it is considered art.  If in fact the elephant were consciously creating a work of art then the elephant under our law would in fact be the owner.  The question of whether or not an elephant is capable of consciousness relates to its ability of self-Recognition.  Recent studies have shown that some birds have the ability of self recognition.  This self recognition was developed independent of the mammalian species.  The explorations of our own as well as other species’ mental capabilities of recognition of self will enable us to classify our own creations, and their capabilities relative to consciousness.

-Drew stanley