Week 7_Conscious and Memory_Wenjing WU

Maze-Solving Ameoboid Organism

Maze-Solving Ameoboid Organism

Sorry for being this late to post the blog. I found the issue on cognitive science very intriguing in arousing a deeper sense of morality in human nature. As a science student, I understand the principle of consciousness and memory as a series of electrical signals and chemical intereactions among the neurons located in our cerebral cortex. However, in the lecture on Tuesday, I learned about the history of cognitive science and the various views and thoughts from not only scientists but also philosophers. In the section discussion after that and the lecture given by Dr. Ramakrishnan, animals’ consciousness were introduced and described to reexamine human complacency about being the unique intelligent creature on earth. Dr. Ramakrishnan’s talk on octopus consciousness was extremely interesting and also connected me to another question: What about consciousness of plants and microorganisms? Of course they also respond to their changing environment. But can those responses be called consciousness or intelligence? How should we view them while we begin to view non-human animals as intelligent enough to be admired? This again, reminded us of the notion of Gaia system introduced in the former week. Some Japan artists had already been pondering over the relationship between human and mother nature by producing the animation “Mushi-shi”, which presents a form of ancient yet intelligent creature dwelling in unseen shadows. This is an amazing animation that exerted deep influence on my view towards the nature and the living beings aound me. I start to appreciate all creatures more even though I still have to be a predator in order to be alive. Actually, in the 2008 Ig Nobel Prize winners, six scientists shared the Prize of Cognitive Science for their discovery of “Maze-solving Slime Molds”in year 2000. They inferred this achievement to the clue of developing organic robots.mushishi_volume_1

 Another inspiration to me from the week 7 lectures is the searching for connection between subconciousness and art. Yes, we talked about what it is like to be conscious. Then how about when we lose control of our own consciousness? I found a remarkable talk from neuroscientist Jill Bolte Taylor, who got a research opportunity few brain scientists would wish for: She had a massive stroke, and watched as her brain functions — motion, speech, self-awareness — shut down one by one. I was particularly attacted by the part of the description of what happened on the morning of her stroke, the weird yet vivid scene of one’s consciousness being extracted away from one’s physical existence. Though Jill narrated her story in a very humorous and relaxed manner, her strengh of being able to recover from the brain damage shocked every one. Fortunately most of us don’t need to  go through a stroke to observe our own subconscious mind.

haystack by Sarah Austin

haystack by Sarah Austin

From Jonah Lehrer’s talk on his new book “How we choose”, which was provided by Prof. Vesna, I learned that my brain actually knows more than I know. If I totally trust my brain to conduct art activity,  what kind of art form will be created under a subconscious or unconscious state without artist’s intention? The website of artist Sarah Austin displays art pieces from her subconscious mind and I found them amazingly beautiful, especially the photographs.

 

Another example is the Subconscious Art of Graffiti Removal, which at the same time proved Auguste Rodin’s saying of “It is not a lack of beauty of life. It is our lack of discovery”.

 

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