Week7_Memory+Consciousness_Crystal Lin

Memory and Consciousness are interesting topics, especially in animals. Actually, I think its interesting the think about in any other living organism other than yourself, because one can never REALLY know the mind of another.

The concept of colorblindness used to really confuse me. I used to think, what if someone just grew up being told that this color placed in front of them is called red, and this other color placed in front of them is called green. How would we know that one person’s perception of red is the same as another persons? We don’t really know, because we can’t experience the mind of another. But then, wouldn’t it be cool if we all saw the world in a completely different way, but we would never know it? I used to imagine having a super power of being able to “walk in someone else’s shoes,” but in every sense of the phrase. When I stepped into their shoes, I would think like them, act like them, feel like them, everything. But I would still be able to retain my own train of thought so I could make a comparison between their mind and my mind. How insanely cool would that be if that were possible?! I would be able to know and feel what it’s like to be truly artistic, or innately athletic. I would know what it feels like to walk with a straight spine, be 5 feet tall, or 7 feet tall. I could see if we really saw colors in the same shades, if we really felt the impact of our surroundings in the same degree, if we really thought in the same manner and feared the same fears. The thing is though, we will never really know. So when it all comes down to it, we in a sense don’t really KNOW, we just have too much in favor of it, and not enough, or absolutely nothing against it.

One of the topics brought up during discussion that I thought was really cool was the video of the elephant painting a picture of an elephant. Its cool to watch the elephant perform such a humanistic act, but I believe it was merely an unconscious, or trained behavior. If you guide the elephant in to painting that exact picture over and over again, he will eventually be able to do it on his own. It makes for a cool one-time video, but if you give the elephant a new piece of paper, I bet he could only draw the same exact elephant again. Then the elephant isn’t thinking on its own and being creative, it is simply responding to a task.

I think to truly be conscious of what it is doing, it should be able to draw something else other than this specific picture. As discussed in discussion however, this also all depends on your definition of consciousness.

We can have unconscious behaviors, like sneezing, but in the same sense, we are conscious of the fact that we made an unconscious act. In another view of the topic, if we are completely unconscious of ourselves, we wouldn’t be able to consciously report about our unconsciousness. This reminds me of the Terry Schiavo case. She was diagnosed as being in a permanent vegetative state, but her parents believed she was still conscious. Her husband wanted to remove her life support because he believed she didn’t want to stay on it for so long, but her parents took him to court, saying that she still wanted to be on life support, and was still conscious. After over 7 years of legal issues, her husband won the battle, and her life support was removed. In the autopsy, her cause of death was undetermined, but it was evident that Schiavo’s brain weighed less than half of what it was supposed to, due to severe loss of brain tissue.

I think consciousness is an interesting topic to discuss and study, but is amongst the list of things we can never REALLY understand.

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