Nathan Reynolds/Extra Credit Blog/Consciousness-A Continuation

A few weeks ago I delved into what true self-consciousness was.  The task was a daunting one, but I had a few leads to work off of.  The lead I had came from honey bees.  Honey bees, in order to relay valuable coordinates of food and resources to the rest of the hive, participate in a “waggle dance,” in which a lead bee enters into a figure 8 pattern.  Some view this ability to comprehend instructions as a sign of self-consciousness.  However, I attempted to disprove that using the Computer Program metaphor.  In the end, the machine can do whatever you tell it, but it is not aware of its own existence.  The same applies to the honeybees and their dance.  It is nothing more than a set of inputs which other bees react to.  It is true that the dance can change, but that is yet another set of inputs given to the scout that detected the resources in the first place.  Although it is possible for bees to be self-conscious, the waggle dance provides insufficient proof of this.

Dissatisfied, I attempted to seek out an answer to self-consciousness and what it was.  This resulted in me discovering what instinct was.  An instinct in an organism is the parallel to the computer program within a machine.  The machine and the organism do not have to put forth critical thought in order to execute the program; it is already there and has been there since the creation of the entity in question.  An orb spider constructing an elaborate web is instinct, just as a bee’s waggle dance is instinct.  There may be some slight variation from dance to dance or web to web, but this is simply because of external stimuli that force such change.

Found without any additional leads, I eventually realized that self-consciousness is one’s ability to question his own existence, and to comprehend that existence.  But how is this proven?

            Self-consciousness can be realized by doing something as simple as looking into a mirror and questioning the fundamental existence of the object reflection.  If one critically thinks about his/her own existence, that person is self-aware and thus has true self-consciousness.  This is incredibly easy to observe within people, since it is easy for me (and every other human I sincerely hope) to communicate with them.  The perception of self-consciousness can manifest itself in the desire to fulfill a purpose, or establish a name or legacy.  Most other creatures do not seek such notoriety and simply live their lives.

            However, there is another aspect of self-consciousness that made it apparent to me not too long ago when a group of strikers petitioned against lower wages: resistance.  Resistance is when an entity opposes the given standard or set of rules imposed upon it.  There are two types of such resistance: conscious and unconscious.  Unconscious resistance can be most easily illustrated using inanimate objects.  If I try to crush a block of steel into a ball, I am imposing my set of rules upon that block.  However, the steel’s nature is greater than my will to change it, and thus it resists my control.

            Conscious resistance is what we are most interested in, however, since it requires that a choice be made.  Take DESMA 9 blogging for instance.  It is required; it is law, that we write a weekly blog for this class.  However, there are students who do not blog.  A machine given this command and adequate resources could manage to complete the task, which is easily accomplishable by humans.  However, there are people who make the conscious decision not to do so.  Although this is a bad practice, it does prove self-consciousness.

            Humanity on earth has had a great number of conscious resistances, among them: the rise of the Protestant against a Catholic system, everyday strikes, the assertion of homosexual rights within a predominantly heterosexual society, “sticking it to the man,” or “rising against the machine.”  Social change itself is a sign of such resistance and, by extension, self-consciousness.

            Conscious resistance can also be applied to animals.  Take a cat for instance.  It may squirm and struggle to get away from its loving master holding it.  The cat does not like to be held, and is aware of its own dislike.  The cat then acts upon this dislike.  The same can be applied to something as small as an earwig, which pinches ferociously at anything that assails it.  A bull or a horse in a rodeo will use a God-given fury just to attempt to remove the stubborn rider from its back.

            Now that it is known that conscious resistance is a sign of self-consciousness, an ample number of examples can be found in nature hinting at the possibility of many of Earth’s creatures being self-conscious.

            This is an answer to my question: “What is self-consciousness and how does it manifest itself in life?”  However, is this just an answer or the answer?  More research and thought is required before I can definitely state a decision.

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