Friday, June 03, 2005


Social Interaction - a Mandatory Ingredient for Higher Level Consciousness

In relation to our previous discussions on machine consciousness, I have to point out that there are very strong indicators that higher levels of consciousness, those relating to self-consciousness and phenomena including the feeling of self-control and free will, are strongly related to social interaction.

The Russian cognitive psychologist L.S.Vygotsky suggested in the 1930s that a significant number of normal human psychological processes could be understood as internalized versions of processes that are inherently social in nature (Vykotsky, 1978, Mind in Society, Harvard University Press) (from Terrence W. Deacon, The Symbolic Species, p. 450). Essentially, Deacon suggests that consciousness is a gradual process in that also our dog and at least all mammals and probably birds experience lower degrees of consciousness. However, our capability to handle symbols and our drive to continuously seek for causes and effects in symbolic form opens up a new world of consciousness. Continuous social interaction and communication shapes the symbolic world and makes us continuously adapt to newest standards and word usages in society. Thus, the Mind can be considered as a Darwin machine - not only potentially as a competitive engine distributing and controlling competitive neural activity (somewhat another topic) - but also in the sense that the symbolic representations in the mind are continuously shaped by the social and intellectual (co-)evolution in society and the world as a whole (with all its good and bad sides).

For other strong indicators that social interaction is a key ingredients to reach also higher levels of intelligence, I recommend Matt Ridley's book on "The Origins of Virtue", of which a review can be found here, a shorter one stressing more the beneficial aspects of social interaction here.

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