Sentience

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nandu
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Sentience

Post by nandu » Sun May 13, 2012 7:57 am

Hello everybody!

We have been chasing our collective tail a lot on the concept of "consciousness", so I thought I'd stir the pot a bit. What do you understand by "Sentience"?

Cheers

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Post by Cindy B. » Sun May 13, 2012 11:18 am

Mere awareness, i.e., nonconscious.
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Post by Neoplato » Sun May 13, 2012 1:41 pm

Cindy B. wrote:Mere awareness, i.e., nonconscious.
Ugh...okay, let me ask this question.

What about all those people who live their life in ignorance. Are they sentient or not? I could argue that they are not because they have no clue of the environment around them other than "DWTS", their IPad, or celebrity wardrobes. "The Avengers movie was so cool".

What about the actual use of the brain vs. the seduction and influence of the media?

Someone tried to insult me once by saying "You have a PBS mind in an MTV world."

I said "Thank you". :wink:
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Post by nandu » Sun May 13, 2012 2:04 pm

OK, Neo, we know you disagree with Cindy. So what does the term "Sentience" mean to you?

Nandu.
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Post by romansh » Sun May 13, 2012 4:15 pm

Cindy B. wrote:Mere awareness, i.e., nonconscious.
So I could call my computer sentient by this definition?

While I would agree in some way - I don't think you mean to imply this Cindy?

This sort of begs the question what exactly do we mean by awareness.
Is it simply something as simple as responding to inputs?

Incidently I could ask my computer to show the state of its battery charge, what is the state of CPU usage and history, how much memory is being used. And I'm a luddite with respect computers.

The computer could tell an expert interrogator much more information about itself.
Last edited by romansh on Sun May 13, 2012 4:36 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Post by Cindy B. » Sun May 13, 2012 4:22 pm

romansh wrote:
Cindy B. wrote:Mere awareness, i.e., nonconscious.
So I could call my computer sentient by this definition?
Nope. Your computer is not a living creature and cannot be sentient or aware in the sense that I intend.

Cindy
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Post by Clemsy » Sun May 13, 2012 4:24 pm

Sentient:

1. having the power of perception by the senses; conscious.
.
2. characterized by sensation and consciousness.
Sentience is the ability to feel, perceive or be conscious, or to have subjective experiences. Eighteenth century philosophers used the concept to distinguish the ability to think ("reason") from the ability to feel ("sentience"). In modern western philosophy, sentience is the ability to have sensations or experiences (described by some thinkers as "qualia"). For Eastern philosophy, sentience is a metaphysical quality of all things that requires respect and care. The concept is central to the philosophy of animal rights, because sentience is necessary for the ability to suffer, which entails certain rights. In science fiction, non-human characters described as "sentient" typically have similar abilities, qualities and rights as human beings. LINK
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Post by Clemsy » Sun May 13, 2012 4:27 pm

I have two dogs. One is sentient. Of the other I have my doubts. :-)
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Post by romansh » Sun May 13, 2012 4:30 pm

Cindy B. wrote:
romansh wrote:
Cindy B. wrote:Mere awareness, i.e., nonconscious.
So I could call my computer sentient by this definition?
Nope. Your computer is not a living creature and cannot be sentient or aware in the sense that I intend.

Cindy
So is this the living tissue described here sentient?
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1-0eZytv6Qk
Last edited by romansh on Sun May 13, 2012 5:39 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Post by Neoplato » Sun May 13, 2012 4:43 pm

This is actually a very interesting concept. :D

Nonconscious is obviously mechanical, but yet by some definitions a flower would also be nonconscious but it is a biological entity.

And then we have sentient as sense input which would apply to a flower but not a machine vs. consciousness as a thinking quality instead of sense input,

However, let's consider the realization of death. What function allows that ability? It isn't brain, it isn't a reaction from the senses, and it doesn't even have to be consciousness.

But to answer nandu's question, I think sentient beings have the capability for decision making.
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Post by Clemsy » Sun May 13, 2012 5:03 pm

But to answer nandu's question, I think sentient beings have the capability for decision making.
Only if you're modifying the definition of the word, Neo. In which case it can mean whatever you want it to. Actually, in which case anything can mean anything we want it to.

Hmmm. In which case no one can ever be sure what anyone else means about anything.

I'll stick with the definition of the word. Sentience is feeling, not thinking.
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Post by nandu » Sun May 13, 2012 5:41 pm

Why I put the question is, all of us are sort of instinctively aware that living beings are sentient in varying degrees - though hot debate rages about the sentience of plants. But the definition of the word itself seems a bit slippery. For example, it would not be difficult to build a machine which "feels" heat and cold - it could be always made to move towards a temperate zone. But most of us would balk at calling the machine sentient.

Maybe sentience requires the feeling that "I'm alive!"... I don't know, just freewheeling here...

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Post by romansh » Sun May 13, 2012 5:58 pm

Clemsy wrote: Only if you're modifying the definition of the word, Neo. In which case it can mean whatever you want it to. Actually, in which case anything can mean anything we want it to.
To be fair Nandu did ask what we understood by the word sentience. So in this sense whatever definition Neo (or anyone else) comes up with we can only presume they are right.
;)
Clemsy wrote: Hmmm. In which case no one can ever be sure what anyone else means about anything.

I'll stick with the definition of the word. Sentience is feeling, not thinking.
This thread was caused (I think) by Cindy parsing conscious and awareness into two different meanings.

Anyway our references imply conscious and sentient are or at least can be synonymous.

Incidently - my trusty 1990 Concise Oxford agrees word for word with your 1). But looking up conscious I can't say it is synonymous.

While dictionaries are useful guidelines for meanings - we still read into them what we want.
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Post by Clemsy » Mon May 14, 2012 1:14 am

While dictionaries are useful guidelines for meanings - we still read into them what we want.
I have no problem with wiggle room, Rom. But there has to be a line of agreement past which meaning becomes unreliable to the point of making discussion pointless. One may think one knows what a word means. One may have even held that belief for years. However, one must also be ready to let go of erroneous meaning in light of new information.

I'm assuming Cindy's definition is dependent on a particular, psychological definition. Quite often specific fields do have their own definitions, which needs to be clarified to avoid confusion.

Here's another reference: LINK

Yes, I may be a purist. But that's because I take language, and words very, very seriously.

So no. I don't think we can read into words what we want. That makes chaos out of what I consider to be the most important aspect of human evolution.

But that's just me. :-)
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Post by romansh » Mon May 14, 2012 1:29 am

Clemsy wrote: I'm assuming Cindy's definition is dependent on a particular, psychological definition. Quite often specific fields do have their own definitions, which needs to be clarified to avoid confusion.
All this is fair enough Clemsy.
Cindy's definition is fair enough as well, but her definition will cause problems when man builds a R Daneel Olivaw. May be not in my lifetime, but its getting closer.
"That's right!" shouted Vroomfondel, "we demand rigidly defined areas of doubt and uncertainty!"
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