How Does "I" Happen?

    An intuitive response to the question of consciousness.

    Ok, so "I think therefore I am" (René Descartes). But how the heck does "I" happen? I'm surprised to have arrived at a personally satisfying intuitive response to this question.

    My starting point is based on organic perceptual mechanisms that do feature detection based on pattern matching, like visual and audio perception. Pattern recognition is taken to be instrumental in many cognitive processes, including low and medium level visual and auditory processing and more generally, language processing, facial recognition, and much more. Together with mechanisms for storing perceptions – memory – and for comparing new perceptions with prior perceptions we arrive at foundational facilities for modeling activity of the world and making "maps" of our involvement that can be related to incoming perceptions and prior and anticipated experience.

    I start with pattern matching as a part of cognition so I can ask: what happens when our ability to do pattern matching notices its own activity? It's here that the mind can begin to include, as part of its model, the observer - the self. Noticing oneself to some degree includes noticing the act of noticing oneself, and so on. In the processes of experience, self-referentiality reverberates. It is recursive, like what you see in the repeating regress of mutually facing mirrors or a camera taking in its display. If you suppose that the mind maintains maps of our experience, this reverberating dynamic is distinctive. It is a fundamental difference between the experience of self – “I am” – and the sense of everything else – “it is”.

    I suggest that we occur in this dynamic.

    This makes sense to me, in a visceral way, of how my personal self happens. In the process of my experiencing, my experience of self reverberates. "I notice that I am noticing, therefore I notice that I am."

    In addition to satisfying my personal curiosity I find this useful when considering questions of consciousness. For instance:

    • What does this perspective on being say about the initial crop of Large Language Model artificial intelligence products? Is there consciousness to be found?
      • I don't expect that the current (early 2023) products have an experience of self as you and I do because their processing is not organized to be self-reflective. They don't have feedback loops in which they immediately observe and evaluate their own evaluation process. (I don't believe that neural network backpropagation qualifies because of that process' narrow scope.) I would not be surprised if there are efforts to incorporate immediate self-feedback, and I would not be surprised if they eventually result in what really is self-awareness.

        What about expressions of self-awareness that people encounter in current LLM product interactions? In so far as consciousness is conveyed by their responses, I would suppose that to be a reflection of the simple way that procedures for expressing responses are organized. Identifying themselves as agents producing answers is wired in by the developers, and represents the consciousness of the developers rather than the LLMs. There also may be evidence of consciousness in the content of the responses, which are consolidated from close fits for matches to the query in fantastically extensive metric spaces that they concoct from their training. That content can include expressions of self-awareness in the works on which their responses are drawn. (The character of the queries together with noise in the system determine the character of the responses. Why in the world are people surprised by creepy responses to creepy queries?)

        Until their own activity is included as an immediate subject of what they're evaluating I don't expect the LLMs to actually experience consciousness. In fact, until that criterion is met, it doesn't make sense to me to say that they are experiencing.
    • Can a group be said to be conscious?
      • Of all that we perceive in the world, we seem particularly prone to recognize and resonate with self-awareness in others. Experiencing others experiencing you can have some of the resonant dynamic of interior self-awareness. It can happen in the experience of being part of a team or a conversation, a game, a dance, any substantial collaboration. In this way the experience of being with can be like the experience of being. (Communication is Intelligence.) I suppose that there is a kind of consciousness in an interconnected group, and am curious about the various ways you can look at communicating with a group as an entity.