The First Minds: Caterpillars, Karyotes, and Consciousness
First Minds: Caterpillars, 'Karyotes, and Consciousness presents a novel theory of the origins of mind and consciousness dubbed the Cellular Basis of Consciousness (CBC). It argues that sentience emerged with life itself. The most primitive unicellular species of bacteria are conscious, though it is a sentience of a primitive kind. They have minds, though they are tiny and limited in scope. Hints that cells might be conscious can be found in the writings of a few cell biologists but a fully developed theory has never been put forward before.
Other approaches to the origins of consciousness are examined and shown to be seriously or fatally flawed, specifically approaches based on: (a) the assumption that minds are computational and can be captured by an Artificial Intelligence, (b) efforts to discover the neuro-correlates of mental experiences and, (c) looking for consciousness in less complex species by identifying those that have precursors of those neuro-correlates. Reber shows how each of these approaches is shown to be either essentially impossible (the AI models) or so burdened by philosophical and empirical difficulties that they are effectively unworkable.
The CBC approach is developed using standard models of evolutionary biology. The remarkable repertoire of single-celled species that micro- and cell-biologists have discovered is reviewed. Bacteria, for example, have sophisticated sensory and perceptual systems, learn, form memories, make decisions based on information about their environment relative to internal metabolic states, communicate with each other, and even show a primitive form of altruism. All such functions are indicators of sentience.
Finally, the implications of the CBC model are discussed along with a number of related issues in evolutionary biology, philosophy of mind, the possibility of sentient plants, the ethical repercussions of universal animal sentience, and the long-range impact of adopting the CBC stance.
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adaptive animal anthropomorphism Antonio Damasio argue argument awareness bacteria bacterium Baluška basic behaviors biologists brain Bray CBC approach CBC model cell cell biology cellular cephalopods cerebral Chapter coli colleagues complex computational Damasio Daniel Dennett detect developed earlier Edelman emerged emergentism emotional entities environment epistemic eukaryotes evolution evolutionary biology evolved feel fish form of sentience framework functions genes genetic Godfrey-Smith Hard Problem identified instantiated issues John Searle kinds Koch levels look Lynn Margulis mechanisms membrane memory mental metabolic microbiologist molecular molecules multicellular mysterians neural neurons neuroscientists noted nutrient octopus ontologically operations pain panpsychism perspective phenomenal philosophers philosophy of mind plants poker precautionary principle primitive principle processes prokaryotes psychology qualia question Reber scientific scientists self-awareness sense sensory sentience single-celled organisms single-celled species stance Stentor Stevan Harnad Strong AI structures subjective experiences theory there’s things Tononi unicellular species zombie