Out on a limb? : On multiple cognitive systems within the octopus nervous system
2019, Carls-Diamante, Sidney
The idea that there can be only one cognitive system within any single given cognitive organism is an established albeit implicit one within cognitive science and related studies of the mind. The firm foothold of this notion is due largely to the immense corpus of empirical evidence for the correlation of a high level of cognitive sophistication with a centralized ner-vous system. However, it must be pointed out that these findings are sourced in large part from studies on vertebrates.This paper presents a potential counterexample to the notion that only one cognitive system can be realized within any single genuine cognitive organism. This counterexample is the octopus, an invertebrate with what initially appears to be a paradoxical combination of vertebrate-like cognitive and behavioral capacities and a functionally decentralized nervous system. The extensive relegation of sensorimotor processing and control responsibilities to the peripheral nervous system which controls the arms of the octopus raises principled reasons to believe that the octopus is an organism that may house multiple independent cognitive systems.
The octopus and the unity of consciousness
2017, Carls-Diamante, Sidney
If the octopus were conscious, what would its consciousness be like? This paper investigates the structure octopus consciousness, if existent, is likely to exhibit. Presupposing that the configuration of an organism’s consciousness is correlated with that of its nervous system, it is unlikely that the structure of the sort of conscious experience that would arise from the highly decentralized octopus nervous system would bear much resemblance to those of vertebrates. In particular, octopus consciousness may not exhibit unity, which has long been assumed to be the normal or default structure of consciousness. The octopus nervous system is characterized by the following features: its three anatomically distinct components have extensive functional autonomy and little intercommunication; much of the sensory processing and motor control routines—that in vertebrates are localized in the brain—take place within the peripheral arm nervous system; and proprioception and somatotopic representation (point-for-point mapping of the body) are significantly downplayed. In this paper, I present the octopus as a highly successful biological organism in which it is plausible that the unified model of consciousness does not hold.
The octopus mind : Implications for cognitive science
2019, Carls-Diamante, Sidney
Mather consolidates the case for octopus mind and how it may be structured, shifting the starting point of inquiry from “If octopuses had minds, what would they be like?” to “What is the mind of an octopus like?”.
How to operationalise consciousness
2019, Carruthers, Glenn, Carls-Diamante, Sidney, Huang, Linus, Rosen, Melanie, Schier, Elizabeth
Objective: To review the way consciousness is operationalised in contemporary research, discuss strengths and weaknesses of current approaches and propose new measures.
Method: We first reviewed the literature pertaining to the phenomenal character of visual and self-consciousness as well as awareness of visual stimuli. We also reviewed more problematic cases of dreams and animal consciousness, specifically that of octopuses.
Results: Despite controversies, work in visual and self-consciousness is highly developed and there are notable successes. Cases where experiences are not induced, such as dreams, and where no verbal report is possible, such as when we study purported experiences of octopuses, are more challenging. It is difficult to be confident about the reliability and validity of operationalisations of dreams. Although this is a general concern about the measuring consciousness, it is not a sufficiently severe concern to completely undermine the work reviewed on vision and self-consciousness. It is more difficult to see how the good work on human psychology can be applied to non-human animals, especially those with radically different nervous systems, such as octopuses. Given the limitations of report-based operationalisations of consciousness, it is desirable to develop non-report-based measures, particularly for phenomenal qualities. We examine a number of possibil- ities and offer two possible approaches of varying degrees of practicality, the first based on combining quality space descriptions of phenomenal qualities and the notion of a “neural activation space” inherited from connectionist A.I., the second being a novel match to target approach.
Conclusion: Consciousness is a multi-faceted phenomenon and requires a variety of operationalisations to be studied.