Could sea creatures unlock the origins of the mind?

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sciborg2

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« on: February 03, 2021, 12:46:30 am »
Could sea creatures unlock the origins of the mind?

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When it comes to understanding the mind, philosopher, writer and diver Peter Godfrey-Smith suggests marine life may hold some illuminating answers. Among the vast array of marine life, shrimp, coral, and cuttlefish exhibit amazing levels of consciousness and the octopus with its many tentacles and 8 limbs-- functions as a creature with multiple “selves.”  What can we learn from the way these animals experience the world? Could sea creatures unlock the origins of the mind?

KCRW’s Jonathan Bastian talks with Peter Godrey-Smith about his new book “Metazoa: Animal Life and the Birth of the Mind” about his exploration of levels of consciousness and “self” among some of his favorite undersea creatures.

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Is there this problem of projecting our human way of thinking, our human way of understanding self on to these creatures?

Godfrey-Smith: “There is a problem there and this is a good point to talk about the octopus. One of the reasons octopuses are an important case in the story, is the fact that there's a kind of ‘centeredness of self’ that we humans, and probably lots of other mammals and vertebrates have as a consequence of how our nervous systems are set up and our bodily organization There's a ‘centeredness of self’ that might be absent or very different in some animals with different organizations and the octopus is the outstanding case, because most of its nervous system is not concentrated in the head between the eyes but spread through the body, especially in the upper part of the arms. There's a gigantic network of control devices and sensors in the arms, which is larger than the central brain.

So when we look at an octopus and try to imagine what it's experience is like, one of the big questions is how we should tackle these differences in organization that might imply differences in the kind of “selfhood” that's present there. This is another question, which I'd love to give a definitive answer on how to handle this but I think it has some very puzzling features.”