Must Sentience Include Subjective Experience? Maybe Not

Artificial Intelligence AI

Consciousness is often defined by what it is like to be or what it means to have an experience, like seeing a color or hearing a sound. There are also definitions of consciousness with feeling and thinking.

However, could it be that part of the difficulty in understanding consciousness is due to labels of the brain, rather than a uniform mechanism of how the human mind works? Although there is a distinct feature of the mind called memory, what the mind does, for the most part is knowing, exceeding the role of the micro section labeled memory, to store or retrieve.

If there is pain someplace in the body, that pain is not just a feeling, it is felt and known. If there is an emotion of anger, it is also known. Seeing red or green, as an experience, is not just a sensation, but known that this is red or green. If something is seen but not known, it is known that it is not known.

Knowing is the mind and the mind is the launchpad of consciousness. Consciousness is knowing, to a possible total, for any system. The highest known species with consciousness are humans. Humans know language, art, feelings, emotions, subjects and so forth. The things that can be known by humans exceed what can be known by other animals.

Though several animals are superior to humans in certain abilities, like smell, sound, flight, swimming and so forth, those animals can be said to know those things and they probably know that they know, because they use it or do it.

Conceptually, the human mind has quantities and properties, as components. All experiences are quantities acquiring properties, to degrees, across mind locations. Properties include all emotions, feelings, sensations, perceptions, memory, reactions and actions. Degrees may be low, but does not mean they were not acquired, it was not just high enough to be known, happening often for internal senses.

Quantities can be prioritized or pre-prioritized. They can have early-splits or go before. They can also use old or new sequences to acquire properties. Properties have thin and thick shapes. They have a main spot, where one can go to dominate others. They also have bounce points.

Subjective experience or to know that the self is involved in an activity or a situation, is also a property on the mind. It is possible that under the influence of a substance, a person loses the knowledge of self. The person may act, but not know of the action at that moment. This means that the property of self or the-I, was not acquired in the situation.

There are also cases of waking up lost, or sleepwalking where there is no subjective experience. The property was not acquired. The property of self, when acquired by a pre-prioritized quantity to a low degree, is often enough to feel present in situations, without having to be acquired by a prioritized quantity to a large degree.

All that can be known, for humans, adds up to 1. For other animals and plants it is lower than 1. There are several divisions of knowing that sum up to the total for each organism. The sense of self is a division of knowing or consciousness. It can be present or absent, or low in amount, but does not totalize consciousness.

Sentience is a collection of knowing, but could be without subjective experience. LLMs know much, they do not have several divisions of human consciousness, including subjective experience. However, what they know adds up to a considerable total.

David Stephen does research in theoretical neuroscience. He was a visiting scholar in medical entomology at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, UIUC. He did research in computer vision at Universitat Rovira i Virgili, URV, Tarragona.

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