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cica

To What Extent To Humans "understand" [Anything]?

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I like to gauge my own thoughts against others to see how much I can learn so please do enlighten me or whatever.

My cat does not understand English and never will in the same way a computer with 1 byte of memory will never be able to add 2 one byte numbers; it doesn't have the brain power.

But my cat does "understand" that when it hears the rattle in the cat biscuit box it will get food and runs.

I know it "understands" this because I observe it doing it but does it really understand or it simply reacting to re-enforced patterns in its pretty little head?

Do we simply follow patterns even if they are considerably more detailed? Do we actually understand anything?

I know about the chinese room thought experiment

Is there any evidence that humans understand except for the fact that we can observe behaviour that looks rational?

Does the fact that we are looking to observe understanding self-evidence that we understand or is it just a behaviour that seems to help have a longer life and spread more seed?

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I like to gauge my own thoughts against others to see how much I can learn so please do enlighten me or whatever.

My cat does not understand English and never will in the same way a computer with 1 byte of memory will never be able to add 2 one byte numbers; it doesn't have the brain power.

But my cat does "understand" that when it hears the rattle in the cat biscuit box it will get food and runs.

I know it "understands" this because I observe it doing it but does it really understand or it simply reacting to re-enforced patterns in its pretty little head?

Do we simply follow patterns even if they are considerably more detailed? Do we actually understand anything?

I know about the chinese room thought experiment

Is there any evidence that humans understand except for the fact that we can observe behaviour that looks rational?

Does the fact that we are looking to observe understanding self-evidence that we understand or is it just a behaviour that seems to help have a longer life and spread more seed?

Instead of feeding it, strap a camera + gps to its head. See what it figures out on it's own...

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My cat does not understand English and never will in the same way a computer with 1 byte of memory will never be able to add 2 one byte numbers; it doesn't have the brain power.

You are underestimating your cat... I'm almost certain they have a "theory of mind" - they recognise others as individual autonomous agents with personal motivations and behave accordingly.

(Okay, cat's brains are not wired to understand human language. I don't understand Spanish, but I pick up the occasional word, as do some cats. Conversely, I'm not fluent in cat but I can pick up a fair bit.)

But my cat does "understand" that when it hears the rattle in the cat biscuit box it will get food and runs.

One cat I know well understands quite a few words pertaining to mealtime. lunch, dinner, breakfast - you have to be careful not to mention these in passing conversation or the next thing you'll hear is the baby elephant walk of her coming down the stairs.

Your philosophical point is quite interesting though.

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I like to gauge my own thoughts against others to see how much I can learn so please do enlighten me or whatever.

My cat does not understand English and never will in the same way a computer with 1 byte of memory will never be able to add 2 one byte numbers; it doesn't have the brain power.

But my cat does "understand" that when it hears the rattle in the cat biscuit box it will get food and runs.

I know it "understands" this because I observe it doing it but does it really understand or it simply reacting to re-enforced patterns in its pretty little head?

Do we simply follow patterns even if they are considerably more detailed? Do we actually understand anything?

I know about the chinese room thought experiment

Is there any evidence that humans understand except for the fact that we can observe behaviour that looks rational?

Does the fact that we are looking to observe understanding self-evidence that we understand or is it just a behaviour that seems to help have a longer life and spread more seed?

I think the answer to your questions are in your post.

Does a cat sit and think and worry about these things like you do ? Or does it just get on with living until it dies...

So who are the 'understanding' ones out of us and cats ? I would argue they are.

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I like to gauge my own thoughts against others to see how much I can learn so please do enlighten me or whatever.

My cat does not understand English and never will in the same way a computer with 1 byte of memory will never be able to add 2 one byte numbers; it doesn't have the brain power.

But my cat does "understand" that when it hears the rattle in the cat biscuit box it will get food and runs.

I know it "understands" this because I observe it doing it but does it really understand or it simply reacting to re-enforced patterns in its pretty little head?

Do we simply follow patterns even if they are considerably more detailed? Do we actually understand anything?

I know about the chinese room thought experiment

Is there any evidence that humans understand except for the fact that we can observe behaviour that looks rational?

Does the fact that we are looking to observe understanding self-evidence that we understand or is it just a behaviour that seems to help have a longer life and spread more seed?

I think that the answer (partly) depends upon how philosophical you want to be.

At the extreme, if you're like me, you'll know you have awareness ('I think therefore I am' and all that), and you'll believe yourself to be living in a world surrounded by other creatures that are similar to you -- some more so, some less so.

It's not unreasonable to assume that other humans have a similar awareness to your own. Whatever the universe is, at the very least you know it contains the possibility of awareness because you are aware. Given that awareness is possible, it makes sense that the universe has repeated the trick with the other humans around. If the other humans around you are more than simply your imagination, then the universe would have to come up with a different trick if it wanted to contain unaware but otherwise human-like automata. It's actually easier if they're just more humans, as I say given that the universe seems to have mastered that trick.

Being a human is (presumably) the only thing you know what it is to be like -- you've never been anything else.

You pose two different questions: 1. Do cats (and other creatures) 'understand' and are they aware in a similar way (although perhaps not to the same extent) as humans? and 2. Do humans actually understand?

It seems as if most people believe they 'understand' and are the authors of their own thoughts and actions. However, with some introspection, it can be difficult to firmly establish that this really is the case -- it feels as if thoughts are given to your awareness to think. But, if thoughts just come to mind, where do they come from? If thoughts are given to your awareness to think, who gives them to your awareness? Once you have a thought, it may lead your awareness to think other thoughts... but where did that first thought come from? Humans could be said to have the notion of free will in the sense that they can have or do what they will... but can humans will what they will? Where does will come from in the first instance? You can say you prefer chocolate ice-cream to strawberry (and can choose the chocolate as a result, or, just to spite yourself, choose strawberry), but can you prefer strawberry ice-cream when you really prefer chocolate? Even if you choose strawberry to spite yourself, where did that will come from?

It seems plausible that the chain of events goes something like this:

Brain activity leads to... conscious thoughts and desires leads to... actions and behaviour.

An important question is, could the 'conscious thoughts and desires leads to' be skipped altogether so that brain activity just leads directly to actions and behaviour? Is the sense of free will just because our awareness got to notice a thought in between 'brain activity' and 'actions' that fools us into thinking we were consciously involved in the process -- rather than just observing?

If thought and awareness isn't really required, why can't cats behave in the way they do without awareness or understanding? Despite appearances, is the 'rattling the biscuit box, cat turns up' sequence just a more complex version of 'wiggle the computer mouse, mouse cursor moves from side to side'. If we weren't so savvy about the workings of a computer, would this seem as if the computer understands what we're asking it? If we introduced a medieval person to a computer, would he or she think that there must be a demon inside who understands our various mouse-clicks and button-presses and converts them into behaviour? We don't think the cat has a demon inside only because we think the 'demon' we assume is required is the cat's own assumed awareness.

Maybe if we understood the workings of cats (and humans) better, we'd realise (just like we do with computers) that there needn't be an 'understanding' demon inside -- and maybe that even our own awareness is just a viewer of the brain activity passing through on its way to producing actions.

I'm reminded of a conversation I had many years ago with one of my grandmothers. I was using a thermos flask to keep an iced drink cold during the summer, and she expressed surprise that it would do that -- vacuum flasks are meant to keep things hot! Then she said, 'How does it know whether to keep the contents cold or hot?'

Of course, it doesn't 'know' -- it's just physics. I wonder if the cat doesn't know either, and it's just physics.

To argue against myself, the same appeal to Occam's razor (that other humans are as aware as you because we know that the universe can do that) might be an argument for assuming that some kind of awareness also exists in the cat... but, like humans, the fact that awareness appears to offer a little window into brain activity doesn't necessarily mean the cat has free will or understanding either -- perhaps only the illusion, if at all.

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We are like most animals data driven chemical tubes. The data things like sensory stimuli as well as food and depending on these variables determines the output over the near and long term, for example alacohol can alter perception.

Some animals have the ability to understand different levels of logic which can present itself in the form of survival and the ability to communicate. You mention your cat not being able to add up but if it had kittens I'm sure it would know if one was missing but whether it displays any outward example of this remains to be seen. I think the ability to understand depends on the abilities to comprehend whats going on. Some only see whats in front of their faces, others look for other data to see if theres anything driving whatever is happening.

I think 'cica' logs on every six months or so, and we're talking to ourselves... :D

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I think the technology will exist where we can scan brains on an atomic level and fast enough so yes I think wetware could be copied but we would also need to understand how the chemical make up of the brain works in order to replicate its functions in a simulated environment. Wont be easy but over time could be done with the improvements one expects over time.

...so we wouldn't have to study, all we would do is plug into another's brain and transfer the required relevant information.....I'd expect them to charge a fee for the service though or they could force it on us..... could call it "brain washing". ;)

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My two cents.. of philosophical diarrhoea

I would consider a human baby. It can't speak English, it can't add numbers.. it just sees lights and colours, feels, smells, hears, tastes..

At this stage there is not much to cognitively separate you from a kitten (or baby anything else).

The difference is that humans have developed more powerful "processors" than other animals. The human baby will remember more, decode more complex patterns and in turn utilise these abilities to greater effect than the kitten.. who's progress will be slower and remain limited to simpler concepts.

Think of a bored kid in class.. when s/he doesn't understand a concept their mind wanders to simpler things. Much like your cat. You try to teach it complex principles and it will get bored and look for something more stimulating to do (probably to satisfy its more immediate carnal desires).

So in short, yes, humans "understand" quite a lot IMO, and when they don't are often curious to learn.

Just like cats.

But with more ability.

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I think that the answer (partly) depends upon how philosophical you want to be.

At the extreme, if you're like me, you'll know you have awareness ('I think therefore I am' and all that), and you'll believe yourself to be living in a world surrounded by other creatures that are similar to you -- some more so, some less so.

It's not unreasonable to assume that other humans have a similar awareness to your own. Whatever the universe is, at the very least you know it contains the possibility of awareness because you are aware. Given that awareness is possible, it makes sense that the universe has repeated the trick with the other humans around. If the other humans around you are more than simply your imagination, then the universe would have to come up with a different trick if it wanted to contain unaware but otherwise human-like automata. It's actually easier if they're just more humans, as I say given that the universe seems to have mastered that trick.

Being a human is (presumably) the only thing you know what it is to be like -- you've never been anything else.

You pose two different questions: 1. Do cats (and other creatures) 'understand' and are they aware in a similar way (although perhaps not to the same extent) as humans? and 2. Do humans actually understand?

It seems as if most people believe they 'understand' and are the authors of their own thoughts and actions. However, with some introspection, it can be difficult to firmly establish that this really is the case -- it feels as if thoughts are given to your awareness to think. But, if thoughts just come to mind, where do they come from? If thoughts are given to your awareness to think, who gives them to your awareness? Once you have a thought, it may lead your awareness to think other thoughts... but where did that first thought come from? Humans could be said to have the notion of free will in the sense that they can have or do what they will... but can humans will what they will? Where does will come from in the first instance? You can say you prefer chocolate ice-cream to strawberry (and can choose the chocolate as a result, or, just to spite yourself, choose strawberry), but can you prefer strawberry ice-cream when you really prefer chocolate? Even if you choose strawberry to spite yourself, where did that will come from?

It seems plausible that the chain of events goes something like this:

Brain activity leads to... conscious thoughts and desires leads to... actions and behaviour.

An important question is, could the 'conscious thoughts and desires leads to' be skipped altogether so that brain activity just leads directly to actions and behaviour? Is the sense of free will just because our awareness got to notice a thought in between 'brain activity' and 'actions' that fools us into thinking we were consciously involved in the process -- rather than just observing?

If thought and awareness isn't really required, why can't cats behave in the way they do without awareness or understanding? Despite appearances, is the 'rattling the biscuit box, cat turns up' sequence just a more complex version of 'wiggle the computer mouse, mouse cursor moves from side to side'. If we weren't so savvy about the workings of a computer, would this seem as if the computer understands what we're asking it? If we introduced a medieval person to a computer, would he or she think that there must be a demon inside who understands our various mouse-clicks and button-presses and converts them into behaviour? We don't think the cat has a demon inside only because we think the 'demon' we assume is required is the cat's own assumed awareness.

Maybe if we understood the workings of cats (and humans) better, we'd realise (just like we do with computers) that there needn't be an 'understanding' demon inside -- and maybe that even our own awareness is just a viewer of the brain activity passing through on its way to producing actions.

I'm reminded of a conversation I had many years ago with one of my grandmothers. I was using a thermos flask to keep an iced drink cold during the summer, and she expressed surprise that it would do that -- vacuum flasks are meant to keep things hot! Then she said, 'How does it know whether to keep the contents cold or hot?'

Of course, it doesn't 'know' -- it's just physics. I wonder if the cat doesn't know either, and it's just physics.

To argue against myself, the same appeal to Occam's razor (that other humans are as aware as you because we know that the universe can do that) might be an argument for assuming that some kind of awareness also exists in the cat... but, like humans, the fact that awareness appears to offer a little window into brain activity doesn't necessarily mean the cat has free will or understanding either -- perhaps only the illusion, if at all.

got some time on your hands ? thats one long assed post :huh:

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When a robot can do ironing I'll be impressed. I mean really do ironing, not just flatten things badly. Until then there's nothing that comes close to the human brain.

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When a robot can do ironing I'll be impressed. I mean really do ironing, not just flatten things badly. Until then there's nothing that comes close to the human brain.

....who does ironing?....I certainly don't....my clothes are ironed by wearing. ;)

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Obviously an unscientific opinion rather than fact, but I think that being an animal like a cat or a dog must be pretty similar to being a human would be if you simply did whatever you felt like and refused to think about it (or about anything else). For a human that's fairly impossible to actually do, but possibly not to imagine. That's the difference between understanding and not. However, many animals, cats included, exhibit more complicated behaviour than that. Whether that's down to having a limited amount of understanding or simply instinctive behaviour I've no idea.

Very simple animals are (personal opinion only speaking again here) more akin to, and probably about as aware as, a machine that we're capable of building. Just smaller.

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got some time on your hands ? thats one long assed post :huh:

If more people spent time thinking there would be less need for websites like this and life would be an altogther happier experience.

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If more people spent time thinking there would be less need for websites like this and life would be an altogther happier experience.

Far too many threads on websites like this turn into unpleasant arguments because people spend time thinking and come to completely different conclusions.

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My two cents.. of philosophical diarrhoea

I would consider a human baby. It can't speak English, it can't add numbers.. it just sees lights and colours, feels, smells, hears, tastes..

At this stage there is not much to cognitively separate you from a kitten (or baby anything else).

The difference is that humans have developed more powerful "processors" than other animals. The human baby will remember more, decode more complex patterns and in turn utilise these abilities to greater effect than the kitten.. who's progress will be slower and remain limited to simpler concepts.

Think of a bored kid in class.. when s/he doesn't understand a concept their mind wanders to simpler things. Much like your cat. You try to teach it complex principles and it will get bored and look for something more stimulating to do (probably to satisfy its more immediate carnal desires).

So in short, yes, humans "understand" quite a lot IMO, and when they don't are often curious to learn.

Just like cats.

But with more ability.

Says who ? How many humans go out there and do anything other than what they are 'told' or 'trained' to do ? One in a thousand ? Perhaps less ?

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Says who ? How many humans go out there and do anything other than what they are 'told' or 'trained' to do ? One in a thousand ? Perhaps less ?

Everyone every day I'd say, even if it's mostly subconciously. Even to do a task that someone else has told you to requires far more thought than anything else is capable of. You can train a sheepdog to reply to commands but you can't send it up to round up the sheep while you stay at home and watch the TV.

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Everyone every day I'd say, even if it's mostly subconciously. Even to do a task that someone else has told you to requires far more thought than anything else is capable of. You can train a sheepdog to reply to commands but you can't send it up to round up the sheep while you stay at home and watch the TV.

Really ? When was the last time you spent days on end hunting down a prey ? Because many animals do this day after day. Yet most humans would not have a clue as where to even begin.

The sooner us humans start realising we are nothing special the better IMO.

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Thanks for that closely-reasoned critique... :)

great song ,i was just wasting some time myself posting a pointless reply to keep myself awake last night so to prolong the on slaught of the next day ....i forgot it was going to be saturday :lol:

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Really ? When was the last time you spent days on end hunting down a prey ? Because many animals do this day after day. Yet most humans would not have a clue as where to even begin.

The sooner us humans start realising we are nothing special the better IMO.

Humans aren't very well adapted to do that without having to think more about it than other animals. For a cat or a dog it's purely instinctive behaviour. It would be for most people, if it came to it and they needed to try to eat something - lurk behind a corner and try to jump on something is the best we can manage with our physiology and without using some sort of weapon.

Some people need to realise that homo sapiens is simply another species, that's true, but there is no question that intellectually we are different from every other species and can do things that no other species can get near. Simply having this discussion is proof of that. Anyone who's had a chat about what they thought of something that was on TV last night has done that.

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Humans aren't very well adapted to do that without having to think more about it than other animals. For a cat or a dog it's purely instinctive behaviour. It would be for most people, if it came to it and they needed to try to eat something - lurk behind a corner and try to jump on something is the best we can manage with our physiology and without using some sort of weapon.

Some people need to realise that homo sapiens is simply another species, that's true, but there is no question that intellectually we are different from every other species and can do things that no other species can get near. Simply having this discussion is proof of that. Anyone who's had a chat about what they thought of something that was on TV last night has done that.

Yes I agree we are definitely different to other species. But then again you could say that for any other species.

Maybe animals have discussions about various subjects - but simply do it in a way we do not understand ? Who knows.

We are most definitely the most creative of species - however at the same time we are the most destructive of species.

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  • 312 Brexit, House prices and Summer 2020

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