Discussion Board

Topic: Blood Cells with consciousness?

From: Rainer A. Schmitz
Location: Cologne, Germany
Date: 08/30/2006


Dear Greg,

I can't find it any more, but anywhere on your HP there was the question concerning "Blood Music", wether blood cells can have consciousness, or if, perhaps, they all might be regarded as a unit having consciousness.

First of all, the question of *mere* consciousness (not self-reflection!) ain't a yes-no-question, but one of it's degree. Every animal has some kind of consciousness, even without a nerve system, I think. May be stones too? I don't now, but, by logical reasoning, where to put the limit? If nerve nets have consciousness, how many nerves do you need? Does a single nerve have it? If nerves, why not other cells? From that, other large molecules? You see, it's hard to find the limit.

And what about group consciousness, I think it's proven to exist. To that, let me tell something out of a book I'm working on (translated by SYSTRAN ("bable fish"), sorry)

"And there is still another beautiful phenomenon, which worth mentioning I in this connection consider: the termite hill! There are many thousands of very small, very stupid animals, which create an enormous, complicated building. In addition they must cooperate and must have a precise conception of how this is to look like. That is at least as difficult (as comparison), as if a group of apes would create a modern multistoried building including installations, caretaker and security, planning included. And the termites do that nevertheless! And, now the joke, there is even a boss, the queen. She is just as stupid, but if one kills her, the game is over: Absolutely nothing runs anymore! How can one explain that? Well, if we regard 10,000 to 100,000 primitive nerve sytems as a unit, perhaps that is already enough. And the queen is then the center, and if we switch that off, the process ends."

CU
Rainer A. Schmitz
Cologne, Germany

Re: Blood Cells with consciousness?

From: Greg Bear
Date: 08/30/2006

I suspect red blood cells are pretty much tools rather than thinkers, but other cellular networks definitely cooperate and exchange commands and data to solve problems, which is one good definition for thinking. As for consciousness--in the sense of self-awareness--that is probably a later-stage property of complex multi-cellular individuals who need to model the behavior of other individuals within their social groupings. I doubt cells in themselves would be self-aware--unless messed with by Vergil Ulam, of course!

Re: Blood Cells with consciousness?

From: Rainer A. Schmitz
Location: Cologne, Germany
Date: 08/30/2006

Dear Greg,

sorry, but you seem to ignore that consciousness is NOT (reflecting) self-awareness. That's, of course, a very much higher level needing (probably) social interaction. Nevertheless I stay to my claim, that consciousness (!) is a very common attribute of nature, even of "dead" nature.

CU

Re: Blood Cells with consciousness?

From: Greg Bear
Date: 08/30/2006

I was referring to self-awareness. As you suggest, the more abstruse sort of consciousness may very well be widespread in nature, as I've discussed in many of my novels--including VITALS. No argument there, Rainer.

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