HLI: Physical-Social; Rational Planning: Built-in and consciously 'improved'

Begin of Document: March-26, 2006

Last Changes: March-26, 2006
Status of Document: First considerations; draft

In the preceding reflections I have use the 'standard' picture about the evolutionary process of the known physical nature.

Figure: Some bits of the evolutionary conditions of intelligence

There can be some debate about the difference of the physical nature and the social nature (including culture). There are enough opinions around that the social (cultural) nature is different from the physical nature and that the evolution of the physical nature has to be distinguished sharply from the manner how social culture is evolving in the course of time; in this context history is usually distinguished from evolution.

I will not discuss these questions here; it's a very big issue. For my reflections here I will work with the working hypothesis that the social nature as an emergent phenomenon is rooted in the physical nature. As a consequence one has to re-read the case of 'physical matter' as something which includes the whole potential of the emerging mental, social, and cultural phenomena. Seen from this perspective there is no contradiction of the 'physical' and the 'mental'; both are only two different aspects of some very impressive substance called 'knowable reality'.

With these assumptions in mind one has to consider the case of the growing and dying individual members of a population not only from their physical conditions but also in the light of their interactions with each other. Although an interaction with another member of a population is mediated by a complex physical medium like the whole complex body and the physical world between bodies, the 'inner structure' of such interactions in the case of symbolic communication cannot only be explained by physical causalities.

Figure: The social dimension as part of the physical evolution

Seen from another perspective, clearly, one can map every kind of behavioral function onto underlying structures which are at the 'lowest' levels of mapping rooted in physiological and hence in physical structures. But, as in the case of modern digital computers, most people are not talking about the concrete physical processes happening during a process of computation, but are using very abstract formal models (and high level languages), to describe certain functions/ mappings, which are realized during a process of computation. These abstract functions are 'loosing their shape' when one tries to describe these in the language of the low-level processes. For --at least-- a human mind they would no longer be 'understandable'.

The same happens with the description of the brain functions. As long as one describes for instance the functioning of a small network at the level of neurons with ingoing and outgoing signals one can quite easily identify lots of useful functions. In that moment where one switches to lower, more detailed levels of mechanisms (Ion channels and pumps, electro-chemical reaction chains, transmitter processing etc.) all these nice functions becoming hided behind all these details. If you not already know these functions, you will hardly detect any of them by the complex machinery of the causing lower processes.

This does not answer the question of he 'ontological status' of the higher-level functions; do they correspond to some 'reality' like the assumed physical processes? But perhaps this question is wrong from the start. If you try to follow the 'path of reality' to those things, which are 'really real', you will end up in an endless path of going 'deeper and deeper' without a 'real end'. The 'core matter' of physics ends up in concepts like 'mass' and 'energy' related 'measured events' of theoretically assumed 'smallest particles' which only exist as highly complex and abstract mathematical concepts. Without these math-concepts you can 'see' nothing.

We should try to become accustomed to the fact that reality is from its 'very nature' a completely multifaceted subject where all these aspects are 'true in parallel'. From this point of view are the social-cultural phenomena a 'real' part of the whole of reality, embedded in physical phenomena, but not reducible to these, because only as distinguished from the 'more physical' are the social-cultural phenomena describable. Everybody who does not believe this view should try to write down a formal theory of all these phenomena and he would very quickly become aware of this fact. Mathematical thinking causes irreducible cultural phenomena (but how many people know about mathematics?).

As mentioned in the preceding chapter we are living without having really planned our living. As children we are learning without any explicit teaching about learning. This behavior --and much more-- is possible because we are to a high degree 'systems' whose structure and dynamics are caused/ enabled by processes and informations which are available through a process we call biological (and physical) evolution. In a certain sense is our 'intelligence', is our ability to 'learn', 'built-in'. Because until today no other species has become known which has the same degree of intelligence, this is 'something'. It's very unusual in the universe. It's very rare (there exist different mathematical estimations about the probability about the existence of other species somewhere in the universe having also intelligence). To say it's a 'singularity' would be 'to hard' for most people because then they would have the problem how to deal with the 'cosmological importance' which would be induced by this fact, accompanied by 'responsibility', and maybe other 'properties'.

Nevertheless, being 'there' induces the practical continuous problem how to 'behave' in a changing environment? We know that a newborn baby has a lot of built-in 'spontaneous reactions' which allow the baby to handle its situation, but we know also that this set of pre-wired behavior quickly becomes 'modified' and enlarged by other 'explicitly learned' behavior. This learning is 'un-conscious'; the baby is learning because it is 'programmed to learn'. A baby has no chance not to learn. As long as it is alive it will learn, continuously, every second, even milliseconds. The environment can to some degree support this learning, but it can not 'learn for the baby'; the baby is a truly autonomous learner.

During this process of continuous learning it will happen at some point of time that the child will have an explicit consciousness accompanied with symbolic communication.

At another point of time a child is beginning to enrich its spontaneous, stimulus-driven behavior with more and more 'intended' behavior or 'consciously planned' behavior. Mediated by conscious experience, backed up by some structures of memory, it can try to reconstruct actual situations in the light of 'causing processes'. Why is it as it is? It has also a set of preferences available, what it 'likes' and what it doesn't like. It can try to manage its individual situation in the sense that it tries to manipulate factors of the situation to reach some intended future state which it likes and to avoid those which it doesn't like.

Figure: Rational planning based on built-in dynamics including consciousness

As we know is there some change during our personal life in the manner what we 'like' and what we do not like. There is also --usually-- an ongoing change in our knowledge about possible causes and possible future states. Additionally our behavior is changing including different abilities to do things. An open question is, to which extend our behavior can really be 'completely conscious'? Because the consciousness is 'enabled' through the underlying processes which are nearly all 'un-conscious' it is highly probable that the process of 'making things conscious' is a process of explicit reconstruction and an approximation, which probably never is complete. Moreover, experience gives us hints that some of the un-conscious parts of the underlying processes are inducing 'explicit arguments' which are 'explaining' why one is doing something although the 'real unconscious causes' are different.

The relationship between the conscious constructions of a human system and its underlying causing processes is an interesting research field. What are the mechanisms which allow the transfer from un-conscious processes to conscious constructions? How can one describe the 'interface' between consciousness and unconsciousness? What is the function of the consciousness in human systems for its behavior: is the consciousness only a side-effect which is disturbing or is it an ingenious outcome of the evolutionary process which gives the human species a unique ability to improve its planned future? Which part of human behavior can only be explained by the availability of the 'consciousness' as an emergent phenomenon of the underlying body?

These questions can only be answered (as a necessary, but perhaps not sufficient condition) by a scientific knowledge process.

In a certain sense can we view science as a kind of rational planning: with the intention to improve forecasts of the future. Some people (the scientists, the researchers, the engineers) are starting a knowledge process with the intention to improve the understanding of the mechanisms leading from past states to the present and then --estimated, deduced-- from the present to some future states. During this process it is necessary (cf. also preceding chapter) to clarify the conditions of perception, thinking and planning. Based on such reflections one can establish measurement procedures, experiments, languages to gain data in a transparent manner. Those experiments are not 'blind' experiments; they are already guided by some preliminary assumptions (hypotheses) about possible relationships between factors characterizing reality. To improve experiments one needs more and more elaborated assumptions leading to explicit models/ theories. To use those theories for forecasts one has to establish a transparent procedure how one can generate from given knowledge statements about possible states in the future. And there must exists practical ways of experimentation how one can test these forecasts of the theory by measured facts.

Figure: Scientific 'improvement' of rational planning by more controlled transparency

These forecasts in combination with testing experiments can --ideally-- lead to an improvement of the theory. As mentioned before there are fundamental data types related to 'typical' disciplines using these kinds of data.




Experimental Psychology, Ethology


Brain Sciences


Phenomenology, Psychology, Philosophy, Cultural Sciences




Classical Psychology; everyday knowledge



In the case of human intelligence (including learning) one needs more or less all these data types and hence all these disciplines in a multidisciplinary approach, which enables truly interdisciplinary or even trans disciplinary work. The core-process can be described as a 'full scientific cycle'. But this is not the whole story! A full scientific cycle is only a true sub-part of rational planning.

Full Scientific Cycle (FSC)

1. Providing data D (S-R, N, P or correlations of these) guided by some working hypothesis (eventually by extending an already existing set of data) from a certain environment E; usually done by explicit measurement

2. Elaborating a minimal formal theory T (or modifying an existing one)

3. Elaborating at least one feasible formal model M based on T

4. Implementing the model M in a real working system S

5. Providing a test case EXP for the system S in a certain environment E

6. Gaining test-data by measurement as a subset D' of the data set D

7. Evaluating the test data with all the available data and the assumed theory T

8. Confirm theory T or criticize it.

Rational planning includes the reconstruction of causing mechanisms, but it includes also substantially a process of 'preferencing' certain states before others. Planning presupposes or induces 'value systems'. Without such a system of values everything is 'equal'; no preferred direction would be possible. One can label this part 'morality' or 'ethics' or 'religion'; the word labels are not so important; important are the value systems as such. Only by these values can the system gain an orientation which directs the system along a path P different to all the alternatives P'. Thus planning as well as learning induces the special problem of the identification of the right values. Where do these come from? Are they all built-in? Are they 'hidden in the process'? Can they be created from scratch?

The question of the right values is another big issue which can not sufficiently be discussed here. According to the process logic we have certainly to assume, that at least an important sub set of values must be built-in because we have to live and to survive before we have an sufficiently well elaborated conscious knowledge. But as the already available knowledge shows us, there is a high probability, that there are much more --and probably the more demanding?-- values, which are hidden in the process, hidden in the complexity, which only will show up during a lengthy process of knowledge exploration. An open question for the moment is perhaps the question for 'final' and 'absolute' values. Nearly every religious movements tells us, that there are final values bound to absolute states correlated with the 'creator' (which has many different names in all the different languages). It is a complete open question how the relationship between the 'deep religious convictions' of the past and the actual and upcoming scientific knowledge has to be described. This is caused partially because religious convictions are bound to languages and pictures of the past which have not been updated in the right way and partially caused by the fact, that the scientific knowledge is growing and changing so fast that it is hard to keep up.

Because rational planning is a process where human persons are trying to clarify something which is already there (life happens before we are able to understand, what life is) we can perhaps have some trust in the power of the whole process. If there really would be some 'almighty power' behind everything, this almighty would surely never be destroyed by our inability to understand rightly or to behave in the right way. The only victims in this case would be those human persons which would miss the point of being optimal part of the process. They would 'punish themselves'. But all this is hypothetical. As long as we are approaching the unknown by some actual partial knowledge we are in a guessing state. In such a global experimental situation is 'spiritual leadership' tempting; assuming that there are some people who --despite all the non-knowledge-- already know it 'right'. This is dangerous: not knowing what is 'right' can easily lead into bad pathways. It's interesting that 'true' spiritual leaders always are challenging their 'followers' to built up their 'own' decisions! This is more demanding than only to follow. It includes the risk of being 'wrong'. This leads to the mystery of true freedom: true freedom necessarily includes error, error is necessary for learning, learning is necessary for true knowledge, true knowledge is a complete state, not only cognitive knowledge.