Here’s a nice contrast to the stupid philosophers mentioned previously. Most discussion of consciousness is based on utterly meaningless wordsalad like “There is something it is like”.
This discussion of insect awareness gets down to a definable and measurable concept of subjective experience, which is not the same thing as simple consciousness. What does the phrase mean? Comparing nematodes with insects and mammals:
Hungry nematodes respond to starvation with increased locomotion and dispersal in a random, rather than directed, search. By contrast, hungry rodents, ants, and bees will navigate to places where they have previously encountered food. Their internal state of hunger triggers a highly directional and oriented food search focused on locations where food was previously experienced, even if no food stimuli are currently present. Hence, in mammals and insects homeostatic drives direct behavior to where resources are expected to be, even if they are not currently there. We argue the difference between this behavior and nematode search behavior arises because nematode behavior is organized by reference to their primary sensory input, whereas rodent and insect behavior is organized in response to an integrated and spatial simulation of their environment.
Simulation of the environment is the key point, and even more important is the ability to include ME as a part of the simulated environment.
I’ve been arguing that dreams are the best externally visible measure of subjective experience. A dream is a stageplay with sets and characters and action and dialog. Sometimes the play includes ME, sometimes it’s entirely outside of ME. But when it does include ME, the ME on stage is being watched by the real ME.
In mammals and cephalopods, dreams are externally visible. Mammals move their eyes and often emit partly expressed vocalizations or motions. Cuttlefish display the action on their skin, directly visible to outsiders like a drive-in theater.
= = = = = START REPRINT:
Careful observers have decoded the honeybee’s waggle dance. It’s a vector message. The dancer is telling her hivemates about a good source of honey. She repeatedly forms a figure-8 pattern, with the message in the middle.
The direction of the dance is relative to the main honeycomb wall of the hive. The angle between the central motion line and the wall represents the vector of the food source relative to the sun.
Transposing the viewed dance to a position on the bee’s internal compass is complex, but using the memorized template can be hardwired in an insect with compound eyes that cover most of the compass. The template is assigned to one radial set of lenses, and the bee keeps the sun centered on that group of lenses.
The distance component of the vector is conveyed by the number of waggles in each central run.
This reminds me of the glial abacus that keeps track of numbers in short-term memory. Astrocyte cells serve as a kind of scorecard or abacus outside of the neurons. The neurons click up the astrocytes, and when the number of raised beads reaches a threshold the neurons tell the body to stop swimming or flying.
Let’s try to imagine how this feels to a forager bee watching the dance.
Polistra has a hive near the mill…
Looking downward inside the hive we see one scout telling one forager about her find:
The forager observes the direction of the dance with respect to the hive, and forms a template for where the sun should be when she’s flying.
Taking the important part in slow motion:
Each waggle ticks up the beads of her astrocyte abacus. For a simple animation we’ll assume she’s a Babylon Bee who counts in base 60. For each of these five waggles she brings in one 12-bead astrocyte. The total of all the counters tells her how many wingflaps she needs. (Obviously the real multiple of wingflaps per waggle would be far more than 12.)
She then launches out of the hive and turns until the actual sun matches the template position supplied by the dance. As she flies, each wingflap clicks down a bead. When the astrocytes have all reached zero, she’s there.
= = = = = END REPRINT.
The dance conveys a simulated universe including ME as the center of the vector, with the sun and the land distance as part of the play. The forager holds the stageplay in her mind and tries to match it, keeping the sun and the wingflaps in line with the narration as it runs on her internal projector.