sentient ocean or ??

Im considering a topic for a book, but it kind of depends on a certain assumption, that any large complex entity that has some kind of freeflow of its material, where the material is complex in and of itself, may be capable of some form of memory, or self awareness, like the ocean, or perhaps even the mantle under the earths crust…kind of like a giant brain, or a bunch of brains. Is this possible? Is the ocean or any other large liquid body that free flows capable of being self aware or at least some form of thought…or am I missing a big chunk of what else is required for this?

Um, I belive that any ocean of seawater, magma, or what have you would benefit greatly from a brain in its quest to achieve self aware thought.

Stanislaw Lem depicted such a world in Solaris.

My biggest gripe about this concept is that it’s hard to imagine a life form existing completely in isolation. Life forms seeks resources, and uses it to reproduce. Reproduction allows change, and competition for resources causes natural selection, which is how life forms evolve. The ocean of a solitary planet can do none of these things, so how did it evolve to be a life form, let alone a sentient one?

Solaris by Stanislaw Lem, 1961.

You’re missing a big chunk, namely organisation. Simply having ‘free flow’ in a complex system will never give you intelligence. After all free flow is just another term for entropy which is just another term for chaos. You’re just describing a system with a high propensity for disorganisation.

Intelligence as we understand it requires organisation. It requires at the very least an ability to capture, store and later reteive analogues of experience, what we call memories. An ocean can be as chaotic as you like but there’s nothing in complexity that makes storage mechanisms inevitable.

What makes complexity likely, though not inevitable, is pre-existing complexity. So you need to start small with small units of memeory. That’s what DNA essentially is, it’s a way of storing and sorting molecules that responded in specific ways to the environement. But it’s a pretty inefficient form of memory because inappropriate ‘responses’ are destroyed without the information being passed on to any benefit. Later forms of memory allowed the inapproriate responses to be filed as inapproriate and thus leanring evolved. Ulitmately some systems became capable of learning about themselves and then we had intelligence.

But an ocean has no small scale complexity unless you conclude that life is the small scale complexity, in which case the ocean already has become intelligent. But in the sense I think you mean intelligence isn’t even probably much less inevitable. The ocean or a magma pool has no means of storing responses. As a result it can’t learn by rejecting poor decisions. It may be complex and chaotic but there is no mechanism to say whether one state is preferable to another: there’s no memory.

The ocean today might be exactly as it was 10, 000 years ago down to the position of the last molecule, but what would allow anyone to say whether that was desirable or undesirable, and if it was undesirable then how could the ocean make such an event less likely to re-occur? That’s the the basic problem. Without stable complexity/organistation there can be no memory, and with no memory there can be no intelligence because all states will be equally likely to re-occur and any stimulus is likely to produce any state.

For your idea to have any legs you need some form of organisation, something that is stable yet complex that can act to store the ‘correct’ responses and skew futue actions away form random and towards approriate direction. You need to invent something that makes once specific configuration of waves or chloride ions much more likely than any other appraently identical configuration.

The easiest way around that problem is that it is indeed the product of an evolutionary competition, which it won. Won so completely that it consumed the rest of the biosphere and is the only remaining form of life.

This belongs in GD, Mods.

The OP is referring to sentience, not intelligence. The latter is a label assigned to the conceptual metric that relates to teleological performance. Sentience is just another word for consciousness

We don’t know how memory arises in the first place, so speculating on constraints is on no firmer ground than speculating on possibilities.

The OP talks about sentience, intelligence, memory, self-awareness, brains and thought amongst other things, so to conclude that intelligence is outside the scope is an extremely limited reading. Aside from anything else you seem to be concluding that an entity can be self aware and yet completely lack intelligence. A hard concept to even visualise.

Well no, we actually have a pretty good idea how memory arises in the first place. We start out with single celled prokaryotes that are capable of acting as repositories for information to begin with. Then we work our way upwards to some form of nervous transmission system. When we have that then we induce some form of accommodation/sensitisation of nerves within that system in response to specific environmental stimuli and affiliate it with some system that can use that altered sensitivity to alter behavior.

We may not know all the details of the detailed functioning of human memory but we have some very good ideas about how memory arises. It always requires some form of storage mechanism that can in some way modulate later actions or conditions. That’s almost definitional for memory.

All except intelligence are mentioned. And sentience, self-awareness & thoughts relate specifically to consciousness in one way or the other. Intelligent behaviour can be exhibited by presumably non-sentient things like robots. So, your assumption of synonymity remains an assumption.

How are they capable?

Clarification: By memory, I refer to conscious recall. Another use of memory is as a term given to behaviour characterized by similar response to similar inputs. That’s not what I mean.

The problem is that we aren’t discussing whether non-sentient things can show intelligence, we are discussing the fact that the entity you propose needs to be self-aware yet unintelligent. Can you explain how that is possible? I can’t even imagine such a concept, it’s like imagining a round triangle, it seems to be an oxymoron.

If you concede that all self-aware units must have intelligence then the OP does indeed refer to an intelligent entity.

There are chemical bonds.

Not necessarily unintelligent, just non-teleological.

Like I clarified, I wasn’t referring to attributed memory, but to conscious memory. Chemical bonds isn’t much of an answer. How do chemical bonds give rise to memory?

So it is intelligent. Fine. We can now ignore your original criticism that the OP never refereed to intelligence because we both agree that it does refer to intelligence since it refers to self-awareness and we both agree that a self-aware entity is intelligent whether it be teleleogical, speleological, teleostic or otherwise.

‘How are they capable’ wasn’t much of a question.

Are you really suggesting that the animal brain would produce memories even if the chemical bonds were all ruptured or were radically reorganised? It seems to me that you must know full well that chemical bonds give rise to memory, unless you wish to posit that memory exists an emergent property that can exist independent of the physical brain.

Is that what you are suggesting? If not then you seem to be playing the children’s game of the ‘never-ending why’. Is there a legitimate question in there or are you simply waiting until we get to some point where nobody knows the answer? If that is the case you can save us both a lot of trouble and say so now.

If there is a legitimate question that doesn’t hinge on details concerning the exact biochemistry of the synapse during consolidation then can you just ask it? If you have the biochem/physiology to understand the answer then you presumably already know the general overview. If you lack that knowledge then I doubt that any explanation I can give on a message board will illuminate things too much for you.

The problem with conscious memory is that is impossible to clearly define and can only possibly be established to exist within humans because it requires an ability to communicate abstracts. Even in humans ‘conscious recall’ is a tricky concept. Conscious memory requires self-awareness and access consciousness: a knowledge that a memory exists and can be recovered and an ability to recover.

By moving the goalposts and saying that memory is strictly conscious you have of course defined the question out of existence. Consciousness itself can’t be readily defined or even proven to even exist, as I’m sure you are well aware. To suggest that someone present a biochemical explanation of how something that can’t be established to exist operates to produce another effects that is just as dubious in it’s reality is a bit disingenuous isn’t it?

But I will surely give your question a red hot try once you clearly and unambiguously define what consciousness is, what exactly you mean by conscious recall as opposed to automatic or unconscious recall and why you defined them in thatmanner. You will of course agree that you need to be able to clarify the question before I can answer it satisfactorily?

If then I need to add some kind of ingredients for stable, ordered “storage areas” I was thinking I could always make up something, but I was trying to avoid kind of “deus ex machina” and keep it real. What about the magnetic field, or is there somewhere else that is consistent enough to store information? Also, do scientists know for a fact that the mantle is completely chaotic? After 4 billion years, is it not possible that some form of order would arise, possibly that we just havent been able to detect?

If you wanted something similar, try a coral reef. It would be easy to tos off some techno-babble, and reefs do look like very complex “organisms”. IN this case, each peice of coral would be like a small neuron. Good fictional idea.

I think the OP might enjoy reading about Gaia Theory.

But that only proposes that the planet is self organizing, not self aware.

Intelligent Design?


Any time you have a moving fluid you tend to get all sorts of interesting nonlinear effects which intoduce “chaotic” elements to the order.

A. I didn’t say they were the same thing. Just a suggested reading.

B. I think understanding how a planet might be viewed as self organizing is helpful in conjecturing about self awareness.