The connectionist approach
(see Symbolic and Connectionist approaches to cognition
for an excellent explanation) for creating a model
of the mind
is essentially a reductionist
one: that is, with this approach, one considers the conscious mind
as being composed of smaller, "less" intelligent parts
(which may then be composed of even smaller, even less intelligent parts). Thus, the mind is seen as being a network
of smaller structures
, which, reduced far enough, are networks of neurons
. Further, the smaller parts
composing the whole
are not conscious of their part in the whole. For example, the neural network
responsible for recieving visual information from the retina does not "know" what it is doing, but rather processes
the information it recieves mechanically.
I bet you know where this is going, don't you? I'll spell it out: extending this idea, consider the whole of society, composed of all of us individuals. Does this comprise what we may analogously call a conscious "mind", with individual people being the equivalent of neurons? This is certainly a plausible model: we often speak of the interests, will, desires and state of society, as if it were a single entity. And society is most certainly a network of individuals just as complex as the network of neurons that is the brain. However, it's not quite that simple. For society to be considered a conscious mind, some additional properties must be present. Namely, the "mind", whatever it is, must be in some sense a representational system: a system that contains a symbolic representation of the world in which it exists. In particular, it would have to contain a self symbol, i.e. a representation of itself (a sense of "I"). I conjecture that there is at least some weak evidence for this, though certainly no conclusive evidence, since, by assumption, each of us has "less" consciousness than the mind of society if it does indeed exist.
This is as much as I can get into words... these ideas are still pretty liquid in my head, but I still wanted to get it out there.