Artificial Intelligence vs. Consciousness: the B Side of the Dance

Imagine if your mind were one dimensional.

Tomato Field

But that’s an artifice, a trick, a tease — in short, an illusion. It operates like a mind, although it’s only a trick sitting in its place. Pretty clever, though.

Do you see the artifice? You take a stretch of earth, which integrates soil and planetary atmospheres and plant, animal and microbial life, strip off all life from it, and then insert plants into the orphaned microbial-mineral mix, heat the soil with plastic and… as you can see here, sometimes fail to sell or harvest the crop. It is an act of intelligence but not of consciousness. This is consciousness:

With the shadow of my fresh-pruned peach tree on my garden wall, here is a wild grape vine I’ve been training to go up a pine tree to feed the birds, in the vain hope that they will leave my other grapes alone. Ha ha ha. But look at her! All of those tendrils, turning in the sun, until they catch something, at which they will hold on. It is consciousness in action, but not intelligence. What’s the difference? Ah, to see under the illusions of this ill-fated pair, look at that tomato field again…

This time you can see the fence (pine trees, milled, compressed, and soaked in toxic copper compounds so that the bacteria in the soil won’t rot them off too quickly, and some wire, to keep out both deer and humans.) This removal of space from nature under the unconscious but deliberate choices of intelligence, is actually called “nature” in contemporary Canadian culture. I mean, sure, this “nature” stuff is this group of young Interior Western Red Cedars on Redfish Creek along Kootenay Lake …

… but it’s also this ring-necked pheasant making a bolt for it in an abandoned and zealously-fenced patch of ground (pheasants hate to be seen, except by other pheasants, so run, baby run)…

What we are really witnessing, in Canadian terms, is the removal of spaces of earth from the earth’s consciousness, whether by clearing them of life or blocking life from accessing them (life hates a vacuum on this planet and seeks to fill it…just ask that pheasant), and then the return of life to them either because of the action of human hands (planting), or despite the action of human hands …


In fact, the image above shows both of these concepts of nature at once, and how, despite human attempts to replace nature with points of interest and attention called plantings (and thus plants), they unite, because, like the grape vine…

…they are conscious, which is to say present in a balance…


Consciousness, however, also has its illusions, as the image above demonstrates. That little snap of a wetland, that self-generated on the hill six years ago and is growing more mature every year ..

… appears to show ice …

… but really shows light, and the inability of humans to see through it, even with the help of a polarized lens.

So, you may be thinking by this point, hmmm, pretty pictures, Harold, but what are you going on about? First it’s “intelligence” that is an artifice, with tricks, and things removed from an ecosystem, and then it’s consciousness, or that ecosystem (or biosphere, you’ll give me that, right?), playing tricks of its own? Well, maybe not tricks, eh. Maybe limitations:


And, let’s be clear, the limitations are only limitations if one removes oneself from the biosphere to consider them from the point of removal, which is, first, a point of action, of doing, based on changing things from one state into another (hay into sheep into wool into warmth into love, for instance, or dirt into tomatoes into soup into warmth into love, and so on… the love is to be hoped for, right? Right.) In other words, intelligence is about cutting, or making a break.

Raven With Mummified Vole

Consciousness is what that intelligence takes place within. For example, this tree in the low afternoon light…

In contemporary Canadian terms, this consciousness might be called “beauty”, or “balance”. It is said to be “in the eye of the beholder,” meaning that it’s subjective. That’s a trick of intelligence, in case you were looking for one. The eye of the beholder sees pattern of light and dark and takes pleasure in their balance, which is to say, is conscious of it in a sensory way, and deduces information from that consciousness (the time of day, the direction of the sun, the time of year, and so on), by setting aside the moment of attention and beauty for a moment of action. Intelligence being what it is, it claims the entire process as its own, but, really, the attention and beauty are only subjectively set aside, and the balance is still there. In fact, without that balance, the setting forth cannot take place a second time, and if something is not repeatable it’s, well, a trick, but not a means of survival, and the whole trick of survival is to transform beauty into action, and, I might add, without losing the beauty, because you will need it again. That’s the point of a tomato field, which needs microbes to feed its tomatoes, and it’s the point of this royal gala apple orchard…

… which is grown on weak, fragile, brittle dwarfing roots. The trees here are, effectively, branches growing out of the earth, which is, effectively, a tree. The thing about this tree…

Branches, Really

Note the California Quail tracks. More sneakiness.

… is that it doesn’t exist except in the fertilized irrigation water pumped into it, which the trees draw up through the artifice of ridiculously heavy pruning at their lopped-off crowns:

All Leaf and Shade and Gnarliness

The apples themselves grow on inferior fruiting structures, which hang below the horizontal:

Normally, they would produce trashy fruit, but the aggressively-forced flow pattern of the combined pruning-fertilizing system, compensates for that. It won’t, however, have flavour. Flavour is the job of advertising professionals, who install it in the minds of the purchasers, through manipulating their subconscious minds, which, for all its trickiness, is another sign of intelligence at work. Perhaps you can see the beginnings of a distinction here? That intelligence is always an artifice, and always requires a balance? That when that balance (or flavour) is lost, it is not sustainable, which means that it wasn’t intelligence at all, just an artificial version of it? That you can apply more intelligence (advertising) to quiet the conscious (sub-conscious, in Canadian terms) mind, in order to maintain the structures of intelligence? And why these structures? I mean, you don’t need those structures. It is possible to have a kind of active consciousness that is not “intelligent” in this manner but which remains with a filbert tree in the late afternoon winter sun:

That’s just an example. It could be here, as well:

Winter Willows

That’s just two examples. So, why this emphasis on “intelligence” instead of active consciousness, embedded in a sustainable earth? Well, it’s predatory. Humans are, in part, a predatory species, with their own camp followers:

One separates in order to free oneself from external control.

One kills so that one doesn’t starve. Obviously, but perhaps less obviously, when the balance of beauty is replaced with the balance of intelligence, with the balance of artifices, with systems.

Feral Russian Olive

An inexpensive alternative to the native plants (and the killdeer nest) that were removed to make room for this housing development. The system (you will plant trees, because this is a park and it must be returned to natural values) has been subverted by intelligence and artifice, or cunning.

Huge amounts of effort must be made to maintain the system, that is always breaking down because it is the action of consciousness to bridge not to remove, and to be present and within instead of to be without. And, sure, that’s the problem of a migratory species (such as humans). And yet, as I said in my last post, imagine, if photography were recorded in water and in the nature of water: there for a moment in fluidity…

…and then, in the nature of fluidity gone.

Consciousness crosses elemental boundaries. Intelligence can’t. It can explain …

“The angles of refraction of light create the illusion that light bends.”

That kind of thing. Remember, though, that intelligence works through systems, and if the consciousness that gave it forth is permanently removed (replacing it with advertising or education is a form of removal), then there is only the system. And so, a question: if there can be artificial intelligence, can there be artificial consciousness? Indeed, yes. It is the system. Sadly, though, it is unconscious. It is unable to think or act. And action is possible.

Mule Deer Are Swamp Creatures, Too

Next, let’s chat about that. Fences might make great perches…

… but there’s also flight.

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