Chapter 20 Sensing

20.1 Nothing new.

Explaining the sensing ability of an organism does not require to postulate new features. The ability to sense is the logic consequence of a number of features we have already discussed.

Sensing will be approached from three different angels. This allows us to remember different abstract principles.

20.2 Sensing as communication.

Before elements cooperate to form an organization, they develop the ability to communicate. After the development of the organization, elements of the organization are still able to communicate with elements outside the organization.

Through this channel, information about the environment enters the organization. When this information helps to anticipate the outcome of the actions of the organization, it will be appreciated and the communication channel will become stronger.

Ongoing specialization of functions in the organization will cause some elements to serve only the purpose of communication with the environment: Senses are developed.

20.3 Sensing by externalization.

An organism is able to sense because its elements are able to sense. In other words, the ability to sense the environment and the use of the sensed information in a model of the environment exist at all levels of externalization because it is a deeply rooted externalizing feature.

An organization acts differently under different environmental circumstances because the elements act differently under different environmental circumstances.

20.4 Sensing by using conditioned elements.

When an information being instantiates in a given environment, it has to instantiate many elements. From previous experience, it has memorized that the instantiation of a number of elements limits the possibilities for instantiation of other elements and vice versa.

Each attempt to instantiate an element causes some feedback from the environment (joy/ pain). Based on this feedback, the instantiation can be continued or withdrawn and changed. Once a number of elements are successfully instantiated, the success of the instantiation of other elements can be anticipated using the experience. The instantiated elements are used as internal representation of external conditions. Using instantiated elements to know more about the environment to be able to anticipate the result of other instantiations is sensing. By keeping a number of elements instantiated, continuous changes in the environment can be followed inside by progressive changes in instantiated elements (removing instantiation from those who do not longer fit and instantiating others who fit now).

In chapter 14 we have explained how the "grasping" of an instantiating abstract element is in fact based on intensified communication between the grasped elements and the internal elements. By this, thoughts in the external elements can be influenced as such to cause attraction or repulsion.

Whether we approach sensing through instantiated elements, grasping or palpating, it comes down to communication between internal and external elements.

20.5 Passive sensing of changing conditions.

External conditions change, the instantiation of an element which was initially fitting well suddenly does not fit any longer. Because it does not fit, the instantiated element (which was kept instantiated to follow changes) experiences pain. In stead of giving some appreciation to the internal element which suggested the instantiation, the element in pain starts complaining of not being warned for the changing condition. This causes a shift in attention and, when the uproar reaches a coherent field of thoughts, a change in thoughts and, if necessary, a change in an abstract plan.

This is what happens when something unexpected is sensed, for example when a light flashes or an unexpected explosion is heard.

20.6 Active sensing.

A stable organization hates surprises. It attempts to anticipate all internal and external changes. When a change is expected, the instantiated element is warned in advance. Normally, the instantiation is not fully withdrawn until the change actually takes place. The loosely mapped element is used to synchronize the internal model of the external world. Because the element was warned in advance, it has reduced largely its instantiation and by this will not much suffer from the change. Even better, by confirming the expected change, it serves an internal purpose and will be rewarded for this (economy of energy).

This is the base for active sensing. Because there is quite some difference between active and passive sensing, we have also different words for it. Active sensing is indicated by words like listening and looking. Passive (unexpected) sensing is indicated by hearing ("did you hear that explosion?") and seeing ("did you see that flash").

More in next chapter on Communication

This is Chapter 20; Sensing of Behavior of Information

Author: Luc Claeys. All comments welcome, mail to lcl at this site:

Last updated on Nov 12, 1997