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What the heck is consciousness anyway?
Bear - That depends on your definition of sentience. Right at the bottom, something like a central heating thermostat could be said to have 1-bit sentience - in that it senses one variable and acts whenever that variable changes. Slightly less ridiculous, one could think about something like an earthworm; it acts to move away from harmful stimuli (heat, saltiness, too much light perhaps) and moves towards beneficial ones such as the smell of food. I very much doubt, however, that most people would take this to mean earthworms have emotions.

Incidentally, this does not mean that everything is sentient. A lump of granite reacts to being wet by (VERY slowly) changing its chemical composition - but it's not doing so actively.
One interesting thing about animals is that they can have psychological states. Animals can be happy or sad, confident or depressed; this behaviour is often obvious in mammals, but can be seen in birds and reptiles, and sometimes even in arthropods (invade an arthropod's territory too many times and it appears to become apprehensive and cautious). Any entity that is sophisticated enough to have a state of mind is sentient, and there must be something that it is like to be one.

Sophonce seems to be a sophisticated kind of sentience wrangling. If you are aware enough to model another being's behaviour and predict it accurately enough to catch it or mate with it or drive it away, then you are sentient; if you are self-aware enough to model your own behavior and imagine what you want to do in the next five days, weeks or months, and to worry about your own state of mind and what you can do to improve things, you are sophont.
To me consciousness is the feeling of experiencing a self-aware program from the inside. Build a sophont program (and a computer to run it on) and it will be self aware, and there will be something it is like to be that program; it will be conscious, even if its experience of consciousness may be totally different to your own.
Maybe. I'd call the thermostat one-bit sapience, not one-bit sentience. Temperature is a symbol that it has no reason to care about - it reacts to temperature, but the reaction isn't solving a problem that the thermostat has. The thermostat would be just fine if the temperature went up to fifty or down to zero. The thermostat itself has no needs or desires or threats to respond to, and no need to organize its information about the world (its one bit of symbolic information) into qualia. And if it did can we even conceive of that signal *being* qualia?

You're right, it gets very fuzzy down there at the bottom of the scale. For most purposes I think I'd be okay calling earthworms non-sentient. I certainly don't feel guilty if I happen to kill one. But, what they've got is the same as the foundation of sentience in more complex organisms; they have needs and must avoid risks and injuries, and have sensory input specifically to give them information about the world that must be organized in ways that allow them to do that. Even if it's not highly developed, I can't really claim it's not sentience.

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