When can a system be said to know something? 

If we say there was no mind in this world i.e. no living being in this world, would anything have existed? A prompt response would be – Yes, ofcourse, since even if there was no one, the ‘other stuff’ would have existed. But the existence of this very thought requires a mind (and hence someone). Can we have ‘no mind existing, and no mind knowing it’, at the same time? In the imagination-domain, yes; in the “real” one (that is, that which includes the minds carrying out this process of imagination), no. 

The mind can never switch itself off, in general, so to speak, since the very beginning of the expression of this desire is a mental activity.

If there was no living being no one would have known that anything existed. So effectively, nothing would have existed. (???) That leads to – Do you require a mind, to know? Or can there be other entities also, which can know?

Anything that has been (pre-)designed to perform a certain function can be said to know (this is the hypothesis). (Since then it “knows” something – the thing to be detected/sensed in performing the function). The very fact that it is looking “for” something, implies that it knows something, which is, that thing / about that thing.

Also, if you can sense/detect, you can be said to know (not completely; but satisfy a condition) – because then you have a pre-designed function. But, in a sense, you store what you sense/detect, at least for some time. So storage is a prerequisite for knowing. You can know only if you can store. So you need memory. So, if there is no memory, at least even momentary, there is no knowledge. 

So, to say that a system knows, there has to be memory. Hence there has to be an “impression”, at least for some time on/in the system. So there has to be a representation of the “knowledge” in the system. 

That representation has to be made by the knowledge-entity (the entity embodying the very knowledge), or had by the system bearing the knowledge? We will see. 

But impression and representation aren’t enough. The system also needs to understand what has been represented on/in it. If I write my name on a leaf, my name has been stored and represented in the leaf, but the leaf cannot be said to know my name. 

Now, the moment one says that any system has “detected” something, it has made a match between what it is looking for (enabled by pre-programmed/pre-destined-to-do-so sensory “perceptors”) and what it has caught. This is an analogue of the system making the representation itself (of what it has caught). Our system which has caught the external entity has represented the entity first. The leaf example is the other analogue – the entity embodying the very knowledge (the writing material), making the representation. So it seems that to know, the system has to make the representation itself, since the leaf cannot be said to know. 

So for a system to know, there has to be an impression and hence a representation (which are necessary but not sufficient) and that has to be made by the system itself, for detecting/sensing, which requires substrate pre-programming/pre-designing. It needs to have been pre-designed to carry out something. So what the system has been designed to do has to match with what the system is doing – detecting. (Which isn’t the case in the case of the leaf on which my name is imprinted).   

So, speaking a bit loosely, if a system is doing what it is pre-designed to do, it can be said to “know what’s going on, in general”. And if it is detecting what it has been pre-designed to do so, it can be said to KNOW (what it is sensing/detecting). 

And so, the necessary conditions for something to qualify as knowledge are – representation, understanding and memory and these being hosted in an entity pre-designed to do something.

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