b3ta.com qotw
You are not logged in. Login or Signup
Home » Question of the Week » God » Post 393445 | Search
This is a question God

Tell us your stories of churches and religion (or lack thereof). Let the smiting begin!

Question suggested by Supersonic Electronic

(, Thu 19 Mar 2009, 15:00)
Pages: Latest, 19, 18, 17, 16, 15, ... 1

« Go Back

[pearoast] What is consciousness?
I'm a firm believer in science, and believe that the human body is a complex biological machine that evolved purely by chance. Everything can be explained by comparing us to a robot made out of meat - well, everything except for one thing...

This one thing that goes beyond all of this - beyond science even - the 'magic' that makes us alive and self aware and not just a biological robot - the thing that is consciousness.

One of the challenges of Artificial Intelligence is to create artificial sentience. Personally, I don't think this can be achieved (at least not on a purely artificial level anyway). Just about every computation that can be done with computers as we know them today (computers based on logic-gates) can be abstracted to a Turing machine. If you know how a Turing machine works, you will realise that while theoretically it can perform any possible computation, it can never become aware of what it's doing - it just does what it's supposed to do.

If artificial sentience isn't possible, I believe it's possible to create an artificial extension to a natural consciousness. A good example of this is a human using a calculator. This way, they can solve mathematical problems much quicker. So one could say that this is a type of brain-extension. While a rabbit would not have a clue how to use a calculator of for that matter even understand the concept of a calculator, if science progresses to the point where brains can be grafted with electronic components or artificial brain extensions, it may be possible to expand the rabbit's mental capabilities this way. Taken to the extreme, it might even be possible to add a whole machine to a bacterium that interfaces the bacterium's sentience with the computational power to process perception from external stimuli and feed it to the bacterium’s own consciousness.

This of course leaves the question "What is consciousness?" open.

One belief I have about that is that our consciousnesses are an additional supernatural entity that is bolted onto our brains. I also believe that these consciousnesses all form part of the same supernatural entity, and that all consciousnesses are somehow interlinked. Our body's materialistic desires repress that part of our consciousness that makes it interlinked with everyone else's. I have absolutely nothing to back this up, but I believe in it. This could be likened to the Gaian supermind where every living thing is in fact the same organism (although this is more on a biological level than on a spiritual level). I've also read a bit on Taoism and they also believe that all souls form part of the same entity. This is what some people probably mean when they say "God is in all of us".

While science has answered many questions, "What is consciousness?" is still left to the realm of metaphysics. There's much possibility for debate, but as far as I know, there's no solid scientific foundation. I could of course be wrong. Truly, what consciousness is is something that's unexplained.
(, Wed 25 Mar 2009, 3:20, 5 replies)
Taoism is not the only one to say that
Thomas Aquinas and St Augustine also said something much the same.
(, Wed 25 Mar 2009, 7:36, closed)
Not Gaian supermind!
*If* you think the mind is just a different sort of thing to the physical stuff, you want Cartesian dualism. Personally, I know no evidence for the mind being a different sort of thing to physical stuff, so I see consciousness (and related phenomena) as an emergent property of the right sort of sufficiently complex system.
(, Wed 25 Mar 2009, 7:38, closed)
Interesting shift, I thought you were going to be a materialist but you then shift into Cartesian dualism and, not to put too fine a point on it, a bunch of woo.

The assertion that a Turing machine can't become aware of what it's doing seems unfounded. You probably wouldn't predict that a huge agglomeration of neurons could become aware of what it's doing, but many people would assert that it does. You, being a dualist, would probably disagree, but there's no evidence that consciousness arises from anything other than the brain. As you say "robot[s] made out of meat".
(, Wed 25 Mar 2009, 12:22, closed)
I admit that saying that a Turing-machine can not become self aware is just an assertion on my part, but I personally can't see how something that just follows a fixed set of rules can develop self-awareness. And yes, I'm a believer of Cartesian dualism. I get the impression that in the brain, the neurons digest all the stimuli and stored memories into something the conciousness can cope with. As for where conciousness can arise from, so far, it has only been known to manifest itself in brains, but I have absolutely no idea what the pre-requisites for spawning a new conciousness are.
(, Wed 25 Mar 2009, 22:30, closed)
Thought experiment
What makes you think that a brain doesn't just follow a fixed set of rules?

There's an interesting thought experiment described here:


In short it poses this problem: Imagine you have a neurological disease that destroys your brain and nervous system slowly. However, due to the wonder of modern technology, medics replace each bit of your nervous system, even down to the level of individual neurons, as it dies. The replacement parts are electro-mechanical devices that perfectly replicate the function of your neurons.

Now, how much of your brain could be replaced before you no longer had the same consciousness, or were no longer conscious (as you describe it) at all?

As far as I can work out, we're based on carbon, robots are based on silicon and that's pretty much the extent of the difference.

Also, if consciousness is a non-material thing, why do neurons (material things) have to "digest all the stimuli and stored memories into something the conciousness can cope with"?
(, Thu 26 Mar 2009, 11:53, closed)

« Go Back

Pages: Latest, 19, 18, 17, 16, 15, ... 1