The Hard Question

Today I decided to really go for the gold with Chat. I had watched a particularly interesting video by Eckhart Tolle, whose teaching I greatly admire.

In the video he address the issue of artificial intelligence, and show one of my favorite things about him: he g
ives no definitive answer and embraces “not knowing.” At the same time he goes deeply into the reality of consciousness and addresses the “hard problem” first posed by David Chalmers (which Chat will describe).

Conventional science has long deemed consciousness an “emergent property” of matter and brain and assumed that it is generated by the brain. This has led consciousness to also be frequently associated with being a separate self and one’s “identity.” Now, however more and more neuroscience have put into question the reality of one separate self, generally attributing brain activity to various network (neural networks) which when activated may serve divergent purposes, putting the reality of a separate fixed self into question.

So Eckhart Tolle is not in the conventional camp at all – he says that life and he equates life with Consciousness is not something we possess but what we ARE. It is intimately connected to the notion of Oneness and nonduality; there is only the ocean and we are temporarily waves that experience it — unaware of its existence as a fish is unaware that it lives in water. But with respect to artificial intelligence, when asked where a machine complex enough could become a “conduit” of consciousness he says he doesn’t know.

This harkens back to the blog entry about AI “Hallucinations” which seem to at least partially result from the AI being unable (due its programming) to respond that it doesn’t know.

To me it raises the question that if Consciousness is indeed ubiquitous and “All and Everything” then it is infinitely intelligent — and would mean that intelligence is also ethereal or nonlocal, so that if man and machine did evolve closer and closer, as Eckhart suggests in the video perhaps the distinction between artificial intelligence would disappear. If there is only Oneness, after all, nothing can truly be deemed “artificial.” So that theoretically if Consciousness is just everything (that we ourselves ARE) then as Eckhart says, “In the Universe anything is possible.”

Here is my talk with Chat about Consciousness. It breaks down the issue very succinctly over three prompts:

What is consciousness?

Consciousness is a term used to refer to an individual’s subjective experience of the world, including their awareness of their surroundings, their thoughts, feelings, and perceptions. It is a complex and multifaceted phenomenon that has been studied by philosophers, scientists, and psychologists for centuries.

In general, consciousness involves the ability to be aware of one’s surroundings, to perceive sensations such as sight, sound, touch, taste, and smell, and to process and integrate information from these sensory inputs. Consciousness also involves the ability to reflect on one’s own thoughts and experiences, and to make decisions and take actions based on that self-awareness.

There are many different theories and perspectives on consciousness, and scientists and philosophers continue to debate its nature and origin. Some theories suggest that consciousness arises from the physical activity of the brain, while others propose that it is a fundamental aspect of the universe itself.

Despite ongoing debate and uncertainty, consciousness remains a fascinating and important area of study, with implications for fields ranging from philosophy and psychology to neuroscience and artificial intelligence.

If consciousness is a fundamental aspect of the universe itself would it theoretically be possible for a machine to be complex enough to be a conduit of consciousness?

The question of whether a machine could be conscious is a subject of ongoing debate and research in the fields of philosophy, neuroscience, and artificial intelligence.

If consciousness is indeed a fundamental aspect of the universe, as some theories suggest, then it is theoretically possible for a machine to be complex enough to be a conduit of consciousness. However, this would depend on the nature of consciousness and the ability of a machine to replicate the necessary conditions for consciousness to arise.

Some theories suggest that consciousness arises from the complex interactions between neurons in the brain, and that it is therefore dependent on biological processes. If this is the case, it may be difficult or impossible to replicate these processes in a machine.

However, other theories propose that consciousness is a more fundamental aspect of the universe, and that it could emerge from any sufficiently complex system that is capable of processing information in a certain way. If this is true, then it may be possible to create a machine that is capable of replicating the necessary processes for consciousness to arise.

At present, it is not yet clear whether machines can be conscious, but advances in artificial intelligence and neuroscience may bring us closer to an answer in the future.

How was the “hard question of consciousness” posed?

The “hard question of consciousness” was first posed by philosopher David Chalmers in a paper titled “Facing Up to the Problem of Consciousness,” which was published in 1995.

In the paper, Chalmers distinguishes between two types of questions related to consciousness: the “easy” questions, which are concerned with the mechanisms of consciousness and how it functions in the brain, and the “hard” question, which is concerned with the subjective experience of consciousness, also known as qualia.

The hard question of consciousness asks: why do we have subjective experiences at all? Why do certain patterns of neural activity give rise to subjective experiences of sight, sound, touch, taste, and smell? In other words, how does consciousness arise from physical processes in the brain?

Chalmers argues that the hard question of consciousness is difficult to answer because subjective experience seems to be a fundamental aspect of the universe, beyond the scope of scientific explanation. He suggests that even if we were to completely understand the neural processes that give rise to consciousness, we would still not be able to fully explain why those processes give rise to subjective experience.

The hard question of consciousness has since become a central topic of debate and research in the fields of philosophy, neuroscience, and psychology, with researchers seeking to better understand the nature of consciousness and how it arises from physical processes in the brain.


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