Debate:Consciousness

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Proposition[edit]

Some thinking on the nature of consciousness, which is something of a hot topic (not to be confused with a Hot Topic) in neuroscience and artificial intelligence, and has long fascinated philosophers.

Consciousness is defined as the awareness of the self. Now what exactly is the self, is a whole different can of worms, but notice crucially that although many many MANY people make this mistake, consciousness is NOT the self. It is the AWARENESS of the self.

Perhaps the difference seems unimportant, but consider that consciousness can be lost and gained many times without altering the self beyond the immediate. If consciousness were the self itself, so to speak, any time you lose consciousness is the same as dying, and a new self would be created when consciousness is regained. People find this "consciousness = self" idea to be incredibly persuasive even though it's wrong by definition, and I'm completely baffled by it. It's like saying Windows ceases to exist if its self-diagnostic code fails momentarily. But honestly you probably wouldn't even notice, and neither would Windows (it would rely on that code to notice that code failing, after all).

Where was I... Oh yeah.

Why is this important. There's a lot of arguing about what sort of things might or might not be conscious. Some people say only humans are. Some people say it includes apes, maybe cetaceans, certain birds, etc. Some people say it goes all the way down to insects, some beyond that to include bacteria and grass and some say every single rock has it's own consciousness. And of course there's the future view--when will we make computers/robots/programs that are conscious? Have we already done it?

Well first of all, to be conscious, you have to have/be a mind, right? Awareness requires some basic level of thought, since it's a specific kind of thought. And anything that thinks must be a mind, right? Isn't that the definition of a mind--the source of a thought? Well, the precise nature of a thought is debatable, but we can say with some confidence that whatever else it is, it's computation. Not all computation is thought, necessarily, but to conceive of even something as simple as "1+1", you must compute.

So if thought is computation, and consciousness is a form of thought, then in order to fulfill our criteria all that is needed is to say that consciousness is the result of a thought/computation that is advanced enough to include some sort of more simplistic representation OF the computation within the computation itself. That self IMAGE, which is much reduced and simplified from the whole SELF, that right there is your consciousness.

Therefore it is unlikely to reside in rocks. But it might in your old AOL Trial CDs, if for some reason you ran their program, for the length of execution. Glitch (talk) 02:40, 29 July 2020 (UTC)