Problem of Hard Consciousness

This post is again the final part of a three part post that all sort of go together. The other two posts can be found here and here. Below I have posted an article that is mostly about how the future may not turn out how we think. Looking forward is always fun, but this article outlines a few things that show how it may not always exactly how we imagined or drew it up.

http://io9.com/11-ways-the-future-could-turn-out-differently-than-we-e-1682524805

I think most of these are somewhat common sense, but others I do not necessarily agree with. However, I wanted to focus on number 5, the problem of hard consciousness. I have often said that I think the brain despite all its wonderfulness is still a very primate device when compared to what else could be out there in the cosmos. I will also say that it could very well be the most powerful processing computer in the universe. Let me repeat that, IN THE UNIVERSE! Yeah let that very scary thought sink if for a second. The interesting thing is that despite either theory we still know very little about the brain and most importantly we have not solved the problem of “hard consciousness.”

In my first post of this three part series I talked about how if an alien civilization could solve this problem it could make interstellar travel much easier. However, there are quite a few problems with this theory, although it does sound pretty cool, but as of right now we are light years, pun  intended, from figuring out how to do this. Taking  a step back, we do not even really know or understand what consciousness is. This creates a twofold problem. The first is the obvious as I have already mentioned, unless we figure this out we will not be able to upload our consciousness anywhere, either a computer or to an android body across the galaxy. The other issue is that we will never be able to create a real A.I. until we figure this out. As you can see this is a pretty big problem as the mythical A.I. that will either save us or destroy us will probably remain in the speculative and sifi realms until we know more. As a sort of disclaimer I want to say that I am not 100% sure that we will need to solve this problem to create a real super intelligent A.I. But if you use your logic I think that we will need to understand something about it before proceeding. How can you recreate a brain without fully understanding everything about it and how it works?

So what is consciousness? As much as I want to understand and really get into the weeds of this idea, upon quick research, I realize that I am way over my head. I read a little about it but I feel that I can barely fathom even the slightest comprehension of what this argument entails. But I will try to dumb it down for the sake of this post. A philosopher from Australia named David Chalmers was the first to really explore and propose this idea and came up with what he called “qualia.” As far as I can tell qualia is the individual or subjective experience that each of us have.   Wikipedia says:

 

Several questions about consciousness must be resolved in order to acquire a full understanding of it. These questions include, but are not limited to, whether being conscious could be wholly described in physical terms, such as the aggregation of neural processes in the brain. If consciousness cannot be explained exclusively by physical events, it must transcend the capabilities of physical systems and require an explanation of nonphysical means. For philosophers who assert that consciousness is nonphysical in nature, there remains a question about what outside of physical theory is required to explain consciousness.

 

So if I am understanding this I think Chalmers claims that qualia is something that cannot be explained by simply using what we know about the physical process of the brain. Which upon first glance of this argument I would be inclined to agree with this statement, but I think it is near impossible to know. I think that until we fully understand how the brain works this argument will just be one person’s word vs another. This is also what the naysayer of the argument say, so I agree with them to an extent. They make the claim that there is no problem and that consciousness can be explained by the normal processes of the brain, but gain there is no way to really tell. The problem I am having is that I cannot find good dumbed down definition of conscious, every definition that I have found is very convoluted and seems to just confuse me more.

I wish I had more to write about for this post, as I was really excited to learn more about it, but instead I am just confused on what consciousness really is or how it is defined. I reached out to Chalmers for some answers, so we will see what he says and I will post those as soon as he responds. Stand by…

Manik

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