For those of you who have been following my entries, I have been focusing primarilyon the big question of consciousness. What is it? What causes it? I beleive theanswers are coming soon, so I think that rabid discussion about it needs to starttaking place. It's no longer a matter of pure philosophy. And to encourage this,I am going to use this article to propose a thought experiment that exposes alittle of how we think about consciousness.
First imagine right now are you sitting in front of your computer. (Or if you have
more than one computer, pretend you are sitting in front of your favorite computer).
We typically don't think of the typical PC as being conscious. A PC is a tool. We use our
hands to interact with it. We send it commands by using our fingers, and it responds by
giving us visual and audio feedback.
Now lets think to ourselves how our own biololical nervous systems operate by themselves.
Consider our eyes for a moment. We normally wouldn't think of our eyes as being the place
where our consciousness is stored. Although this may be arguable to only a certain extent,
if someone loses an eye, we don't say that that person is any less of a person than he used
to be, as in any less conscious. We think of the eye as just a summed part to the whole of
the human being, but it is not the human being itself. Thus, the eyes can be considered to
be a separate functional unit of the human being, with little or no loss to the overall
consciousness of that human being. We can now go foward with this claim, that the eye is
not essential for what is known as human consciouness, and apply the same dichotomy in
the above paragraph that we did with the computer. We will compare how the the human
being communicates with the eye.
I don't know the exact details of this process, but I don't need them for the point I want to
make. I am going to show that the way in which I communicate with my computer is
essentially the same fundamental process as the way I "communicate" with my eyes. My
eyes give me great infomation about the world. They can tell me the wavelength, the
intensity, and the direction of light. That's a pretty good deal! So I send my eyes and
message and tell them I want to look at the tree over there, so my eyeballs dart towards
the direction of the tree, and now I am happily staring at the tree. If you beleive the argument I gave
in the above paragraph, then is it also not impossible to accept the logic of what I mean
by "communicate" with me eyes. This can happen, because I can safely disregard my
eyes as being the carrier of consciousness, and I can say remove my eye at will...if I really
wanted to, it could be done...but I won't. I will just leave it as a thought experinment for
you. But can't you see now that I have painted a picture of the human eye as something
that could be conscious, but doesn't nessicarly have to be? And if you accept that, then
doesn't it make sense that a computer could be conscious, but doesn't nessicarly have to be?
Computer's and eyes are essentially doing the same things. They are both just
communicating information to the human being, who has the consciousness, and then
that conscciousness sends its commands based on the information just sent.
Do people with computer chips "hardwired" into their brains as treatment for several different
types of ailments, think of the chip as adding to their consciousness? If it's just a computer
chip, then what is the difference between that and the computer chips that are currently
outside our skulls? The only difference is that the computer chip communicates with you
more directly, on what may be completely subconscious levels. If these people consider
the chips inside their brains to be part of what their consciousness is, then what's stoping
us logically from thinking the computers currently outside our brains are really not part
of our consciousness, besides a few layers of biology?
Human-Computer Consciousness - What's The Difference?