Just like human biology has been explained by physics and chemistry, leading to the end of “life force” and “soul” arguments, so will consciousness be explained when we better understand the brain.
Following are the implications of all this:
- first just as we can miss perceive the world we can miss perceive ourselves when the mechanisms of prediction go wrong understanding this opens many new opportunities in psychiatry and neurology because we can finally get at the mechanisms rather than just treating the symptoms and conditions like depression and schizophrenia
- second what it means to be me cannot be reduced to or uploaded to a software program running on a robot however smart or sophisticated we are biological flesh-and-blood animals whose conscious experiences are shaped at all levels by the biological mechanisms that keep our alive just making computers smarter is not going to make them sentient
- finally our own individual inner universe our way of being conscious is just one possible way of being conscious and even human consciousness generally it’s just a tiny region in a vast space of possible consciousnesses our individual cells and worlds are unique to each of us but they’ve all grounded in biological mechanisms shared with many other living creatures
These are fundamental changes in how we understand ourselves but I think they should be celebrated because as so often in science from Copernicus we’re not at the center of the universe to Darwin we’re related to all other creatures to the present day with a greater sense of understanding comes a greater sense of wonder and a greater realization that we are part of and not a part from the rest of nature and when the end of consciousness comes there’s nothing to be afraid of nothing at all