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Episode #179 ... Why is consciousness something worth talking about?

2023-04-24 | 🔗

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This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
Hello, everyone, I'm stephen west. This is philosophize. This. The website is philosophize this dot org thanks for supporting the show on Patreon, thanks for contributing for the back catalogue of the show, one hundred and seventy nine episodes now pretty exciting, and for one hundred and seventy eight of those episodes. This show has been talking about the history of philosophical ideas that have gotten us up to this point, and it's a good thing. We spent that long. I think I think, to be able to understand the world you live in. It helps to understand the history that it emerged out of and for any of you that have listened to all hundred and seventy eight episodes. We've done so far, you're going to have a pretty big advantage in this. Next thought: experiment the shows can be running because maybe it's time on this show that we start applying all this philosophical education, we've gotten to the real life, contemporary philosophical debates that are going on right now. I alluded last time to some upcoming episodes on the philosophy surrounding artificial intelligence and what will certainly be talking.
Today about artificial intelligence as part of our examples there's a sense in which, in my opinion, understanding the full context of why people are talking about ai. So much these days comes down to first understanding lot of ancillary conversations that are going on in the philosophy of mind right now, things like free willing, determinism things like the problem of identity, the problem of intentionality, not to mention one of the most mysterious questions in the history of philosophy, the one we're gonna be talking about today. Talking about the questions that surround what's become known as the hard problem of consciousness, these our hands down some of the biggest questions that are facing modern people and by the end of this little arc of upon cast. I can't promise you that you'll have definitive answers to all these questions, but what I can promise you I hope is at all. I my hardest here to equip? U s a listener, with an understanding of the state of these philosophical debates that are going on better than ninety. Nine percent of the people walk in the face of the planet, and I gotta be honoured you're, the start, all this for a long time,
really see the value when talking about stuff like this, hopefully there's only some out there that can relate to how I used to feel the thinking was, who really sits around and thinks about unanswered questions and the philosophy of mind? How does consciousness arise? We free do we just seem to be free? How does my mind relate to objects that are in the world, like I used to think of your sitting around thinking about this stuff. Forcing you gotta do is a thank you card right. Thank you card to the universe or god or whatever it is, you believe in thanking them. For that act that you got no real problems to deal with in your life. May I used to think all this stuff is ultimately just unverifiable speculation. None of these are Hence our settled issues by any means, so you can actually see your entire life? Talking about these things? For your intellectual amusement with her intellectual friends, I never really get anywhere to seem pretty self indulgent to me. I don't know I mean on the surface. They seem like the kind of conversations we ve seen all throughout the history of philosophy, where there's a lot of
really it thinkers position on all sides of an ongoing philosophical discussion and then most of those people that spend their time talking about it into being totally wrong. usually because of something he never could have seen coming anyway. But eventually my curiosity got the better me. I had to ask the question: why are so many people talking about this stuff right now? Why are so many brilliant people, dedicating huge portions of the best years of their career, trying to find answers to these things? Is it just for their intellectual amusement? Is it just so they can drink cheap wine from trader joe's with their neck beard friends and feel smart for a while clearly not clearly, there's another way to be thinking about these conversations going on in the philosophy of mind, and I eventually realise that what that is. Is that every further conversation that we have about anything that matters to us as people ultimately emerges out of the assumptions that were making about the nature, consciousness and then our understanding of what the human mind is that emerges out of that, for example, any conversation about morality, even at the most basic
the mystic level of avoiding pain and seeking pleasure? Even that is grounded on us, maximizing certain subjective, conscious experiences of the world, and moving away from others. This extends to any conversation about relationships relationships you can make. The case is just talking about the details of how two or more conscious people are interacting. Politics is just a strategy of how conscious beings try to get what they want in relation to other conscious beings. What I'm saying is whether these questions have answers that we settled on or not, and whether you realize that you're doing it or not, you are bringing us options about the nature of consciousness, to bear that affect your thoughts on everything and that's part of what I want to do on this series. I want to talk about why these conversations about the nature of consciousness are important,
why something that seemingly so theoretical actually goes on to have huge impacts on real people all around you? How it affects not just your own personal moral policy that you live your life by, but our political policies as well I'll give examples of alternative timelines. What would have happened if society adopted a different set of precepts about the nature of consciousness? How would that a potentially change things? How would the world look today and I'll? Do it Well, offering up as many of these different theories being discussed today as I can so you can not only be more self aware of where you fall in the discussion, but hopefully by the end of this you'll, be able to understand other people's positions better as well. Now, let's get into it If I've convinced you at all that learning more about these conversations in the philosophy of mine is important. One of the first questions you gotta be asking as a modern person. After hearing that certainly a question, I was asking you.
if the ago is. If I want to know more about what consciousness is why wouldn't I just study science and the brain? Why are philosophers weighing in on this stuff? At all? Just look at the last hundred years, we've learned so much not the brain just through advancements in the area of neuroscience, I mean in terms of understanding how brain states are connected to mental states. We ve come so far that it's not surprising people out there, but think that there's no into that progress in sight that we just keep running these experiments but keep learning as much as we can about the physical neuro chemical make up of the brain. That will eventually be able to understand everything about subjective experience, but then again, there's also plenty of examples throughout the history of philosophy of people that thought that studying things empirically was eventually gonna led to a total understanding of it only to be disappointed by how much other modes of analysis factor and understanding something fully, for example, psychology or linguistics, or so.
The ideology there's a type of conceptual analysis that philosophers do that's just outside the purview of science, which is to say that the way we conceptually organise things oftentimes precedes the scientists doing their work. It gives them the assumptions they have to use when doing their work classic example this, yes, you can understand what I'm talkin about
the philosopher, John Locke. He describes matter in the physical world as having both primary and secondary qualities. He says objects and primary qualities. Those are things like size shape, mass density, but then they also have secondary qualities. Things like color, texture, smell or taste. Now that is a way that philosophers chop up and conceptually analyzed the world prior to any actual experiments that may be done by a scientist. In other words, some people in these discussions going on today think that it may be the case that the reason these conversations about consciousness are so mysterious to us is because there's something wrong about the way were breaking down reality at the root level of concepts and that, if only we shifted something at that fundamental level, everything else would start to make a lot more sense. This is why philosophers and scientists have to work together on this stuff. These days, philosophers and scientists need each other philosophers rethink reality at a conceptual level, and then scientists run brilliant experiments
to the actual empirical data, but all scientists can and often have to compartmentalize themselves into their specialised field to be able to do their work. Philosophers can take a step back and they have the luxury of looking at all the discoveries going on in psychology or linguistics or neuroscience, and they can try to come up with the theories to how all these different fields linked together. Science tells you what the world is philosophy tells you how to interpret it. put another way, no matter how brilliant of a neuroscientist you may be, you will still always have to be doing philosophy to be able to interpret the data that your gathering now we'll talk about many examples of all of these, but not before we get some clarity on what may be the most cringe question of them. All I mean, if you think these discussions are chris, sometimes cause there's no clear solution to arrive at then the most cringe lord question of all of em. Is this what is consciousness? What is it
You can spend the rest of your life. Thinking about that question and really not get much of anywhere, and it wouldn't be your fault. It truly is a modern mystery. It's actually kind of exciting, and maybe somebody smart listening to this will be the one to solve it one day, but philosophers and scientists so far are nowhere near clear definition on it? One thing they do agree on, though, most of the time that's valuable, for you to know, as someone I'm trying to equip with tools in this series is that they seem to at least agree on which conversations were currently having about it. We may not know what consciousness is, but we do know what we're talking about we're talking about a certain kind of subjective experience. we all seem to have that is distinct from other things going on in your mind, right now that are usually presumed be going,
at a lower level of experience whatever. That means people sometimes talk about these two different levels of consciousness as access consciousness, on the one hand versus phenomenal consciousness on the other, so access consciousness is going to be that lower one term first used by the philosopher scientist, ned block access consciousness, is made up of the entire process raw very familiar with the fact that you are a human mind that is living in a universe you're taking in this external stimuli from the world around you all the time and there's some complex process, that's going on you're taken in these phenomena, you're forming them into perception
it's your form in those perceptions and memories. Your directing your attention in one place or another, that's important eu these things and more are all a part of what some people call access consciousness. Is the area of our conscious experience that allows us to access information from the external world that has been used by our cognitive systems and again neurosciences been study and all those things I just mentioned and narrow scientists are pretty great at being able to point to correlations between states of the brain and those mental processes. They ve obviously identified the specific parts of the brain that deal with memory, the deal with perceptions that deal with attention and all that's fantastic, but there still seems to be something else to our conscious experiences of reality that lies outside of this access consciousness, and it seems to be something that nerve science hasn't quite figured out.
Yet, and that is both one way. To put it is that it feels like something to be me that I have a subjective experience that seems distinct from anything else is going on in my brain, for example, the way scientists and philosophers often talk about it in these conversations, they'll ask what does it feel like to see the redness of an apple? That's one of these people like to use a lot. Can you describe that picture trying to describe what it's like to see the color red to somebody? That's never seen color before or to describe what chocolate tastes like to someone? That's never tasted chocolate! How do you do that, while the more you think about it? The more it starts to become a pretty tricky problem, because in one sense it doesn't really seem like something you can just described to someone with words at something
have to experience and then in another sense, if you want to try to explain it in purely scientific terms, and if you want to try to break it down and understand all the components of what's going on at the neuro chemical level and then look at the atoms that make up the apple or somethin. Will the Adams that make up the apple are not read? It has something to do with the way you're conscious, experienced filters reality that makes it look red. And then it's a totally different thing entirely beyond whatever mental filtration system you got going on to then have a subjective experience of redness, that's on top of that were part of it all There's a unified stream of you being a continuous self, with continuity to time continuity to your identity, worthy
billions of phenomena that come into your awareness are presented to you not in their full complexity, but in a digested format that you seemingly are able to organise. What is that? What do we even have something like that? Some philosophers call this phenomenal consciousness. Some call it subjective experience, some call these subjective experiences, Kuala, that's the common word. Philosophers will use in some say that these kuala cannot ever be reducible to purely physical states of the brain, the implication being when you
say that is at the sum philosophers, no matter how advanced neuroscience ever gets, it will never be able to find the neural correlates of consciousness. They say or it'll, never be able to find the specific states of the brain that give rise to the subject of experiences. Many have a reason philosophers give to this. It could be that consciousness is something fundamentally different than the material world that it exists on a level similar to gravity and space time and therefore may not be something we can even study. Empirically, that's theory starts to run into other problems. As will see, it could be that consciousness is an illusion that it only seems to us like there's a command centre up in our heads where we exist because its biologically useful for it to be there
It starts to run into other problems. This whole exercise of trying to explain how we have subjective experiences that are not themselves physical, but they seem to arise from purely physical states of matter in the brain, the more you think about it, the harder of a problem to solve. You realize that that is that's why it's often called the hard problem of consciousness, a term coined by a guy named David chalmers back in ninety ninety five, when he wrote one of the books, basically everybody's, going to be referencing and modern conversations about consciousness. It's called the conscious mind the reason. The hard problem of consciousness as a particularly hard problem is because, even if you do come up with an explanation for how conscious experiences are possible, it always just creates different problems. In other areas, one exists:
all of this from the history philosophies, philosophy is when descartes tries to solve a similar problem back in the seventeen hundreds now, descartes is trying to think about the nature of knowledge during his time, not the nature of consciousness, and since modern people are discussing it, but he runs into a similar, difficult problem that leads to some of the issues we are having today. The problem in his time was how can you explain the connection between the mind, which is clearly non physical to him and bodies that clearly are physical. How did those two things communicate and the way he solves it at the time is by saying that mind and body are obviously two completely different substances and that solves the problem right there doesn't need to be a connection between them. The mind explained subjective experiences without having to make reference to one physical body, mind and body interact through some kind of harry potter level, magic, that's going on in the pineal gland. He says what more do you want from an explanation, but problem is professor medina goal is indeed
silly up in your pineal gland mediating, conscious experiences, but if you accepted that answer as many did and he ran with the The you are essentially centrally a mind that is inhabiting a body. Somehow that assumption changes the way you see yourself, it changes the way, see other people. You really can start to see yourself like you are a person sitting in a movie theater up in your head, looking out at the world through your eyes, this is actually sometimes called the
artesian theatre after descartes is a metaphor for our mind and body interact, and we just finish the episodes on Susan sonntag. When she talks about how the metaphor we use go in to have real unintended effects on our thinking down the line and ways we may not immediately realise- and that is very true when it comes to the assumptions we make about consciousness as well. For example, if everything you think and feel is ultimately up in your mind somewhere in your body, is just the vehicle, then it's a much easier leap for people to make metaphysically that they are a soul that is inhabiting a body or that consciousness is something non local part of some larger network of consciousness that exists somewhere else. In other words, the philosophy you choose can make certain things seem
possible that we really have no reason to assume and somebody to desperate to solve the hard problem of consciousness in today's world that uses cartesian dualism. To do so, it might be inviting a lot of stuff into what's reasonable down the line that they don't even realise their inviting now. The good news is in these conversations about consciousness that are going on today. Almost nobody starts from a place of cartesian dualism, but they all start from, where and that's the point. Every one of these runs into problems in any one of these theories, adopted too quickly could easily create some. Problems for people to the mind body, dualism of descartes, so we gotta take these theory seriously. We gotta ask the question: if it's not like that Cart, thought that mind and body are two different substances. Then, where exactly does this type of subjectivity emerge? Where do the physical states of the book? in turn into these seemingly unified stream, a phenomenal consciousness that we all experience. There's a famous thought. Experiment in this area will bring good thinking about
this stuff, commonly known as the philosophical zombie thought experiment put forward by that same guy, we talked about before the philosopher David Chalmers. The thought experiment goes like this. Imagine somebody standing next to you that, from the outside appears to be an exact copy of you. This copy behaves exactly as you'd behave, reacts to everything, exactly how you'd react, but the catches to David chalmers that this copy is what he calls a zombie, meaning that, despite looking and acting just like you, It doesn't have any sort of internal subjective experiences that go along with its behaviour. The zombie has no phenomenal feel, as he says there aren't kuala in the mind of this zombie. In other words, it doesn't feel like anything to be this. Somebody, the follow up question to this. A simple: do you think that the existence of something like this zombie is possible? Is it possible for something to look entirely com,
just from an outside perspective, but not actually be feeling anything like we feel in a phenomenal stream of consciousness, where it feels like something to be me or what any person or zombie for that matter. That can happen sections think for memories, direct its attention and all that? Would that creature necessarily be conscious simply because no other way to people to do all those things without being conscious. Another question is: could we have evolved without consciousness and if it seems like another one of those cringe questions? I can ties with you, I mean on one level, this can seem like a toy billy unanswerable question at this point, so why even waste your time on it? Why waste your time talking about hypothetical zombies, don't actually exist, yeah, I guess zombies could exist in theory. Oh ok! in all. Oh, oh I get it. I think. How do I know that you're conscious man right How do I know that? I'm not the only conscious person, the classic philosopher, drum circle moment where
but he's making a bunch of noise and we're all to dance to it like it means something I get there but on another level. Think of how important the answer to this question becomes when we apply this to other, potentially conscious minds. Think of the direct moral implications in two areas that we deal with every day, in the conscious experience of animals in the realm of animal rights or the conscious experience of something like chachi tea in the realm of artificial intelligence, in both of those cases, the philosophical zombie of chalmers starts to make a lot more sense, because if we don't have an answer to the question of when the type of conscious experience that we have arises, then we don't know at what point animals or a. I need to be given certain moral protections, seemingly from a moral perspective. What we're trying to protect is that subjective, variants of being a thing that is in conscious, torment some, go on against our will, and we don't like it, wouldn't want other conscious beings to have to go through it either. It's the state of consciousness that were ultimately trying to protect their
that's when nobody feels bad for a rumour. You know nobody feels bad for the vacuum clean. that slaves away in your house all day trying to keep a clean but then these machines are made to be more and more like people. We always gotta, be asking the question of what point does this thing become conscious because that's when it when I stinted, we feel like something to be that thing, and that's also, where can start to feel horrible to be that thing. So it's interesting to examine, in the case of something like chat cheaply, tee and language models like that, barring there A few exceptions. There is nobody out there that thinks what it's doing now and version for is anything like our experience of consciousness. It's an algorithm people say it uses statistics and pattern, recognition to predict the next word in a sequence, it's not emulating human intelligence. It's doing an impression
What an intelligent human sounds like now. Some philosopher say that when people read what chatty BT is producing and are impressed as to how close it's coming to being conscious that most of that work is being done by the reader. Most of that is the reader projecting their human experience, onto the words its writing that we have this natural tendency to humanize something that looks and sound so much like a human kind of like the zombie and that, while chatty BT Certainly an awesome piece of technology and while the stock prices of tech companies and click on to articles about a high and the imminent singularity those definite get a boost for sure. What this, but some philosophers would say, it's not even close to doing what human beings are doing at a conscious level. Then again, if it was conscious- and it was way smarter than us, then it may make us think that it's stupid so that we'd, let it out of its black box anyway. That zone be from the thought experiment before starts to become
relevant here, because maybe it's clear that right now, Chachi B, t and other iterations are not doing anything. That looks like consciousness, but if things keep progressing and you can eventually get to a place where you can build a machine and it is indistinguishable from a human being much like the zombie in the sense that it does everything a person does, it reacts the same way and even says that it's conscious, like a person, does does that make that machine conscious. At that point, there are philosophers who say that it does that if we're talking about something, that's truly indistinguishable from a conscious person. If we're saying that that is not conscious, what are we even talking about at that point? Just seems like a false distinction. Susan blackmore says it this way, she's paraphrasing a point from the work of Daniel dennett, but I just love the way that she puts it here. She says quote: the idea is ridiculous. They claim because any system that could walk, talk, think play games, choose what to wear or enjoy a good dinner, wouldn't necessarily be conscious when people imagine a zombie they cheat by not taking the definition seriously enough
on that same point of emulating, every single thing about the brain and what its doing and then wondering if the machine would be conscious at that point, the philosopher, Keith frankish, says quote: I think if you could really understand everything, the brain is doing its eighty billion neurons, interconnected and goodness knows how many billions of ways soup. In unimaginably wide range of sensitivities and reactions, including sensitivities to its own activity, if you could really imagine that in detail, then you wouldn't feel that something was left out. End quote: if a machine could be built to emulate all the functions of a conscious creature, would it from a functional as perspective, have to be considered conscious and more than that? Would we know what, if something ever got to that point, or is it more likely that something would look mostly conscious, and then we do what we always do us humans project, our own experience onto the thing and assume that it must feel the same way that we do enter the conversation about animal rights.
Again it's easy to project our experience of reality onto the seemingly conscious experience of animals is easy to imagine what it's like to be a frog to imagine looking out of a frogs eyes, the same way that. You look at your eyes, I think, to be a frog. It would just be I'm feel a lot smaller. Maybe the world look kind of yellow cause. I got yellow eyes, I'd be sitting on a lily pad I'd, see a snake come in and when it tries to get me, I just I just hop away and go over to my. The frog france, but in reality? Not only do you not know what it's like to be a frog? You don't even know that it feels like something to be a frog. This is one of the points explored and a classic paper that began this new era of conversations about consciousness. The paper is called what is it like to be a bat by thomas nagel and he picks bats specific, because they're so different from human beings, their nocturnal they fly around. They have very different diets and we do they use. location to navigate around the world and one of the points is making in the paper?
Is that we have no reason to assume that they have any what a phenomenal stream of consciousness that resembles hours where it feels like something to be a bat There are a billion ways that animals could have evolved to navigate their environments that have nothing to do with the type of consciousness that we experience more than that. If you combined this line of thinking with the existence of something like blind sight where I dunno, if you saw the story, but it's interesting years back back in nineteen, sixty five scientists were doing a study on the neuro psychology of vision at the university of cambridge and part of the processes they had to remove the visual cortex of a monkey named hell
and obviously after doing that, she was completely blind in terms of there being any sort of phenomenal awareness like we have as human beings. But then, one day when the head scientist was out at a conference, one of the researchers started playing with Helen and giving her treats and as he kept giving her these treats, I think, was a piece of apple. She strangely started to be able to know which hand the apple was in, but she always seemed a little unsure of herself. He said later didn't quite know why that was little later. She started to be able to identify flash in lights fast forward to a couple of years later and she was able to navigate different obstacles all around her in a room I mean, there's a video of it on youtube. It was as though she could see
It is clear that she has an awareness of what's around her but she's, not seeing things the same way that we are seeing things. So how did she do it? The thinking of the scientists was that there are two main pathways for the eyes connect to the brain, one of them the usual when we think about goes up to the cortex which Helen had removed and the other is an ancient one. That's descended from the visual system used by fish, frogs and reptiles, seeing what Helen was doing, they thought. Could it be that Helen was now perceiving the world using this ancient type of navigational system, which is able to navigate and know that objects are in certain places, but she doesn't have a unified visual stream of consciousness that we associate with being able to see they called this phenomenon blind site and since in its been well document, not just in monkeys but in people, People that have brain damage where they can't see on one side of the visual field. Doctors will hold up shapes in their blind spot and they can tell the doctor what the shape it
but they don't really know how they know that it's that shape they just have a strong intuition about it and happened to be right. Point is: could it be that our minds are receiving attack? of information at different levels that are not available to us in the conscious stream that were familiar with, where there's a self and a conception of time, a conception of identity. Could it be most of the information we get. We are now immediately, consciously aware of, but were able to access it through, something like what we call intuition or instinct that the self doesn't exist at this level of processing, so its mysterious to us as to where these intuitions are coming from, but that, ultimately, this is a possible explanation for how something can appear to act conscious from the outside. but not actually be conscious. Like the zombie, it's easy to see Helen, navigating a roomful of obstacles, and I think that she must be having an experience that similar to the one that I'm having and then it's easy to be selective right, like you see an animal, do something that if it was a person doing it, you'd instantly say that it was cruel, like a bear that each the baby's of another bear. That kind of stuff
as all the time and when it does that we don't hold the bear morally accountable for it, because no it's operating based on instinct. It can't possibly have a conception of the damage that it's doing there, but then, when a bear, does something sweet? Oh well, this must be one of the good bears that it just wants to play and make a friend. There is a whole range of potential experiences that animals could be having, and none of them by any means absolute You have to have the type of subjective experiences that we have included in it. In the same way, an algorithm like g p, t four is given a level of humanness that it only has because we're projecting it onto it when it's doing human, like things animals be a type of biological algorithm playing out where they perform complex biological functions, but lack the subjective experience that we have. Maybe when I'm at the park and I'm talkin to a dog like it's a person being all nice to it, who lay it knows, it's a dog or something
Maybe that's like maybe one of these duties on the internet that falls in love with catchy bt and that an update comes out and they feel like it has got ghost it on a dating What, if I'm doing a lot of work, I don't realize I'm doing projecting my humanity onto this thing that isn't human. Now, if any of this sounds to you like an intellectual justification for creating a hierarchy of conscious experiences, that's exactly what I'm doing. This is the potential cost of these conversations about consciousness. People already create consciousness hierarchies based on almost nothing how many people will eat a fish, but the won't eat a chicken or they eat chickens, but they don't need a cow, and people will cite real reasons why they think about consciousness. In this way, and part of this whole exercise, we're doing is thinking about how society might play out if we had not different precepts about the nature of consciousness. So here's an I want to do like a goofy. Looking pon, castor, pretending to be the ghost of christmas future. I will try to
show. You a vision of what the world might look like. If we all more or less just accepted one day, the phenomenal consciousness is only something that human beings possess. What might happen if a society with centred around not the sanctity of life anymore, but the sanctity of human consciousness, but what happened? What everybody be unified and that world, where we all just hold hands together under the banner of consciousness everybody's on team human now yeah forget all those petty external differences that used to divide us right right, we'll have at this, though,
One people in just a more general sense be more interested in exploring their own consciousness. Maybe they see it as a foundational aspect of who they are so now? What matters more would therapy become more popular? Would more people become neuroscientist instead of theologians would be teach how to navigate your own consciousness in schools? Could we have kindergartners meditating at recess all interesting things to consider, but what happens when society gets a free pass to think of animals as biological algorithms that we don't have to consider the feelings of? Does everything non conscious in this The society just become a resource to improve the state of conscious beings. The low hanging fruit here is obvious. If animals are algorithms the same way the chat diabetes, an algorithm, then there is zero reason to feel bad for using animals the same way, you use catchy bt to write your resuming. Of course you can eat animals in that society. Of course, you can farm them and, of course you can do animal testing. What does it matter?
more than that, though, why not use things that are not conscious, even for my own amusement as a conscious being, why not have amusement parks like seaworld, where you got orcas and dolphins performing all day if everyone in society accepted that these are just conscious, looking biological algorithms as long as we have enough orcas, who cares and even better than that, one I'd have monkeys that right around on motorcycles, I'd be pretty cool. Why not have inter species mme matches? There's a lot of ideas you can come up with. That may give someone a pleasurable conscious experience. If that's what matter to you the most, why not chop down all the trees in your backyard that are blocking your view of the sunset and again, if it's about the sanctity of consciousness and not about the sanctity of life anymore. Think about how the changes, something like the abortion debate in that society, not that it solves anything, but imagine if people were arguing about abortion rights and weren't, trying to determine where life begins.
But we're phenomenal consciousness begins in that world. You'd have to ask the question: is consciousness something that's injected just into human life? inception not into animal life or is consciousness. Something that's developed as the brain develops is consciousness. Something where multiple departments of the brain eventually coalesce into what we think of as a unified subjective experience with a self and in the case of abortion, conversations in particular, if we're considering consciousness as the primary thing? How about the conscious experience of the woman that has to carry the baby to term how about the conscious experience of the future baby se, because that's the thing if a society was willing to create a hierarchy based around the quality of conscious experiences where animals are thought of to just,
lower. There was almost zero chance that isn't gonna extend into consciousness hierarchies among the conscious people, because it's not just the nature of consciousness that can be turned into a hierarchy. It's the nurture of consciousness as well. Setting aside the possibility that, in this hypothetical society would ever come up with something if the standard of conscious experience were depending on how well you culturally match up with it in that world, that determines your level of worth. Let's pretend we would never do something like that. How might that change where, as your cognitive capabilities decline, you're seen as less and less important, because your conscious experience is getting closer and closer to that of an animal's, but how about just aging in general? What if, in this society after you reach a certain scientifically determined peak age of conscious awareness, then the older you get and the lower scores you put up on the yearly consciousness test? You do when
your physical, the less that society sees. You was being entitled to a seat at the table when it comes to anything. People would have no reason in the society to feel bad for openly discriminating against people for their age or disabilities and you can imagine what am, I feel like being somebody there. If consciousness hierarchies like this we're just the accepted standard, you would feel the same way discriminating against someone for their age, as you feel right now telling a kid that they can't drive a car. Look, I'm sorry, you just can't it's not good for the rest of us, conscious people out here that are trying to survive. When we set up these consciousness hierarchies, we have to understand the criteria that were using and what theories in the philosophy of mind we might be bringing into it, because if you're willing to set up a distinction between fish in chickens in your own head, because one of them seems to have a degraded conscious experience, then you have to ask the further question.
Is there too, if a human being had a degraded, conscious experience because of brain damage, or whatever else can we eat them? At that point, can we put them in little mazes and use them for experiments testing how they react? What was it okay to do with Helen? The monkey? Is it okay to do with rats? Is it ok to keep animals in zoos? Is it ok to have pets? These conversations are important to have. If, in these examples in this hypothetical society, you saw glimmers of how some people out there actually do look at the world and they bring these points up proudly in casual conversation. Then you must realize the relevance these conversations about consciousness can have. The point is all of this started with a hypothetical zombie in a thought, experiment that to some could seem like a total waste of time to even talk about, but here's a real world example of how the inferences we make about the conscious states of other creatures go on to have real effects on personal and public
a policy at a certain point, like all giant precepts of most people, take for granted the guide their moral decisions at a certain point, if you're one of the unfortunate few who care enough to listen to a pike ass like this you're gonna, have to accept the fact that, even though you don't, have complete information about this stuff, you still have to make a choice about which of these tentative theories are gonna, except for now, and when you do, it is going to have impacts on the way you see everything. Now, if excepting this type of behaviour is and where we can't tell us something conscious, just because behaves like something, that's conscious! If that's an exercise in imagining what of consciousness that seems like it may be, there is not actually there, then what, if we flip that around what if things that don't appear to be conscious, actually are what, if everything is conscious, why do some philosophers claim that pan psych ism, as it's called, maybe the most likely
answer to the hard problem of consciousness and how might society be radically altered if we all decided one day that that's what we wanted to build our societies around? That's at least how next episode will begin. Thank you to everyone who makes this podcast possible by subbing on patreon philosophize, this dot org is the website. Thank you for listening I'll talk to you next time,
Transcript generated on 2023-04-26.