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> The Consciousness Singularity
Technologist
post May 08, 2007, 02:29 PM
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QUOTE(lucid_dream @ May 08, 2007, 11:38 AM) *

these are some great thoughts, Technologist.


Thank you lucid. smile.gif

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So you're a monistic functionalist? You say "such a sharing of knowledge is not possible as long as a super-consciousness remains distributed" but I'm not so sure since holographic models are such that the whole is represented in each individual. In fact, small-world networks where each node is highly causally interdependent on most or all other nodes will have the activity of the whole contained within each individual.


The notion of a "holographic universe" is not diametrically opposed to my perspective. As I said earlier, I am not your typical naturalist who believes all phenomena must be reconciled with the dynamics of biological evolution. What I do believe, based on my flavor of realism, is that naturalism gives us a practical starting point, as well as making apparent the fact that many properties which have traditionally been associated as "mind dependent" are causally connect with natural phenomena. There are many ways to interpret contemporary physical theory, Bohm's being among them. I do not feel the extent of our collect knowledge allows for strong belief in such speculative areas of inquiry, but if someone were to hold a gun to my head then I would side with the holographic principle (which is information theoretic), if for no other reason than it represents the most elegant metaphysic. But I digress.

The position I'm advancing is a particular morality with an emphasis on the value of identity. What I am not claiming is that the "nodes" of a super-consciousness couldn't be precise (or nearly precise) duplicates of one another. What I am claiming is that there would then exist a shared identity between these duplicates. This melding of identity is objectionable to someone such as myself who places a great deal of importance on "continuity" and "volitional directionality". Stated differently, the nature of my Will is such that it wishes to express itself fully and independently. In some far off future, where our capacities have been radically altered, instead of being collectivist I could just as easily establish a super-consciousness where the individual "nodes" were duplicates of my identity. This is why I stated earlier, "I don't see this as a "right or wrong" issue, but a matter of morality and what our Will compels us to desire. It could very well be that there will be multiple independently evolving collectives with varying degrees of interconnectedness."
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Technologist
post May 08, 2007, 03:16 PM
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the complexity of the interconnections and activities of individual neurons is such as to render functionalism essentially meaningless in all but theory (since we can never fully mimic the full complexity of individual neurons and their activities).


Never, as in never never, as in never never never? Never is a very long time my friend. smile.gif All we can establish with any degree of certainty is that theory conforms to current empirical findings. Biologically based cognitions is definitely complex, but if we have a valid theoretical understanding of what is going on, and if what is relevant to cognition is functional relations, then there is no reason that cognition couldn’t be produced with a nonbiological substrate. This is a purely theoretical claim. Although I hope that such developments take place in my life time, I am fully aware that this level of progress may lie off in the distant future and be of no benefit to myself personally. So be it. Any estimations made on technological progress are necessarily speculative and amount to future betting.

QUOTE
I do understand what you're saying and the monistic and functionalist approach you take (and it is a very interesting one), but this to me seems to be treading on shaky ground, and that a firmer footing would be found by staying within the human brain, which we know is associated with our consciousness, and talking about enhancing the human brain, whose continued enhancement will result in the Consciousness Singularity. While functionalism is very reasonable, it still requires a lot of faith that we fully understand the functionality behind consciousness, and this is the assumption that I would question. The brain is the most complicated system in the known universe, and to presume that we can represent it's consciousness-producing activities functionally, distinct from its peculiar wetware implementation, is currently untenable.


Now this is an interesting point of contention! It amounts to asking, "are you willing to put your money where your mouth is." Indeed, there is a degree of faith (presupposition) in even the most rational perspectives. Take for example that I presuppose the fact that you (and the rest of humanity) possess inner subject experience in much the same way I do. This presupposition seems reasonable to me. The behavior of other humans indicates to me that they are aware of their environment. If an artificial intelligence demonstrated the same level of awareness as human beings, then what rationale besides from bio-centricism would I have to deny that they possess consciousness?

This bias seems particularly dangerous to me, as it could result in a future form of discrimination, much likely the racism of today, where nonbiological cognitions are viewed by biological cognitions as being inferior (unconscious automatons).

If and when functionalism demonstrates its validity by producing artificially intelligent systems that can fully operate in the physical world, I will then have a sufficient level of confidence to augment my cognition via the same technology that made AI possible,

(Add on: Along with this position is a strong intuition on my part that philosophical zombies are logically impossible).
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lucid_dream
post May 08, 2007, 06:05 PM
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QUOTE(Technologist @ May 08, 2007, 04:16 PM) *
Never, as in never never, as in never never never?

The thing about never ever completely simulating real neurons in their full complexity in silico is that, since they are chaotic systems, we will never be able to fully simulate them in full detail since there is not enough material in the observable universe to guarantee infinite precision in simulation calculations.

QUOTE(Technologist @ May 08, 2007, 04:16 PM) *
If and when functionalism demonstrates its validity by producing artificially intelligent systems that can fully operate in the physical world, I will then have a sufficient level of confidence to augment my cognition via the same technology that made AI possible,

If you can interface with it. Currently the crudeness of silicon, even with nanotechnology, does not come close to matching the intricacies of real neurons, with the result that brain-machine interfaces are largely a matter of punching a bunch of holes in the brain with electrodes. The beauty of augmenting the wetware is that interface issues are largely non-issues.

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Technologist
post May 08, 2007, 06:08 PM
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I found this statement by brainmeta’s founder which, I’ll assume, expresses the site’s orthodoxy on what is meant by “consciousness singularity”.

QUOTE
Our Being consists in our consciousness or conscious awareness, as Siddhartha and the ancient Brahmins realized. We are the Universe conscious of Itself. It is a reflexive process, the snake biting its tail, involuting on itself. Notions of individuality are illusions due to the myopia of the mind. There is but one conscious Self with parts believing they are individuals with their own unique consciousness, but there is but one Self behind the many selves, that is increasingly becoming more Self-aware, and in the process, the mysteries of the Universe unfold and reveal yet more mysteries, and greater meaning is found.


I view this as an advanced perspective with a great deal of underlying theoretical development. One can’t help but notice the similarities between natural and buddhistic philosophy. Both of these framework in their own way view the self as an illusion (see Metzinger). As a functionalist, I do subscribe to the position worked out by metzinger and see the self as a “self system”, however this doesn’t impinge on my moral framework or its conceptualization of “Being”. Consequently, in relation to my position I view Shawn as attacking a straw man and not recognizing his opinion as a moral interpretation (though perhaps he does and just chooses to state things in an authoritative manner). For Shawn, concerns about identity are seen as a byproduct of “myopia of the mind”. For myself, entertaining the notion of a “universal consciousness” amounts to unjustified conceptual liberties being taken in the form of “omniscient objectivity”. I would contend that these two moral frameworks are antipodal, and that their origins can be traced back to the contrasting selective forces (group and organismal) of the evolutionary dynamic.

Being aware of the epistemological shortcomings that the respective positions possess is essential for a proper understanding. It could be argued that the weakness in my position lies in how I structure my reality based on perceived confidence levels, whereas the weakness in the contrasting position is its presumptiveness regarding the perceived nature of consciousness - and reality itself.

One of the most obvious objections to the thesis of universal consciousness (as it is being argued for here) is the fact that there is currently no empirical evidence whatsoever for the connectivity of minds other than through physical media.
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lucid_dream
post May 08, 2007, 06:21 PM
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QUOTE(Technologist @ May 08, 2007, 07:08 PM) *

What a great find! Thanks Technologist. Metzinger is familiar to me from his Neural Correlates of Consciousness (2000) but I was not aware of this other book, and am pleasantly surprised by what he seems to be proposing.

QUOTE(Technologist @ May 08, 2007, 07:08 PM) *
their origins can be traced back to the contrasting selective forces (group and organismal) of the evolutionary dynamic.

I don't follow you here. How are you tracing this back to group and organismal forces?
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Technologist
post May 08, 2007, 06:28 PM
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Well, if you dig that, then I think you'd also enjoy this video lecture by Metzinger. (hhmm, too bad there is no "thumbs up" emoticon for these boards...)

Being No One: Consciousness, The Phenomenal Self, and the First-Person Perspective
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lucid_dream
post May 08, 2007, 06:42 PM
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The Precis of "Being No One":
http://www.philosophie.uni-mainz.de/metzin...ationen/BNO.pdf
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Technologist
post May 09, 2007, 09:06 PM
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QUOTE(lucid_dream @ May 08, 2007, 10:21 PM) *

QUOTE(Technologist @ May 08, 2007, 07:08 PM) *
their origins can be traced back to the contrasting selective forces (group and organismal) of the evolutionary dynamic.

I don't follow you here. How are you tracing this back to group and organismal forces?


As I said earlier, I consider naturalism to be a practical starting point for my cogitating. Regardless of how advanced a perspective is, if consciousness is tied in largely (if not entirely) to evolutionary processes, then a great deal can be learned about our personal dispositions or “Will” by utilizing speculative domains of knowledge such as evolutionary psychology. Making the rather general claim that there is a group psychological component to human consciousness doesn’t seem particularly controversial to me (how can voting in a national election be explained through a rational egoist framework?). Furthermore, it is not at all certain that advanced perspectives which have an awareness of these underlying influences will always rebel and override that which it is, to varying degrees, in their nature to do. On the contrary, I actually believe that the opposite is true. Usually a volition will settle in on a value set which conforms to whichever side of the spectrum it is predisposed to, and then override those imperatives which run counter to the predominant dispositional state and manifest those imperatives which bolster it. In other words, advanced perspectives, although highly refined, tend to become more polarized, not less.

The desire to merge minds - to attain a communal consciousness - is indicative of group psychological influences. The choice between pursuing ultra-intelligence as some hybrid collective (which currently could be looked at as a type of disjointed cybernetic system) or a distinct cybernetic system is purely arbitrary, and a product of the innate dispositions that we all possess. I can recognize this fact while still enjoying the process of doing that which it is in my nature to do.

BTW, saying that individual instantiations of consciousness are the universe being aware of itself is a vacuous statement from my perspective. Wow really, you don't say? biggrin.gif It begs the question. Why is it aware of itself? What purpose does intelligence serve? And in this regard, my metaphysic, although necessarily speculative, is the more reflexive, more elegant, conceptualization of reality.
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Technologist
post May 09, 2007, 09:35 PM
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QUOTE
my metaphysic, although necessarily speculative, is the more reflexive, more elegant, conceptualization of reality.


A rather bold statement on my part, but one that I feel I can defend if require to do so. The intuitive leap of faith lies in the fact that I suspect intelligence, which at the moment is only a "conceptualizer", will eventually figure out a way to become an "actualizer".
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Joesus
post May 10, 2007, 08:21 AM
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That would be to surrender to something greater than the individual self.
Being a conduit for Universal Mind.
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post May 10, 2007, 09:09 AM
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QUOTE(Technologist @ May 09, 2007, 09:06 PM) *

It begs the question. Why is it aware of itself?

Because, why not?
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post May 10, 2007, 10:02 AM
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QUOTE(Technologist @ May 09, 2007, 09:35 PM) *

intelligence, which at the moment is only a "conceptualizer", will eventually figure out a way to become an "actualizer".

I could have told you that!!! Just kidding, Tek. I guess that's just my way of expressing how much I like where you are going with your thoughts on this subject. Keep at it.
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post May 10, 2007, 10:39 AM
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QUOTE(code buttons @ May 10, 2007, 09:09 AM) *

QUOTE(Technologist @ May 09, 2007, 09:06 PM) *

It begs the question. Why is it aware of itself?

Because, why not?

And the answer to this question is... Er, help me out here, Tek! I know you have an answer that I am going to like. And try to keep it in layman's terms.
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Rick
post May 10, 2007, 01:46 PM
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Why am I becoming aware of myself? Because it's what I want.

"The need to know new things." --Silicon life forms on Star Trek, the original TV series.

Back to the naturalist framework, beings evolved desire to be aware because they function better that way. The question begged is this:

If there were no evolutionary advanatage to consciousness, would it still be a good thing? I say yes.
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maximus242
post May 10, 2007, 02:30 PM
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Indeed, Consciousness in itself, self awareness of ones own existance.

Buttons, basically, why do you know you exist? Do plants know they exist? This is the nature of consciousness. Self awareness allows us to adapt to our environment and the more we know about ourself, the easier it becomes to make any desired changes.
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post May 11, 2007, 06:58 AM
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QUOTE(Rick @ May 10, 2007, 01:46 PM) *

Why am I becoming aware of myself? Because it's what I want.
"The need to know new things." --Silicon life forms on Star Trek, the original TV series.

Your posts here are really a true gem. You hit the nail dead-center in the head. Thanks.
QUOTE(Rick @ May 10, 2007, 01:46 PM) *

Back to the naturalist framework, beings evolved desire to be aware because they function better that way. The question begged is this:

If there were no evolutionary advanatage to consciousness, would it still be a good thing? I say yes.

I'd say yes too, but only from my egotistical perspective as a human being. Why would you think it (consciousness) is a good thing, Rick?
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maximus242
post May 11, 2007, 09:34 PM
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Why not?

This goes back to the age old question, to be or not to be. To have consciousness or not have consciousness - your basically asking someone whether they want to exist or not.
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Technologist
post May 11, 2007, 09:53 PM
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QUOTE(code buttons @ May 10, 2007, 02:39 PM) *

QUOTE(code buttons @ May 10, 2007, 09:09 AM) *

QUOTE(Technologist @ May 09, 2007, 09:06 PM) *

It begs the question. Why is it aware of itself?

Because, why not?

And the answer to this question is... Er, help me out here, Tek! I know you have an answer that I am going to like. And try to keep it in layman's terms.


Begs the question might have been a poor choice of wording on my part. What I meant was that the nature of consciousness needs to be further elaborated on…

Asking what some individuals believe to be the “ultimate question” – how can something come from nothing? – is a consequence of misunderstanding the nature of nothingness. I would argue that nothing can only be defined or conceptualized as a relational property of two or more somethings. Thus, nothing comes from something, and not the other way around. If reality consists fundamentally of one substance, and that one substance is *mind* or *consciousness* or *awareness* or what ever you’d like to call it, then that substance is the something, beyond which it is nonsensical to beg the question. So, mea culpa.

With that said, refining (if we can even call it that) our understanding of this fundamental substance is reasonable, and even imperative on our parts. So, here are some vague, philosophically unrespectable thoughts, compliments of yours truly:


(1) The type of awareness that we currently have definitively knowledge of is a rather insignificant example of the connectivity of reality. If we entertain the radical form of monism that I have put forward - which really amounts to a hybrid form of simulation – then intentionality, in the philosophical sense of the word, is mind-to-mind connectivity.

(2) Witnessed from the condition of Being, awareness will always appear as process, as becoming, because we can not escape temporality. However, from the impossible vantage point of omniscient objectivity there would be no potentiality, only actuality.

Similarly, for a cognition, that which is directly observed, or which falls safely within a strictly established epistemic criteria (like the wall of china for those of us who have never visited Asia), are actualized possibilities. The infinite subset of infinite logical possibility that falls outside of these boundaries are merely perceived as possibilities – not actualities. Such goes the nature of Being.

(3) The kind of awareness that we are all familiar with are actualities, but they are not actualizers; at least not in the narrow sense of the word which I have in mind. We can take solace in our actuality while still yearning for more. An actualizer can produce environments in which other actualities developed. Of course, notions of production and development are how we interpret reality from within Being, but there is really only actuality of infinite complexity.

(4) Getting even more ridiculously speculative… If actualities exist within an actualizer, then those actualities are the actualizer, and with this idea comes the idea of there existing a strong level of intimacy between the actualizer and its actualizations. And if the actualizations themselves become actualizers, then the intimacy extends outward through the vastness of possibility.
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Technologist
post May 11, 2007, 09:53 PM
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QUOTE(Joesus @ May 10, 2007, 12:21 PM) *

That would be to surrender to something greater than the individual self.
Being a conduit for Universal Mind.


I suppose, Joesus, that some of our differences are semantical, as I have no problem accepting the fact that I am a finite being existing within an infinite reality, nor do I have any issues with the idea that my being may possibly serve some kind of functional purpose in the grander scheme of things.

One of the reasons that I enjoy visiting a venue such as brainmeta is that the participants here aren’t afraid to let things hang out a little bit. There’s nothing wrong with engaging in speculation so long as one recognizes the activity as such.
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Technologist
post May 11, 2007, 10:12 PM
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QUOTE(Rick @ May 10, 2007, 05:46 PM) *

If there were no evolutionary advanatage to consciousness, would it still be a good thing? I say yes.


Are we conceiving of consciousness as something other than information processesing? Rick, is a philosophical zombie something that your intuitions tell you is logically possible?
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Joesus
post May 11, 2007, 10:23 PM
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QUOTE(Technologist @ May 12, 2007, 05:53 AM) *

QUOTE(Joesus @ May 10, 2007, 12:21 PM) *

That would be to surrender to something greater than the individual self.
Being a conduit for Universal Mind.


I suppose, Joesus, that some of our differences are semantical, as I have no problem accepting the fact that I am a finite being existing within an infinite reality, nor do I have any issues with the idea that my being may possibly serve some kind of functional purpose in the grander scheme of things.

One of the reasons that I enjoy visiting a venue such as brainmeta is that the participants here aren’t afraid to let things hang out a little bit. There’s nothing wrong with engaging in speculation so long as one recognizes the activity as such.


Reminds me of the Christians belief in the second coming. The speculative reasoning of what the future is going to look like during the event may preclude the ability to recognise the event when it actually happens.
Actually the first time Jesus came the people figured he was going to wipe out the very people that nailed him to a cross.

In most intellectual circles everything is subject to scientific reasoning even if the reasoning is inadequate to measure the unknown with the known.

I'd say that what you see as our differences is your approach to life and your interpretation of everyone elses approach.
Without a clear experience of Union the Universe is pieced together by different parts that make up a whole.
Actually the universe holds the differences within itself and does not change if they are removed or added.

How another recognises activity is not necessarily important. More often than not it is a distraction to ones own ability to be aware.
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Technologist
post May 11, 2007, 10:56 PM
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Being aware that there is a relative level of speculativeness to one's conceptualization isn't necessarily important? I think not. That would open the flood gates for all sorts of irrationalism.

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Actually the universe holds the differences within itself and does not change if they are removed or added.


Adding or removing something from reality, which we can conceive of as "all that is logically possible", is an invalid proposition.
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post May 11, 2007, 11:23 PM
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QUOTE
Being aware that there is a relative level of speculativeness to one's conceptualization isn't necessarily important? I think not. That would open the flood gates for all sorts of irrationalism.

Anything irrational or not of the expected is frightening to the "rational" need to control the unexpected or unknown.

QUOTE
Adding or removing something from reality, which we can conceive of as "all that is logically possible", is an invalid proposition.

Invalid or beyond relative levels of comprehension?
Are you really of the mind that there is nothing beyond current logic that can be known, or that logic is fixed/universal to belief and comprehension?
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Rick
post May 14, 2007, 11:20 AM
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QUOTE(code buttons @ May 11, 2007, 07:58 AM) *
Why would you think it (consciousness) is a good thing, Rick?

I can only speak for myself, but I recognize that there is likely something of the universal in me or my experiences. Life without consciousness would be the same as being in a coma, and wouldn't be much like the life I know. If I were a zombie robot I would have no fun that I would know of, so that would be unsatisfactory to me.

I feel a need to know things, and knowing requires consciousness. Because I need to know, I need to be conscious. It's basically a humanist view. I like it because it's what I want, or maybe I want it because it's what I like. Does that mean I have no free will because I always desire what I want? No. As with some Presidents, I get to be a decider. I could choose not to be.

While I'm at it, let me just throw in here that love makes the world go 'round, as has been said many times before. Love really is the answer, and without consciousness, there would be no love.
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Rick
post May 14, 2007, 11:31 AM
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QUOTE(Technologist @ May 11, 2007, 11:12 PM) *
Are we conceiving of consciousness as something other than information processesing? Rick, is a philosophical zombie something that your intuitions tell you is logically possible?

I don't think that information processing is consiousness. Consciousness in its pure form is without information content. However, consciousness is usually bound up in structure (information).

Most of the mental processing done by the brain is unconscious, so it's clear that information processing is not equivalent to consciousness. Consciousness is involved in only the tip of the mental iceberg.

Nature is not wasteful, so consciousness must have a necessary role in mental activity. We know that nothing enters memory without first being conscious (generally, there may be some exceptions). We also know that unconscious performance is degraded compared to focused awareness on a task. For example, people can drive while talking on a cell phone, but they don't do it very well.

Therefore, the philosopher's zombie is not logically possible. There is a functional need for there to be something that it is like to be.
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