The Hard Problem of Consciousness

What is consciousness?

“I THINK, therefore I am.” René Descartes’ aphorism has become a cliché. But it cuts to the core of perhaps the greatest question posed to science: what is consciousness? The other phenomena described in this series of briefs—time and space, matter and energy, even life itself—look tractable. They can be measured and objectified, and thus theorised about. Consciousness, by contrast, is subjective. As Descartes’ observation suggests, a conscious being knows he is conscious. But he cannot know that any other being is. Other apparently conscious individuals might be zombies programmed to behave as if they were conscious, without actually being so.

Video after the jump

Source: Economist

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  1. Iamthe50percent commented on Sep 14

    Cogito, ergo sum. At least that’s what my computer told me.

  2. wally commented on Sep 14

    You all think you are conscious, sentient beings… but you’re all here just to entertain ME ME ME.

    At least that’s how I see it.

  3. Mbuna commented on Sep 15

    Oy! Sorry but these guys are clueless when it comes to consciousness. Consciousness is senior and irreducible. What is contained in this video is derived from the western mind’s need to control everything, as if the universe can ultimately be controlled. They need spend a few decades studying and practicing eastern philosophy and meditation and then maybe they will have a clue. I’ve said this before but it applies equally here- it’s like they are trying to reduce an Einsteinian world to a Newtonian one. Einstein, in fact, is a good place for them to start because the ultimate import of e=mc squared is that we are beings of light. So take that fact and trying working backwards from there.

    • bharlow1 commented on Sep 15

      Agreeing with Mbuna. Peter Russell, in his book, “From Science to God”, postulates that consciousness does not arise from matter, and that the “hard problem” is actually impossible without a change in our scientific meta-paradigm. In his view light — and consciousness — are more fundamental than space, time, energy, and matter. Consciousness can’t be explained by mere processes in the brain, but consciousness can be experienced – from the inside. Modern physics is trending gradually toward this view, but it’s a slow process.

  4. Jojo commented on Sep 16

    It is hard to discuss something when the definition of what is under discussion is undefined. There is much discussion and dissension as to what exactly consciousness is. Or even when it starts. And is it something that only humans have? Or are animals that can recognize themselves in a mirror included?

    Here’s some interesting reading:
    First published Fri Jun 18, 2004; substantive revision Tue Jan 14, 2014

    Perhaps no aspect of mind is more familiar or more puzzling than consciousness and our conscious experience of self and world. The problem of consciousness is arguably the central issue in current theorizing about the mind. Despite the lack of any agreed upon theory of consciousness, there is a widespread, if less than universal, consensus that an adequate account of mind requires a clear understanding of it and its place in nature. We need to understand both what consciousness is and how it relates to other, nonconscious, aspects of reality.
    Babies Have Consciousness, Study Finds
    by Stephanie Pappas, Live Science Contributor | April 18, 2013 02:00pm ET

    Infants have a conscious experience of the world at as early as 5 months of age, new research finds.
    Scientists Closing in on Theory of Consciousness
    By Tanya Lewis, Staff Writer | July 30, 2014 07:28am ET

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