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At Scientific American: Science may never solve the riddle of human consciousness

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From John Horgan:

In The End of Science I asserted that scientists are running into cognitive and physical limits and will never solve the deepest mysteries of nature, notably why there is something rather than nothing. I predicted that if we create super-intelligent machines, they too will be baffled by the enigma of their own existence.

In Switzerland I suggested that the riddle of consciousness is a synecdoche for the riddle of humanity. What are we, really? For most of our history, religion has given us the answer. We are immortal souls, children of a loving god, striving to reach heaven or nirvana. Most modern scientists reject these religious explanations, but they cannot agree on an alternative. They have proposed a bewildering variety of answers to the question of what we really are. We are clusters of neurons awash in chemicals, genes shaped by natural selection, egos keeping a lid on ids, software programs, nodes of information in a cosmic web, quantum wave functions. More.

Bright Idea
Consciousness studies is likely destined to remain a circus of grand, assertive theories, of the sort that the vocabulary of science can so easily generate. A susceptible audience is given the impression of great discoveries. By the time we grow restless, bang! a new act pushed the old one out of the ring.

See also: At Quartz: Materialists are converting to panpsychism

What great physicists have said about immateriality and consciousness

and

Post-modern science: The illusion of consciousness sees through itself

9 Replies to “At Scientific American: Science may never solve the riddle of human consciousness

  1. 1
    Dionisio says:

    “Consciousness studies is likely destined to remain a circus of grand,…”

    …and a topic to write gazillion nonsense books that sell profitably well to a credulous public that otherwise would squander their time swallowing tabloid gossips.

  2. 2
    Dionisio says:

    “…we’ll reach the limits of what our brains can grasp.

    There might be concepts, crucial to a full understanding of physical reality, that we aren’t aware of, […]

    Efforts to understand very complex systems, such as our own brains, might well be the first to hit such limits.”

    Duh!

    Dud it really take them this long to realize that obvious thing?

  3. 3
    Dionisio says:

    @2 error correction:

    Did it really…

  4. 4
    Dionisio says:

    “I predicted that if we create super-intelligent machines, they too will be baffled by the enigma of their own existence.”

    Can we create conscious machines?

    Sounds like a very stupid prediction, that contradicts what is quoted @2.

    The author seems to contradict himself within his own book.

  5. 5
    Dionisio says:

    In a 2016 article by this same journalist we read:

    “Daniel Kahneman pointed out that we don’t have any idea how matter generates consciousness.”

    https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/cross-check/how-would-ai-cover-an-ai-conference/

    Now in the current paper he wrote:

    “In Switzerland I suggested that the riddle of consciousness is a synecdoche for the riddle of humanity. What are we, really? For most of our history, religion has given us the answer.”

    How does that relate to his prediction quoted @4?

  6. 6
    Dionisio says:

    @4 error correction:

    Maybe I should have written “statements” instead of “book”?

  7. 7
    Dionisio says:

    “Several speakers […] challenged whether materialism is the proper framework for understanding minds. They proposed that mind might be more primary than matter.”

    Duh!

    Did they just realize that?
    Why did it take them so long?

  8. 8
    Axel says:

    It won’t. It is a total mystery, as far as science is concerned, even at this late stage of scientific progress. It’s not even apples and oranges. It’s apples and narcolepsy or greenness or majesty or pusillanimty.

  9. 9
    Axel says:

    “Daniel Kahneman pointed out that we don’t have any idea how matter generates consciousness.”

    Without some basis upon which to found that surreal assumption, it is akin to saying that we have no idea how door-posts understand quantum theory.

    Indeed, it has devalued the perfect indicative applied to religion in the sentence below :

    “For most of our history, religion has given us the answer.”

    In fact, as far as language and the spirit are concerned, mankind has tended to be immeasurably smarter than the individual, and no era of mankind has sunk to the level of the profoundest foolishness to the extent that we, in the uber-capitalist, corporate-ruled West, have sunk.

    Aldous Huxley commented on mankind’s wisdom in terms of language and the spiritual realm, and I remember a review of a Russian film on TV, in which we were told that in Russia, a simple soul was, to a degree, revered by the Russian people for being so close to God ; Whereas, in our ‘thick’, imperial and post imperial Western materialism, we called them ‘the village idiot’ ; indeed, A simple soul also used to be called an ‘innocent’, but it became a synonym for a ‘fool’.

    Incredible though it sounds, there are even people who do not believe in ghosts.

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