Recently, we excerpted what great physicists have said about consciousness, and have been documenting the ways in which methodological naturalism guarantees that serious study of the subject will always be at an impasse.
Here, from Wired, is another pass at the impasse:
Neuroscientist Christof Koch, chief scientific officer at the Allen Institute for Brain Science, thinks he might know the answer. According to Koch, consciousness arises within any sufficiently complex, information-processing system. All animals, from humans on down to earthworms, are conscious; even the internet could be. That’s just the way the universe works.
“The electric charge of an electron doesn’t arise out of more elemental properties. It simply has a charge,” says Koch. “Likewise, I argue that we live in a universe of space, time, mass, energy, and consciousness arising out of complex systems.”
Okay, so humans, earthworms, and the Internet are all conscious. How does that help? From Koch:
On the internet, computers are packet-switching. They’re not connected permanently, but rapidly switch from one to another. But according to my version of panpsychism, it feels like something to be the internet — and if the internet were down, it wouldn’t feel like anything anymore. And that is, in principle, not different from the way I feel when I’m in a deep, dreamless sleep.
File under: Awarding consciousness to inanimate abstractions
File with: Rocks are conscious too.