Consciousness is fascinating to ponder since it has so many open and intractable questions. “What is Consciousness?” is one of the simplest and deepest questions we can ask, and any further research or philosophy about consciousness may create vastly more questions than answers.
What is our understanding of consciousness thus far?
- Science does not have a definitive understanding of consciousness since it may be outside of what constitutes rigorous and quantitative scientific inquiry.
- Philosophy of Mind considers difficulties of consciousness and maps out the problems, but still does not and cannot make any definitive statements.
- Science Fiction may explore consciousness in terms of its existence in non-biological forms such as in robots or in software, as well as the transfer of that consciousness across different individuals and underlying substrates. Although science fiction provides a creative outlet to explore how aspects of consciousness and mind uploads may affect society and humanity’s future, it does not provide an understanding of the nature of consciousness or how we could make mind uploads happen.
- Information Theory considers consciousness as an emergent phenomenon of underlying neuronal computations and can bring to bear the field of Computer Science, but there it does not provide a unifying theoretical framework of consciousness and any practical information technology is of very narrow usage, such as cochlear implants.
If we want to consider consciousness from a scientific or technological point of view, we cannot relegate all difficulties to a supernatural origin such as a “soul” or some other religious construct, but must consider it from the view of Physicalism, which simply states that all that exists arises out of the natural physical world.
I will assume Physicalism here as the basis for understanding consciousness, mind uploads, and topics related to them.