In the last couple of posts (here, and here) I defined some terms relating to consciousness and artificial intelligence. Then in part II, I took a look at those topics from the point of view of philosophy and psychology. As I have examined the topics of philosophy of mind, and artificial intelligence I have learned there are a great many opinions, classifications, and strong arguments to be made for virtually every opinion. It will be interesting to see where the future takes us as we advance our computational abilities and which views fall by the wayside. It’s an exciting time in the fields of systems, artificial intelligence, and computation. We are progressing rapidly as systems become more and more complex, exhibiting behavior previously unpredicted by the designers.

Fortunately, there are a lot of issues like this one that have strong, and reasonably good arguments for radically different views on the issue. In the past, my approach has been to examine such topics, present synopses, and draw conclusions. This has left me in a position to defend my conclusions. I don’t generally like the way such discussions end up as they are rife with mischaracterizations (usually as a result of labels). If I claim to be a dualist, it carries certain connotations that arise in the mind of readers, even if I didn’t accept all possible aspects that fall under that rubric. If they disagree with those notions, I am caught trying to defend something I may not have actually believed. I have since discovered what I think is a better way of discussing the real issues I see without the need to defend a particular conclusion.

I have some hope that this will meld into other posts as I write as well. For this particular post, I’d like to conclude the series on consciousness and artificial intelligence by listing, what I think, are the most difficult questions on that topic. So, without further ado, I give you my list of unanswered questions on the topic of philosophy of mind, consciousness, artificial intelligence, and life after death (which I think all come together at some point).

  • Everyone has a different view of what happens after death (though they almost never define what death even means).
  • NDEs are, IMHO, primarily western phenomena and, at least to me, are primarily framed in terms of one’s life and beliefs. Further they can be chemically induced and demonstrated in a laboratory.
  • What is consciousness and how did evolution give rise to it?
  • Suppose you replaced your arm with a mechanical one. Now suppose you replace your leg, then your other leg, etc. etc. At what point do you cease to be human? At what point do you cease to be conscious, or does consciousness remain?
  • What makes me…me? How do my coworkers know that the jmb275 who came to work today is the same one who came yesterday? Or am I the same from one day to the next?
  • Do electrical pulses spanning a gap across synapses give rise to consciousness? If so, how?
  • Can enough computing, and sensing power give rise to consciousness? If so, how?
  • Immaterial “things” can clearly affect material things. So why is it so far fetched to think there is something “immaterial” within us that causes us to be conscious?
  • If animals are conscious (at least some of them if the mirror test is any indication) do they also survive their death, or have a soul, or spirit?
  • What is death, and what would it mean to survive one’s death in order for there to be a life after death?

Do you have similar questions? Have you been able to answer any of these questions to your satisfaction? And if so, how? Are there other questions equally important that I have overlooked?