As I was reading over the comments of Dick Pelletier's recent article, he suggested that “although our brain and body will be considered non-biological, our consciousness will forever preserve our definition as a human being.” I have to agree with him here, which leads me to the concept of “mindspace” and a LessWrong article written by Eliezer Yudkowsky in 2008 suggesting it is impossible to understand what mind will be like.
“Mindspace” is simply another name for the possibilities of phenomenal consciousness. Gold is gold, iron is iron, and a proton is a proton. Do we live in this infinite possible world of “mindspace”? In some regards yes, if you look into philosophical existentialism, but that is really about choice making, a choice, in the absence of a God one has to make as they have to deal with Sartre's “existence precedes essence” and “Bad Faith” concepts. However even those concepts do not truly lead to infinite possibilities.
I have to admit, I believe the above image, by Yudkowsky, is rubbish, and here is why: One has to understand three very important aspects of science and philosophy, one being evolution, two being homeostasis, and three, phenomenology. 99% of all species have become extinct, and I hypothesize that a large number of those species did not have homeostasis of the brain/mind.
Imagine a brain which is connected to an overall decent body, with a certain brain region a bit off from it's ancestors, and then imagine a brain/mind that acts if it it were drunk, or on drugs throughout it's lifetime. “Mindspace” allows for this, but the being in which has a non-homeostatic brain also probably has a non-homeostatic consciousness.
If you were to put such a being in the proper environment and took care of it, it might be able to reproduce, however that is not how nature has worked before humans. Those beings would simply stumble around any environment where it is not taken care of by a more intelligent being and simply die off, hence natural selection.
It took millions of years and millions of dead species to create what we have today via Darwinian evolution. In response to Yudkowsky, doesn't it seem fair to say that even an AI which is more intelligent than us would have to have some kind of homeostasis, that is, in this context, a homeostatic-mind?
People have reported that under LSD and other hallucinogenic drugs that they can taste colors, smell sounds, etc. If one were to “see” sounds, but under a homeostatic condition then I would grant the AI or posthuman as experiencing vibrations in the atmosphere (or water) etc, as legit evidence that consciousness can be aware of many different kinds of possible states of experience. Like that of the bat which uses sonar, or an artist which has utilized their synesthesia, the posthuman and AI would be able to exist without help.
This is where biology of the healthy brain meets phenomenology and can give us some answers as to the nature of “mindspace”. When one does phenomenological reduction, explained in length by philosopher Edmund Husserl, one reaches a state of consciousness which is absent of all theories, feelings, and information as one can get.
When you reverse phenomenological reduction and come back to the world in which you live, you then reach the state again of being conscious of theories, feelings, and information. However, like the Buddhist one must be trained or read in order to reach such a state. Therefore, while Husserl and Buddhists may be on to something, it takes first a homeostatic-mind to learn how to do phenomenological-reduction.
In conclusion, “mindspace” as we think of it today, is vastly misunderstood and perhaps a leap of faith that AI or the posthuman can indeed experience infinite or very very vast unimaginable phenomenal states. The autonomous AI or posthuman, in my opinion, will be very much like us when it comes to a homeostatic-mind, something we already know about and experience everyday. Evolution, phenomenology, and homeostasis are the building blocks of a calm, collected, and balanced brain/mind, whether it be a human, posthuman, or an AI.
Kris Notaro, a former IEET intern, now the IEET's Managing Director, earned his BS in Philosophy from Charter Oak State College in Connecticut. He is currently the Bertrand Russell Society’s Vice-President for Website Technology. He has worked with the Bertrand Russell A/V Project at Central Connecticut State University, producing multimedia materials related to philosophy and ethics for classroom use. His major passions are in the technological advances in the areas of neuroscience, consciousness, brain, and mind.
(6) Comments •
(5049) Hits •