Is there a theory that explains the essence of consciousness? Or is consciousness itself just an illusion? The "last great mystery of science," consciousness was excluded from serious research for most of the last century but is now a rapidly expanding area of study for students of psychology, philosophy, and neuroscience. Recently the topic has also captured growing popular interest. This groundbreaking book is the first volume to bring together all the major theories of consciousness studies--from those rooted in traditional (...) Western philosophy to those coming out of neuroscience, quantum theory, and Eastern philosophy. Broadly interdisciplinary, Consciousness: An Introduction is divided into nine sections that examine such topics as how subjective experiences arise from objective brain processes, the basic neuroscience and neuropathology of consciousness, altered states of consciousness, mystical experiences and dreams, and the effects of drugs and meditation. It also discusses the nature of self, the possibility of artificial consciousness in robots, and the question of whether or not animals are conscious. Enhanced by numerous illustrations and profiles of important researchers, the book also includes self-assessment questions, further reading suggestions, and practical exercises that help bring the subject to life. (shrink)
Throughout history there have been people who say it is all illusion. I think they may be right. But if they are right what could this mean? If you just say "It's all an illusion" this gets you nowhere - except that a whole lot of other questions appear. Why should we all be victims of an illusion, instead of seeing things the way they really are? What sort of illusion is it anyway? Why is it like that and not (...) some other way? Is it possible to see through the illusion? And if so what happens next. (shrink)
Setting aside the problems of recognising consciousness in a machine, this article considers what would be needed for a machine to have human-like conscious- ness. Human-like consciousness is an illusion; that is, it exists but is not what it appears to be. The illusion that we are a conscious self having a stream of experi- ences is constructed when memes compete for replication by human hosts. Some memes survive by being promoted as personal beliefs, desires, opinions and pos- sessions, leading (...) to the formation of a memeplex (or selfplex). Any machine capa- ble of imitation would acquire this type of illusion and think it was conscious. Robots that imitated humans would acquire an illusion of self and consciousness just as we do. Robots that imitated each other would develop their own separate languages, cultures and illusions of self. Distributed seflplexes in large networks of machines are also possible. Unanswered questions include what remains of consciousness without memes, and whether artificial meme machines can ever transcend the illusion of self consciousness. (shrink)
Like most people, I used to think of my conscious life as like a stream of experiences, passing through my mind, one after another. But now I’m starting to wonder, is consciousness really like this? Could this apparently innocent assumption be the reason we find consciousness so baffling?
What could it mean to be conscious in your dreams? For most of us, dreaming is something quite separate from normal life. When we wake up from being chased by a ferocious tiger, or seduced by a devastatingly good-looking Nobel Prize winner we realize with relief or disappointment that "it was only a dream.".
Consciousness is a hot topic. Relegated to the fringes of science for most of the twentieth century, the question of consciousness only crept back to legitimacy with the collapse of behaviourism in the 1960s and 1970s, and only recently became an acceptable term for psychologists to use. Now many neuroscientists talk enthusiastically about the nature of consciousness, there are societies and regular conferences, and some say that consciousness is the greatest challenge for twenty-first century science. Although confusion abounds, there is (...) at least some agreement that at the heart of the problem lies the question of subjectivity - or what it’s like for _me_. As philosopher Thomas Nagel (1974) put it when he asked his famous question "What is it like to be a bat?" - if there is something it is like _for the bat_ then we can say that the bat is conscious. This is what we mean by consciousness - consciousness is private and subjective and this is why it is so difficult to understand. (shrink)
Also published in 1998 in S.R.Hameroff, A.W.Kaszniak and .C.Scott (Eds) _Toward a Science of_ _Consciousness II._ MIT Press. 701-707. Note that there were problems with the editing of this volume and there are some misprints. This version is correct.