A Spirited Defense of Consciousness

August 12, 2018 § 1 Comment

Dear Scott,

I finally found some deadlines to force me to put forward an account of consciousness. 🙂 Here it is.

SC-1_Creation

The 3+1 Model of Consciousness

While rather simplistic, I have found it a useful model for clarifying my own thinking. The key innovation is defining Spirit as “the ability to reflect on our thoughts feelings and desires in order to decide what kind of person we want to be.” I equate Spirit with the interiority of your Ghost in the Quantum Turning Machine, while the boundary of the triangle defines the Digital Abstraction Layer. I sometimes use the terms self-awareness, attitude, and willpower as loose synonyms for Spirit.  I also plan to name you as both Prophet and Chief Skeptic of my newly-formed Cult of the Digital Abstraction Layer!

This model implies that we could in principle fully duplicate the current state of a person’s thoughts/feelings/desires, but only probabilistically predict how their Spirit might evolve them in response to external stimuli.  I also find it suggestive that computer scientists studying consciousness obsess over reproducing Thought, but rarely even attempt to model Feeling and Desire.

I realize you are professionally reluctant to admit that Spirit actually exists. However, it is obvious to me from your blog that you are personally committed to the what I might label “spiritual development.” You are continually pushing yourself and others to be more self-aware, reflect on our actions and assumptions, and choose to become our best selves.

I can only imagine how much pain and psychic energy it costs you to do that so publicly and vulnerably. But that is precisely why so many of us love you; and others hate you, because they are understandably terrified of paying that same price.

Yet while we may never be able to calculate that cost, I think you at least deserve a model of consciousness that acknowledges that such a cost exists. Consider this a gift from my spirit to yours, as a tiny thank you for the extraordinary “spiritual” work you do on your blog.

Sincerely,

Dr. Ernie

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§ One Response to A Spirited Defense of Consciousness

  • Dr. Ernie says:

    Excited to get a reply of appreciation, as well as a quote for #12 on Scott’s August 15th ‘Thank you, world” post:

    https://www.scottaaronson.com/blog/?p=3922

    “12. Every week or so I get emails from people wanting to share their spiritual theories with me, and to illustrate them with color diagrams. Most such emails go straight to my trash folder. This week, however, I received one that contained a little gem of insight:

    I realize you are professionally reluctant to admit that Spirit actually exists. However, it is obvious to me from your blog that you are personally committed to the what I might label “spiritual development.” You are continually pushing yourself and others to be more self-aware, reflect on our actions and assumptions, and choose to become our best selves.

    I can only imagine how much pain and psychic energy it costs you to do that so publicly and vulnerably. But that is precisely why so many of us love you; and others hate you, because they are understandably terrified of paying that same price.”

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