The other day I listened to Sean Carroll talking to David
about consciousness, among other related things. I won't summarize it here, go
listen for yourself or read the transcript.
What I will do is shortly write down where I stand on some of these questions. Not because I think I have anything new to say, but to clarify it for myself and have a reference to see if I change my mind in the future.
Is there a "hard problem" of consciousness? I am not totally convinced.
Maybe subjective experience is just what it feels like to have a brain that
continuously hallucinates and updates a model of its body and the world around
it. (Which reminds me that I should read more by
I don't think this justifies calling consciousness an "illusion" though.
Dualism? No. Even if "property dualism" might not directly contradict the
physical world, I find it much more of a stretch to assume some new fundamental
property of matter than to just admit that we don't yet understand how matter
Emergence. I am ambiguous about that term. Yes, it can be abused as a handwavy
"magical" process that explains nothing. But it makes sense to have models of
the world that work att different levels of description, as longs as the
higher-level ones can, in principle, be reduced to and understood in terms of
the more fundametal models.
Are philosophical zombies conceivable? I don't think so. An entity cannot
behave the same way as a conscious being without a sophisticated mental model
of itself and the world, and if subjective experience comes along with these,
then there are no zombies.
Do we live in a simulation? Probably,
but this makes surprisingly litte difference. Randomness in quantum mechanics
and a finite observable universe? Very convenient ways to save calculation
effort. Still, we want to understand as much as possible of how it all works
and since the rules seem to be consistent throughout, without the gods
intervening, it does not matter at all for every-day life, how the universe
came about. Which is not to deny that the answer to this is ultimately
Addendum, 2018-12-14: By coincindence it turned out that, when I after a few
months pause took up listening to Eliezer Yudkowsky's From AI to
again, I had left it right at the beginning of the zombies
Now that I am through it and its follow-ups, I cannot do much more than agree
with Eliezer, since I found the reasoning convincing and couldn't have said it
anywhere close to equally well.
In summary: While one might find the philosophical zombies conceivable, they
are not in fact logically possible.