Neuroscientist: Consciousness didn’t evolve. It creates evolution
Neuroscientist: Consciousness didn’t evolve. It creates evolution

Neuroscientist: Consciousness didn’t evolve. It creates evolution

Robert Lawrence Kuhn: Don, you make the extraordinary claim, backed up by some sophisticated computer simulations that evolution, by favoring fitness, drives truth to extinction. Yeah, how then can we deal with reality and what are the implications of that? (View Highlight)

The whole point of the desktop interface is to hide the truth and to guide your behavior. You don’t want to know about the diodes and the resistors and all the electronics inside there and all the magnetic fields and voltages and all the software. If you had to know all of that stuff you could never paint a picture, you know, edit your photograph or write a paper. So what you want is an interface that hides the complexity that you don’t need to know so that you can do thethings you need to do. (2:02)… It’s not lying to you; it’s actually helping you. But it’s helping you by hiding the truth (2:16) (View Highlight)

Note: Let’s leave “evolution” out of this for a moment. Here is what we know, irrespective of how we came to know it: All sources of information, however derived, are specific and partial. Through an open window, I see a herd of deer trotting across the parking lot. A sharp-eared neighbor, not near the window, hears their hooves striking the pavement. A small dog in a pen under the window senses the deer by their smell and may even guess their size and sex in some cases. Not one of us sees the whole picture. In the same way, humans, using abstractions, develop symbol systems on computers to represent functions. All information systems necessarily represent information filtered in some way. But — absent any reason to believe that the information provided is erroneous — what does that prove about truth or consciousness? Kuhn picks up on one aspect of this: (View Highlight)

Because that metaphor is enormously powerful in terms of reflecting our lack of capacity of understanding what reality is. I mean, it would be hopeless, it’s impossible to tell from the user interface on a computer, just what the source code is. (View Highlight)

I mean if someone were to say, I want you to use only what you see on the desktop the pixels and tell me what’s going on and from that figure out a theory about what’s going on inside the computer that’s going to be a really, really tough time… (View Highlight)

Note: But we don’t need to know everything about how a computer works to use the desktop icons to get us where we need to go, any more than observers need to know much about deer in order to determine whether they are present. Again, all information is necessarily partial and focused and our consciousness enables us to determine the information that we need. To get more information, we formulate a specific question, to which the answer will likewise be partial and focused. To see everything as a whole we would need an unlimited consciousness. That is what many people call God. (View Highlight)

To solve the mind–body problem I’ve tried to say, let’s take consciousness as fundamental. So what’s behind the interface is consciousness, right, just like in the example of the computer. what’s behind the screen are all those diodes and resistors and so forth. Yeah, I’m saying what’s behind space and time and physical objects for us is a world of what I call conscious agents or consciousness. (View Highlight)

The nice thing about that theory is, I’m conscious, you’re conscious. I’m proposing that the objective reality behind this interface is not utterly alien to who I am. There is a chance for me to begin to understand that objective reality behind the interface because I’m not utterly separated from it so it’s a different situation than what’s behind the computer screen so anyway. (View Highlight)

So I’ve used Evolutionary Game Theory to conclude that everything that we see around us in our perceptions is not vertical; it’s just a user interface, okay. and that means I have to go back and rethink what do. I mean ,what is the core of evolutionary theory that I can keep? I have to give up some physicalist assumptions that are typically made in evolution, okay? So most evolutionary biologists are also physicalists, of course. But it’s not absolutely necessary to be a physicalist to have the key principles of evolution… (View Highlight)

That’s right. I, you know, I say that with a tremor in my voice. Absolutely so. For me to be entirely consistent, if I’m going to actually say that consciousness is fundamental, then I’m saying that the Big Bang itself is something that has to be understood from within a framework in which consciousness is fundamental. The standard view — and I understand that this is completely non-standard, what I’m saying — the standard view is that the Big Bang happened 13.7 billion years ago. Eventually, consciousness kind of arose accidentally here on Earth and maybe other places and totally accidentally, that’s right? So my story is completely different. (View Highlight)

Donald Hoffman: That’s right. Consciousness didn’t emerge from a prior physical process of evolution. Consciousness is fundamental and so we have to rethink the whole history of the universe actually from this point of view, from The Big Bang up through evolution. We have to rethink it in terms of how to rewrite that story, consistent with all of our current science but understanding that it’s … consciousness is fundamental, not the physical universe (7:23) (View Highlight)

Note: Look what happened here: Hoffman starts by trying to align his consciousness theory with standard evolution theory and then just chucks that and says what he thinks: Consciousness didn’t evolve. It’s the ground from which evolution occurs. That’s surely defensible but it’s not, rest assured, the fully materialist theory taught, and enforced by law, in schools. The conflict between observation and accepted theory is one reason why consciousness is, as David Chalmers has put it, a “Hard Problem. (View Highlight)