Artificial Intelligence provoked some deep discussion. We bring you some of the highlights.
Built to Last
Dmitri! Interesting you should be speaking about this1. I'm currently working on a philosophical book called 'The Human Project' and I deal with the matter of mind at length! I agree with you: the mind cannot be an 'epiphenomenon' … it is the primary phenomenon through which we experience all other phenomena! But 'science' can't easily see it that way: science is supposed to be 'objective' but dealing with mind, consciousness, awareness is a matter of subjectivity. Scientifically it is pretty much impossible to discuss! All 'scientific' writing is couched in objective, impersonal language, the writer doing his or her best to hide his or her own self … which is precisely the thing that must take center stage if we are to speak about mind! But then, many people who try to speak about the mind get all spooky about it, which again is not the right approach either. This is why it is taking several long sections of my book to really tackle the matter. But the conclusion I come to is the same as yours … it can't be possible that minds are largely irrelevant. This also means that it can't be possible for minds to go 'extinct' like materialists suppose happens when we die. The knowledge and experience gained by each mind over a lifetime is too important for that. Like you say … if not, then what is this entire travail of life *for*? All the same … scientifically, philosophically, or in any other way, it is very hard to work out what really happens to a mind at death. Now complacent Christians, Muslims, Jews, Buddhists, Atheists or people of most other big belief systems are satisfied they have the answer – but there are so many answers and those disagree among themselves! Personally I've tried many ideas on for size … and I want to remain open to do so, I'm certainly nowhere near 'settling' on an ultimate answer. I find it hard to believe in an afterlife in a world different from this one. To me, this world is too amazing and important to leave behind permanently. And it is the only world I, for one, know. It is a sure thing while other worlds for other kinds of afterlives are speculation and gambling. And this universe, as far as I can determine, was built to last – it will be around for billions of years, so it's hard to see it as just a station we pass through on the way to somewhere else. So … I would want to believe my own soul (for one) would somehow remain here. Some kind of reincarnation, maybe. I think it might actually work. Maybe the Buddhists are on to something … they believe that the enlightened soul may pass on to Nirvana but some such souls can choose to become re-incarnated as teachers to help the other souls along. Now I'd like that job …
But of course I don't know if that's the ultimate truth either. I'm still working on many possibilities … there might be other ways in which souls can carry on though bodies die. We might need to re-think the matter of identity. I often think that there is a 'great big entire soul' that our small individual souls are part of. So when individuals die, they stop entirely existing as separate entities and their souls join back with the big one. All that they know, learnt, experienced, goes back to the whole, which continually gives birth to new lives and new souls. I can't really call the big soul 'God' though it would be God-like … but it won't be like God most people think of because it won't be all-knowing and all-powerful, it would be a soul that needs to learn and to grow and that can only act through the smaller souls that are part of it.
In the New Age biz there's talk of the Akashic Records. This is like a cosmic library storing all individual knowledge and experience … absolutely everything every single conscious mind ever learns or knows. If this is so, then individuals may come and go, but all that they've experienced that is important, gets preserved, and passed on to other individuals. Woolly as this notion is, I also think that there might be merit in it. What is information after all? It has to belong to some kind of 'realm' … where indeed does the info go when a computer hard drive gets fried? Even speaking in terms of physical science, information is 'coded' in time and space and all information might be potentially retrievable. (Difficult notion that I'm also working on in my book.) But yes, there must be 'conservation laws' for information, too.
There might also be 'higher realms' BUT I think, not fully separate from the physical reality around us. Instead I think these would belong to this very same reality, but represent 'higher levels' of it. They would be all around us but we can't see them because they need to be perceived and interpreted on a higher level than we have access to … the difference from looking and seeing what's around you when you're on a high mountain peak, to when you're looking from the bottom of a valley. But we're nowhere near the peak yet. It is very, very likely that we're still just scratching the surface when it comes to reality. What is real is real, but so far we only know a teeny tiny bit of what's real. As we learn more and come to understand better, layer upon layer of reality becomes revealed to us … it would be ridiculous to think that what we know about our universe now represents anywhere near all that it is.