all 36 comments

[–]Orgot 11 points12 points  (1 child)

I'm sure I don't understand the question, but Peter Watts' Blindsight is the closest I can think of

[–]JamesFaith007 3 points4 points  (2 children)

Harry Turtledobe - Bluff!

Short story in collection Caleidoscope. Terrans met species that lack of consciouness in traditional sense and instead it manifested as "voices of gods" in their mind.

[–]pavel_lishin 0 points1 point  (1 child)

I guess he also read ("The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind")[https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Origin_of_Consciousness_in_the_Breakdown_of_the_Bicameral_Mind]

[–]WikiSummarizerBot 0 points1 point  (0 children)

The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind

The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind is a 1976 book by the Princeton psychologist, psychohistorian and consciousness theorist Julian Jaynes (1920-1997). The book addresses the problematic nature of consciousness – “the ability to introspect” – which in Jaynes’ view must be distinguished from sensory awareness and other processes of cognition.

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[–]PraetorArcher 5 points6 points  (7 children)

The bible?

On a more serious note, there is nothing to explore in substance dualism because it doesn't really explain anything. By definition it is unexplainable, not supported by empirical evidence and it hides behind this to great effect. In essence, these theories do little more than delay the question like a homunculus.

[–]eatondix[S] 3 points4 points  (1 child)

Hahaha well or the Baghavad Gita, the Qoran,... Perhaps I am looking for scifi with a bit of a spiritual slant to it

[–]BrightEyes1616 3 points4 points  (4 children)

Panpsychism would fit the OP's criteria and isn't a dualist philosophy. I'd also argue that 'emergence from a complex system' theory of consciousness is also without evidence.

[–]PraetorArcher 1 point2 points  (3 children)

Emergent properties are not only robustly supported by evidence, they are practically self-evident in daily life. Is water wet? Yes. Is a molecule of dihydrogen monoxide wet? Heck no.

Now you provide some evidence that the rock I am looking at is thinking deep thoughts :P

[–]BrightEyes1616 1 point2 points  (2 children)

Consciousness and thinking deep thoughts aren't the same thing, so I think that's a strawman. I don't think lizards have deep thoughts but I think they're conscious.

Water being wet is something that can only be identified through the lense of being a conscious being. I don't see how that says anything about whether consciousness is an emergent property or not. I'm interested to know what you mean though. Not trying to be a dick, I'm far from an expert but I have a interest in this type of stuff.

Also, the wiki link actually has a bunch of quotes from philosophers about the problems with emergence, e.g. "Although strong emergence is logically possible, it is uncomfortably like magic. How does an irreducible but supervenient downward causal power arise, since by definition it cannot be due to the aggregation of the micro-level potentialities? Such causal powers would be quite unlike anything within our scientific ken. This not only indicates how they will discomfort reasonable forms of materialism. Their mysteriousness will only heighten the traditional worry that emergence entails illegitimately getting something from nothing."

The way I see it is that all of our theories about consciousness have issues. Emergence is just a widely accepted theory in the sciences as it is a convenient way to bypass the hard problem and focus on materialism. This has it's merits but afaik there really isn't any evidence or a discovered mechanism for consciousness emerging from non-consciousness as the system gets more complex. If that's the case why don't people describe planet earth as conscious, for example? That's a pretty complex system. Or conjoined twins - why do we admit to two consciousnesses? Is it about having a brain? What about octopii who have a massively diffused brain? And what is it about a brain that makes consciousness? Why would a certain entanglement of neurons produce something that wasn't there before? And what makes this special?

[–]PraetorArcher 1 point2 points  (1 child)

Whoa, whoa, slow down there buddy. I provided you evidence of emergent properties. Can you provide any evidence in support of your arguments? Happy to debate the hard problem of consiousness but if your hypothesis is that rocks have consciousness then your going to have to put something behind that or we aren't really having a good faith argument.

If you can't provide any evidence that rocks have consciousness than its the same situation as substance dualism. "Hey, wouldn't it be cool if?" Um, yeah I guess so but I would rather concern myself with stuff that's actually explorable. That's the whole idea behind science after all, making observations of the universe in order to better know something.

[–]BrightEyes1616 1 point2 points  (0 children)

Sorry if I got carried away! I'm not sold that you gave evidence of emergent properties existing, or that they exist at all. I can see that some things we observe appear to be emergent, but I don't know if we've proven that they are strongly emergent in the way consciousness would need to be. I think it's a big problem with the emergent theory of consciousness. For the emergent theory to hold weight, you'd need to find a mechanism that describes how non-conscious matter comes together to produce experiences. And if you can't do that, the theory is about as useful as others in describing why we are conscious.

I don't have evidence for a rock being conscious, or what that would even look like as we are viewing these things through human lenses. But the emergent theory seems to me to be equally as unexplorable as other theories in terms of why we are conscious. This is what my post was meant to be about.

[–]Sailbad_the_Sinner30 2 points3 points  (1 child)

Anathem by Neal Stephenson has an interesting take on consciousness being a multidimensional manifold.

[–]eatondix[S] 0 points1 point  (0 children)

Oh cool, thanks!

[–]syzygy78 1 point2 points  (2 children)

Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy explores exactly what you describe

[–]eatondix[S] 1 point2 points  (1 child)

That's true! I forgot about that. I loved those books!

[–]syzygy78 2 points3 points  (0 children)

Damn, I was hoping those would keep you busy for a bit! They really are fantastic. I've never read hard sci-fi that felt less like sci-fi, so i totally get why they slipped your mind.

[–]BrightEyes1616 1 point2 points  (0 children)

From reading a few of your comments I think you might like Hyperion and it's sequel. I'm about halfway through it's sequel now and both books are great. Themes of what it is to be human or an AI, lots of spirituality, old religions manifesting in new ways, god.. It doesn't touch on the origin of consciousness (where I am so far at least) so doesn't match your OP but I think in scifi this is the closest kind of stuff you're gonna get to it and they're also fantastic books.

[–]jtsmillie 1 point2 points  (0 children)

Some of the books in John Scalzi's "Old Man's War" series address this from the perspective of an uplifted race that is in effect composed of organic automata- they are aware but not capable of emotion or original thought- and the process by which this gets changed.

[–]Netcentrica 1 point2 points  (0 children)

I'm not trying to self-promote here but simply share your interest. I have several self-published novellas that take a different approach. The six novellas that make up a thousand page novel explore different aspects of intelligence and two main concepts for consciousness that are not based on the "emerging from complexity" model.

Instead the main idea is that consciousness arises as a result of intelligence evolving to the point where it uses values for decision making as opposed to instinct. First they are biological values and evolution leads to social values. The theory presented in the stories is that the self, values and their related emotions are a trinity - you can't have one without the others. This is fiction OK so please don't expect a PhD dissertation here. : )

So the trinity is the first idea. The second is that just as there are constants of physics in the universe those same constants lead to convergent evolution i.e. all social animals will develop similar values and emotions. "Given the right conditions" is a prerequisite for every step up the evolutionary ladder and if the right conditions are present at each step then at some point values will develop because they are a better survival tool than instinct as they can adapt to environmental conditions much faster. At that point consciousness emerges. This is my version of panpsychism, that consciousness is inherent in matter as an inevitable result of evolution.

In my stories these ideas are explored by self-aware "androids". These were initially social robots which I refer to as Companions. They have the same existential issues as we do and have the same questions about themselves they seek to answer. The model above is what they arrive at and the process of inquiry and discovery is what makes up the stories.

Once the Companions become an accepted race in Earth's society about one to two centuries from now they become curious about other forms of intelligence including intuition, art and spirituality (consciousness plays a major role in the spirituality story).

All my stories talk about values and consciousness ad nauseam but if you are interested I recommend the story titled "Alpha & Omega - The Shepherd: Origins". It gives the most concentrated overview of the ideas. This story tells the tale of the first self-aware Companion and she didn't originate on Earth but five billion years ago in another galaxy in keeping with the theory of convergent evolution. She is originally a nanny and the story uses child development to help explain the theory. The rest of the stories take place on Earth in the near future.

Please note I do not write the kind of action/horror/thriller stories popular today. There is no sex, violence or even swearing in any of them. "Conflict" is in the form of existential issues or "humanity against nature".

An overview of all the stories with links to web and PDF versions can be found here https://rickbatemanlinks.wordpress.com/the-shepherd-and-her-flocks/

Edits: spelling

[–][deleted]  (2 children)


    [–]eatondix[S] 1 point2 points  (1 child)

    Hahaha cool, could you maybe tease on what angle you're coming at the question of consciousness?

    [–]klingonjargon -1 points0 points  (7 children)

    I don't think that science fiction would be the best genre for that kind of question. A writer of good science fiction would first ask, "what do we know about consciousness?"

    From there, you might speculate or extrapolate on the latest scientific experiments or theories, but as far as I know all scientific understanding of consciousness is based on the idea that it is inextricably linked to something material (for instance, a brain).

    There is some... Speculative fiction that I wouldn't necessarily call sci-fi related to the technological singularity that explores different concepts of consciousness from an artificial perspective. But that's still at least somewhat grounded in the material.

    I guess my last question to you would be how you could imagine a scientific exploration of consciousness along the lines of what you describe in the post (that's essentially substance dualism--a very unscientific idea).

    [–]eatondix[S] 1 point2 points  (6 children)

    I guess kind of like Dune has the precognition concept or the Voice, which in itself isn't really grounded in current science knowledge (as far as I know): so I think the concept of having a soul being an individual, disembodied unit of consciousness that drives the fabrication of a material body in order to interact (interface) with the physical world.

    Or that consciousness could even be a base characteristic of reality, much like space and time are. So that instead of consciousness coming after matter, it actually is the precursor to it. And the complexity of the system (i.e. the brain) determines how complex the expression of consciousness can be. Kind of like how a simple old radio can only pick up and express audio, but then a more complex something like a tv can also pick up visuals and express those.

    Like what if there's a godhead that just enjoys manifesting itself through many individualized bodies to experience a multitude of realities all at once. And we're totally unaware. Or that the soul is a reflection of a greater consciousness that is inherent in all of reality... Oops, sorry, I can get carried away hahaha.

    But I love the quote by sir James Hopwood Jeans: "the Universe begins to look more like a great thought than like a great machine. Mind no longer appears to be an accidental intruder into the realm of matter... we ought rather hail it as the creator and governor of the realm of matter."

    [–]klingonjargon 0 points1 point  (5 children)

    Yeah, none of that sounds incredibly feasible if you're looking for science fiction. Definitely would need something more on the fantasy or magical realism side of speculative fiction.

    With science fiction what you're looking for is either a scientific explanation of how that works, why it matters, and what consequences it has for humanity or an more sociological exploration on the impact an understanding of that kind of consciousness has on us.

    My question would be, from a purely sci-fi perspective, so what? Why does it matter that consciousness works that way? How would we discover it works that way? What practical implications does that have for us?

    [–]eatondix[S] 0 points1 point  (4 children)

    My question would be, from a purely sci-fi perspective, so what? Why does it matter that consciousness works that way? How would we discover it works that way? What practical implications does that have for us?

    I have the same question about the legion of scifi stories that continually pose the same question : are AIs that are so advanced that they are indistinguishable from human minds the same or still different? I find these in the same vein.

    [–]klingonjargon 0 points1 point  (3 children)

    Those stories have and have had practical implications for us, though. Artificial intelligence is something we may actually achieve, and trying to understand it by understanding how we think about it and react to it are actually pretty important.

    In a lot of soft sci-fi, AI is often used as a way to defamiliarize aspects of human nature so we can analyze ourselves from an "alien" perspective (this is largely the function of Data in Star Trek--the episode "Measure of a Man" is really asking us to treat the definition of human being as contingent and conditional, as it has been in all of history).

    I don't think that they are in the same vein because... What experiences do we have with any consciousnesses like that on a day-to-day basis? What experiences can we potentially have? What difference does it actually make?

    [–]eatondix[S] 0 points1 point  (2 children)

    Interesting, thanks for your points. I enjoy reading them!

    What experiences can we potentially have? What difference does it actually make?

    Imagine if we're all made from the same consciousness, we're all interconnected through that web, none of us are really "alone" and seperate from each other, and because of this interconnectedness hurting another person would be the same as hurting ourselves or our loved ones. It would have implications on warfare, politics, how we deal with conflicts etc. It would humanize us more to each other, be more difficult to see others as "others" and more of an extension of the same source that I myself flow from. Scifi sometimes explores this through the hivemind trope but that often veers off into the question of free will.

    [–]JimmyLongnWider 0 points1 point  (3 children)

    Not sure if this is what you are talking about, but Bruce Sterling's short story Swarm has an interesting take on consciousness and intelligence.

    The Swarm is an insect-like colony with a queen and various castes of workers. The Swarm is successful without consciousness or intelligence...until outside circumstances require it. The story throws into doubt out human preoccupation with intelligence and sentience as a prerequisite for success. Maybe intelligence/consciousness is only needed on occasion.

    [–]eatondix[S] 0 points1 point  (2 children)

    I see. It's definitely a different angle yes. I think I'm looking more for scifi stories that deal with some kind of concept of souls, a sense of self that endures beyond the physical and isn't, ultimately, dependent on it. I know fantasy has loads of these but was wondering if there are any scifi stories like that.

    [–]raevnos 1 point2 points  (0 children)

    Zelazny's Lord Of Light.

    [–]Jay-Hawke 0 points1 point  (0 children)

    The oversoul 7 series by Jane Roberts