Thinking Meat

Peter Watts is a man after my own heart on the ideas of consciousness and volition:

What I’d really like to see would be a stimulus which shut down consciousness but left the cognitive and reactive circuits intact: a scenario in which the patient continued to repeat “house” while the current flowed, until— still unconscious— she processed and accommodated a new request to start saying “yoga” instead. I’d like to see her wake up when the current stopped, look around, and ask in a puzzled voice, “Why am I saying yoga? I thought I was saying house.” Now that would tell us something.

What, you don’t think that’s realistic? You think consciousness and volition go hand in hand, that the body can’t parse the house-to-yoga transition without some little guy behind the eyes to make sense of it all?

I’ve got one word for you: sleepwalkers.

Myself, I operate under the working hypothesis that consciousness is an emergent illusion that happens to keep the meat suit from freaking out long enough for the genitalia to do their thing. I have no scientific basis for this, mind you, I just see no evidence otherwise.

If you think that’s perky and fun, get me drunk sometime and ask me about free will. (Hint: It exists, after a fashion, but it doesn’t matter.)

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