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In the wake of the so called cognitive scientific revolution, there has developed a tradeoff so to speak with the age-old concern of God and the newly emerging anxieties concerning the
nature of personhood, within the philosophical framework. There are a number of cognitive
scientists who take the position of equating the concept of intangible consciousness with that of
the intangible ideas that underlie the tenets of various religions. More clearly, that is to say that
to the extent that the belief in a God or deity requires a certain measure of faith, so too does the
appreciation or recognition of the concept of conscious awareness.
Cognitive Scientist Jaron Lanier discusses these new controversies in conjunction with
the more progressive beliefs of some of the leading scientists in the field of AI. Very briefly, the
concept behind the perceived possibilities of AI is based upon the assumption that computer
software will at some point possess the capability to simulate a state of individual consciousness.
Wherein, we will at some point be able to transcend our presently limited understanding of
consciousness and will subsequently devise programs that will exude individual intelligence.
What this suggests however, that if we are to adhere to there possibilities we must concurrently
renounce our faith in the “special” state of the conscious phenomena. Our current understanding
of mental processes merely goes as far to explain, as Minsky does, that thoughts in the brain are
constantly competing for resources much like animals in the wild. Yet it is obvious nevertheless,
that there exists entirely separate dynamics which occur in cognition that are necessary to explain
how brains manifest their unique capabilities.
The initial intellectual underpinning contrived for fashioning a compromise about God
was established by 18th-century German philosopher Immanuel Kant among many others. In
that, he proposes that anyone who considers the matter carefully and honestly must arrive at the
conclusion that you can't prove anything about the existence of God with science or logic. God is
simply a matter of faith. As intimated previously, there are those who believe that consciousness
exists as a tangible construct; that there exists some representative self that is the observer of
subjective experience. And yet at the same time, the argument can be posses which would
suggest that consciousness controversies can be finessed in just the same way as arguments
concerning God. In other words, at present, we are unable to ascertain the methodology by which
we can reason about consciousness or perform experiments in testing it. It therefore presents
another awkward but workable opportunity for cultural compromise for maintaining the efficacy
of religious belief.
Jaron limits his analysis of AI possibilities to the current capacities of cognitive
experimentation. He concludes within this paradigm that “you can neither reason nor design
experiments to study the core beliefs about the self or consciousness. There is no marker of
consciousness but consciousness itself (if it exists), so if you try to define an experiment, you
have to arbitrarily decide whether your object of study is a computer on your desk, some tissue in
your head, or the random ice trajectories within a hailstorm.” However I raise the countervailing
argument that if we assume a state of intangibility in regards to the existence of the so-called
conscious observer, then the same argument can be made as to whether or not the physical
manifestations that occur within that consciousness can even be regarded as real, in itself. And
by this interpretation of causality, or the lack thereof, what then is the significance of any
scientific experiment, if all observations are predicated upon the subjective interpretation of a
non-existing entity.