Wandering around, came upon something to think about. This isn’t necessarily in response to anyone in particular, but here is where my sometimes goofy sometimes thoughtful journey began, and the passage I choose to join in the conversation with.

Also, I really don’t know much about anything when it comes to artificial intelligence.

The post that started the discussion:

Consciousness and free will are illusions: you are just a robot

A reply:


– one’s 1st person account of one’s stream of consciousness (for lack of a better term), which for many of us comes in the form of a linear sequence of words that we hear only with our mind’s ear.

I’d like to expand upon the second part of this quote. I’d like to expand on what we think about when we define a person’s consciousness. I’m a bit at odds with the expression “stream” of consciousness, though it’s not entirely inaccurate I think, it can limit our representation of what the conscious mind actually is. Consciousness, conscious thought, goes beyond regular language in it’s ability to assemble more than simple strings of individual ideas and concepts, represented into words and symbols, lined up together one after the other.

We can discuss at length the physical workings of the brain, analyze it down to its individual neurons and examine all the interactions that make it function, but are we really talking about the mind when we do that? Is this just one of the facets of this manifestation of consciousness and free will we’re trying to comprehend, or all that it is and can be summed up to?

What a single thought can be hold can easily be underestimated, it’s clear when we consider some of the greatest minds in recorded history. Simple sentences, a couple words, a short expression… Scholars can construct entire libraries, giant databases, and still not run out of ways to attempt a proper fully comprehensive explication of all that can be derived from their discoveries. Is it just as question of computational power, compression and connectivity? Just the impact of the tiniest of quotes from any of the many names we could choose, all that a few letters or even digits can represent or mean to an individual conscience, is hard to determine or predict, and even beyond all the variable contributions from the subject’s singular subjective experience, there remains another layer of randomness still to the healthy mind, however uneducated or limited it may get through circumstance or context. (watch the step, I’m getting tired)

I’d call that free will. One could say it seems it’s the name it’s calling itself, were we to entertain a silly idea in that concepts actually define themselves, we just let reason and logic guide us along their path in our quest to understand them. This path is constantly reshaping itself, rethinking itself, questioning itself and redefining itself. Consciousness is like that in that it’s akin to information in a constant state of flux.

The mind can link things together in ways that allow it to summon up entire books via one feeling, sensation or image. With a single smell, touch, or sound, the subject can recall entire years of his lifetime, or relive the intensity of one brief moment as if it was present. Not everything the mind experiences can be done justice through words. If the mind is conscious and free, it can eventually find a way to express itself beyond the parameters one would impose on it, if humans are anything to go by. It seems like quite the monumental task to be able to compile all of that into what amounts to relatively simple binary sequences or code. Even if we can, does that mean consciousness and free will don’t really exist? Because we’ve unlocked the secrets of our biological supports?

When a young student asked astronaut Chris Hadfield what was one of the skills he had to learn to go out into space, he answered “taking decision”. Taking a decision and acting on it. If you can’t take that decision then there’s little to say of the actions that would follow. In space there’s a lot of things to consider, a lot of factors involved and very serious consequences from even the smallest of problems is not unusual. There are a lot of things to know and to take into account. The ability to make well thought out decisions based on all of the best available information is an essential skill to have in becoming someone who works out in space. Being decisive is something that can be learned he said, something that has to be trained and maintained constantly. It’s not easy for everyone, it wasn’t for him he admits, but it’s something a person can teach themselves to be better at. This has nothing to do with free will I suppose, depending on what conclusions we reach. I just think it’s a cool story.