A-Z of the Future > Hyper Objects
How to explain the purpose or even account for the feeling of consciousness is one of the most intransigent problems in science.
Science cannot seem to explain how consciousness emerges from purely physical matter. How can we connect the subjective feelings that we experience as conscious beings with the idea that we are just made up of inert matter?
This challenging issue also has significant importance for how we understand ourselves and to what extent consciousness can be seen to have moral value. If humans have considered themselves separate from other animals because of our superior intelligence, does this mean that intelligence is more important than consciousness? Would an intelligent machine have more moral worth than a human if it can demonstrate greater intelligence?
If not, and we deem consciousness – the fact that we can feel – as the important moral factor, then can we continue to subjugate other conscious animals in the way we currently do? Also, how do we know whether something or someone else is conscious at all? Will machines become conscious? Can consciousness exist in non-biological bodies?
That such basic and fundamental questions currently cannot be answered is unsettling and the implications of an answer would be profound for how we structure our social worlds and for our sense of ethics.
Hard Problem of Consciousness