Interesting interview in the Atlantic with cognitive scientist Donald D. Hoffman:
“I call it conscious realism: Objective reality is just conscious agents, just points of view. Interestingly, I can take two conscious agents and have them interact, and the mathematical structure of that interaction also satisfies the definition of a conscious agent. This mathematics is telling me something. I can take two minds, and they can generate a new, unified single mind. Here’s a concrete example. We have two hemispheres in our brain. But when you do a split-brain operation, a complete transection of the corpus callosum, you get clear evidence of two separate consciousnesses. Before that slicing happened, it seemed there was a single unified consciousness. So it’s not implausible that there is a single conscious agent. And yet it’s also the case that there are two conscious agents there, and you can see that when they’re split. I didn’t expect that, the mathematics forced me to recognize this. It suggests that I can take separate observers, put them together and create new observers, and keep doing this ad infinitum. It’s conscious agents all the way down.”
Here’s the striking thing about that. I can pull the W out of the model and stick a conscious agent in its place and get a circuit of conscious agents. In fact, you can have whole networks of arbitrary complexity. And that’s the world.
“As a conscious realist, I am postulating conscious experiences as ontological primitives, the most basic ingredients of the world. I’m claiming that experiences are the real coin of the realm. The experiences of everyday life—my real feeling of a headache, my real taste of chocolate—that really is the ultimate nature of reality.”
I don’t agree with everything in the article (especially the quantum stuff) but I think many people interested in consciousness and metaphysics will find plenty of food for thought here:
Also, the “conscious agents all the way down” is the exact position I was criticizing in a recent 3QD essay:
3quarksdaily: Persons all the way down: On viewing the scientific conception of the self from the inside out
The diagram above is from a science fiction story I was working on, back when I was a callow youth. It closely related to the idea of a network of conscious agents. Here’s another ‘version’ of it.
Not sure why I made it look so morbid. 🙂
there are no public objects e.g if we both say we see a cat on the mat there is no public cat because our individual experiences are individual ,we each create a seperate cat.( wow! Yawn!)
Such nonsense is easily refuted by the fact that we have a public language in which we can all agree on the convention of what we see before us both is a ” cat” , if this were not the case language would be meaningless and no communication between people would be possible. His attempt to refute this argument by reference to virtual reality is weak and absurd, a ” virtual cat” or tennis ball is as much a public object as a ” real” cat or tennis ball.
Plus if we both put a blindfold on then neither of us see a cat on the mat anymore e.g our “consciousness created” cats can be disappeared by a simple external physical object.
You are right. But this vacuous theory can be ‘restored’ by making the real cat (or universe) a conscious agent. 🙂
Regarding Hoffman’s general thesis, I later wrote a critique on Quora. It partly happened because someone with OCD kept asking me about this theory over and over again, worried that it undermined her whole worldview.