Natural Sciences and Human Sciences (The problem of consciousnes, Part 1)
You've just got to read this!
In a recent Guardian article, Ray Kurzweil, a technology guru, made certain predictions about mankind based on the evidence of the technological revolution in the field of computers and Articial Intelligence in recent years. The Guardian reports:
"that by 2029 computers will be able to pass the Turing test - that is, pass themselves off as human in conversation...By 2035 the human brain and computers will begin to merge - literally. Those nanobots will be used to vastly extend the reach of human intelligence. They will allow us to control all our senses by computer and enter a full virtual reality in which we could become other people."
'Nanobots' are tiny robotic micro-processors. Kurzweil describes them as "blood-cell sized devices" that can be injected into our bloodstream. The initial effect would be to help our bodies repair dead or dying cells and, ultimately, to keep us healthier and living longer.
What we're interested in, however, is the idea that in 20 years time, we won't be able, if Kurzweil is right, to distinguish between computers (or machines) and humans. Nanobot machines will be able to enhance our thinking powers from the inside, so to speak, just like a pacemaker enhances the work of a defective heart. Nanobots are more than replacement internal prosthetics like a heart valve or a metal pin to strengthen a hip joint; they are enhancements that become a part of us and make us somehow more than human. The full implications of nanobot technology are, however, vastly more interesting and perhaps even unimaginable.
Kurzweil suggests, in another debate entitled, 'Will machines become conscious?', that machines, computers, will display CONSCIOUSNESS; they will become self-aware.
How on earth does that happen?
By extension, we may well ask: how on earth did this piece of flesh that is a human being ever become conscious?
Much of what follows is discussed very vividly and with great lucidity in Stephen Law's book, The Philosophy Gym. Please check it out.