These are things I've wondered about (like billions before us, I'm quite sure) for as long as I can remember.
I've tried to entertain every hypothesis and belief anyone has ever shared with me. The least pleasant for me to entertain - but entertain it I have
- is that our consciousness itself is nothing more than complex interaction between different physical segments of our brain; that our mind is simply
the illusion of consciousness created by having competing parts of a physical organ in constant communication with one another.
I saw a documentary a while back about AI, in which they managed to create a mechanical analogue of what we might call a "stream of consciousness"
by combining two computers based on neural net design. One was designed so that it solely stored completely accurate data about every piece of sensory
input or stimulus it was given, while the other was allowed to become perturbed and more abstract by letting some of its nodes "die" or become
degraded. When combined, the second "perturbed" computer was directed by the executive "driver" brain (which had only correct data) and set about
generating abstraction and innovation as the result of the "tug of war" between the two. As a result it was able to learn what sorts of musical
combinations were considered pleasing to the human ear (in general; there's no accounting for taste, even for a machine lol) and then go about
generating its own, totally original music which was actually melodic.
This, of course, isn't a true example of human-like intelligence or creativity, but it could be a very primitive analogue of how our own minds work.
From our perspective, we possess consciousness and thought, but it's at least conceivable that we are merely an extremely complex, novel example of
this sort of a system, and that our "mind" is an illusion created by the interplay between cooperative but divergent parts of a purely biological
I have tried in earnest to entertain that possibility, and the possibility that, as such, at physical death the data stops flowing and our mind ceases
to exist. I've also tried to entertain the possibility that the only conservation of energy that occurs at death is that of our body heat being
radiated, and our physical matter being consumed by microbes, insects, and the rest of nature once we're buried. In fact, I do still entertain
those possibilities because frankly, until I die, I have no way of knowing. Literally anything is possible. Here is the logical and spiritual wall I
keep running into, though.
Let's assume that all of this - our lives, this planet, and this entire universe - are the random, emergent result of entirely natural, and purely
physical phenomena interacting in an extremely complex manner. No meaning, no point, and no explanation. It all simply happened, and that's that, so
here we are.
Well, I recently read that physicists are now speculating that at the essential base of all matter and energy, in something that I can't even begin
to comprehend which they call "quantum foam," are not simply particles with mass or charge, but instead sheer, literal, information.
could easily be my lack of comprehension talking, but that sounds a lot to me like a thought I used to have a lot as a teenager, which was as
"If you imagine a complete and total void - absolute nothingness; no matter, no energy, nothing - then anything you place into that void, even a
thought with no form, or pure information
, would be the only thing existing, and thus, would become real.
" I know that sounds pretty
metaphysical, but it doesn't seem to me, as a totally uninformed layperson, to be truly at odds with what I read about quantum foam (whatever that
If that's the case, and if it's also
the case that all of this - including our existence - is nothing but the result of random interaction
between totally natural (if nothingness and information based nonetheless) phenomena, then it implies that everything in the universe is emergent,
including our intelligence.
So, the universe - which at its essence is merely complex interaction between complex constructs of pure information - developed emergent intelligence
(i.e. us) to an extent that said intelligence seeks to comprehend said universe which is comprised of said information...
...that sure sounds like a paradox to me, and it is what makes me feel, and hypothesize, that there is more to the universe - and to us - than matter
and energy, and that there is some form of consciousness after physical death. That isn't my belief
per say, but it is my current hypothesis,
since I truly have no way of knowing for certain until my death comes.
[edit on 11/18/2008 by AceWombat04]