The incapable machine
Or smashing with hammers on centuries of philosophy
Since the dawn of mankind the primary question has always been ‘what is the meaning of life?’
It is in my opinion that this question. While
important, is also irrelevant. Far more interesting is it that we are capable of asking ourselves that question at all. Conscience is that which makes
us human and the awareness we have of our conscience is what defines us from other living beings on our planet.
Over the last few thousand years conscience has pained us with many question and the question of 'why are we here'
is a direct result from
the question 'what am I?'
To question what you are is to questions one’s own ability to think and decide for one self. With the lack of modern day knowledge the people from
old directed their questions to the way they viewed the world. Often exposed to forces of nature that were outside their control and general
understanding they created the gods to explain their existence, thus answering both the question of why they were here and what they were. They were
creations of their own made gods and they were there to serve their gods. As time advanced and general knowledge of the natures inner workings started
to become more known to everyday people the believe in gods started to diminish. Perhaps the best sign of this is the work of Descartes and more
important the works of Julien Offray de La Mettrie from 1748.
It was de La Mettrie that extended Descartes work of animals being automatons to the domain of humans. Essentially speaking, in de La Mettrie’s work
man a machine the human is made into a soulless doll that functions much like a machine.
The reason for de La Mettrie’s writing lay in the study of the human body that was steadily progressing from the 16e century onward. While de La
Mettrie’s work is dated and thus no longer completely accurate, it does point in the right direction.
With the recent development into genetics and the workings on the human genome project the idea of ‘man a machine’ has been renewed. It is in this
light that I have come to develop a new view on the human idea of conscience.
Conscience is defined by choices based upon self awareness. I believe self awareness to be a tool or a short cut as you will rather then something
that stand opposed to the man a machine concept. If we consider the idea of self awareness as nothing more than the result of an inherent problem in
the man a machine we can focus upon the idea of choice that is so important to conscience.
When we look at the concept of choice, then all human choices in life are based on three factors and a meta-factor that I will explain later.
The factor genetic inheritance
When the first cell in human conception is created it has a genetic blueprint in itself. This blueprint is the original source code of the human and
has the first influence on how a human makes choices. Genetic inheritance determines things like our gender, our hair and eye color but it also
determines our instincts. Instincts like how strong our sexual preference is, whether we fight or flee. In essence, what lies in our genetic code is
how our body and brain will develop and how large the impact of emotions and instincts are. Genetic inheritance is actually a factor that should be
viewed as the single momentary state of the genetic code without any influence from its surroundings.
The factor current circumstance
The second factor of influence is the current circumstance. When we make a decision millions of factors influence our decision both actively and
subconsciously. For instance, our financial situation, health and social issues. But other factors are of influence of well, for instance; Are we in a
crowded location? How is the weather? Even if a factor like the weather seems irrelevant when the decision is in a building and we don’t need to
leave it, it might make a subconscious influence on our decision. Our mood might be affected because of the dark skies outside even thou we are just
deciding what kind of snack to buy.
The factor of travelled past
The last factor is the travelled past. The travelled past is in essence the history we have and how it influences the decision. Essentially speaking
our travelled past influences our decisions similar to a separate factor of the current circumstances with that noticeable difference that it is
something we always carry with us in our sub-conscience. The travelled past is in fact a continuous stream of made decisions.
The meta-factor called future
Here we come at the meta-factor. A factor that is both relevant and irrelevant depend upon approach. The future is in essence the result of a
decision. When we make a decision we keep in mind what the outcome will be. The outcome we envision influences the decisions we make very strongly.
While some might view this as a factor of importance, it is in fact not a real sole factor but part of the ‘current circumstance’. The reason for
this is that the future we envision upon making a decision is merely the result of a quick calculation just in front of the actual decision itself.
That calculation is based upon the genetic inheritance, travelled past and current circumstance. In that aspect we could say that the future is more
or less a quick simulation of the mind that predicts the most likely outcome based upon what we know.
While the future that we calculate just in front of a decision is there for not a true factor, it does help us understand something; namely the limit
of our mind. When our calculated future is wrong then it is a sign that we did not knew all factors that exist. As obvious that such an observation
might be, it is the fundamental cornerstone that reveals the reason why conscience exists in the first place.
The fact that we did not knew a factor but were influenced by it means that when we make a decision we do so while not truly knowing all factors even
thou they exists. The reason for this is the limit of our mind and body. As humans we are not omnipotent, we are merely just above perception from the
rest of life on Earth.
If we put this into a deeper perspective we can say the following; We don’t know the influence of our genetics, travelled past and current
situation in detail at all times.
The acceptance of the inability of all those factors might seem logical but it works different for our mind. Essentially speaking, our mind
‘knows’ that there are unknown factors influencing it’s decisions. To deal with these many factors that influence us but can’t be consciously
monitored yet needs to be factored in somehow.
Imagine the situation much like exploration of an unknown part of the world. When you are on a boat, you know you are sailing, you know there might be
land and you have your general knowledge. But you don’t know what you might find, even thou an island has hidden influences such as the oceans
current, the wind and marine life. On the map the unexplored part might be a big black blob but in reality that ‘black blob’ has real influence in
your life. The human mind has massive awareness of those unknown factors despite not knowing them. Since the human mind doesn’t have the means to
discover all factors and keep track of their influence in real time it has to find a way around this problem. The way the human mind solves this
problem is by making use of an inherent system; it makes an illusion.
The human mind is very familiar with illusions, most of our inputs are based on sensors that can only handle a small part of it and a interpretation
fabricated by the brain. Our eyes for instance don’t actually ‘see’ depth, the brain makes up depth by combining two dimensional images of both
eyes and then runs a mathematical formula that is stored somewhere in our genetics that then creates the illusion of seeing depth. Essentially
speaking; Conscience is an illusion caused by the lack of capabilities of the human body and brain as a whole.
So, there you have it, our free will as an illusion. But hold it, if we know this, what does that mean? Well, in the short run nothing much. Knowing
that our free will is an illusion doesn’t stop the illusion, nor does it enable us to force our way out of this illusion. The reason for us to be
trapped in this illusion is easy; the underlying factor, the limitations of our body and brain, aren’t resolved merely by knowing they cause the
So, knowing why we have conscience and thus solving the factor that creates all our other questions doesn’t bring enlightenment even thou it does
bring truth. What does this mean?
Well, it sheds new light towards our curiosity. It might be our brains way to expand its knowledge and thus restricting the conscience by enlarging
the known factors. Using that knowledge enables a important bit of information when we take a look at beings with less brainpower and more brainpower
as it effects the way those beings experience conscience.
In effect we can say this about life that has less ‘brainpower’ then us;
- A being that is incapable of thinking for itself and making mere decision based upon factors given towards it and by rules that keep no track of
factors outside those that it gets is like a machine.
- A being with less brainpower then us and a very limited response toward outside factors is closer to a machine then a human.
- A being with less brainpower then us but a high response toward outside factors is closer to us then a machine.
- A being with the same amount of brainpower as us and the same amount of interaction is like us but might be very different then us depending on its
genetic inheritance and surroundings.
- A being with slightly more brainpower then us would seem more in control of its decisions and culture.
- A being with far more brainpower is most likely conflicted with its awareness of the surrounding world and closer to being forced by its
intelligence to keep the surroundings in mind. This makes such an advanced being far more in harmony with its surrounding with a very high level of
intelligent understanding but far less capable of making choices that would otherwise ‘exploit’ the surroundings by misusing them.
I wrote this article two days ago during a little time off on work because of another scientific article that I disagreed with.
To anwser your burning questions; 'yes I did this between works''and 'yes I am sad enough to e-mail stuff to myself.'