Even today, metaphysical notions of this kind still crop up.
There is really now no mystery about consciousness whatsoever.
The mystical notions that have arisen in the past are purely illusory, an inevitable result of approaching the question by introspection. This, of course, was the only option available to earlier philosophers and many still have trouble escaping from that trap with its inevitable recursive loops.
Is is sad to see articles such as this resurrecting the old mystical notions within a scientific context.
Today, although the details of nervous system function of ourselves or other animals is very far from complete, we have sufficient information to have a rough idea of the gross workings of these systems.
From evolutionary considerations we can also now see how the essentially navigational function we like to call "consciousness", "self-awareness" "sense of agency" and so forth is bound to arise. Most, if not all organisms must, in principle, have some degree of consciousness (self-awareness). Even if only as the locus of its sensory and effector interactions with the external world.
This, of course, includes such creatures as bacteria and plants. Here's why:
From our understanding of biological evolution by natural selection it becomes quite clear that provision of a navigational feature that involves some degree of self awareness is required for an organism to interact optimally with its environment.
It is a measure of its fitness for the prevailing environment and subject to selection pressure accordingly.
Furthermore, from a quite different discipline, we now have an excellent understanding of functionally analogous computational systems. And the composite that we call the Internet has, even now, comparable processing power to the human mins and is rapidly becoming endowed with the semantic linkages required of our particular kind of consciousness.
With these new tools at our disposal we can now view the phenomenon in a truly objective way. And then the hocus-pocus surrounding this issue vanishes!
This topic is part of the broad evolutionary model very informal outlined in "The Goldilocks Effect: What Has Serendipity Ever Done For Us?" (free download in e-book formats from the "Unusual Perspectives" website).
The far more formal treatment I am at present working on "The Intricacy Generator: Pushing Chemistry and Geometry Uphill" deals with this subject (and also the nature of mathematics in more detail.
Comments such as the following by Anonymous Coward are echoed by others throughout this thread
"When you look at the technology stack and the inherent complexity, the reason why it works is because you have all these different complex pieces working together with different experts focused on specialized pieces within the stack.What you seem to fail to understand is that it didn't happen all in one blob. Nobody pooped out the whole internet to Google in one shot. It's been an ongoing process. It's similar to the automobile. We didn't wake up one morning to find that little elves has created highways and variable valve timing quad cam sports cars. We got there piecemeal, with each piece put on top of each other. Often those pieces were patent (remember the modern wind shield wiper? It's history made for a good movie). Through the process some was patent, some was open, and all of it piled one piece on top of another.""
These observations are both very true and very important to our proper understanding of this World.
What is almost always overlooked, however, because of our naturally anthropocentric standpoint is the logical consequence of such observations. Namely that, except in a very limited sense, we do not "create" or "design" things but rather that and technology EVOLVE within the medium of our collective imagination.
As Carl Sagan put it "To make an apple pie you first have to create the universe"
Without Ritchie we would still have a functional equivalent of Google, just as without Newton or Liebnitz we would still have the calculus of variations, or relativity without Einstein. I am not disparaging any of these individuals but it must be admitted they were mostly picking the low-hanging fruit.
This is expanded upon very informally in the context of a broad evolutionary model (which extends well beyond the realm of biology) in: "The Goldilocks Effect: What Has Serendipity Ever Done For Us?" (free download in e-book formats from the "Unusual Perspectives" website)
Within the context of a broad evolutionary model for which there is good evidence the "singularity" is better considered as a "phase transition" to the next stage in nature's on-going life process.
This model is very informally discussed in "The Goldilocks Effect: What Has Serendipity Ever Done For Us?" (free download in e-book formats from the "Unusual Perspectives" website)
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