Consciousness is one of the deepest, and sometimes unnerving, mysteries to haunt our species. We anchor our sense of identity to it, and yet we don’t have a complete understanding of its nature. In a recent episode of the podcast Stuff to Blow Your Mind, hosts Robert Lamb and Joe McCormick explored what it means for a machine to display what could be interpreted as a preference for survival, if it is even possible for machines to gain true consciousness, and the ethical questions that would follow.
The episode, entitled “Machine Consciousness and P-Zombies“, began with a hypothetical question that tests your instincts on this question. I won’t spoil this scenario for you, but it should spark an interesting debate in your mind. The conversation eventually brings up the philosophical concept of pseudo-conscious humans known as “P-Zombies”, which call into question the nature of our own consciousness.
This conversation forces us to confront how little we truly know of ourselves. This particular subject matter is timely, as we are a species that does not fully grasp its own consciousness, but one that may inadvertently create it in something else.
If you want to go deeper into the rabbit hole, you can check out Other Minds: The Octopus, the Sea, and the Deep Origins of Consciousness by philosopher Peter Godfrey-Smith. This book examines how consciousness may have evolved twice on earth by exploring how various cephalopods interact and behave. Both philosophical and evolutionary concepts are explored in an accessible manner in this book, so you needn’t worry about hitting a conceptual brick wall while you read.