Most of the time we cherish consciously experiencing the world. Eating ice cream, seeing a beautiful sunset or listening to the sea are only a few examples of our rich phenomenology that makes life worth living. However, when it comes to explaining this so-called phenomenal consciousness, we often feel deeply puzzled. Phenomenal consciousness has resisted its integration into the natural order of scientific research. The fact that phenomenal properties are considered to be intrinsic and qualitative has caused many to believe that the Hard Problem of Consciousness (Chalmers 1995) reveals the impossibility of this endeavor. However, with Artificial Intelligence (AI) research thriving, the question is can we expect something new?
My answer, here, is ‘yes, we can expect something new’, but it is different from what one would anticipate. I will explore the idea that our ever-deepening interaction with AI may require us to rethink the traditional framework in which we consider consciousness; and this has consequences. Usually, we look at consciousness through the lens of the Mind-Body Problem (Descartes 1991, 1998), i.e. by trying to reply to the question how consciousness and the body interact. In the time of AI, however, it may be time to revise the frame of reference and consider the so-called Mind-Technology Problem (Clowes, Gärtner and Hipólito, 2021). The Mind-Technology Problem claims that we need to re-conceptualize the nature of the mind and its relationship to technological artifacts by asking ourselves how the mind is transformed, extended and enabled by smart technologies. For consciousness this means that the problem about how to naturalize phenomenal properties may be pushed back and questions about the limits of consciousness become more salient. I will exemplify this idea by discussing the implications.
Chalmers, D. (1995). Facing up to the problem of consciousness. Journal of Consciousness Studies, 2(3), 200–219.
Clowes, R. W., Gärtner, K. & Hipólito, I. (2021): The Mind-Technology Problem and the Deep History of Mind Design. In: The Mind-Technology Problem Investigating Minds, Selves and 21st Century Artifacts, Clowes, R. W., Gärtner, K. & Hipólito, I. (eds.), Studies in Brain and Mind 18, Springer, Switzerland.
Descartes, R. ( 1991). Principles of Philosophy (trans. V. R. Miller and R. P. Miller), Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers.
Descartes, R. ( 1998). Discourse on Method (trans. D. Cress), Indianapolis, IN: Hackett.