Since 1859, when Charles Darwin Published “On the Origin of Species”, evolution has been an important theory of biology. Unfortunately, one of our most important biological traits, Consciousness, is not yet completely understood in the context of evolution.
Theories of consciousness come from religion, from philosophy, from cognitive science, but not so much from evolutionary biology. Our well-known evolutionary science lacks the answers to the very basic questions of consciousness,i.e,
- What is consciousness?
- When did it evolve?
- How can we take consciousness to the next level for mankind?
Let’s try to find answers to these difficult questions together.
Is Consciousness an Integral Part of Evolution?
In the earlier days, researchers, scientists, philosophers and even the common man, had no second thoughts in accepting the fact of the existence of consciousness; in the same way as the existence of the physical world.
But with the advent of science, physics embraced and made people believe in an entire temporal concept of reality.
Researchers proposed several hypotheses like abiogenesis (origin of first life from accumulation of atoms and molecules) and the Big Bang theory (the explosion theory for explaining the origin of the universe).
Stephen Hawking’s hypothesis that the universe came from “Nothing” is dissembling with the Modern Science concept of matter existing before the universe.
Modern science hypothesizes that the manifestation of life on Earth is nothing but a mere increment in the complexity of matter and hence is an outcome of evolution of matter (chemical evolution) following the Big Bang.
After the manifestation of life, modern science believed that chemical evolution transformed itself into biological evolution, which then had caused the entire biodiversity on our planet.
Single cell organisms on earth became multicellular to fish to reptiles to mammals to monkeys and to humans.
Which means that life is just a chance of science, leaving no room for the subjective aspect of consciousness/soul, or any relationship between evolution of life and consciousness and especially what happens after life.
On the other hand few philosophers view states that that the origin of everything material and nonmaterial is sentient.
Even the modern science states that life comes from life which makes life cognitive and conscious and makes consciousness as the fundamental aspect of life.
In contrast to the idea of objective evolution of bodies, as envisioned by Darwin and followers, few philosophers advocate the idea of subjective evolution of consciousness as the developing principle of the world.
What If We Unravel Consciousness One Day?
Even 21st century biology has established that from humans to the smallest cells (bacteria without brain organs), all living organisms are conscious entities.
Even several enthusiastic propositions in the field of Artificial Intelligence (AI) claim that by simulating the neuronal network in the brain, conscious machines can be produced.
Today, AI can recognise images and voices with better accuracy than humans and we are still at the early stage of AI development. All three basic components of human intelligence – memory, computations and learnability have been successfully achieved by AI.
But the biggest disconnect in the theory of consciousness and robotic AI is the fact that humans can experience things, narrate stories and feel happy or sad — this is where a robot or an AI lags.
A self-driving car can go around the city, capture all the images yet can’t experience.
Consider our consciousness as a narrator. Consciousness is telling ourselves stories by observing the actions that others do and we do unlike an AI machine. The actions per se are driven by the modules in the brain which are mostly subconscious, while the consciousness only tries to justify the action.
Thus, storytelling is constantly at work and we can’t switch it off willingly like an AI machine.
For a moment, let us imagine we can understand and recreate consciousness through some quantum mechanics theory, and we create a level of human consciousness using AI. Will robots become like humans?
Because for a fact, consciousness is what makes us human. Consciousness helps us understand the difference between right and wrong, it helps us love nature and discard the unethical practices that can hamper our loved ones and the future generations. Without our consciousness the universe will be a vast expanse of uninteresting matter, it may be pointless!!
On the path of evolving AI, keep your consciousness intact!!