From Freddie deBoer The Almond Butter Test:
Consciousness is the product of 4 billion years of evolution, which is one of the most powerful forces in the known universe. Consciousness is literally embodied, found in organic beings, carbon forms that maintain homeostasis. We assume consciousness is the product of the brain, but we don’t really know. It may very well be that (say) the liver is implicated in consciousness. Some very serious people believe that consciousness is the product of quantum effects somehow generated by neurological structures. There is no shame, at all, in admitting that we are not yet at the level of understanding this stuff, let alone replicating it.
It sounds like he’s dancing around the issue. We know it’s not the liver or anywhere else, because humans that lose other organs are still conscious, but sufficient brain damage does cause loss of consciousness or the loss of experiences or behaviors associated with consciousness, such as responding to stimuli.
Similar to Elon Musk and Substack, Freddie painted himself into a corner. To be a materialist (as opposed to dualism), as he claims, means that consciousness must be reproducible in the physical world, such as by a sufficiently complicated computer that can replicate the processes and synapses of the mind itself, and not something immaterial, such as a deity. My own take is, the complexity of the human brain precludes this from happening anytime soon, but in theory it should be tractable even if in a purely theoretical sense (such as having a blueprint for the mind even if it cannot be built).
Is Chat GPT conscious? I would say not in the way we understand it, but it comes closer to imitating it than anything that preceded it.
Chat GPT is the ‘current thing’, like Ukraine and others. You have to let it pass. Similar to the pushback Freddie got in his early 2022 articles in which he questioned the rationale for supporting Ukraine, Chat GPT and AI are issues in which not only the public feels strongly about, but his reader’s opinions, in large part, are not wholly aligned with his own, creating friction. Similar to Ukraine, he somewhat misread his audience. It also shows why audience capture is so hard to avoid. If dunking on identity politics and wokeness is what goes viral and minimizes reader disagreement, then this creates an incentive to continue to do that. Taking more creative risk opens the possibility of disagreement.
I think the AI obsession can be explained by how people, on either side of the aisle, are turning to AI to break the monotony of the post-Covid hangover. There was a lot of optimism that WFH would be a reality, but workers are being called back to the office. Crypto was a similar fad that failed to pan out, due to fraud and other problems. And AI is also seen as a refuge from the ‘wokeness wars’ online, (even if Chat GPT is biased and not at all open source). Chat GPT (as I am predicting) probably won’t live up it its hype of fundamentally changing the world in the way that the internet did, even if it’s fun to use and has some applications.
I think the next major frontier is memory implantations/modification, as I predicted years ago. It’s a theme science fiction (like in Total Recall), but in theory it’s doable under a materialist interpretation of the mind.