This essay is a part of the Scientific American & Macmillan Learning STEM Summit. The STEM Summit is an annual event that attracts diverse stakeholders, ranging from teachers, policy makers, journalists, entrepreneurs, and students. The theme of the 2019 Summit is “The Future of Work,” and will explore critical questions such as: What are we doing to prepare students for careers in our automated future? What skills, both “hard” and “soft”—will students need to thrive in the “4th Industrial Revolution”? And what strategies, tools and technologies will best help students achieve that success? You can learn more about the annual event here
, and view the livestream of the event on Thursday, September 26th here.Kenneth Shinozuka
, junior studying neuroscience at Harvard explains, Science has made outstandingly accurate descriptions of the world but has told us little about our subjective experience of it.
Photo: Getty Images
What is consciousness? In a sense, this is one of the greatest mysteries in the universe. yet in another, it’s not an enigma at all. If we define consciousness as the feeling of what it’s like to subjectively experience something, then there is nothing more deeply familiar. Most of us know what it’s like to feel the pain of a headache, to empathize with another human being, to see the color blue, to hear the soaring melodies of a symphony, and so on. In fact, as philosopher Galen Strawson
insightfully pointed out in a New York Times opinion piece
, consciousness is “the only thing in the universe whose ultimate intrinsic nature we can claim to know.”
This is a crucial point. We don’t have direct access to the outer world. Instead we experience it through the filter of our consciousness. We have no idea what the color blue really
looks like “out there,” only how it appears to us “in here.” Furthermore, as some cognitive scientists like Donald Hoffman
in recent years, external reality is likely to be far different from our perceptions of it. The human brain has been optimized, through the process of evolution, to model reality in the way that’s most conducive to its survival, not in the way that most faithfully represents the world.
Science has produced an outstandingly accurate description of the outer world, but it has told us very little, if anything, about our internal consciousness...
Over the millennia, thinkers in both the East and West have contemplated a variety of solutions to the hard problem of consciousness, many of which upend our traditional views on the nature of reality. The Yogacara school of Buddhism endorses idealism, the belief that everything is consciousness. René Descartes, arguably the first Western philosopher to write about consciousness, consciousness, asserted the dualist perspective that the mind is fundamentally separate from physical matter.Read more...
Source: Scientific American