Human Consciousness

Rene Descartes

Human consciousness has literally been on the minds of some of our very best thinkers since humankind first had the ability to think. Rene Descartes put a stake in the ground in explaining human consciousness with his famous saying “I think, therefore I am.” Is it the mere process of thinking that makes us real? And, if so, where does the thinking take place? But, consciousness is more than just thinking. A computer can be programmed to think or at least act logicially. Consciousness includes the abilities to be self-aware and reflect. In this age of artificial intelligence, some believe that someday a supercomputer can be programmed to be conscious. Others disagree. In 1950, Alan Turing suggested a test, The Turing Test, in which a computer would have to have the ability to carry on a “blind” conversation with a person with its responses being indistinguishable from another human for the computer to be considered “conscious.” Many believe the brain is merely a supercomputer with its billions of neurons creating the consciousness of the individual. Others, in a minority, believe that the brain is more like a radio receiver and that consciousness resides in some wave-like function which individuals can “tune into.” Which leads to the question, does the mind (defined here as human consciousness) reside in the brain or are the mind and brain two separate entiites? An interesting analysis of the brain vs. mind issue is explored in the book The Irreducible Mind.


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