There is a world where all humans agreed to drop the usage of the word "consciousness" in any official or scientific context; it even was expunged from every person's vocabulary. This word is no longer used because it is as fictitious as the word soul or afterlife (for this new world).

All humans now have such a clear understanding of the brain, and such comprehensively detailed AIs that they stopped believing there is any such thing as "consciousness".

According to the book How to create a mind, consciousness is merely a performance and can be replicated/explained by a mathematical algorithm.

Understating what the book says in my words, how do you determine if something is conscious? It need only "convince you" that it is conscious, by whatever means.

The implications of this new belief are:

  1. Statements like "consciousness causes wave function collapse" in quantum physics will not be acceptable (they are not even today).
  2. Empathy will no longer have a reason other that mere reciprocation.
  3. Animal rights, pro-life, red-cross organization will be treated as religions.

This is quite dark scenario, so bear with me.

The question is, in the present, does it seem as though the seeds of this speculative future have been planted? Is it probable that the concept of consciousness would be phased out later?

Are the proposed implications plausible, is my assumption correct that they have to have consciousness to be valid?


closed as unclear what you're asking by Aify, sphennings, L.Dutch, Azuaron, Draco18s Jul 20 '17 at 14:52

Please clarify your specific problem or add additional details to highlight exactly what you need. As it's currently written, it’s hard to tell exactly what you're asking. See the How to Ask page for help clarifying this question. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

  • $\begingroup$ I am not sure what you are asking from you are asking here. There is no government body that dictate the meaning of consciousness if that is what you consider being undefined. Language is used by people and definitions are what the general consensus of the meaning of a word is. $\endgroup$ – A. C. A. C. Jul 19 '17 at 21:21
  • $\begingroup$ I didn't mean the word are removed by the dictionary people. But more like how some old english words are not in our vocabulary any longer. $\endgroup$ – Aus Jul 19 '17 at 21:28
  • 4
    $\begingroup$ Yes, then what is your question? $\endgroup$ – A. C. A. C. Jul 19 '17 at 21:29
  • $\begingroup$ The last two paragraphs. Do you think I should edit the question? it wasn't clear about what undefine means. $\endgroup$ – Aus Jul 19 '17 at 21:30
  • $\begingroup$ @A.C.A.C. I edited the question. $\endgroup$ – Aus Jul 19 '17 at 21:37

This seems as though it's an opinion piece, rather than something backed by hard evidence, but specifically addressing your tenets of belief:

  1. The effect of an observer in quantum physics is independent of that observer possessing the nebulous concept of "consciousness". Any measurement of something subject to wave form collapse will collapse regardless of the agency of that measurement. If you mean that post-phase-out, would scientists stop using the term, I would imagine yes, since you've already indicated that the word itself would be removed from everyone's vocabularies.
  2. Whether or not humans have consciousness shouldn't have any bearing on empathy, belief system or no. Animals have demonstrated empathy despite having no discernible belief one way or another as far as whether they consider themselves to possess consciousness. Whether or not humans think we do likewise ought not to change that. Moreover, empathy (and altruism, and associated traits) are selected for and tremendously beneficial to a social animal, so it's hard to imagine that changing.
  3. Pro-life organizations are already generally religiously-motivated, largely because the definition of where a human begins is somewhat philosophical in nature. Animal rights are tied with that sense of empathy which, as I detailed in my response to #2, is unlikely to go away, so I don't see it being classified as a religion, and the Red Cross is another of those things that isn't just doing things for the sake of making people feel good, but as a part of the societal safety net that is defined by enlightened self-interest. Also not dependent on a concept of consciousness. I would argue that your third point is completely invalid.

I don't see the concept of consciousness being somehow banned or forbidden ever, but I do suspect that its definition will change as we learn more about what it might entail. I do not think that your future world could plausibly spring from our own.


If consciousness um.. the difference between people and animals and machines is found to be less important one might equally assume people would care more about the other kinds of thing rather than less about people.

Various things have convinced me to treat them as cons able to react in complex ways I don't understand. Several are biological non humans, some I interact with strictly digitally over channels I couldn't pass a turning test (you for instance).

A man said "... judged not by [their form] but by the contents of their hearts." It seems wrong to paint his dream as a nightmare.

  • $\begingroup$ Really? I couldn't pass a turing test? even with my typos? :) $\endgroup$ – Aus Jul 19 '17 at 22:19
  • $\begingroup$ @Aus Don't worry about that, the Turing test is falling out of fashion as a way of distinguishing a computer or a human are intelligent beings. In fact, your typos are more likely to prove the nature of your humanity. $\endgroup$ – a4android Jul 20 '17 at 2:25

There are very many words that "doesn't refer to anything" and have a meaning so vague it is effectively different for each person, but that doesn't prevent their usage and usefulness.

You would have hard time defining unambiguously "love", as an example.

Many other words define something that is an emergent i.e.: it is the result of behavior of a large number of "semi-independent" entities; there are even large and important branches of Physics entirely devoted to the study of such systems (e.g.: Thermodynamics).

It is highly likely our consciousness (however you chose to define it) is something we will in (probably not far) future fully understand and possibly replicate, but that won't make it disappear.

OTOH if you equate "consciousness" with some sort of (possibly immortal) "soul" that puts you (together with a thick pack of dualists) in heavy danger of seeing "consciousness" evaporate and disappear with some advance in neuroscience.

In any case I strongly suspect "consciousness" won't be "un-defined", while it's very likely that it will be (as it happened to many concepts) "re-defined".

  • $\begingroup$ But today, consciousness is a distinguishing and sometimes discriminating factor, if you take away that factor by redefining it, there will be consequences, and that what the question is mostly about. $\endgroup$ – Aus Jul 19 '17 at 22:23
  • $\begingroup$ @Aus: all definitions of "consciousness" given by dualists (either declared or masqueraded) are fundamentally acts of faith, and thus go under the realm of religion. Neuroscience may not have all answers (neither have Physics!) but it's constantly making little (and not-so-little) steps ahead in comprehending what is we call "consciousness" for lack of a better term. If you study it with scientific mind and method it may happen you'll need to "re-define" (or, better, to refine the definition) as concept of "time" was redefined by Einstein work. Everything else is wishful thinking (or worse). $\endgroup$ – ZioByte Jul 20 '17 at 0:10

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.