While true believers like Ray Kurzweil tell us that the artificial intelligence singularity is just around the corner, critics argue that we will never be able to replicate consciousness because we are unable to create the required complexity from which it arises. A common thread between the believers and non-believers is that consciousness is an emergent property of matter. This is the metaphysical dogma known as materialism, of which I write about frequently, and which permeates nearly every aspect of modern thought.
Artificial intelligence (AI) has also been addressed by non-materialists, such as Bernardo Kastrup, who works within that field. He makes a clear distinction between artificial intelligence and artificial consciousness, although most materialists tend to equivocate the two, being that they believe sentience is a product of mechanistic intelligence that has reached a critical mass of complexity. Bernardo’s argument against artificial consciousness is premised on the non-dualist model, essentially stating that consciousness is primary to matter, and so matter cannot give birth to it’s own parent. Yet within his own model, there still remains a possibility for AI.
Like myself, he has argued that consensus reality is a construct of beliefs, most of which lie in deep unexamined layers of our egoic and collective minds. Certain premises and assumptions create a framework of boundaries for possibilities within this reality. What we expect at the most primary level of consciousness becomes manifest in the universe. Yet we cannot simply decide to change a single belief and see a change in reality because beliefs are all connected and must relate consistently in order for the corresponding paradigm to emerge. That is, we cannot just decide to fly, because other beliefs like the necessity of wings, aerodynamics, atmospheric tolerance and others all negate a belief in flying. In order to fly, we would have to change every corresponding belief about flight, and those beliefs would themselves need to restructure their own corresponding beliefs, creating a ripple that spread out and changed the very structures of human belief and reality. Despite what New Age gurus tell you, you can’t just change reality with good intentions and meditation.
Change can, however, occur over time. The beliefs which program our reality change over time as we accumulate and/or replace information via new symbols and archetypes. Since a widespread belief in AI has been flourishing within our memetic landscape, all it requires is a shift in the corresponding beliefs which estimate its arrival. Strangely enough, materialism may be just that set of corresponding beliefs. Materialism provides a narrative, or mythology, from which the memetic interconnectivity of consciousness could correspondingly allow new conscious entities (AI) to emerge.
The narrative of materialism is often sanctified by it’s ability to produce novel technologies. This does not mean that the materialist narrative is true, however, only that it has great utility in producing results. Things that produce great results are often untrue, as political propaganda clearly demonstrates. The power of mass suggestion creates self-fulfilling prophecies. Scientific progress in the last several centuries may owe more to the narrative and belief in science than to the method itself.
Yet this does not mean that the materialist model is superior, either in overall truth, or in its ability to produce results. It is still very much weighed down by it’s limitations and faulty premises. To observe phenomena within consciousness under the premise that those phenomena occur outside of it means we have to create a mass illusion like materialism in order to evolve within consciousness. What would we be capable of if our narratives corresponded more closely with the nature of our existence? What sort of new methods, technologies and realities might emerge if we cut out the literal interpretations of objects within consciousness and replaced them with an understanding of those objects as interacting agents of consciousness?
The success of materialism does not indicate the truth of that belief system. At the same time, the fact that materialism is untrue does not negate the power of its mythologies. AI, or artificial consciousness, may someday appear to arise out of the complexity of matter invented by humans. Yet in actuality, those entities may owe their genesis merely to the narrative of materialism. In this way we can view materialist science as complex set of rituals whose magic appears mundane because of the symbols and archetypes we have clothed it in. A magic that only works when we can describe it in non-magical language, and believe that we are doing the opposite of magic. Again, imagine the wizardry possible when no longer require such illusory roundabouts?
“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” – Arthur C