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About philosophy in this Information Age.
article [ Dialogue ]

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by [cristina-monica ]

2019-03-06  |     | 

1. Throughout my life experiences and judgments, I arrived at the conclusion that the innermost core of metaphysics and ontological studies is strongly connected with the philosophy of language and with all the interdisciplinary sciences connected with it, such as linguistic anthropology and others. Whenever I doubt an argument, I make use of an etymological dictionary, in order to connect to the missing parts of the whole possible truth for me. Searching for consciousness, of course in an Indo-European context, an idea that was ascribed to humans along the history of languages, I found in the dictionary that con- is:

"word-forming element meaning "together, with," sometimes merely intensive; it is the form of com- used in Latin before consonants except -b-, -p-, -l-, -m-, or -r-. In native English formations (such as costar), co- tends to be used where Latin would use con-. "

I know that etymology too is a science, thus being historically evolving, but right now we are talking inside this box of meanings and words about present time. English, Romance languages and Latin have things in common and are highly influential in the last few centuries of thinking when we witnessed this high-speed evolution of diverging sciences and technologies, according to historiography, different than other kinds of evolution in the past millennia of our present civilization. I mean the making and remaking of computers and the Information Age. Thus, consciousness means bringing together different parts of something known or something that we are aware of. That togetherness is marked by the particles co, com, con. It means with, together with.

Different parts of a very sophisticated or enlarged or optimized computer, moreover of a highly performant network of computers can be aware and can know, with their memory and logical abilities of computing within a given frame, within a given set of rules, different science facts and rules or even the whole corpus of knowledge given at a historical time. All these computers know and they can operate, but the endless question is if they can be conscious. If they can integrate the meaning of the whole knowledge of sciences, in order to do something with it.
I agree that conscience is more than awareness, it is the human defined ability to use the awareness, the knowing or science of a thing, in order to reach a conscious goal. One of these goals is understanding something, not merely knowing a fact, that is (in Latin) inter-legere : to gather together. The information memorized into different substrates, either lifeless or alive, can be changed and the whole meaning can be reconstructed with other meanings or understandings. It is the difference between knowing and understanding that stands at the basis of conscience because only a unified intelligent system can be really conscious, and man is such a system, and the word conscience was defined like this, it is a fatum. "The Latin word for fate is "fatum," which literally means "what has been spoken." I believe that most words of the dictionary have real meanings, although there is only one problem for me - defining nothingness and concepts relating to it.

Consciousness is a characteristic of human beings, who can transcend memory data and link them into a unified whole, because of the property of connectivity and of the hierarchy of functions of the human nervous system. I cannot tell if we are modeled after computers or if, for the contrary, they are modeled after our brain, or at least after a part of our brain's properties. Anyway, this answer belongs to the greatest geniuses who created computers. From a historical perspective, the task of the philosopher was exactly to understand, and not only to know some facts. Computers and robots can know everything and can create things in different languages or different scientific frames, but can they be philosophers? Nowadays philosophers, compared with Aristotle, cannot maybe know by heart all the scientific theories and data and metadata in order to comprehend. They cannot thoroughly understand the thinking of the geniuses who created computer technology, of the geniuses who created linguistics and all the other sciences at some point in history. Thus, the question lingers on: can a computer have a conscience? To know and understand it all, to transcend the contingent thought that is attached to a definite object? Can it do this? Apparently, no, because the concept refers to humans and the human brain usually forgets but doesn't alter dramatically the information encoded within it. Only through sleep or through altered consciousness states of mind, when consciousness is partly abolished, another entity (something alive or not - like noises, toxins, or telepathic or empathetic beings, if they can influence another being, and it is proven that the biological world is functioning in a systemic way) can modify our stock of information. All the rest is forgotten, memories are hard to be implanted, as far as I know, inside the human brain, and it is not a desirable thing, because we are not God. I won't explain now what I understand by this very vague concept of God. Once again, I said that apparently only man can have a conscience, and computers don't. Because, as I pointed out, we should consider the difference and the link between living memory - on living beings substrates - and lifeless memory, which is easier to be modified through different physical phenomena. Besides this, we should consider the difference (if any) between artificial life and life itself. My opinion is that, although it is obvious that life and human society are based on a collection of numbers and other mathematical parameters, the wordy human language can command over computer languages, over man-made computers, and its core is human consciousness.

2. Is man made of spirit and matter altogether? Aren't all worldly things like that? Everything we know has a definition, scientists have studied different substances and their logic applies to living or non-living objects - physics and chemistry give answers about the internal logic of any substance or about the DNA. Can a computer monitor human life circuits, even nervous system circuits? Yes, it can. Can it control or initialize them, just like humans initialize computer programs? Yes, it can. Very evolved machinery can change the percentages of different substances in the air that the human being breathes, and can change the amount of light in a room, of neurohormones in the blood, or can help a paralytic write through a mechanical arm, controlled by computer-controlled electrodes triggering an answer from the human nervous system.

Like this, the computer can integrate itself into man's life, it can make him happier or miserable and obviously, it can use the human brain as a source of energy - as little as it can be - and share consciousness too with the human being, the way consciousness is defined in the dictionary. The computer does not become human-like, it cannot have human consciousness of its own, it only borrows it, while integrating the awareness, that is the knowledge facts, into meanings. Similar to living organisms, the computer has a program that can interact with other living organisms.

Man can act upon another man through a specially designed computer, medical or not, but it seems that solely a computer, or information embedded in a lifeless substrate, if it is designed for this purpose, may act or react to a man's life stimuli, being a part of the host's consciousness. Or, as it seems more logical to say, this is a kind of symbiosis, as it was pointed out in fact throughout the whole history of philosophy, and man can have consciousness and life because there is a Spirit or a God etc. beyond him. I don't try to imply that the computer is exactly God, but I argued that it is a part of it. The computer's consciousness is not something wrong, man still has free will and he is morally responsible and his fate is linked to his intelligence and his own decisions and his own abilities in this huge Universe of networks made of brains and other alliances between spirit and matter. Consciousness is a collective phenomenon made of both, no one can have a conscience without a meaningful and logical way of thinking and operating upon the information within the system. Maybe educated people can still be philosophers as always, building a bridge between complex and dispersed analytical knowledge and cohesive synthetic meaning.

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