Quanta Magazine Questions
- People often use Darwinian evolution1 as an argument that our perceptions accurately reflect reality. They say, “Obviously we must be latching onto reality in some way because otherwise we would have been wiped out a long time ago. If I think I’m seeing a palm tree but it’s really a tiger, I’m in trouble.”
- You’ve done computer simulations to show this. Can you give an example?
- But how can seeing a false reality be beneficial to an organism’s survival?
- So everything we see is one big illusion?
- If snakes aren’t snakes and trains aren’t trains, what are they?
- How did you first become interested in these ideas?
- A mathematical model of consciousness.
- But if there’s a W, are you saying there is an external world?
- The world is just other conscious agents?
- If it’s conscious agents all the way down, all first-person points of view, what happens to science? Science has always been a third-person description of the world.
- It doesn’t seem like many people in neuroscience or philosophy of mind are thinking about fundamental physics. Do you think that’s been a stumbling block for those trying to understand consciousness?
- I suspect they’re reacting to things like Roger Penrose and Stuart Hameroff’s model, where you still have a physical brain, it’s still sitting in space, but supposedly it’s performing some quantum feat. In contrast, you’re saying, “Look, quantum mechanics2 is telling us that we have to question the very notions of ‘physical things’ sitting in ‘space.’”
- To return to the question you started with as a teenager, are we machines?
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