(An extract from Susan Blackmore’s introduction to consciusness, 2003)
Dennett introduces the concept of the zimbo.
Imagine there is a simple zombie; some sort of creature (biological or artificial) that can walk about and behave in simple ways appropriate to its needs.
Now imagine a more complex kind of zombie. In addition, this complexzombie also monitors its own activities, including even its own internal activities, in an indefinite upward spiral of reflexivity. I will call sucha reflective entity a zimbo. A zimbo is a zombie that, as a result of self-monitoring, has internal (but unconscious) higher-order informational states that are about its other, lower-order
Imagine a conversation with such a zimbo. Forexample, we might ask the zimbo about its mental images, or about its dreams or feelings or beliefs.
Because it can monitor its own activities, it could answer such questions — in ways that would seem
quite natural to us, suggesting that it was conscious just like us. As Dennett concludes ‘the zimbo would (unconsciously) believe that it was in
various mental states — precisely the mental states it is in position to report about should we ask it
questions. It would think it was conscious, even if it wasn’t!’ (ibid.: 311).
This is how Dennett comes
to make his famous claim that ‘We’re all zombies. Nobody is conscious — not in the systematically mysterious way that supports such doctrines as
epiphenomenalism!’ (ibid.: 406).
A zombie is a creature identical behaviourally to a human, with the exact same neurons, etc., except they have no consciousness
Ah, but do we even have free will?
A seminal experiment in this field was conducted by Benjamin Libet in the 1980s, wherein he asked subjects to choose a random moment to flick their wrist while he watched the associated activity in their brains. Libet found that the unconscious brain activity leading up to the conscious decision by the subject to flick his or her wrist began approximately half a second before the subject consciously decided to move. This build up of electrical charge has come to be called readiness potential. Libet’s findings suggest that decisions made by a subject are actually first being made on a subconscious level and only afterward being translated into a “conscious decision”, and that the subject’s belief that it occurred at the behest of their will was only due to their retrospective perspective on the event.
A related experiment performed later by Dr. Alvaro Pascual-Leone involved asking subjects to choose at random which of their hands to move. He found that by stimulating different hemispheres of the brain using magnetic fields it was possible to strongly influence which hand the subject picked. Normally right-handed people would choose to move their right hand 60% of the time, for example, but when the right hemisphere was stimulated they would instead choose their left hand 80% of the time; the right hemisphere of the brain is responsible for the left side of the body, and the left hemisphere for the right. Despite the external influence on their decision-making, the subjects continued to report that they believed their choice of hand had been made freely.
Eroticohio, that was a first-class answer, one of those great few who give yahoo answers a good name- if only everyone was like you!
Do you, then, believe that this ‘hard problem’ of consciousness is insoluable, i.e. humans are ‘cognitively closed’ to the answer, or do you think that it can be solved, but only through a new understanding of the universe?