Morality: The Emerging Technology of Consciousness

I don’t know wether there are any cases of A-consciousness without P-consciousness. Could there be a human without the inner light of awareness, who I reckoned as credible a puppet as I am? I see the world. But the experience of seeing the world seems superfluous if we assume that an organism could robotically react to the world without having an inner experience, like a really advanced driverless car.

So I’m thankful for this mysterious existence that seems so unnecessary. The universe could have invited only blind dancers to its empty grace, and yet we flicker about, witnessing. This is consciousness.

The state or quality of awareness, or, of being aware of an external object or something within oneself is consciousness. However, that which is external and internal is a matter of perception. The fact is everything that you think and perceive as external objects is actually just as internal as anything else in consciousness.

Many people identify internal as body, thoughts, and emotions. External as sights and sounds. But everything is in consciousness.

When you investigate closely your own experience and realize that this is true, you can have an experience of oneness. This is what people mean when they say they feel at one with the universe or experienced a loss of self or ego. Their body didn’t physically become at one with the universe anymore than it was before. What happened is they cognized the apparitions of consciousness in a different way than normal. They didn’t identify with bodily sensations any more than with sound; thoughts became as external as drawers and chairs, or drawers and chairs became as internal as thoughts. I know that we don’t often have this experience (unless you are a heavy meditator or psychedelics enthusiast), and that many people never in their lives have had this experience.

I think that not recognizing that everything we take to be true is actually a reflection on an immaterial blob of consciousness is largely why people have constantly drawn a distinction between objective science and morality. I have the impression that a lot of smart people are too attached to the stories we tell about the physical world outside of consciousness. Science does indeed tell true, falsifiable stories with explanatory and predictive power about a world outside of consciousness. Science is a little winged angel that brings us news of quarks, dark matter, and virtual particles in her little knapsack. However, she can also cast light on what is medicine and what is poison, both in physical terms, and in terms of what feels good and what feels bad in the immaterial blob.

I’m not arguing against science and objectivity, I’m actually saying we should realize that these things can cover a wider range than we thought. A sufficiently powerful science will not only make prudish physics-textbook claims, it will make claims about the benefit that knowing about quark, dark matter, and virtual particles actually has on the dial of well-being that happens as a consequence of a conscious being finding out about these things. Current science operates on the assumption that truth is inherently moral, science seeks truth without giving reasons for why it does so. And when pushed on this problem, it then proceeds to claim that this framing is foolish. It thinks that it can step out from underneath itself, from being a process carried out by conscious beings. But then, how can the scientist justify with science that science is self-contained and separate in this way?

We are conscious and therefore there is morality to be created, discovered, and practiced. However much we try to evade, to let go of this fact, we cannot. Science has to suck it up and handle its responsibility to be our guiding light in the realm of existence. I don’t know how many times I’ve heard science teachers and communicators say that what is right and wrong is outside of science, and I pity the pomposity with which they trace their little line on the sand.

There’s nothing in the collective knowledge and enterprise of rational information gathering that says, “I’ll tell you how the world works, just don’t get your values from me.” To take the stance that somewhere in science it does say this, is actually a scientific claim that can be put to the test. And I have yet to see such a statement written in the stars.

Anything can be a scientific question, and nothing is self-justifying.

A perfected science would be able to explain the effects of things like truth and kindness in precise consequentialist terms. At the point when there was a perfect consequentialist oracle, to choose to be a Kantian is to suffer unnecessarily and therefore this attitude would be regarded with the appropriate action that would treat that condition called “Kantianism”, much how people who cut themselves or others are given psychiatric help. (This is not an insult. I mean my statements quite literally. Virtue ethics, Roman Catholic morals, the Noble Eightfold path, etc. are all imperfect consequentialist technologies. It stands to reason that when the four humours theory gets replaced with real medical knowledge, we no longer allow doctors to perform bloodletting.)

In its descriptive sense, “morality” refers to personal or cultural values, codes of conduct or social mores from a society that provides these codes of conduct in which it applies and is accepted by an individual. And I am okay with this definition of morality, in the same way that I am okay with defining science as a set of accepted knowledge that gives explanations. There are failed sciences, like all religion and folk beliefs. We now recognize this with regard to truth claims about the universe. They are in the dominion of science. Origin myths are incompatible with the Big Bang and we don’t invite preachers and imams to give their opinion on physics conferences dealing with inflation and string theory. In regards to morals, everyone currently has folk opinions and religions, but when we understand what events cause what conscious states, morality will be in the domain of science and uninformed opinions will be wrong, or at least more wrong.

In the mean time, while we wait for a super AI to guide us, the least we can do is admit that there are a range of conscious states that can be roughly measured.

A gyroscope measures orientation. With makeshift gyroscopes, we can barely know to keep straight. With improved makeshift gyroscopes, we would be able to do better in that regard. Superfluid gyroscopes are very precise and could detect the most minute change in the rotation of the earth. But although superfluid gyroscopes already exist, they work at very low temperatures. The point is angular momentum is true and apparently something we value because we keep developing better technology to measure it. The moral value of an action is true and we value knowing the effects of our actions. Just because our current cultures and ideas are so imperfect at measuring the goodness of particular behaviors, doesn’t mean there are no conscious effects to be measured. Some communities and individuals cause and experience more suffering because they have worse gyroscopes than others. We should recognize that: all our gyroscopes are flawed, some are better than others, and we will keep improving them.

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