11 Epilogue


The Disturbing Part
We ended Chapter 1 with the fundamental question: What
is consciousness? Step by step we have developed the answer
to this ancient riddle, as formalized in Chapter 9:

Consciousness is the irreducible entity a computational
machine perceives itself to be, as the result of (1) an
ability to observe its own high level workings, and (2) an
inability to observe its own low level workings.

This is a far-reaching idea, capable of merging the many
facets of the mystery into a unified framework. It defines what
consciousness is from the third-person view, including how to
classify nonhuman computational machines that we may
encounter in the future. At the same time it describes the nature
of the first-person experience, where we each see our own mind
as a "thing" rather than mere computational activity. And most
important, the Inner Light theory tells us why there should be a
mind-body problem in the first place, why this paradox is an
unavoidable result of the evolutionary process and the way that
reality is experienced.
However, this step forward also has a dark side, an aspect
that many will find distasteful and disturbing. Man has always
believed that he holds a special place in the universe. Science
has often had the unpleasant task of showing that this belief is
mistaken, thereby demoting us to a lower status in the scheme
of things. For instance, 500 years ago Copernicus showed that
the earth revolved around the sun, thereby displacing man from

165
The Inner Light Theory of Consciousness
166

the center of the cosmos. Only 150 years ago, Darwin
discovered that humans have a common origin with the other
life forms on earth, thereby denying our claim of special birth.
In the last century, science has shown that the universe is a
hundred billion trillion miles across, and 10 billion years old.
The shear size of these numbers seems to reduce mankind to an
insignificant speck.
But through these disappointments we have been able to
cling to a reassuring fact, we are conscious. While the universe
is vast and ancient, it is unfeeling and unaware. This means that
our minds entail something that is rare and remarkable,
something that we do not see in the largest galaxy or the most
brilliant supernova. We are conscious, and that makes us
special.
Now, the Inner Light theory does not deny that we are
conscious. On the contrary, it provides a scientific explanation
of the inner world that we each experience, showing how it is
part of our physical universe. Likewise, the Inner Light theory
does not question that consciousness is extraordinary; present
day computer scientists are awestruck by the technical abilities
of the human mind.
But make no mistake, the Inner Light theory does dispatch
many of our long held beliefs. Specifically, consciousness is
not some mystical entity above and beyond the machine-like
operations of the brain. Likewise, it does not require physical
structures or properties that are unknown or unreachable by
science, be they from Quantum Mechanics or an unseen spirit
world. But perhaps most disconcerting, the Inner Light Theory
tells us that many revered aspects of our mind are limitations,
not positive attributes. Such things as semantic thought, mental
unity, and free-will arise from systematic inaccuracies in our
observations. It is ironic that the things we have come to
cherish the most are, in fact, the inherent deficits of our mind.
Herein lies the rub. If human consciousness is based on
limitations, then we can imagine something greater than
ourselves, a self-awareness that does not have these limitations.
Chapter 11: Epilogue 167

Even further, we have every reason to believe that manmade
computers will one day achieve this superior status, as may
extraterrestrial beings, or altered humans. Consciousness can
no longer be viewed as a pinnacle or crowning achievement, but
must be accepted as merely one level in an infinite progression
of computational complexity.
As with the work of Copernicus and Darwin in centuries
past, the Inner Light theory displaces man from yet another
special place in the universe. Science is often a cruel master,
forcing us to accept that which we disdain. But the universe is
what it is, and no amount of cursing at the round earth will
cause it to become flat.
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Index



Action potential, 24-30, 42 Deterministic, 54
Airy disk, 73-75 Dreams, 1, 17, 68, 99-105,
Ambiguous figures, 130-131 112-114, 138-140
Aphasia, 37-38 Drugs, 38, 40
Assembly instructions (defined), Dualism, 67, 68-69, 80, 86
7-12
Edelman, Gerald M., 71
Blind spot in eye, 106-109 Einstein, Albert, 15, 52, 60-61,
Bohr, Niels, 73, 76 76, 81-83
Boring figure, 131 Elements-of-reality (defined), 11
Brain in the vat, 87-91, 96, 99, Emergence, 7, 17-20, 42, 67,
100, 105 71-72, 80
Broca™s area (brain), 33-34, 37 Emotions, 38, 40, 158-160
Empedocles, 15
Candle flame example, 18-19, 71 Epileptic seizures, 36, 37
Cerebellum (brain), 33-34 Epiphenomenalism, 67, 69-70, 80
Cerebral cortex (brain), 32-34 Evil genius (Descartes™), 83-85,
Chalmers, David J., 69 88, 96, 99, 100
Change blindness, 108-112 Evolution, 115, 166-167
Chinese box, 64-65
Churchland, Patricia, 2, 62-63 Filtering (sensory analysis),
Classical physics, 54 126-129
Collapse of the wave function, First-person (defined), 21, 45
75-79 Free-will, 2, 45, 53-55, 56, 59, 63
Color perception, 115-122, 164 Frontal cortex (brain), 33-36
Communications channel, 12-14, Fully-aware being, 150-151,
23, 57 153-154, 156, 164
Corpus callosum, 32, 35-37 Functional Magnetic Resonance
Crick, Francis, 71 Imaging (fMRI), 3
Functionalism, 43
Death, 154
Dennett, Daniel, 67 Gage, Phineas, 34-36, 41
Descartes, Ren©, 35, 83-88 Galileo Galilei, 1, 54
169

Gestalt, 17 #4. The Subreality Machine in the
Godel, Kurt, 93 Brain, 102
Godel Incompleteness Theorems, #5. The Origin of our Conscious
93 Experience, 114
Grandfather clock example, 7-8, #6. The Function of the
16-17 Subreality Machine, 136
Gravity, 11, 82-83 #7. Definition of Consciousness,
Gray matter (brain), 32, 35 155
Mary, color blind scientist, 64
Hameroff, Stuart, 78 Matching (sensory analysis),
Herbert, Nick, 76 126-133
Heisenberg, Werner, 73, 76 Materialism, 67, 80
H.M. (medical case), 36, 41 Memory, 31-32, 40, 41, 104,
Heschl™s gyri (brain), 33-34 134-135, 136-138
Hippocampus (brain), 35-36 Mental unity, 45, 50, 59, 63, 146
Hourglass example, 12-14 Mind-body problem (defined), 2,
62
Idealism, 67-68, 77, 80 Mona Lisa, 106-107
Information (defined), 11-14 Motor cortex (brain), 32-33
Information-Limited Subreality Multiple sclerosis, 26
(defined), 91-94 Myelin, 26, 32
Inner Light episode, 5, 94-97, 99,
100 Nagel, Thomas, 63
Inner observer (defined), 91-92 Neural correlates of consciousness,
Inner reality (defined), 92 3
Interference (sensory analysis), Neural network, 30, 32, 40, 71,
126, 129 162
Introspection, 2, 21 Nerve cells (neurons), 24-30
Irreducible (defined), 11, 45 Neurotransmitter, 28, 38
Nodes of Ranvier, 26
Jackson, Frank, 64 Noise, 127, 129

LaBerge, Stephen, 102 Observer (defined), 81-83, 92,
Language, 36, 37-38, 104 146-147
Life, the problem of, 58 Occipital lobe (brain), 33, 35
Lucid dreams, 102-104 Outer observer (defined), 91-92
Outer reality (defined), 92
Magneto-Encephalography, 3
Major Teachings Paradox vs. simple ignorance,
#1. How We Understand Reality, 57-58
20 Parkinson™s disease, 35
#2. Definition of the Mind-body Penrose, Roger, 78, 79
problem, 66 Phase lock loop, 128-130
#3. The Principle of Relative Pineal gland (brain), 35, 86
Reduction, 98 Present tense, 45, 52-53, 56, 59
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Principle of Relative Reduction, 5, Special child, 148-149, 154
96-98, 153 Split-brain patients, 36, 37, 41
Positron Emission Tomography Star Trek, 5, 94-97, 99, 100
(PET), 3 Strings, 15
Principle of Relative Reduction, Subreality machine, 102, 105-106
96-98, 143-144 Substantia nigra (brain), 35
Synapse, 24, 26-32
Quantum-gravity, 78 Synaptic weights, 30-32, 162
Quantum Mechanics, 5-6, 17, Synesthesia, 38-40
54-55, 67, 72-79, 80
Quarks, 15 Taylor, John G., 71
Qualia, 45, 47-49, 56, 59, 63, 146 Thalamus, 35
Third-person (defined), 21, 23
Reality (defined), 11 Time, 11, 52-53, 88
Reduction, 7-22, 42 Twin paradox, 60-61
Relativity, 5-6, 17, 60-61, 81-83
Religion, 69 Unconscious, 100-101, 105
Rubin™s vase, 131
Ventricles (brain), 35
Sagan, Carl, 68 Vital force (of life), 58
Scott, Alywn, 71 Von Neumann, John, 77, 78
Searle, John R., 64-65
Self-awareness, 141 Wave function, 75
Semantic thought, 45, 50-52, 56, Wernicke™s area (brain), 33,
59, 63, 65, 146 37-38, 41
Sensory cortex (brain), 32-33 White matter (brain), 32, 35