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NITAAI-Veda.nyf > Soul Science God Philosophy > Science and Spiritual Quest > Section 2 Machine, Mind and Consciousness > SOME RECENT TRENDS IN CONSCIOUSNESS STUDIES > 6. Non-mechanical Process in Consciousness

6. Non-mechanical Process in Consciousness


Though the body has many biological processes, some are mechanical and some are not. Consider the case of digestion. It is a mechanical biological process. So it is possible to perform  reduction on this process and be left with no residue. In the case of conscious experience, there is biological processing in the form of neuronal firings at various areas of the brain. This is  mechanical biological processing similar to digestion. The special feature of conscious experience is that, in addition to the mechanical biological processing, there is also a non-mechanical  aspect of subjectivity. The mechanical and non-mechanical aspects are so superimposed that one tries to explain consciousness in terms of mechanical neural correlates and leaves aside the  non-mechanical aspect. This non-mechanical aspect leads to residual subjectivity and hence conscious experience cannot be equated to any other biological processing like digestion, etc. A  separate explanation is needed about the non-mechanical aspect of this process. Without such an explanation, any treatment of conscious experience will be incomplete.We have  well-established physical laws. These laws apply to various biological processes of the body such as digestion, brain function, etc. Physical laws dealing with brain function can explain the  mechanical aspect of the conscious experience. The subjectivity of consciousness, being non-mechanical, is not expected to abide by any physical laws. In order to explain all phenomena of the  world by physical laws, we cannot hold the prejudiced opinion that subjectivity is explainable by physical laws. We should be ready to explore various non-physical avenues as well. If some  features of this world are non-mechanical, it is more reasonable to find those aspects, even if it requires us to explore non-physical laws, than to restrict ourselves to the shallow well of a  physical explanation for everything.


Our intelligent behavior has both mechanical and non-mechanical aspects. Mechanical aspects can be simulated by artificial means. Our mechanical capabilities can be imbibed by a computer  and its performance depends on the sophistication of the computer, both hardware and software. Non-mechanical aspects involve subjectivity. They are irreducible and cannot be artificially  simulated. Those who are ignorant about these subjective aspects of conscious experience claim consciousness in machines when they actually simulate just the mechanical aspect of  conscious experience.Unless we understand the difference between the mechanical and non-mechanical processes, it will be difficult to understand reality. The visual experience of looking at a  red patch induces a neuronal firing pattern in the occipital lobe of the neocortex, and the subsequent unique experience of redness. The neuronal firing pattern is mechanical while the experience  is non-mechanical.      The     sophistication     of    the Those who want to simplify the    apparatus of a robot is not the problem turn a blind eye to this criterim for subjective non-mechanical        process,and consider it to be non-different from  experience.the mechanical process. Occam's Razor should be applied to shave off concepts beyond necessity. It is not to be applied to shave  off necessary and foundational concepts. Equating non-mechanical concepts to mechanical concepts is like shaving p& the skin when one is supposed to shave the hair. Subjective conscious  experience is non-mechanical and has to be treated separately from the accompanying mechanical process. When one understands the non-mechanical aspect and how it is related to the  mechanical process, one can solve the riddle of consciousness.


A robot designed with a particular sense apparatus may be able to process only the gross property and hence make only quantitative, objective measurement. Some physicalists think that by  refining the capacity of the sensual apparatus in a robot, we can make better robots that will be able to think. They are mistaken. The sophistication of the apparatus of a robot is not the criterion  for subjective experience. The real criterion is the biological capacity of the senses. Also, there are personal preferences (choices and likes) that provide variation in subtle differences and  combinations. The capacity of the senses of a living organism to process subtle property is a biological capability which cannot, in principle, be replicated in artificial entities. Hence a robot will  never be able to have any subjective experience.Depending upon the purpose, a machine is assembled with various components. If the purpose is computation, we can assemble a computer  with a processor, memory, display device, etc. After assembly, the computer does not start on its own. It needs an operator with a computing problem. The operator may use the computer to  solve his problem. A computer itself cannot find a problem to solve. To use any machine there has to be some intelligent person with a target purpose.Strictly speaking, our bodily organs work in  a specific order. They work like the parts of a machine. The whole body put together works like a machine, for example, a car. Though the car has the potentiality to move, it cannot move unless  a driver moves it. If the windows of the car are closed and one cannot see the driver, one cannot come to the conclusion that the car moves on its own by simply observing its external  mechanism.Let us take two identical cars. We see that one is moving and the other is stationary. If we make a thorough study of both the cars, we may conclude that the mechanism of both  cars is the same. One is moving and the other is stationary. One can come to a simple conclusion that movement is due to something other than the mechanism of the car, namely, the driver.  The mechanism is a necessary condition for the movement of the car, but not a sufficient condition.


The mechanism is a necessary condition for the movement of the car, but not a sufficient condition.The car has many components like the   engine,   fuel   pump,   steering,wheels, brakes,  petrol, battery, etc.If each part acts independently, there cannot be any desirable result. There needs to be a driver who exercises his control over various parts of the car and makes it move. The  movement of the car is the result of the intention of a person to move. Since a machine cannot have desire, which is a subjective property, thecar does not make any movement on its own.

A living body is made of biological matter. The heart, lungs, liver, kidney, etc., function like a machine. Hence, various organs may appear to act independently, but their independence is only  local. For example, the heart pumping blood throughout the body may appear to be working independently. But it actually has to work in coordination with various organs like the lungs, etc., so  that there is a proper unified result. This coordination cannot be done by individual parts, but needs something more than these parts. The self who is the possessor and controller of the body is  the central coordinator. It is according to his desire that the body is working as a single, complete unit.


The bodily machine cannot have its own target purpose. The living self has a target purpose and it uses the body to achieve it. In the case of computer operation, the operator is distinct and is  outside the computer. In the case of the living person, the self is not distinctly outside, but it is invisibly built inside the body. This leads to misunderstanding about the self.

The body is made of material elements and cannot have any subjective desires. The body with many constituent parts cannot function on its own without a central command. The self is within  the body and makes various organs work together to produce a desired action. The Vedanta-sutra (2.3.24) states that the self pervades the entire body by means of its energy, consciousness,  just like the flame pervades the whole room by its rays[29].In artificial intelligeuce, there is an effort to make machines conscious. There has been limited success in simulating the function of  external sense organs. But, it is not possible to simulate the functions of the internal sense. Hence it is not possible to make machines that will have conscious experience.The body is like a  machine and we can make a machine do various cognitive acts. The self when it is associated with the body, experiences superimposition of objective and subjective processing, and it is very  difficult to segregate them. Consciousness brings life to the body. Since consciousness is characteristic of the self, we cannot make machines that experience like a living person. Conscious  experience is non-mechanical and it is quality of the self, not to the body including the brain.