The "Hard Problem" ... Has an "Easy" Solution

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The Question

(Excerpted beginning A disputant of mine, citing Revonsuo repeated:

"How, then does a non-conscious phenomenon produce or become a conscious phenomenon?"

This is a one sentence nutshell definition of Chalmers' ludicrously obtuse declaration of a "hard problem".

The Answer

Unfortunately for all the magic mojo mysterian philosophers, it really does have a simple answer.

By being (reconstructively) remembered.

If you can remember something you've perceived . (You as a body, not the perceived as self YOU ... the recollective affordance is the "you perceiving"). And you recollecting iteratively with at least some fidelity and being able to compare and associate those with other recollections of other things IS your "phenomenal" consciousness.

By being able to remember (some) of our thoughts in a manner which allows us to follow what we've thought about before we can compare instances of our own thinking from different points in time. We are objectifying our own thinking process! By the commonalities and contrasts we discern from our own past thoughts we can derive motivations to change our own future thinking about those things and general ways of thinking.

In essence this allows us some freedom to move around our own thinking for our future benefit as easily as we move logs and rocks around the outside material world. Of course this appearance of freedom is an illusion. We can't not see ourselves as this way.

The Root Problem

The real problem with "the hard problem" is that the brain creates and objectified image of itself and thinks about that image considering that representation to be itself.

Of course the representation is not the real self that does the thinking. It is in fact useful in identifying mistakes (and strengths) and in correcting ones own thinking. And it allows "thinking about thinking" .... which allows us to layer abstractions of our abstract concepts . (Numbers are abstract, and primes, evens, rationals, etc are abstractions about the abstractions of numbers; sets, rings, functions etc are abstractions of abstractions of abstractions ... and here I am talking about them ....

... Which intrinsically gives rise to the perception that "WE" manipulate our thinking. We don't of course, only the physical bran changes the physical realities that are manifest as representations. The WE we think of is a representation, and physically a part of the real computational and algorithmic processes of the bio-mechanistic information engine we call a brain.

But because we are Turing complete the representations we (brains) make of ourselves can be manipulated indefinitely. We see ourselves as having unlimited power over our own thoughts!

But the reality is that such is nonsense. We are as constrained as any computer running its program over its input data. We simply have ZERO means of identifying such limitation from inside.

And so we see a contradiction. Our science shows us we MUST be physical/chemical/biological/computational engines as constrained by conditions as any such and all the laws governing all such at every instant, aspect, mote and turning of our real being....

Why There is a Problem

And yet we perforce are required to see ourselves as having unlimited power over our own mentation! Our brains couldn't gain the computational efficiencies and heuristic advantages consciousness does for us if our representations therein did not carry the conviction of being reality. The brain has to treat that which it computes as significant or it isn't worth computing. If I write a computer program reconciling my checkbook I have to treat the balance and represented check amounts as reality, subtract the check from the balance and save it; otherwise there's no point to the representations!. Likewise If my representation of the tree's leaves are "green" I have to believe the leaves are "green" ... even though there are only wavelengths and intensities to electromagnetic radiation and "green" is a phantasm of physiology and representation.

But of course outside of philosophical discourse, and now studies of how the brain works on one hand and us trying to come to understand and implement the skills of the brain in physical, non biological hardware, such mis-representation is NEVER at issue. It doesn't matter in living the lives of 99% of people and 100% of people 95+% of the time that our brain representations are in fact completely wrong in their representation of themselves. The "conscious" representations built by the brain are heuristics provided by evolution to keep the individual alive and well functioning in his environment. It's a computational shortcut. It works. That small fraction of 1% errata in results is a trade-off that was well worthwhile in the life and death struggles of evolution in terms of the physical beings instantiating it.

How it Came to be Solvable

Throughout history the parasitic intellectuals have wasted time in spreading noise about what they could not possibly understand. There was no context to separate thinking from the self. But even then, throughout history, the problems implicit in the representation were apparent to subtle thinkers. Plato's Cave stands as an example of our awareness of the contradictions of our "manifest image".

Once we began pragmas of science and could reliably record information outside ourselves (over the last two hundred years, say) some of the more glaring contrasts of our self representation and reality became apparent, as in our belief in the incorrigibility of our experience as compared to objective reports. Descartes was in fact brilliant, and despite today being pilloried for not knowing what he could not his work pointed out the dichotomy clearly for the first time. Sigmund Freud's infamy is - from the view of a contemporary programmer - one of brilliantly illuminating how a representation of reality affects the transaction of subsequent interpretations of reality; in essence that the efficacy of agency is utterly dependent upon its memorial representations.

Over the last century we've -- quite significantly, for the first time in human history! - begun to understand what information and representation are all about. Turing taught us the fungibility of information and our ability to understand it has blossomed like a mushroom cloud. We now have machines to model our information ideas with precision and speed well beyond what bio matter can ever achieve. Now our pinnacle machines at long last have the computational resources to surpass even the most optimistic estimates of human brains in raw resource and agility.

More importantly there is a large cadre of people in this world who now understand implicitly how information and representation works - and have the resources and knowledge to implement objective models and interpretations of discourse about mind. This is important vastly more for identifying noise - that which is said and often sounds significant but has no objective meaning - than anything else, but related to that is also very useful in providing a framework for the meanings of discourse as may have merit. We know what information is and how to talk about it with real and demonstrable meaning.

Finally, in the past fifty years, and especially in the past twenty - riding on those improvements in computer science to collate and interpret huge volumes of information - the physical science of the brain, neurophysiology has been making accelerating progress in interpreting the physical processes and structure of the brain as concomitant to psychological events.

The findings of the brain from Penfield, Libet, Edelman, Koch, and now the new generation of neuroscientists - Dehane, Schiff, Graziano, Seth and others give us a baseline reality of what the brain is physically doing in context of its psychological perceptions. Those of use with a background and experience of decomposing information transactions and recognizing the implied structure and flow of the processing (aided of course by the researchers often apt speculations as well as a small handful of philosophers who've been careful to limit their works to the physically meaningful and who attend to the realities neurophysiologists and experimental psychologists have been finding) can finally make sense of what's going on.


It really is simple as an information process structure. We don't remember our thinking; we remember *representations* of ourselves having particular thinkings. And we can create new memories of thinkings that will be remembered as ourselves having particular thinkings. And we are free to add *anything* we can think of to our self memorial thinkings .... but such additions are only representations, not the reality of our thinkings. We mis-remember our thinking about thinking about A as thinking about A when it isn't. Such is the contradiction of representation and the ultimate crack in "The Hard Problem"

We who recognize information flow realize that a memory of a thought - or of a self - is not the thing thought of. And that includes for the self. It is as true that the self we think of is not the true thinker every bit as much as it is true we don't have a tree growing in the middle of our brains when we think of the tree in the back yard.


The "hard problem" is a chimera of confused representations. It is the conflation of the material self with the representation of self. The reality, as a process of information is relatively straightforward as the remembrance of self as the thinker being a representation perceived as the real thinker when it is not.