I felt unsatisfied after reading Margaret Wertheim's "I feel therefore I am: How exactly did consciousness become a problem?"
Wertheim, a talented science writer, ably reviewed philosophical and scientific conceptions of consciousness.
But she ended up favoring a mysterian view where subjectivity supposedly is just too different from physical matter to have consciousness explained by particles.
This is all thrilling science, yet a question remains: will any of it explain subjective experience?
Chalmers, the philosopher, claims that the problem of experience is not mechanistically reducible and he argues that it will ‘persist even when the performance of all the relevant functions is explained’.
In other words, he says, no amount of detail about neuronal potentials and interconnection is going to get us to the essence of subjectivity.
Plenty of neuroscientists, physicists and philosophers disagree with him, but I’m on his side.
She might be right. However, I'm bothered by the insistence by many that the so-called "hard problem" of consciousness -- the nature of subjective experience -- can't be resolved by the currently understood methods of science.
So I did some exploring into the views of one of the non-mysterians Wertheim cited, physicist Max Tegmark.
Some physicists want to be rid of the problem of consciousness altogether, while others are attempting to treat it as a core material phenomenon.
Max Tegmark, a theoretical physicist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, for example, hopes that consciousness will turn out to be another state of matter, like a solid, liquid or gas, and he’s calling for physicists to begin exploring the ‘physical correlates of consciousness’.
What, he asks, are the physical conditions that pertain when consciousness is present?
Below is a video of a 16-minute TedX talk Tedmark gave in 2014. It's interesting and understandable.
As he says near the end of his talk, many people won't like his hypothesis: consciousness is the way information feels when it is being processed by particles moving about in various ways.
Those ways require a certain independence and integration of the conscious entity. Thus consciousness is a result of the structure of information processing, the pattern of particles.
Tegmark argues that nothing additional is needed to explain consciousness, no "secret scientific sauce." You may not agree, but he makes a persuasive case. Have a look: