Tags

, ,

Are you conscious or just a philosophically inclined Zombie? Vsauce has a fine  presentation on consciousness at YouTube. My personal experience is that I am conscious when I choose to think about it, but don’t remember if I have been conscious when I wake up after sleeping. There are periods of sleep that I can’t remember even when I preplan to remember them before going to bed. Either I lie there in bed watching to see if I am going to sleep, and am awake all night, or at some point I wake up and can only remember watching to some point in time, and then nothing.

An easy experiment is to listen to an audio recording of folk tales or other short-stories that you haven’t heard before, playing at a comfortable level all night, and then in the morning write down the last thing you remember. After you have written down the last things you remember, go listen to the recording and check where you went into unconsciousness, and write that down immediately. The reason for taking these notes is that it is impossible not to confabulate about the things that are on the borders of consciousness.

My spouse reads me to sleep almost every night, and I’ve noticed that there comes a time where I can still hear the words and they seem to make sense, but when she asks me a question about the previous sentence I can’t remember what just happened. There seems to be a break between what I feel like I am following and what is being recorded into short term memory. The next experiment will be to have her stop and ask me a question instantly after some particular thing has happened. A new character, or place name is inserted into the story, like Frumpton, and then she says, “What town did I just say?” If I am awake enough to answer “I don’t know,” then am I awake as a human, or as a zombie. Supposedly a zombie would answer correctly but the information would be without value to him. If I could answer “Frumpton,” it would seem that I am conscious, but if I didn’t answer at all it would appear to an outside observer that I was asleep and no longer conscious. What if I was immediately touched to awaken me, and I said, “I heard you but didn’t feel like responding.” Would I, in that state, be able to recall Frumpton, or not?

There seems to be a definable gradient between consciousness and sleep. Sleep and unconsciousness can’t be observed by simply looking, but a person can be awoken from sleep but not unconsciousness. I started off with the idea, “I am conscious but I have doubts about you,” and end up with serious doubts about my own consciousness, or at least the constancy of my personal consciousness. It seems at present that:

You and I are zombies part of the time, reacting but not caring.