Michael Graziano, who is very much in Camp Dennett, writes that “Consciousness Is Not Mysterious“. Of the Hard Problem of consciousness, Graziano writes:
The brain constructs inaccurate models of the world. To understand consciousness scientifically, once again it’s necessary for the cognitive parts of our brains to discover the inaccuracies in our deeper, built-in models of ourselves.
The human brain insists it has consciousness, with all the phenomenological mystery, because it constructs information to that effect. The brain is captive to the information it contains. It knows nothing else. This is why a delusional person can say with such confidence, “I’m a kangaroo rat. I know it’s true because, well, it’s true.” The consciousness we describe is non-physical, confusing, irreducible, and unexplainable, because that packet of information in the brain is incoherent. It’s a quick sketch.
What’s it a sketch of? The brain processes information. It focuses its processing resources on this or that chunk of data. That’s the complex, mechanistic act of a massive computer. The brain also describes this act to itself. That description, shaped by millions of years of evolution, weird and quirky and stripped of details, depicts a “me” and a state of subjective consciousness.
This is why we can’t explain how the brain produces consciousness. It’s like explaining how white light gets purified of all colors. The answer is, it doesn’t. Let me be as clear as possible: Consciousness doesn’t happen. It’s a mistaken construct. The computer concludes that it has qualia because that serves as a useful, if simplified, self-model. What we can do as scientists is to explain how the brain constructs information, how it models the world in quirky ways, how it models itself, and how it uses those models to good advantage.
The study of consciousness needs to be lifted out of the mysticism that has dominated it. Consciousness is not just a matter of philosophy, opinion, or religion. It’s a matter of hard science. It’s a matter of understanding the brain and the mind—a trillion-stranded sculpture made out of information. It’s also a matter of engineering. If we can understand the functionality of the brain, then we can build the same functionality into our computers. Artificial consciousness may just be a hard problem within our grasp.
Count me among the New Mysterians.
I have yet to come across a persuasive materialist/functionalist rebuttal to Searle’s Chinese Room Argument or Nagel’s Bat Argument.