Adrian Satja Kurdija

9 karmaJoined


I think we should get rid of the confused term "phenomenal consciousness" and adopt a hard materialist/functionalist/behavioralist perspective, which is nowadays known as illusionism. Instead of consciousness, we should look for systems for pain and pleasure - that's what we really care about! This text by Brian Tomasik explains it well:

It suggests that "we stop thinking in terms of "conscious" and "unconscious" and instead look at physical systems for what they are and what they can do. This perspective dissolves some biases in our usual perspective and shows us that the world is not composed of conscious minds moving through unconscious matter, but rather, the world is a unified whole, with some sub-processes being more fancy and self-reflective than others."

Simply put, "consciousness is as consciousness does".

I think this problem is just a special case of the complexity of life, in the sense of having multiple goals and even multiple available actions for almost any particular goal.

However, there might be a way to conceptually simplify this problem. If long-term thinking about all the buckets is too demanding, why not think short-term, using a simple algorithm that will still produce long-term work? Such as this:

  1. Detect the most important thing you can do right now.
  2. Make a move in that direction, however small.
  3. Go back to step 1.

Of course, step 1 is vague - what is the most important thing right now? - but many little tasks and opportunities will naturally present itself. It will often be something very mundane, like "it's really time to clean this desk", and sometimes it might involve spending money on a hedonistic pleasure if you intuitively judge it to be worthwhile. You don't have to think each and every time - that would be exhausting and counter-productive. But, crucially, sometimes you will think, which will enable you to do long-term moral things that you might otherwise neglect. Of course, the best balance remains unknown, but the algorithm might satisfy the meta-balance of not being too demanding of oneself while still doing a lot of good.