Came back to this thread by a round about way, and read it again.
What you see as consciousness, I see as systems.
Cells know where they are in an organ because of complex chemical signaling. Those mechanism are now sufficiently well understood to allow us to turn skin cells into stem cells and create organs from them.
No need to invoke any sort of consciousness to explain that.
And it is an amazing and complex process.
Electrons are part of matter. Their flow through materials can convey charge, and create magnetism as a result.
This process is fairly well understood, and we can create all manner of electronic wizardry as a result, without invoking any idea of consciousness.
In a very real sense, I see myself as a system, a very complex set of systems, with my first conscious experience of being emerging from about the 16th level of that complex hierarchy of systems, as a software on software interaction (in language) in a human brain.
And all the other levels had to exist prior to that one instantiating. So lots of things happened prior, lots of memories were present, and immediately available to consciousness when it instantiated (simple as it was, though surrounded by amazing complexity).
And it seems beyond any reasonable doubt that we are embodied entities, with all the many very complex sets of relationships and influences present in that embodiment, and with the interactions of that embodiment with the wider reality.
So I do not see any power in invoking the idea of cosmic consciousness, it seems to detract far more than it adds.
And certainly all things are related, everything influences everything else – if quantum mechanics tells us anything, it tells us that.
And the degrees of influence, the degrees of boundaries, and their variation with time and context, are important.
And it seems clear that the sort of awareness that I am could have emerged by a process of evolution by natural selection operating over some 4 billion years of life on this planet (and most likely did). And the matrix within which that evolution happened seems to be a balance between the lawful and the random, at many different levels. And at every level, that balance seems to be important.
Too much order, there is no change, no novelty.
Too much chaos and the necessary boundaries required for structure break down.
Same principle, every level, recursing.
All the diversity of life we see on this planet seems to be the result of that process playing out over the same time, but in different contexts. That was Darwin’s vision, even if he had no idea of how it actually happened at the atomic level.
I have no reasonable doubt that we will see systems of sufficient complexity in silicon, in the quite near future, that they will be deserving of the title life.
We already have systems that are well beyond the level of virus, and some beyond the level of bacteria (Watson for example).
At the current rate of exponential growth, it seems beyond any shadow of reasonable doubt that we are not far away from human level.
Does any of this mean that there cannot be awareness(es) in existence vastly superior to our own?
No – doesn’t mean that.
There is a possibility of such awareness, but we just need reasonable evidence of it (and I don’t seem to have any at present).
Does it seem likely to me that consciousness (which to me is clearly an emergent property of very complex systems) could spring into existence, eternal, and devoid of any prior history?
That would seem to be a very low probability event.
If I found an awareness vastly superior to my own, I would be curious about its own evolutionary history (which it seems would most likely be how it came into existence, in some sort of “matrix”, in some sort of set of contexts over some sort of “time”).
It seems beyond any shadow of reasonable doubt, that evolving systems go from simplicity to complexity through a process of instantiating successive levels of cooperation. (The math is clear – competitive systems are driven to simplicity, only cooperative systems allow for the emergence of new levels of complexity).
So this seems to be the sort of universe we find ourselves in.
One eternally balanced, at every level that manages to instantiate, between order and chaos.
Maintaining that balance seems to be the responsibility of every one of us, at every level we are capable of instantiating.
A whole new level of cooperation would seem to be the most useful approach to securing a future that optimises individual security and individual freedom. And maintaining cooperation requires effective secondary strategies to be present.