It’s hard to work on robotics or machine learning and not occasionally think about consciousness. However, it’s quite easy not to think about it properly! I recently concluded that everything I used to believe on this subject is wrong. So I wanted to write a quick post explaining why.
For a long time, I subscribed to a view on consciousness called “epiphenomenalism”. It just seemed obvious, even necessary. I suspect a lot of computer scientists may share this view. However, I recently had a chance to think a bit more carefully about it, and came upon problems which I now see as fatal. Below I explain briefly what epiphenomenalism is, why it is so appealing to computer scientists, and what convinced me it cannot be right. Everything here is old news in philosophy, but might be interesting for someone coming to the issue from a computer scientist perspective. More