Questions: You state that a machine which is conscious will not be created. Can you please explain how you have certainty that this will never happen? It seems like a belief [see response to Q1, below]. If we grant that even a little bird ‘has’ consciousness (I understand this cannot be proven), why not a machine? Dividing lines between ‘animals’ and ‘machines’ are surely just conceptual [see Q2].
You also state on p.123 [near end of Chapter 22] that when you ‘hear a bell, smell a rose, see a bird,’ so many elements are involved…from neurons in your brain to the space in between, to the sense organs, to the bell or rose. You say that if you remove any bit of this, ‘there’s no experience.’ I accept that if you remove the rose, there would be no experience of a rose, but there would still be experience [see Q3]. If you remove the brain, surely there would be no experience whatsoever (as far as we can reasonably assert) [see Q4]. It seems to me then that the brain is essential for any experience to happen whereas ‘the rose’ is not. ‘The rose’ is only essential for experience of ‘the rose.’ I would be quite happy for ‘the rose’ to be removed but not my neurons. How about you? [see Q5]
Response to Q1: As is shown throughout The Grand Delusion, consciousness does not appear to originate anywhere—let alone that it derives from matter. On the contrary, as shown repeatedly throughout the book, things, thoughts, and feelings—including matter—appear only with consciousness. Nothing else supports their verity. They appear as mind objects only.
Response to Q2: I do not grant that a little bird has consciousness. In fact, I do not grant anywhere in The Grand Delusion that anything whatsoever, whether machine, plant, animal, or human, has consciousness. (Carefully reread endnote 130.) The main reason I don’t grant consciousness to things is because, as is shown in multiple ways throughout the book, beyond conceptual appearances, we can’t find things—including time, space, motion, thoughts, feelings, locality, people, cats, birds, heartaches, photons…. You name it. Conscious awareness appears to come along with The Whole. It doesn’t inhere in “things.”
Response to Q3: There would still be perceptual experience, yes, but not necessarily conceptual experience (of a rose, say).
Response to Q4: Oh, but we can eliminate the brain from our attempts to account for consciousness (such as in Chapter 7, for example), yet there remains perceptual experience.
Response to Q5: There doesn’t appear to be anything necessary for perceptual experience. Still, I’d prefer to “keep my neurons”—in spite of the fact that “they” keep changing.