The Ontological Impossibility of Digital Consciousness
In the field of consciousness studies, a recurrent approach has consisted in explaining consciousness as an emergent property of information or as a special kind of information. The idea is that the central nervous system processes information and that under the right circumstances information is responsible for the emergence of phenomenal experience. Many consider information to be more akin to the mental than to its raw physical underpinnings. If information had such ontological status, it would be conceivable to realize consciousness in digital systems, either by creating artificial consciousness, or by uploading and preserving human consciousness, or both. Unfortunately, this is not a viable possibility since information so construed simply does not exist and thus cannot be a case of consciousness nor be the underpinnings of consciousness. In this paper we will show that information is only an epistemic short- cut to refer to joint probabilities between states of affairs among physical events. If information as an entity beyond those relations is not part of our ontology, then digital consciousness is impossible.
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