The real philosophy of non-existent world
The main thesis of Zen is there is no “real” world, but the comprehension of the world. This is only the exterior side of Zen school, which doesn’t help to reach the truth but helps to destroy the fallacies of beginning Zen follower and make the first step to the final destination.
In the deeper level of consciousness, Zen doesn’t deny anything, it only proves that the true consciousness is not capable to see if the “external”(material) world exists. Who knows, maybe we take a play in someone’s sleep as in the Matrix, maybe not.
The consciousness operates on words, in their turn they come back inside the consciousness, in different senses and combinations. The consciousness produces a set of classifications processed by logic. Our minds drown in their own words, while they barely describe the “real” world or the physical world. This is the reason why they can’t properly describe the nature, and such property was already proved.
The physics postulates the material world exists whether our mind thinks it does or not. Therefore it discovers it with cause-and-effect logical connections between objects, “bundling” them inside different layers of laws and abstract modeles. Each of them gives vision of separate parts of the whole picture of the world. Nevertheless, the physics doesn’t pretend to describe the “real” world, because it can’t. It interacts with the world as we see it with our sensory input, refined by measurement devices. It kindly allows philosophy to solve “ideological” and “moral” questions on its own. Some of them are “does the world really exist, if so why does it exist?”, “what really is time, space and consciousness?”, “will humanity ever create a machine capable to think?”, and so on.
Let us believe the AI will be created sometime. And actually, given how the history of inventions went on, I don’t think it will look like something we expect it to be. Airplanes don’t fully imitate the way the birds fly, and the wheel doesn’t work like the walker. So probably the AI is not going to be anything based upon neural networks, or quantum computers, or… any other devices we are yet to invent.
Take as an example a 3D shooter bot and give it consciousness. The same bot would roam about inside corridors of the non-existent world emulated by a Pentium processor. It would think and explore the world around it, and god knows maybe it would try to do reflection. By the way, if a “thinking” machine can be created, can it explain how it thinks?
Now we have to remember that silicon is not the only thing we can make a computer with. It can also be crafted from gears(Babbage machine), or it can be a tape with a moving carriage(Turing machine). Where can we locate the intelligence of the bot? Apparently, it is not the gears. Maybe we can take intelligence as a combination of gears? But any combination is meaningless on its own without respective intepretation system. Such a system must be external to the bot. Because all combinations “inside” it are equal to each other. Any arbitrary combination, be it gears, or the sequence of carriage moves, the sequence of bytes, can represent any program. If so, self-consciousness of AI doesn’t come from AI itself, but the consciousness of other object watching for AI machine.
Zen would say that the bot thinks as long as someone observes it. The real question is - is it possible for some combination to exist “inside itself”, or it can only exist while there is an interpretation system of external observer?
Now we leave our AI example and simplify it to the question: is our consciousness confined inside combination of active and non-active neurons, or it is confined within something’s interpretation of such combination? I’m not talking about the soul, it’s about the laws of physics, which are kind of “execution engines” of virtual entity we call “a mind”. Simply put - our world is a supercomputer built for the unknown purpose, and we are simply data “bits” consumed by superprocessor.
To truly understand what intelligence is, it is necessary to leave it. Consciousness is a set of interpretation methods of certain combinations of (non-)material objects. Yet consciousness cannot be contained inside physical object. Attempting to find it inside neurons is nearly the same as looking for an animated image inside a pile of metal of what you called a TV after it makes it through industrial shredder.
There is no real world, there are only “physical”, “philosophic” and “religious” models. Any attempt to understand the true nature of the world crushes into the inevitability of choice of one or other interpretation system. While there are several interpretation systems, any one of them is potentially wrong due to the fact there is always another one. There’s only one god, though different religions… who can say for sure at least one religion is universally right? Maybe(most likely) we will find it out later.
Can the observer discover the world in the scientific way when totally isolated? So there are no measurement devices, sense organs with which something can be seen or heard. There is only consciousness.
And what would happen to the world if all observers disappeared?