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存在:我的意识来自哪里?

时间:2013-05-09 13:03:34  来源:  作者:

Existence: Where did my consciousness come from?

存在:我的意识来自哪里?


29 July 2011 by Anil Ananthaswamy

作者:Anil Ananthaswamy,2011年7月29日,New Scientist

(http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg21128221.400-existence-where-did-my-consciousness-come-from.html)

 

THINK for a moment about a time before you were born. Where were you? Now think ahead to a time after your death. Where will you be? The brutal answer is: nowhere. Your life is a brief foray on Earth that started one day for no reason and will inevitably end.

请先稍做个思考:你诞生之前在哪里?然后请再思考:你离世之后又会在哪里?答案很严酷:你哪里也不存在。你的人生对于无因而生且必将完结的地球来说,只是一位不速之客的短暂打扰而已。

But what a foray. Like the whole universe, your consciousness popped into existence out of nothingness and has evolved into a rich and complex entity full of wonder and mystery.

然而这个打扰却不简单。你的意识就像宇宙那样,一下就从虚无之中蹦了出来,并且最终发展成为一个丰富多彩而又复杂万分的实体,其中满是神奇与神秘。

Contemplating this leads to a host of mind-boggling questions. What are the odds of my consciousness existing at all? How can such a thing emerge from nothingness? Is there any possibility of it surviving my death? And what is consciousness anyway?

如此这般追索下去,就会引出一个令人纠结不安的问题:我的意识得以存在的几率究竟如何?怎么可能于虚无之中而生出?我死之后它还能否继续存在?而意识又究竟是什么?

Answering these questions is incredibly difficult. Philosopher Thomas Nagel once asked, "What is it like to be a bat?" Your response might be to imagine flying around in the dark, seeing the world in the echoes of high-frequency sounds. But that isn't the answer Nagel was looking for. He wanted to emphasise that there is no way of knowing what it is like for a bat to feel like a bat. That, in essence, is the conundrum of consciousness.

要回答诸如此类的问题,那是超乎想象地困难。哲人托马斯·内格尔(Thomas Nagel)曾有问曰:“做只蝙蝠的感受是怎样的?”对此,你的反应也许是想到:能在黑暗之中自由飞翔,籍由高频音波反射看清世界,如此等等。然而,这些并非托马斯·内格尔所要追寻的答案,他真正想说的是:根本没有办法得知什么样的感受才是一只蝙蝠的感受。而这才是意识之谜的实质所在。

Neuroscientists and philosophers fall into two broad camps. One thinks that consciousness is an emergent property of the brain and that once we fully understand the intricate workings of neuronal activity, consciousness will be laid bare. The other doubts it will be that simple. They agree that consciousness emerges from the brain, but argue that Nagel's question will always remain unanswered: knowing every detail of a bat's brain cannot tell us what it is like to be a bat. This is often called the "hard problem" of consciousness, and seems scientifically intractable - for now.

就此谜题,神经学家与哲学家形成了两大阵营。一方认为:意识乃是大脑的一种自然属性;一旦我们充分认识了神经活动的复杂机理,意识之谜就会大白于天下。而另一方则认为:事情没有这么简单;他们也承认意识发生于大脑,但却也指出:内格尔之问将永无答案,因为就算透彻了解了蝙蝠大脑的一切的一切,却仍然无从得知蝙蝠的感受究竟如何。此即经常所谓之意识“难题”,而且似乎难以科学地予以解释,至少现在还不行。

Meanwhile, "there are way too many so-called easy problems to worry about", says Anil Seth of the University of Sussex in Brighton, UK.

而另一方面,“我们有很多办法去探究那些所谓简单的问题”,英国布莱顿萨塞克斯大学(University of Sussex in Brighton, UK)的Anil Seth如是说。

One is to look for signatures of consciousness in brain activity, in the hope that this takes us closer to understanding what it is. Various brain areas have been found to be active when we are conscious of something and quiet when we are not. For example, Stanislas Dehaene of the French National Institute of Health and Medical Research in Gif sur Yvette and colleagues have identified such regions in our frontal and parietal lobes (Nature Neuroscience, vol 8, p 1391).

办法之一是在大脑活动中寻找意识的印记,以期更深入了解它到底是什么。人们已经发现,我们意识到的事物不同,大脑的活动区域也不同,一些会很活跃,另一些则表现安静。例如,坐落在吉夫续尔伊凡特(Gif sur Yvette)的法国国家健康与医疗研究所(French National Institute of Health and Medical Research)的Stanislas Dehaene及其同事,就已经确认了我们大脑额叶和顶叶中的这样一些区域(Nature Neuroscience, vol 8, p 1391)。

Consciousness explained

对意识的一种解释

This is consistent with a theory of consciousness proposed by Bernard Baars of the Neuroscience Institute in San Diego, California. He posited that most non-conscious experiences are processed in specialised local regions of the brain such as the visual cortex. We only become conscious of this activity when the information is broadcast to a network of neurons called the global workspace - perhaps the regions pinpointed by Dehaene.

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