Sitting with nothingness is tough.
In a classic study
researches in the University of Virginia asked colleague students them to sit with themselves for 15 minutes. Some preferred to be mildly electrocuted than to think.
In 11 studies, we found that participants typically did not enjoy spending 6 to 15 minutes in a room by themselves with nothing to do but think, that they enjoyed doing mundane external activities much more, and that many preferred to administer electric shocks to themselves instead of being left alone with their thoughts.
Those who ask the work to define them measure such definitions by efficiency and busyness. When we look to the person we constructed as our public persona–the identity heuristic–to tell us how we feel, how we think, we lose our ability to self-reflect.
Doing nothing is hyperbolic, of course. We could be doing a lot of thinking when we’re doing nothing. Hence the meditative pursuit. When we contemplate, we look for unstructured thoughts, we find inspiration in the creeks of our mind, and can take stock of our mental tools.
Sitting alone is what separates us from machines. A couple of years ago, I jotted down thoughts on AI
, including this short thought experiment.
Imagine an intellectual person sitting in a chair and doing nothing at all, starring into thin air. That person is conscious and intelligent. Their lack of action does nothing to rob them of the consciousness and creative title. In other words, intelligence is not conditioned by action. It need not be modeled around goals, nor operational switches.
I was focusing on the pragmatic differences between building silicon-based minds, as is the case in the world of AI, and conscious human beings.
Does this mean that those college students, who preferred to be shocked than to sit along, were not consciousness?
Thank you for reading.