The Future Evolution of Consciousness

Posted 8 Dec 2006 at 16:29 UTC by steve Share This

While most researchers are still trying to sort out exactly what consciousness is and how it works, a few are already pondering how we can improve it. John Stewart of the Evolution, Complextity, and Cognition Group at the Free University of Brussels offers one possible improvement in his new paper, The Future Evolution of consciousness (PDF format). If the evolutionary advantage of consciousness is that it "improves the capacity to develop novel adaptive responses", then further improvements should continue to offer an advantage. One of the specific improvements needed, according to the paper, is the ability to prevent goals supported by the "hedonic system" from controlling sequences of thoughts and behavior. Interestingly, the author concludes that this is exactly what organized religion has been trying to do for thousands of years. This could mean that beings (humans or robots) with consciousness augmented by religion have an evolutionary advantage. Like Daniel Dennett, Stewart believes scientific study of religion should be a priority of scientists.

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