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    • I wasn't so much talking about intelligent aliens but rather alien life even if it's of a bacterial type. I do however get excited about the possibility of intelligent life. In my mind, finding any kind of alien life out there would almost certainly create the likely possibility of intelligent life somewhere as well. I could die and rest easily if the simplest life form was found and would imagine that evolution could create life in many places. Since the universe if a fairly big place it's probable it was happening in many places.

      Your interest in how life began is also one that is gaining traction and investment in current science research. I'm sure you're familiar with the Urey-Miller experiment but are you keeping up with the latest such studies? Pretty awesome stuff there!

      Consciousness... So far away from us. I don't even bother reading the science on this because we are so far from cracking that nut. When there's some kind of consensus then I'll give it a solid read. Too speculative for me at this point for more than a cusory read. Certainly it's an important thing to understand or solve. Many it'll turn out we aren't conscious but rather have the illusion of such things. Either way what really matters is that we come to know how mind comes from the brain.

      Many of your interests are similar to mine :)

    • I agree that we're very far indeed from a scientific understanding of consciousness. Most of my reading has been in philosophy of mind, not neuroscience, and even there there is a lot of disagreement. Daniel Dennett (among others) has argued that consciousness is an illusion, but then what precisely is having the illusion? To me, it's fascinating to speculate, though I don't expect an answer in my lifetime. But the more we learn, the more interesting it gets.

    • A bit of a sidetrack: I enjoyed reading Dennett's Darwin's Dangerous Ideas but I don't get into his philosophical arguments. Dawkins, Dennett, Sam Harris and the late C. Hitchen's use their arguments to attack religious anti-science. I agree with a lot of what they say but I'd rather focus on the science and stay away from the messy science-religious 'war' going on.

      Consciousness understood in our lifetimes...hard to say. Maybe AI will help us on this one. A lot of people enjoy reading about it. I just feel there's too much to learn and too little time so I try to mostly focus on what is known though I do enjoy thinking about what might be true.

      Do you ever read John Brockman's edited works from various great thinkers?

    • I haven't read Brockman. I did read Dennett's Darwin book and it got me interested in evolution, which I knew very little about. His book, Consciousness Explained left me unhappy--it should have been titled Consciousness Explained Away. On the other hand, his most recent book, From Bacteria to Bach and Back seemed much more reasonable, and I recommend it highly. The science-religion "war" seems to be no contest as far as I am concerned, though I did enjoy the flurry of books and talks by the four horsemen a number of years ago.

      I'm not sure AI is going to help us much regarding consciousness, as I am pretty sure that intelligence and consciousness are independent and we are only working on the former. Still, so little is known at this point that I think there's likely to be a synergy between AI, neuroscience and philosophy, with advances in each field stimulating the others.