I am no where near the first person to ask this question, however, I was having quite the discussion today with my friend in Oman. The idea of consciousness came up and she asked me “what is consciousness?” The first thing that came to mind was trying to explain the concept that consciousness is what makes us, us. I used the construct of the soul. That is, consciousness can be likened to the soul, which is unique and makes us, us. It gives the ability to discern meaning from the world around us. It gives us the ability to learn, to reason, to quantify and qualify, to realize absolutes, generate ideas of morality and ethics. It is this unique feature that can be ascribed to a person to create one’s humanity. Yes, in some circles, people would argue that various other animals do exhibit human like characteristics, but this does not make them human.
Now, the question is, where does consciousness come from? It can be argued that consciousness is a byproduct of the electrical grid and processor that is our brain. In that case the consciousness can be broken down into a series of chemical reactions and electrical pulses. The question then becomes, what if we can duplicate these pulses, and various chemical reactions via an external grid. Would the reproduction still be human? Would the reproduction have a soul? Then we can extend into the whole idea of rights ascribed to this copy.
In some ways it is only a matter of time till we have to ask these kinds of questions. What will the answer be? I’m really not sure. The technological imperative marches forward even though we, as humans, may not always keep up with the consequences of our work.