Since we have no free will, what purpose does/did consciousness serve?
For the purpose of this topic, let us assume that free will does not exist. I do not believe in it, and I am not trying to debate its existence. And I am not the sharpest knife so don't hesitate to correct me if I am wrong about something. This is being asked purely from curiousity.
I have been very troubled recently, and I have been turning this idea around in my head over and over again. Doesn't the absence of free will (that is to say that all lifeforms are nothing more than calculating machines) make consciousness pointless? We are robots whose only purpose is to not die and have sex. Now, I realize that the social behavior of humans is a great survival mechanism. I am not saying that personalities are not beneficial to survival. What I am asking is why such a thing as consciousness is needed for someone to have a personality or feelings. Couldn't something have feelings and emotions without actually having consciousness. After all, feelings are just a physical process. We are all just here "for the ride" and are merely watching as these machines that we are trapped in go about life and attempt to have sex and not die (by proxy of many activities).
Why not remove the pointless spectator from each human. It doesn't seem like anything would change, since our true selves are cold computers acting without our permission. Yes, we as conscious entities feel things but that doesn't mean that the meat puppets we are inside of don't effectively pretend to feel the things as well. All that matters really is that another human experiences your behavior. The internal aspect is entirely unecessary.
Say that you are running an internet search. The search results you get would be there whether or not your search engine thought that it was choosing the results carefully. It would only think that it chose them. It is the the same way with humans.
I know that humans choose different things randomly, unlike computers, but that is only because we must deal with situations that are much much more complicated than running an internet search. We must attempt to answer problems for which there are no objective answers. Our brain sees the world as a bunch of numbers. Social interaction is reduced to a math problem. We are left to sit and say that we "should have done this" and we don't realize that "this" was never even a possibility. What is the point of regretting something that cannot be changed. I can understand that feeling sad about the outcome of something might be beneficial as it could show that you are in need and the group may help you, but why do you actually need to feel sad.
Now, we seek out things meant purely to sooth our conscious self. This has nothing to do with survival and is often self-destructive. It would seem that the thing called consciousness is so pointless to survival that it causes people to do things like substance abuse and suicide. Not only is consciousness not required for social behavior (it is done by the supercomputer behind your eyeballs and not by your superficial thoughts) but it also causes harm to the species.
Basically, my question is: What advantage could come from consciousness that would make our ancestors more likely to survive and procreate?
Could it be that consciousness was an unrelated side effect of something that was beneficial?
Edited by knownothing, 17 April 2013 - 07:08 AM.