Assuming that conscious experience has to do with information processing and integration (see here and here) and that information is coded and processed by the firing of neurons, I wonder what the following thought experiment would yield:

Given a brain with interacting neurons firing the way they do and accompanied by a given (and determined) stream of consciousness. Now consider each neuron been shifted to any location in space without affecting/disturbing the timeliness of signal propagation. This means: All neurons would fire the same as before, but their spatial distances would be completely different - formerly nearby neurons would be far away of each other and vice versa.

Will the stream of consciousness be the same?

Edit: I reworked this question and asked it as new one here: The distorted brain in a vat.

  • 3
    This is physically impossible. One can't shift neurons to any location in space without affecting/disturbing the timeliness of signal propagation because signals in the neural network propagate along axons/dendrites with some definite velocity. If neurons in the network are shifted to new locations, the network will lose its original geometry and its original signaling pattern will unavoidably be destroyed. If consciousness has anything to do with the signaling pattern, it will inescapably change. But the true and immediate cause of change is the change of signaling pattern, not the spatiality – user287279 Jan 14 at 17:39
  • It's a variation on "the evil genius" by Descartes. If you get your sense perceptions in a way you are unable to distinguish ("all neutorns would fire the same as before") then how could you discern the change? – puppetsock Jan 14 at 18:01
  • You are assuming that consciousness depends on spatiality and then asking how it does. I would guess the communication between neurons is limited by the speed of light if nothing else. so unless there is a non-local connection a brain the size of a galaxy might be rather clunky in operation. . . – PeterJ Jan 15 at 13:06
  • @PeterJ: No, I am not assuming that consciousness depends on spatiality. Only if the (thought) experiment would yield the answer "no" I would say that it does. Please note: In the thought experiment it is crucial that the displacement of neurons doesn't affect (absolute) propagation times. In a thought experiment this should be allowed, shouldn't it? – Hans-Peter Stricker Jan 15 at 13:11
  • It's true that a thought experiment can conceive of anything. But if what it conceives of is physically impossible, then the conclusion of the experiment will be valid only in the thought experiment not in the physical world - it will be irrelevant to the physical world. Although, sometimes a thought experiment can widen our perspective of the matter, sometimes it can lead to confusion and misconception too, especially in people who aren't familiar of the subject, such as in the case of p-zombie. – user287279 Jan 16 at 3:31

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