Previously the main sources of wealth were material assets such as gold mines, wheat fields and oil wells. Today the main source of wealth is knowledge. And whereas you can conquer oil fields through war, you cannot acquire knowledge that way.
Fertilise several eggs, and choose the one with the best combination. Once stem-cell research enables us to create an unlimited supply of human embryos on the cheap, you can select your optimal baby from among hundreds of candidates, all carrying your DNA, all perfectly natural, and none requiring any futuristic genetic engineering. Iterate this procedure for a few generations, and you could easily end up with superhumans (or a creepy dystopia).
In contrast, ‘anger’ isn’t an abstract term we have decided to use as a shorthand for billions of electric brain signals. Anger is an extremely concrete experience which people were familiar with long before they knew anything about electricity. When I say, ‘I am angry!’ I am pointing to a very tangible feeling. If you describe how a chemical reaction in a neuron results in an electric signal, and how billions of similar reactions result in billions of additional signals, it is still worthwhile to ask, ‘But how do these billions of events come together to create my concrete feeling of anger?’
if some multinational corporation wants to know whether it lives up to its ‘Don’t be evil’ motto, it need only take a look at its bottom line. If it makes loads of money, it means that millions of people like its products, which implies that it is a force for good.
the experiencing self is often strong enough to sabotage the best-laid plans of the narrating self. I might, for instance, make a New Year’s resolution to start a diet and go to the gym every day. Such grand decisions are the monopoly of the narrating self. But the following week when it’s gym time, the experiencing self takes over. I don’t feel like going to the gym, and instead I order pizza, sit on the sofa and turn on the TV.
intelligence is mandatory but consciousness is optional.
The most important question in twenty-first-century economics may well be what to do with all the superfluous people. What will conscious humans do, once we have highly intelligent non-conscious algorithms that can do almost everything better?