Marvin Minsky: People say, “What’s the mystery? What’s consciousness?” And the answer is there isn’t any such thing. We’re not very conscious to begin with. You don’t know how your mind works. You don’t know about the 400 different brain centers. But some parts of your brain, like a computer, are pretty good at remembering a little bit about what the others did in the last two or three minutes. That’s very useful because if you’re solving a problem and get stuck, then this part of it then can say, “Well, I see what went wrong. You tried this and it didn’t work, and you kept trying it. That was stupid.”

So it seems to me consciousness is the set of about 20 different things you do when you get into trouble. They all depend on keeping some records of others, what you did, so that you can recognize — or so that this part of your brain can recognize that this was a bad pattern and it wasn’t right to react that way. So you take this big bunch of ideas and say, “How do I make a big machine with hundreds of parts that’s so resourceful that whatever happens” — I mean, a person never gets stuck like a computer, which jams. If it’s really frustrating, the person will just change the subject and say, “Well, I’m going to have lunch or take a nap.”

I don’t see anything mysterious about it. But if you try to take these hundreds of wonderfully highly evolved things and say there’s a thing called consciousness that does that, then, of course, it’s a total mystery. But that’s because you’re asking a question. Here’s all this complicated stuff we do. How could a little round shiny ball with no interior do all that? The answer is, “Duh.” People who talk about consciousness are, to me, people who say, “Duh.”