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Will tech companies ever be able to fully understand, manipulate or control consciousness?

It depends on how you define “consciousness.” If you define it as many scientists do—that is, as inert material (tissue and chemicals) interpreting experience via data coming in from the senses—then, yes. Technology companies may never be able to fully understand consciousness, but they will be able to use technology to imitate, manipulate and control it (they already have to some extent).

However, if you define “consciousness” as the ancient seers did—that is, as the subject and substrate to all experience—then, no. Consciousness, or awareness if you prefer, isn’t an object, so it isn’t even something detectable using any of our senses. One must ask, if it’s not an object available to the senses, even with the use of instruments, then how could it ever be manipulated or controlled?

Advaita Vedanta shows that the mind isn’t consciousness. Consciousness is that which comes before the mind; the actionless, non-experiencing witness to it all. Most people aren’t able to make this distinction and assume the mind is consciousness. Scientists believe they’ve discovered consciousness but what they’ve really discovered is just the medium from which consciousness appears to manifest itself—a reflection. But as we all know, a reflection of the sun isn’t the sun. It's like the scientists are looking at a reflection of the sun in a mirror and saying, “Look, we’ve located consciousness!”

The question, "Will tech companies ever be able to fully understand, manipulate or control consciousness?" also assumes that reality is a duality and only makes sense if you don’t have knowledge that reality is non-dual—that is, consciousness doesn't exist in the world, the world exists in consciousness. Thus, for those with non-dual vision, the idea of technology ever manipulating and controlling consciousness is a moot topic.

Lastly, should spiritual communities be concerned about science controlling one's "enlightenment"? They should be concerned they don’t have the right knowledge regarding consciousness (as should the scientists). As individuals, we are already free. It's only our ignorance that makes us believe otherwise.

Note: This question originally appeared on Quora as the question: Will companies like neuralink/Google (with sufficient tech & computing) ever be able to fully understand, manipulate/control human consciousness? Should spiritual communities be concerned? What would become of spiritual enlightenment if that happens?


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