Yes we are automatons ("a really smart meat" per Ready Player One) but is that all there is to human life?
1. To me the mystery lies in the awareness.
Modern neuroscience/psychology/cognitive science/ are aware that subconscious accounts for most of brain's activity.
The aware part is such a small part that it is reasonable to ask whether it is needed at all.
Anecdotally we all have heard stories of people doing things on auto-pilot unaware of doing them(driving, blacked out shenanigans, etc).
Thus I can very well imagine a Chalmer's zombie which functions identical to most humans.
The biggest problem with simple reductionist strategy into automatons is what it means for morals/ethics.
It's not only that everything becomes "vae victis" or localized majority consensus. No globals left not even the golden rule.
Even worse everything becomes almost nonsensical.
Nihilist ISIS suicide bombers trying to escape the matrix then make as much sense as Elon Musk trying to expand humanity to Mars.
Just some automatons trying to make sense of it all.
We know what someone without awareness looks like, we call them coma patients.
The anecdotal stories of people doing things and not remembering them does not mean they were unaware at the moment, it just points to the glitches in the memory processes. Alcohol interferes with ability to record short term to long term memory, among other things. As for driving on “auto-pilot”, it is your brain tuning out all-too-familiar sights and not recording them as not containing any new information.
Your brain is very good at optimizing things, and the more routine-bound your life becomes, the less new information comes in that it considers worthy of recording - if it sees an instance of a pattern it has seen a thousand times, it categorizes that commute to work as that pattern and does not bother recording it unless something out of ordinary happens.
That also explains why time seems to pass faster as you get older - there are less and less genuinely new experiences and encounters coming in for your brain to record and remember as interesting, so time flies by faster and faster.
Awareness is not binary. My friend going into diabetic coma exhibits a degree of awareness until you realize her answers to my questions have stopped and you have to call the ambulance.
I do agree that the brain optimizes routine things, thus my question is it not possible to function without awareness (ie sleepwalking through life).
I am going from books like these: https://www.amazon.com/Philosophy-Flesh-Embodied-Challenge-W...
Here's a premise: Most(90+%) of our thought occurs subconsciously . Is it not possible function 100% subconsiously?
Think about sleeping on a math problem and the solution coming to you suddenly.
The implications start getting dangerously close to http://www.paulgraham.com/say.html
"keep track of opinions that get people in trouble, and start asking, could this be true? Ok, it may be heretical (or whatever modern equivalent), but might it also be true?"
As more and more psychopaths learn that there is no global ruleset the more entropy we get.
If everyone learns that there is no difference between suicide and drinking coffee(via Sartre), then the number of suicides will inevitably rise.
There are people who supported certain presidential candidate(s) just for the lolz. They were proud of their nihilism.