Of course we know what consciousness consists of. We’ve known for at least the past ten years. The effort of teaching the average person enough neurology so that can they understand it is a bit of work, but I’m producing a course on it, and the research is all out there. Even a populist like Michio Kaku answers the question.
Kuhn makes a living NOT answering the question of consciousness, and interviewing marginal characters (mostly old folks) and many of whom are intellectually embarrassing (philosophers and theologians) – thereby preserving the supernatural bias in the majority population while satisfying curiosity among both materialists, idealists, and supernaturalists.
Roger Penrose has a particular strength in that he follows einstein and uses mental models in addition to his mathematics. But otherwise, Roger is a mathematical platonist. Most physicists are stuck in what we call ‘mathiness’ – no mental model.
The research on consciousness is done today by those of us who rely on both neurology and computer science to reproduce it. In simple terms, consciousness is just the merger of sensation with memory of memory into a competitive set of predictions.
Qualia is just a vast parallel hierarchy of variations on embodiment. Consciousness is simple. Most of our brain predicts a continuously updated (revised) world model, then indexes salient experiences as episodes, and predicts candidate episodes from a competition between episodes, and we regulate that function with attention. When people say consciousness is an illusion that implies an observer that doesn’t exist.
The only observer is a hierarchy of memory that we perceive as constant, just like we perceive movies as constant. The root “you” is in the brain stem that’s concerned about orientation, homeostasis, and reward-seeking. All the “you” in the sense you know yourself is distributed around the neocortex as memories. The experience of being you is integrated across the brain and organized into the hippocampal region. Qualia is rather trivial to explain from there onward.
If you were to ask if other species would experience the same qualia we can only say that their qualia would be understandable if they were at least able to communicate at our level. But that vibrations in the universe whether through solids, gasses, space, and from subsonic to sonic to electromagnetic, would be the same. Some people see impossible colors even today. Some are color blind. A different creature might experience time differently (faster or slower), or instead of having two hemispheres might have, four, or six, or eight (or more) – and that would be the only substantive difference. But to ACT in the real world generates demand for convergence on similar range of senses and qualia.