Many attempts to explain consciousness similar to the exposure of favourite magic trick — learn the secret you can permanently lose faith in miracles. So if you are not willing to question their own beliefs, this article is not for you. But if you are always looking for new knowledge, the information that man is composed of approximately 100 trillion cells that work together, you should not be surprised. More surprising — individually, none of the hundred trillion cells of the human body consciousness is not. Cells no matter who we are, what we represent and why. This means that to explain consciousness, you need to understand how it happened that hundreds, millions, billions and trillions of tiny cellsthat are not self-aware and not much different from bacteria, creating a unique personality, able to think.
“How can a slow, unintelligent process, create something that can create what he unreasonable slow process can not create?” Alan Turing
The illusion of control and war memes
American philosopher cognitivist Daniel Dennett, University Professor Taft (USA), has dedicated his scientific activity to the study of the nature of consciousness. Dennett tries to explain how biological processes in the human body creating an endless stream of thoughts and images. And the first thing the Professor says in his lectures and books is that our consciousness is not so mysterious as we think it is. In a sense, the work of consciousness is reminiscent of the work of human memory. And she, as we all know, is not ideal.
The phenomenon of false memory has been addressed by many researchers. The most famous is the American psychologist Elizabeth Loftus. At the beginning of the lecture on Ted Talks, Loftus tells of a man named Steve Titus, who was convicted and sentenced to a prison term for iznasilovanie women. When the victim first testified, she pointed at Titus, as it was more like a rapist. But subsequent testimony, the woman was sure that Steve Titus committed the crime. Subsequently, a few years later, Titus was acquitted, as was found by a real rapist, and his guilt was proved after conducting the DNA test. However, the life of Steve Titus from prison was destroyed and soon after his release, he died, apparently, never having experienced the strongest stress. And there are many stories.
The work of consciousness, and our memory is not perfect. We simply don’t notice most of the processes, for example, thinking. Moreover, all of our decisions are actually the brain takes a few seconds before we thought about them. The same is the case with false memories — the brain fills in the gaps of non-existent information. It turns out that we do not control essential life processes,it seems to us that it is not. Due to the joint and coordinated work of billions of neurons the brain creates the illusion of control over one’s own mind. It turns out that consciousness is a set of techniques and tricks that cleverly uses the brain. But how did this happen?
The theory of evolution by natural selection first described by Charles Darwin in 1859, describes the history of the development of millions of species of living creatures on Earth, including humans. Over millions of years evolution has created increasingly complex cognitive thinking abilities. To a certain extent they are at all — from a sea horse, lobster and your cat. But the cognitive abilities of chimpanzees surpass the cognitive capabilities of the Dolphin, and our step further. It is our cognitive abilities that make us special — we don’t just act out of some reasons, we give a report about these causes to ourselves and others. Moreover, we ask ourselves about the reasons of those or other actions and is able to answer them. This gives us the opportunity to plan their actions and anticipate their consequences. Obtained information and knowledge we share with others. No living creature on Earth capable of anything like that.
But it’s not just natural selection of genes. When we talk about consciousness, we are also talking about cultural evolution — natural selection of memes, which, according to Richard Dawkins, are units of cultural information that replicate themselves to reproduce. Those memes that are copied better survive. Human culture is a habitat for memes. Thus, we can explain the emergence of consciousness on a multitude of factors that have influenced the evolution of Homo Sapiens.
Can radical ideas to explain consciousness?
Today, scientists can not get to close to the study of consciousness. The situation is limited by the fact that on the one hand, neuroscientists are studying the brain areas associated with conscious activity — such as recognizing faces, feeling pain or happiness. But the science of consciousness is still a science of interrelations, it does not explain anything. We know that certain areas of the brain responsible for certain types of conscious reactions, but don’t know why. In recent years we have made countless discoveries about the work of the different areas of the brain. Recently we told you that scientists were able to discover a totally new signal in the human brain, which previously no one knew. That’s great, but if it brings us to the answer to the question, what is consciousness?
In his speech at Ted Talks, Australian psychologist, specializing in philosophy of mind, David Chalmers, compares human consciousness with subjective movie that constantly plays in front of the eyes. The question that most worries the scientist is, why behavior — which can be explained from the point of view of biology, as it does brilliantly Professor of neurobiology, Stanford University Robert Sapolsky — is accompanied by subjective experience. But we can’t explain the presence of this subjective experience as well as physics explains chemistry, chemistry biology, and biology partly psychology. In order to understand what consciousness is we need radical ideas.
Such offers Daniel Dennett. In his opinion difficult problems in studying consciousness does not exist. For Denneth the whole idea of this movie involves a subjective illusion, which gives us the brain. Therefore, science remains only to explain the objective functioning of the behavior of the brain. The idea Dennett, in my opinion, is the most realistic of all the others. But to create such a neurobiological theory of consciousness, we have a large number of studies.
Those who do not agree that consciousness is just a well-crafted brain-illusion, offer even more radical theory of consciousness. So, David Chalmers proposes to consider consciousness as something fundamental — as fundamental laws of physics. In physics are fundamental concepts such as space, time, mass. Based on these concepts, the researchers derive further principles and laws — the law of universal gravitation, the laws of quantum mechanics etc. it is Noteworthy that all of these fundamental properties and laws more and in no way explained. We accept them as basic and build on their basis the picture of the world. This approach, according to Chalmers, opens up new possibilities to science, since there will be a study of the fundamental laws that govern consciousness. These laws also need to connect consciousness with the other fundamental principles of space, mass, time and other physical processes. We don’t know what are these laws, but you can try to find them.
Second, no less radical and perhaps crazy idea that Chalmers is panpsychism. The theory that consciousness is universal and any system to some degree has them. According to this theory, or rather hypothesis, consciousness know even the elementary particles and photons. The idea, of course, is not that of electrons and photons, intellectually developed, and that these particles have a primitive sense of consciousness. Despite the fact that this idea seems contrary to common sense, people from cultures that consider the human mind as a single whole with nature, the theory of panpsychism seems quite logical.
And yet to answer the question of what consciousness is, is worth paying attention to how evolution took place in the brain. In the end, we send rockets into space and defeated such a dangerous disease like smallpox through science. Therefore, sooner or later, scientists will be able to create a unified theory of consciousness.
How science explains consciousness?
Due to the fact that consciousness is often considered in the context of religion, philosophy and cognitive science, he has not received sufficient attention from the point of view of evolutionary processes. Perhaps that is why we know so little about the adaptive value of knowledge and when. But there is good news — these questions can answer a new theory, which appeared about five years ago.
Writes The Atlantic, the theory of the scheme of attention (AST) suggeststhat consciousness emerged to solve one of the fundamental problems faced by any nervous system: there’s too much information and the brain simply can’t fully process it. According to this theory, in the course of evolution the brain has developed increasingly sophisticated mechanisms for deep processing of multiple selected signals at the expense of others, and AST consciousness is the end result of this evolutionary sequence. If the theory is correct — and it is only to be seen — consciousness evolved gradually over the last half a billion years and is present in some species of vertebrates. Moreover, AST does not contradict the theory of consciousness is Dennett.
And yet, in matters of consciousness, scientists have gone as far as we would like. However, among the huge number of questions and unknowns, we can highlight the fact that neurobiological studies, we are NOT exactly let you know. As he writes in his book “Biology of good and evil. As science explains our actions,” Robert Sapolsky, neurobiology does not have to prove the obvious, and for evidence of internal mental States and is not required. So, today there is MRI scanning, due to which scientists have learned that PTSD is formed with a limited lesion of the brain, and the brain of serial killers, as we in detail told to our channel in Yandex.Zen, on the physiological level different from the brain of other people. However, the most important, according to Sapolsky, is that neurobiology cannot be used for proof of feelings or thoughts, as there is a duality estimates. For example, if a person has committed a crime, and then scientists find out that he did it because almost all of the cells of the prefrontal cortex, which is responsible for the control of behavior has died off, this will entail biological or organic explanations.