A great brief video introduction to consciousness and its myriad mysteries


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I’m surprised this is even a question. My view is that we’re nothing more than stimulus/response mechanisms but that we respond to a set of stimuli that is far too complex for us to recognize and quantify. The fact that so many people more intelligent than I have spent so much time pondering this question certainly suggests I’m being naive but I dunno. I feel that it’s arrogance to suppose that the difference between humans and simpler creatures is ultimately anything more than the ability to process a larger set of stimuli.


It is nonsense to say consciousness only starts in humans after 3 and does not exist in animals.
Clearly most animals are conscious of their surroundings and other creatures. Even some plants! Humans just operate at a higher level.

Also whatever is consciousness is consciousness and not an illusion as even if it is an illusion it is still consciousness.

Both these issues are interesting only philosophically and will have no bearing on what consciousness actually is.


So I jump ship in Hong Kong and I make my way over to Tibet, and I get on as a looper at a course over in the Himalayas.
So, I tell them I’m a pro jock, and who do you think they give me? The Dalai Lama, himself. Twelfth son of the Lama. The flowing robes, the grace, bald… striking.
So, I’m on the first tee with him. I give him the driver. He hauls off and whacks one - big hitter, the Lama - long, into a ten-thousand foot crevasse, right at the base of this glacier. Do you know what the Lama says? Gunga galunga… gunga, gunga-lagunga.
So we finish the eighteenth and he’s gonna stiff me. And I say, “Hey, Lama, hey, how about a little something, you know, for the effort, you know.” And he says, “Oh, uh, there won’t be any money, but when you die, on your deathbed, you will receive total consciousness.”
So I got that goin’ for me, which is nice.


It seems like everybody is absolutely sure exactly what consciousness is,except the people who have actually studied it.


Consciousness can be otherwise explained, I believe, as awareness. The higher the brain function, the more interconnected and hence higher awareness, giving rise to what we call consciousness. To try to find a single source of consciousness will undoubtedly lead us to understand the brain with greater clarity, but it’s the entire interconnectedness of all the parts that give rise to it.

I think the only people who are entirely sure are ‘spiritualists’, for everyone else it’s still an open question,including to those who study it.


I reckon we each need to pay attention to things and others only so far as we need to get ourselves our necessities and not get thrown out of the group. Whales, bees, cats, too. But start throwing more complex emotions, social/physical structures and the landscape of time into the mix and it gets real complex over a few dozen millenia. Jobs get specified: so-and-so keeps some notes, his sister knows where the healing stuff is and his other sister is a motivational speaker. That’s a dynasty that’s going places.

And this is apparently what they chose for and what we each have to spend 20% of our calories on, dammit. That’s been a voracious little ecosystem spread over x billion little drones over the last 15k years. I hope we get it figured out before we screw it up.


Anyone interested in the topic but not to the point of starting a phd should watch the BBC documentary “Brain Story”, 6 episodes of one hour.

On the other hand, in my non-expert opinion this short documentary tries hard to label anything happening in the brain as “consciousness”. For instance figuring out shapes is not part of consciousness, it’s not even specific to humans. What I didn’t figure out before reading a bit on the topic is how much memory is important in human nature. Memory is a wide topic, it’s not only semantic or sensorial information, but also emotional responses, muscle memory, or even cognitive strategies ; anything that is learned. So once you’ve watched Brain Story episodes go and watch TED talks about memory: https://www.ted.com/playlists/196/the_complexity_of_memory


Oh dear. The newtonian dogmatists aren’t going to be happy if they keep digging.

I’m not even sure if you can build a measuring device sensitive enough or powerful enough to find empirical proof of what consciousness is, simply because it’s everything.


Let’s first clear the terminology and make a good, solid, falsifiable, non-handwavy definition of what “consciousness” is.

Then let’s build an artificial implementation to verify the claims and explode some philosophers’ heads.


I think that’s what the Internet is going to eventually become.


I was discussing rotator cuff and shoulder injuries in general via text with a client and was telling him how I was clumsily checked playing indoor soccer some years ago and fell on my shoulder and dislocated it horridly.

At that very moment the bloke who clumsily checked me contacted me via linked in.

I haven’t spoke with the man in years. At least 10.

How can you build a device to measure such an event?


Yup. I’m afraid the whole concept of “consciousness” is a bit like the concept of “god”, something with no formal definition at which people tend to project all their hopes and expectations depending on their culture, providing no clue about how to prove it exists. I guess we’ll get a formal definition once we’ll be forced to admit a machine has become conscious. Then we’ll have to make up new words to replace “consciousness” and “intelligence”, which will look as ridiculous as Aristotle’s idea of a universe made of fire, air, water and earth.


Yes, but no-one said that. They said humans only appear to develop a theory of mind around the age of three, and we don’t know whether other animals develop it all.


At least no-one mentioned the fucking Chinese Room.


Are we talking about an Oriental bordello?
I’ll show myself out…


Coincidences happen. Part of probability is that the improbable happens.

For every such “miraculous” event there is a corresponding number of other such improbable events that did not happen.


So you are saying, because statistics?


When the one fellow says, “consciousness is essentially subjective, you are alone in it”, I had to wonder, what is that feeling when you know you’re being watched? I’m not talking paranoia, It’s something that normal people experience all the time. That seems a significant element of conscousness, that I don’t see a lot of scientific interest in.

The philosophy of this topic is essential, and it bothers me that no distinction is raised between brain and mind.

I’m running with the idea that conscousness is essentially a special sort of narrative that integrates our imaginings of the future with what we remember from the past. It’s that intersection between past and future that Buddhists get really excited about, that moment of action which is NOW. (Maybe cognitive science just isn’t doing it’s job unless the religious establishment is annoyed with it.)

(Edited to add) That accidental experiment with the brain electrode, it confabulates consciousness as “not asleep” with consciousness as, “I know who I am”. If they’re going to include that story, they should acknowledge the difference.

Also, if animal conscousness is going to be a part of this story, it’s relevant to mention Renee DeCarte’s pioneering experiments in sadism, that arguably continue today.


I’m not seeing it there yet, but the Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows (A really beautiful resource, and well worth checking out) is fairly new, so may come up with the terminology soon.