Monday, March 25, 2013

On the Nature of Consciousness.


by the Evil Dr. Emile Schmitt-Rottluff

Our consciousness exists mostly inside of our own heads. It sounds either self-evident or a college entry-level rubric, but it’s obvious that when we look out on the world, we’re not aware of looking out of our foot. Our foot isn’t even aware or able to sense the ground under it. It has to send information to the brain, which sends back appropriate instructions, many of which are sub-conscious, our only conscious decision being whether we want to walk somewhere or not.

There’s plenty of information coming in from everywhere.

Our consciousness seems to be located in our head, where our thoughts are. This is located directly behind our eyes, surely the number one sensory organ in modern human beings. We process vast quantities of visual information. This is a good place to be located in our bodies, as we can see out and we have everything at our disposal…

But our consciousness is also our identity, which doesn’t change whether we’re hot or cold, running or walking. It is who we are as a person. It’s how we think of ourselves. Science fiction stories about the uploading of consciousness sometimes seem to try and preserve that sense of identity—that sense of self, although there are stories where all memories, all traces of personality are stripped away, leaving a husk, a thrall, a kind of kidnapping of the body but leaving the person out of the equation. But there is no real reason to upload a body. Only a consciousness.

I’ll go off and read other people’s work on consciousness in a minute. But I thought I would get my thoughts down first, before being influenced by some credible opinion. There are lots of studies out there, all kinds of theories and a lot of really interesting literary work.

I think consciousness arose as a defense mechanism—otherwise we would have eaten our feet on the path of evolution. Nature invests heavily in higher organisms. They shouldn’t get knocked down and eaten too easily. It’s a balance between waste and renewal. When I was a kid I saw a praying mantis that had a grasshopper in his claws and he was eating it. The grasshopper had a chunk of leaf or grass in its claws. It was eating it too. I wondered if the thing could even feel pain, or why it didn’t struggle to escape. It seemed quite unaware of its predicament.

A virus doesn’t need to be conscious to do its job. A sea anemone doesn’t need to be conscious to do its job either. The currents bring food to it, and it doesn’t grow well where there aren’t enough nutrients or currents. The reproductive cycle is simple but robust. The sea anemone is a kind of a no-brainer. As life-forms become more complex, and as they acquire more sensory organs, and the more active and varying survival strategies are demanded from them, then consciousness becomes necessary. The brain gets bigger to accommodate demands made on it. It can no longer just feel food against its lips and begin biting, but now our life form must evade predators, it must colonize, nest, migrate, predate, raise young, lay eggs, store food, make homes…the list is familiar; it’s animal behaviour in all of its complexity. And certainly the higher animals are conscious to some degree. They have to be.

Robert Fludd.
Plants can be phototropic in that they turn with the sun. They also grow faster in daylight, and slow down at night. This simplistic behaviour is purely thermodynamic in principle. In higher animals, the thermodynamics are much more complex. It’s all ruled by algorithms, with an infinite number of variables over time. We are chemical beings. Your dog will never think of himself as a chemical being ruled by thermodynamic algorithms in a complex social environment. In that sense it is a lower life form because it has a lower form of consciousness…in a kind of legalistic sense.

The ability to invent abstract ideas comes from consciousness. A subconscious entity has no reason to invent anything, for its duties will necessarily be limited, such as respiration, digestion, and glandular production, in the human body.

Who are we? Are we our body? It is the ‘habeas corpus’ of the legal men. This is my body, this must be me. My toe is a part of me. But if you cut off my toe, I doubt if I would feel as if a small part of my conscious self had somehow gone with it. All of me would remain intact in terms of consciousness. We live in our brains and not our toe.

Even as an atheist, perhaps denying the existence of the soul, could any rational person deny that most of us see our inner self—our ‘consciousness,’ as kind of riding around on top of a big biological machine, a bit like sitting in the control room of an Imperial Walker?

If we could upload my consciousness, that’s all well and good. But how would I feel anything?

I won’t argue whether all knowledge could be downloaded into our brains, or whether we could access a databank through an interface with some kind of electronic storage system. Or else it’s something akin to spiritual, and now we’re psychically beaming waves into your brain, and maybe some organic structure in there can detect and decode it. Simply reverse the process and your brain is loaded into the databanks. Right? Download my brain through wireless.

If you could hook up a computer to a body—a real, live body, with all of its sensory organs intact, including eyes, ears, nose, mouth, fingers and toes—the machine would have all of the same experiences as a human being, except we have transplanted the brain of a pig into the body of a man.

By one measure of the law, ‘brain dead is legally dead.’ This is for the benefit of the living heirs of the body. But what happens when the body won’t die, or what happens when the mind just goes away, as in the case of amnesia? Where do we stand legally there?

What if a mind is simply wiped by heavy brainwashing techniques, leaving the body free for other things, other masters, and other personalities?

What then, eh?

For more on consciousness read this article on Wiki.
Here's something on thermodynamics, important in 'cell biology' among other things.

This is interesting, a story on the film altered states and all about sensory deprivation can be found at the link.

These are used extensively for out-of-body projection by the Centralian Empire in my novel ‘The Case of the Curious Killers.’ That book asks the question, what is reality? The answer is that reality is subjective, it is what you can see. Consciousness is said to be what we see around us--essentially the same thing.

Therefore, consciousness is reality, but a very subjective one.


The Evil Dr. Schmitt-Rottluff appears in 'On the Nature of the Gods,' and is a regular guest on this blog.

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