What is Consciousness?


woman looking towards the sky

Photo by YURI MANEI on Pexels.com

If you’re new to the study of consciousness the terminology can be a little confusing. You should also know that there are rival theories pertaining to the nature of consciousness. Whichever theory resonates best with you will probably be the theory you stick with in the end. I’m not interested in converting anybody. Just remember that regardless of whichever theory we prescribe to, they are all merely constructs that exist because of a system of belief. Until we can prove something otherwise about the nature of consciousness we are limited to faith.

So what is consciousness? We are all self-aware due to being a product of our environment but this is not the type of simple consciousness I am referring to. It is theorized that there is a higher consciousness which is either a product of our brain activity, known as epiphenomenal, or that consciousness exists outside the confines of our body, which is referred to as non-local.

So if you imagined our brain waves as being similar to waves on an ocean, the epiphenomenal theory suggest that higher consciousness is akin to the foam on an ocean wave. This theory is usually adopted by people in the artificial intelligence industry because it aligns with their goals to achieve consciousness through quantum computation. It’s not a consensus theory for all AI people but this is a short article so I’m painting broad strokes here.

The opposing theory is that a higher state of consciousness exits independent of our brain activity. Some refer to this as cosmic consciousness. There is a separate debate about cosmic consciousness which pertains to whether it has a dual or non-dual aspect. The dual aspect theory stems from ancient cultures such as the Hindus, who refer to cosmic consciousness as the godhead. This dual aspect belief implies that cosmic consciousness is always present regardless of whether or not the universe exits. Any universe that existed devoid of cosmic consciousness would be an irrelevant universe. On the other hand the non-dual theory implies that cosmic consciousness is inseparable from reality all the way down to the most finite particles of the universe.

I remain on the fence about the whole dual vs non-dual debate because it’s just too much like which came first, the chicken or the egg. However I do not believe consciousness is epiphenomenal. Because of this I have great concerns about the future of integrating our brains with technology. I do believe we will see many benefits from brain-tech integration over the next couple hundred years but there are potential risks which we must start considering now. I will attempt to write more about my concerns in the months to come.

I hope this was helpful,

Conan De Moe 1/2/2020


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