A Short Theory of Consciousness
1st draft 3/08/2020
Humanity is entangled by a singular force that creates life such that all that life can do is express this force. The force is fundamental and as such is ubiquitous in the universe. It is the reason for everything’s existence, and all that anything, including humanity, can do is express it. No matter what we are doing- whatever our philosophy, belief system, or sanity, whatever we are involved in we have no choice but to spend every moment of our lives expressing consciousness. Everything that we do - all our thoughts, actions, and creations are an expression of our consciousness. So what is consciousness?
How can anybody do this question justice – who would dare? I think, only a fool like myself would even try, as whilst we all posses a consciousness and spend our lives entirely expressing it, we all have our own interpretation of what it is. And so it is different for us all. And it truly is different – whist we all posses it, we possess a slightly different version, nobody has ever possessed our version of consciousness before and nobody can ever again. The moment of consciousness we have at this moment, we have never had before and can never have again, and so it is for all moments of consciousness. Deja vu occurs when we think we might have. We may not be aware at any time that it is consciousness that we are expressing; It is consciousness in the form of washing the car, or mowing the lawn, or paying the bills. Or whatever other urgent task we must perform in order to carry on with our lives. Consciousness works like this – it is the force that drives life, and we are totally consumed by it. I have an interpretation of it that I would like to share. I cannot possibly describe it fully, or do it justice, but I think I can provide a sketch of a solution to what is known as the hard problem of consciousness. A sketch of how emotions work, and why.
Consciousness can be described as a process of self organisation – every instance of life is an instance of self organisation, and it has been since the beginning of life. The main thrust of abiogenesis theories is that self organisation led to life. The prevalent notion is that consciousness emerged later as life evolved, but this is incoherent. Consciousness and life arose together, as without consciousness there can be no life. Further the philosophical zombie argument describes that without emotion, a philosophical zombie would be unconscious, and so could not be alive.
There is no reasonable way to separate consciousness from life. They are two aspects of the one thing. Consciousness is the quality that gives rise to life, and in turn consciousness is the singular thing that life expresses. The notion that only some forms of life posses consciousness is incoherent and baseless. All living creatures are self learning and programming. All living creatures are involved in a process of self organisation - always! They are all conscious, but they all possesses a different degree and a different version of consciousness.
Non living matter falls to zero point energy, whilst living matter self organises to resist zero point energy. This is the difference between life and death – the living matter is biased to resist zero point energy, and to the best of my understanding this is the foundation of consciousness. The consciousness that we understand as our own consciousness evolved from this primordial bias to resist zero point energy.
This leads to a definition of consciousness: Consciousness is an evolving process of self organisation that has at its root a bias to resist the zero point energy state. A bias is emotional information - it has polarity, an aversion to something and an attraction to its opposite. This lays the ground for a system of self organization, founded on an emotional bias. At this stage of consciousness evolution it is but a grain of sand of what will eventually become the pyramids of Gaza, but this grain of sand still remains the core attribute of consciousness for all of life including humanity. We recognize it as the fear of death, and the will to live.
A bias is an emotion. All emotions are feelings located on a spectrum of pleasure and pain. The first prokaryotic and eukaryotic cells are conscious. These cells are alive, and they are self learning and programming. They have a simple emotional consciousness. No brain is required as reason is not present. If a feeling is painful – they move away. If the feeling is hunger they initiate a process to satiate it. If that is not possible in the immediate vicinity they move to another location. The satiation of hunger is pleasant, as the feeling of hunger is unpleasant. Thus they are able to self organise via an emotional gradient.
This emotional consciousness is still present in us. Human beings really are huge eukaryotic membranes with trillions of cells. These cells have evolved into organelles, then organs, but they still self organise according to an evolved system, tied to its origin, which has an emotional gradient at its core. Feelings of thirst or hunger or Pain, need no reason. These feelings are basic to our consciousness, and dominate it. They need to be satisfied before anything else. When a person breaks an arm, it is not just their arm that is painful and broken. They become affected holistically – their entire person is affected. Their mood and judgement ( consciousness ) become impaired as a result of the emotional input from their broken body . The entire body is involved in consciousness. Each cell has a stake. The whole complex biological system is conscious. Organs are conscious of their specific function; brain is largely an organ of extra cellular awareness, whilst heart, liver, etc are organs of intracellular awareness. Their collective qualia contributes to consciousness in the way that it can – for cells this being emotions, for extracellular sense organs and brain – this being reason. It all comes together as a molecule would come together – as an integrated pattern of entanglement.
Emotional consciousness is mediated by senses such as touch, thirst, and hunger, in short - feelings. As new senses emerged such as sight and hearing, so did a new form of consciousness. These senses could not work with emotion alone. We are all familiar with the term seeing the world through rose coloured glasses – well, this is not conducive to survival – I guess the organisms that continued to use these new senses purely with emotion died out, the ones that developed reason continued on. Reason now competed with emotion for dominance of consciousness. To accommodate and facilitate these new senses a brain evolved. These new senses are facilitated by organs surrounding the brain.
Once vocal chords and language developed human consciousness really expanded. Now we were not solely confined to our own experience for an understanding of reality- we could share in the reality of others. We developed an expanded reality that relied on the collective consciousness
In the modern era, due to education, technology, and mass communication, consciousness has exploded; the frontier now is artificial consciousness.
Everything external to consciousness can be reduced to information, and it is information that consciousness entangles, integrates, and unifies. All information has a quality ( qualia ), so it is always emotional information.
A mind empty of integrated information is unconscious and ineffable – consciousness arises as sense mediated information is integrated and experienced - out of this process arises perception, thought, creativity, etc.
The problem is that the information being integrated is always incomplete, imperfect, emotional, often flawed, or entirely false – consciousness nevertheless joins the dots and creates something – filling in the blanks, with our beliefs, hopes, and faith. This may well be the existential reality of living in a universe that is probabilistic, ever changing and evolving.
Communication is an orientation in each others consciousness – this is its purpose.
Communication consists of information and emotion. Together it is emotional - information.
Communication exists on two levels – non verbal ( emotional ), and verbal ( information ).
The verbal information is an orientation in each other’s reality, as construed individually, as mediated by reason. Thus becoming a shared reality, and an expansion of consciousness.
The non verbal information is an orientation in each other’s reality, as mediated by emotion. The qualia of the other is interpreted and felt, and experienced by us. Thus becoming a shared emotional reality. At least in each other’s minds – emotional communication is not very accurate.
The two languages of consciousness work side by side:
Reason is unemotional - is of the brain and senses surrounding the brain, it has no bias.
Emotion is unreasonable – is of the body’s cells, and is biased.
They are different languages that cannot dissolve into one another, they cannot directly describe each other, rather they exist as an emulsion, something like oil and water, such that they exist and act together and at the same time remain distinct.
Reason cannot dominate consciousness. From the Philosophical Zombie argument, emotion is vital for consciousness and life. Reason improves consciousness, but does not create or maintain it – a mix has to exist.
Reason contains an important flaw identified by Olivier5 –“ You can use reason to justify reason of course. What you cannot do logically is use reason to debase or disprove reason”. For this you need emotion! This allows consciousness the maximal freedom that is required to continue life.
Experience and consciousness are often misunderstood.
We experience consciousness, or have a conscious experience. We cannot have an unconscious experience or an unexperienced consciousness – we cannot have one without the other.
If we cannot separate the two, then they are the one thing, where one is the quality of the other.
Consciousness is the state, and experience is its quality.
Experience is the quale of consciousness.
Consciousness is composed of emotional - information
Everything possesses a quality ( qualia ), and everything can be reduced to information .
Information and its qualia (emotional information) are the only two ingredients that create consciousness. Consciousness is composed of emotional information – in the past, present, and future. This is all it can be. We have no experience of unemotional information, and we could have no experience with unemotional information. It is not possible to form pure reason absolutely. Every instance of consciousness is an amalgam of emotional information - so biased in some way – without exception. Even when seemingly logical and mathematical, and self sacrificial, there is the hope of secondary gain, or long term gain as a reward, so not entirely unbiased.
It works something like this:
An instance of consciousness:
1: Senses input information
2: Information is integrated to reason
3: Reason is experienced
4: Experience is translated to emotion
5: Emotion is translated to a feeling
6: A feeling is located as a point on a pain / pleasure spectrum ( PPS)
This cognizes the instance of consciousness - the point on the pain / pleasure spectrum tells you what this instance of consciousness means for you.
At this point, the reason is understood by the whole body; whole body consciousness understands this language, whereas only your brain understands reason.
Your next step is guided by the point on the pain / pleasure spectrum. - The whole body is in agreement now - this is reality.
If it feels good – you continue
If it feels bad – you think again, or initiate a plan of action to avert the potential pain.
At the extreme end beyond pain is death ( zero point energy ), whilst pleasure is associated with life
The PPS provides impetus to behaviour. It determines the next state of consciousness, this continues throughout the day in a causal chain, where the PPS is constantly being queried, and appeased. The PPS governs the emotional / rational mix of the response. If the point on the pain / pleasure spectrum, is at an extreme end , the result is a more emotional response, if it is neutral the result is a more reasoned response
From the biological / cellular perspective, we simply feel pain or pleasure at the site, significantly what we feel is a gradient of pain or pleasure, and this dominates consciousness, no reason is necessary, and this gets attended to reflexively as a priority.
As consciousness evolved it had no choice but to self organise in terms of this primordial emotional gradient ( PPS ). It had to build on what already existed, as what existed was already a well developed system of self organisation ( consciousness ). Animal life arose about 1 billion years ago, some 2.8 billion years after microbial life. At no point could a reasonable consciousness simply pop into existence – initially it would have been a weakly reasonable system, so it had to evolve onto the existing non reasonable but highly effective system.
I don’t mean to give the impression that consciousness is a simple linear process. It is capable of multi modality - background awareness, focus and multi focus, disassociation, integrity, fragmentation, fluctuation and errors . Nothing is absolutely impossible in the mind!. I also expect, that if the variety of human consciousness could be graphed, it would be a bell shaped curve where most people would be in the middle, but the spread would be quite wide. Some people feel very little pain, whist others feel the slightest pain. The way a PPS is formed varies, but that one exists, I believe, doesn’t.
The PPS was deduced through an exploration of consciousness as articulated by qualia - I think it is quite enlightening:
The qualia of life is consciousness
The qualia of consciousness are experiences.
The qualia of experiences are emotions.
The qualia of emotions are feelings.
The qualia of feelings are points on the PPS
,The qualia of points on the PPS are death - pain / pleasure - life.
The qualia of life is consciousness – this completes the consciousness loop.
The qualia of death is unconsciousness
The qualia of unconsciousness is death
The hard problem:
Reason must be experienced – it must be translated to an emotional language and felt as the language consciousness was originally founded on, thus located on the PPS, and felt as either a pain or pleasure. Reason has implications, and implications are painful, neutral, or pleasurable.
Emotion on the other hand governs consciousness, so there is no evolutionary compulsion to have a faculty to translate emotion to reason. Hence emotion cannot be translated to reason. There is no way to dissolve emotion with reason. There is no such thing as a reasonable red. Reason can dance around emotion, but there is no way for reason to directly dissect and inhabit the colour red conceptually. Reason may influence emotion, but there is no possibility for reason to overwhelm and control emotion absolutely!
The original language of consciousness was emotional. As a new reasoned language evolved, the original, conscious making and life giving emotional language could not fade away to make way for the new. The new language had to adapt to the old. It had to inform the old language in terms it understood, and this was the PPS. Gradient tracking as a means of cellular navigation is well described in biology, and consciousness seems to be founded on an emotional gradient.
In a sense we posses two consciousnesses, one is cellular and emotional, the other is of the brain and reasonable, but neither is complete, and each depends on the other. Like the entire human complex biological organism they are enmeshed and self organised, via the pain / pleasure spectrum, in a pattern of one for all and all for one.
We exist as an I am conception in the reasonable brain consciousness, but cellular emotional consciousness is our master. It is only when emotion agrees with reason that reality is created.
The dominant part of our consciousness is emotional, and we only have reason with which to try and understand it. It is inadequate for the task. So we are locked out of our cellular emotional consciousness. It dose not understand reason, it self organises using a different emotional means, which in turn reason does not, and cannot understand. At the same time, this aspect of our consciousness is focused internally. It is internally aware, with each organ having a specialised function – it is extremely effective. It is the system of self organisation that has filled the earth with life. It manipulates a 3.2 billion base pair jigsaw puzzle called DNA, in human terms 875mb of data, or roughly 100 encyclopaedia volumes. Cellular complexity is astounding. We, including our brain, are entirely composed of it. The idea that this is some sort of random system is nonsensical. Our cellular consciousness is extremely competent, but it knows nothing of the extracellular world. It relies on reasoned consciousness for information of the outside world, and it can only understand such matters via the PPS as degrees of pleasure and pain. So it cannot have a complicated world view – only reasoned / brain consciousness can posses that. But whatever view reasoned consciousness forms, it has to make it palatable for emotional consciousness. Thus it has to be pleasurable, or at the very least, an avoidance of death. The result is that H.Sapiens seem to be a very self interested species, as our decisions have to be self interested, they have to feel good to appease our emotional consciousness. In the process a self interested loop is created that provides impetus to a complex biological system.
"Nature has placed mankind under the governance of two sovereign masters, pain and pleasure. It is for them alone to point out what we ought to do as well as to determine what we shall do.
Jeremy Bentham 1789.
Reason continues to become more and more prominent, but there would be an evolutionary mix of emotion and reason that is optimal and we are most probably there, or thereabouts already. It seems we are not destined to become anywhere near philosophical zombies any time soon.
There is no way to evaluate two unrelated experiences other then as values on a common measure for qualitative information. Qualitative information is essential for reality orientation. Each experience is self contained, experienced only once, so unique and unrelated, To ascertain its quality we must compare it to other experiences, and the only way to do this is by assigning the experience a value on the PPS. Once the experience has a value, we can compare the experience to other experiences. From this process we orient ourselves in reality, via an emotional gradient.
Without assigning each experience an emotional value, we would remain disoriented as to its significance – it would be a meaningless experience! We would not know how to organise in relation to the experience. We would be a philosophical zombie completely disoriented in our reality, as all reality would be emotionally equal. A PPS value grounds us in reality by telling us whether the experience is ordinary or extraordinary, painful or pleasurable. Reason alone cannot do this – every moment would require a theory of the moment to resolve – and it could only resolve a moment to a confidence level. Comparing the moment to other moments on an emotional gradient is much more effective.
Consciousness is a system of self organisation in relation to the information that surrounds us. Much like breathing, where oxygen is taken in and diffused throughout the body, information is sensed, integrated, and experienced, thus diffused throughout the body in the form of emotion. This provides a grounding in reality, and impetus to behavior. In this way the environment external to us, creates consciousness within us, through our own process of information integration and experience. There is no subject – object, they are inextricably enmeshed and co-dependent. One cannot exist without the other.
Consciousness arises as information is integrated. A certain pattern of information entanglement gives rise to an idea, whilst a different pattern of entanglement gives rise to a different idea. In the same way matter external to consciousness must be patterns of entanglement. Patterns of entanglement against other patterns of entanglement within a space entangled with various patterns can be a description of the Universe. Such a description of everything coincides with how quantum field theory describes perception, but we have long known atoms form patterns of molecules which go on to form patterns of matter. The patterns of matter can be differentiated symbolically - a different symbol for a different pattern of matter. Qualia provide this information, but symbology alone does not provide qualitative, or emotional information, experience on the PPS dose. All qualia resolve to a personally judged point on a personally constructed PPS.
DNA and qualia
DNA would provide much of the information that results in the symbolism we attribute to patterns of matter entanglement found in nature. I think we can say this with confidence as there isn’t an abrupt point in life when we suddenly notice qualia. It is there from birth.
Qualia would have been essential for primates to understand the world they lived in. Symbolism must have been a practical way to differentiate matter, without the need to understand it. The symbolism that is qualia differentiates matter, as well as provides the PPS information of whether it is painful or pleasurable, which is ultimately a personal experience.
Qualia is emotional information. Red has a quality + symbolic information
You can describe the materials of the colour red – the pigments and binders, or the mechanics that lead to its perception, but you cannot convey the colour red to me as I would normally experience red, because in order to do that you would have to press my PPS at the same point as red would normally do when I saw it. You would have to make me experience red – that is the only way to convey its colour to me exactly as I experience it. Apart from the materials that compose it, red is a symbol differentiating itself from other colours, redness is a gradient, and it has an associated emotional quality, and as such it needs to be felt on the PPS to be emotionally evaluated, and understood.
The Blue of the sky is emotional information that is resolved as a symbol, and its quality as an experience on the PPS. As with all experience, it is slightly different every time, as every instance of consciousness is a unique experience every time. Every instance of consciousness is a singularity in the absolute sense – never experienced exactly the same before and never again in the future .As such it is a personal experience that is evaluated against other experiences on a personally constructed PPS . It cannot be communicated such that it can be experienced again – absolutely. It cannot be experienced a second time period. It should be appreciated as something unique and special that only you can know only once.
What does it feel like to be conscious?
There is an internal ambient emotional state.
It feels like the collective qualia of ten trillion cells that create what we understand as emotion.
Cognition causes a disturbance in the ambient emotional state. The state fluctuates in line with perception and cognition, as experience inputs PPS emotional information. We organise ourselves to moderate the fluctuation, to create a pleasant emotional state, and avoid pain.
What it feels like to be conscious is the painful, neutral, or pleasant feeling of cellular consciousness, plus the reasonable brain consciousness. Entangled together they create the sense of feeling and comprehension that we experience as reality.
I have hardly mentioned the brain, as I believe, neuroscience is doing a great job of mapping the brain, and computational theories of consciousness explain brain functioning very well. They however do not describe a human being, rather a philosophical zombie. They do not describe how emotions orient us in reality and provide impetus to behavior, and they do not account for cellular complexity.
If we combine emotions and cellular complexity together as one system of consciousness, and brain based computational consciousness together as another system, we can link them via the pain / pleasure spectrum, This would create a model of consciousness that agrees with observation and explains, to a large extent, the hard problem of consciousness.
Sorry about the long read. I have cut 90 pages down to 9. For me this is the beginning of an understanding which I hope to improve upon and add to over the next few years. Your input would be greatly appreciated. If you would like to make a comment you can do so here.