12 June 2014 ~Question of the Day~ Consciousness Begin

When does consciousness begin?

What do you mean by consciousness?

Consciousness seems to exist as a series of levels of awareness.

Most definitions of consciousness seem to include the notion of awareness of self in the definition. In that case, for most human children that seems to first occur between 15 and 24 months of age, though there are infrequent outliers well outside that range.

Awareness seems to arise as a result of the self organising structure of hierarchies of pattern recognisers within the neocortex of our brains. An extremely complex, subtle, and infinitely reconfigurable system within each of us.

The specifics of the cultural environment seem to have a substantial influence on the timing and the rate of progression through the (what seems to me to be an) infinite series of levels and types of awareness.

Many people seem to arrest at very early levels of awareness, for a host of possible reasons (mostly cultural in origin).

[followed by

Hi Bhatta & FOS

Our daughter didn’t like certain composers, and would kick Ailsa whenever she played them, from about 6 months from conception (3 months pre birth). We talked to her, and played with her, while she was still in the womb. I do not accept she was asleep. She was not yet self aware, and she definitely had awareness of sorts – a lot of development pre birth.

There is a sense in which we could say our journey to awareness began some 14 billion years ago.

There is another sense in which it started with the first cellular life some 3 billion years ago.

There is another sense in which it starts for each of us at conception.

There is another sense in which it starts when our embryonic brain first start to signal coherently.

Then we each eventually get to the point of “consciousness” (defined as being an entity aware of itself) usually at some point a few dozen months after birth.

The question wasn’t when did the journey start, but when does consciousness start.

[followed by]

Hi Bhatta

Thank you for the links.

While not any sort of expert on Hindu studies or Hindu history, the article you referenced appears internally consistent and within its own terms arguably consistent with my experience.

However, I use a completely different reference and conceptual frame, consistent with my own studies in biochemistry, logic, systems, neurophysiology, Artificial Intelligence, computers, psychology, history, etc; and the specific conceptual sets my intuitions derived from my experience sets have given me to structure the conceptual relationships of that experience.

Within the framework I use the terms referenced for the two 7s of Lokas or the 5 Kosas etc have a similar relationship to that which my culture gives to the colours – the primary names for colours (red orange yellow green blue indigo violet) vs the infinite spectrum of possible photon energies within the visible spectrum that give rise to the qualia experience of colour we each have (which seems to be an infinitely expandable array based upon experiential distinctions). And certainly the culturally available labels give rise to a set of distinctions that tend to deliver an initial default set of qualia of experience – as a child I did in fact see 7 colours for a time.

In this sense, I see the very notion of Truth as an illusion, a simple childish distinction carried too far by far too many.

[followed by]

Hi Bhatta

My replies are uncharacteristically short because my left collar-bone is in 3 pieces, my left arm in a sling, and I am very slowly typing one-handed.

When it comes to matters of reality, it seems clear to me from a great deal of evidence from many disciplines that we cannot have 100% certain knowledge. We may have confidence, even 99.9999999% confidence, but never 100%. So in this sense, the notion of truth seems to be an illusion, a simplifying assumption that we each must make as children, and one that needs to be abandoned as the evidence from logic, quantum mechanics, neurophysiology, and psychology etc mount against it.

So in this sense, whenever I am confident of something, it is to a limit of “reasonable doubt”, as if pushed beyond that limit I must acknowledge the possibility, however minuscule, of error, in any assertion I make.

Having established that as a ground rule for everything else I write, I may not explicitly state it in further assertions, and you can rest assured it is there (my wrist is sore already from stretching fingers to reach the shift key and other keys simultaneously with one hand).

When I read the article you referenced I could map experiences I have had to each of the distinctions given. I am not a Hindu scholar by any stretch, and I am familiar with some of the mythology, in my studies over the years. I had met each of the ideas previously, such that reading them in that context bought up a reasonably deep set of readings that allows me to map my personal experiences of states of being to those described with some confidence.

For me, the idea of eternal being makes no sense, and I can see how it might seem sensible when coming from a conceptual system based upon the idea of gods and disembodied beings.

To me such things seem highly improbable.

To me, all of the experiences I have had (which seem to span the full range of those described) fit into a model where consciousness is an attribute of the neural networks of our brains.

The model I use is not at all simple. It has no real limit to the number of levels it can contain. Given a long enough life it should be practical for individuals to attain depths of in excess of a thousand levels using the human brain alone, and no real limit if we augment our awareness with “computer” technology (and I make no predictions about the nature of that technology, just as the users of abacuses 500 years ago could have had no concept of the silicon and germanium technology that would completely replace them today – and we have had over 100 years of computational capacity doubling roughly every 2 years – a 1,000,000,000,000,000 times increase – I wonder how many people have any idea just how big that number is – it is 30 million years worth of seconds). What we can say with quite high confidence is that the capacity of our machines will exceed the capacity of any single human within twenty years and of all humanity within 50 years. It seems highly probable to me that there will be a substantial population of machine human hybrids during that period.

During that period our understanding of the subtleties of the levels of awareness seems likely to expand exponentially.

Quite the most interesting time in which to exist.

[followed by]

Hi Bhatta

Yeah. I get that a little knowledge is a dangerous thing.

I get how profound is my ignorance.

And I also get that I cannot let my ignorance be an excuse for inaction, as I will always be more ignorant than knowledgeable – should I live a billion years.

Trying to find the wisdom and judgement to choose where and when and how to act appropriately for the betterment of all awareness (myself and all others).

And I have seen much wisdom in Helen Keller’s quote “Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing.”

Interesting thing this thing called life, and this property called choice!

About Ted Howard NZ

Seems like I might be a cancer survivor. Thinking about the systemic incentives within the world we find ourselves in, and how we might adjust them to provide an environment that supports everyone (no exceptions) - see
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1 Response to Consciousness

  1. Pingback: Nature of Consciousness | Ted Howard NZ's Blog

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