5 Explanations for Human Consciousness
Wednesday, June 15, 2011 at 3:00PM
Z Elwood

I was thinking about human consciousness, and the forces behind it. The age-old question of how a human (or any organism) can have a sense of self-awareness. What prevents us from being just complex organisms with no inner thought?

It seems to me there are only five options to explain consciousness and self-awareness.

1)   There is a certain theshold of interactivity that a data-processing system must reach to become self-conscious. Self-consciousness is based on just achieving a certain amount of complexity in a system. (This implies that computers will be able to achieve consciousness.)

2)   There is some process at an unknown level that creates consciousness, like maybe on another dimensional level, or at a quantum level. (In other words, no amount of computer-power will necessarily lead to a system becoming self-conscious; something must happen at another level of interaction that we don’t know about.)

3)   All physical matter has consciousness. We are conscious just like animals are conscious, just like a tree is conscious, just like a rock is conscious, just like an atom is conscious. Complex systems (like the human mind) could be broken down into a number of separate consciousnesses, each unaware of the other.

4)   We are given consciousness by an outside all-powerful force, like God. 

5)   Consciousness doesn’t exist and is some kind of illusion.  

These aren’t original ideas, of course. And the second option leaves a lot of possibilities open. But I haven’t seen a thorough list of all the possible options in one place before. And it seems to me these are the only options available. Anyone see any flaws in this thinking?

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