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Rick Ryan

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Consciousness is the abnormal state of a living organism. "Sleeping" (unconsciousness) is the normal state.

In consolidating ideas from various disciplines (evolution, biology, psychology, etc) I had to ask myself, "What is the REASON consciousness exists?" The question originated after I had read a proposal that from an evolutionary standpoint, "sleep" was counter-intuitive as a trait that should survive in an evolving organism. While sleeping (unconscious) an organism is at more risk to danger, for instance from predatory attack. So why would "the need to sleep" have survived an evolutionary process? Wouldn't "constant consciousness" have been a more survivable trait to expect to evolve?

After considerable thought, it seems that consciousness (and the level of it) may have evolved dependant on an organism's need to be "mobile" in it's environment, in order to meet the two basic needs of any organism,,,acquire nutrients to ensure it's own future survival (it needs to "eat"), and to reproduce to ensure the continuation of it's species (it needs to "mate"). It appears to me the more complex the organism has evolved, the more mobile it may need to be to accomplish these two things within it's environment. And a higher level of consciousness it may need to successfully move about within it's environment.

But once it has accomplished these two goals, a return to an unconscious state makes sense...it is the least energy consuming state of an organism. Being conscious and moving around expends much more energy and would not be the preferred state of an organism. Thus, "sleep"...the return to the unconscious "normal" state, would not have been eliminated by evolution. It is the state where the organism can repair itself from any "damage" incurred during consciouness, and then maintain itself at the lowest energy consumption level until the need exits to "eat" or reproduce becomes dominant again, at which point it returns to the abnormal state of consciousness to accomplish those things. The cycle then continues.

Consciousness is the abnormal state.

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    Sep 2 2012: The entire biological purpose of consciousness is to perpetuate our DNA by being able to feed, procreate and protect our DNA as it continues to live on in new life forms (read make a living). The fact we spend 2/3rds of our lives awake defeats the argument for unconsciousness being the natural state. The accident that occurred in human beings is that due to our vast memory reserves and analytical pattern recognitions skills in our genetic makeup, we suddenly found ourselves with time on our hands for superfluous creative and philosophical adventures. We got carried away with our cognitive tools and started to "Imagine" other ways of living. And that did not just apply to art, cities, farming etc but to even larger spheres of imagination like life beyond our selves and death....We need our unconscious state for two main reasons - to recharge our mental batteries with down time and to tune in to the source of our consciousness which seems to takes us back to our limbic and reptilian natures - God is one giant anaconda after all called Ronin!
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      Sep 3 2012: Nice observations!
      Here's another reason for sleep - it prepares the brain to make associations by pre-sensitising connection potentials between fully potentiated synaptic maps.
      THis can only happen by turning the frontal cortex off - i.e. remove the "executive" so that maps acquired during the day can be sorted into potential association for confirmation on the following day(s).
      Of course, it is also necessary to disconnect the lower brain stem to prevent actual physical movements while these speculative pre-associations are occuring.

      Being basically reptilian(as you suggest), we vertibrates are at the mercy of the ambient energy cycles (day and night). So dormancy makes sense - there is no reason to be running around at night bumping into things and using more energy than is available.

      So on that score, Rick is right - there is no need to be "conscious" whilever the organism has no need to maintain it's self-definitions(survival). But I'd suggest to him, that living organisms are defined by their activity to sustain themselves - therefore, sleep is not the default condition - the universe is dynamic.

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