TED Conversations

Anuraag Reddy


This conversation is closed.

The experience of consciousness is the stream of observation, where an organism perceives its environment with reference to itself.

In evolution it must be essential for a self replicating, self preserving organism to have an internalized model of itself in reference to its environment.

The primary experience of consciousness is in the stream of observation, where the organism perceives itself as separate from its environment by constantly referencing a model of itself as an existential entity in relation to external, and internal stimuli.

"If you are not subconsciously referencing yourself as separate from everything else then, do you really exist?"

Just like information contained within DNA is expressed as the emergent property of self replication and life. Information managed by the neural networks in our brain is expressed as the mind, and consciousness. It is purely physical neural networks which have evolved to add meaning to such information, and create the illusion of an observer dependent reality.

The illusion of free will and being an observer are as real as the fact that we materially exist, and in the human condition of being, there is nothing more real than free will, and being an observer. We are a temporary state of matter, a state which has evolved to be authentic in its perception.


Showing single comment thread. View the full conversation.

  • Nov 20 2013: A perception of self as distinct from environment is not essential in evolution. If you believe in an objective reality which exists whether we have knowledge of it or not, then there is no need for consciousness, particularly self-awareness, for the process of evolution to proceed.

    Like everything else which we, as humans, experience through reference to ourselves, the experience of consciousness is not the same thing as consciousness. In the same way, the expression of mind and consciousness is not the same as the objective reality of mind and consciousness.

    How do you demonstrate that consciousness is "clearly" not external to our physical bodies (or even distinct from them)? Because "neither quantum physics nor microscopes invalidate" it? Absence of proof of something is not proof of its opposite. And our inability to observe something directly, or of current models of science to study it are not proof that it does not exist.

    There is much we can now understand about how consciousness works in our perceptive interactions with our environment without actually understanding what consciousness is. Your definition of the experience of consciousness is a reasonable one, but it doesn't inevitably lead to your other conclusions or claims.
    • thumb
      Nov 20 2013: For most of our evolutionary history, life probably only had an objective reality. With little other than instinct, and reflexes to respond to external stimuli. We as humans articulate, and debate the idea of a self, but the evolution of a self, or an objective self is imperative for survival. Even basic organisms have reflexes, and instincts to preserve this objective self, even if they might not be conscious, nor aware of it.

      In complex organisms with brains or even simple neural networks, there is a need for the control center to associate the rest of its body with itself, and externalize everything else. Here I propose emerges the neural concept of a self.

      In order to move around in our environment, or save ourselves from predators, we would need to ceaselessly observe our surroundings and reference ourselves with it. However, the illusion of being an observer is only as authentic as it seems, and gets.

      The fact is we are as much an illusion as everything else, and this illusion is only as real as it gets.

Showing single comment thread. View the full conversation.