TED Conversations

Anuraag Reddy


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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.


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    Dec 2 2013: I read a story by Issac Asimov where a computer programme falls in love with the programmer who is looking for a partner and using the programme to select the most desirable man for her. It dawns on the programmer that her programme actually lied to her as it didn't want her to choose any man other that the programme itself.
    It's a story but encourages strongly to consider consciousness as a function of intelligence (highly developed information processing capability) of systems, not necessarily sole territories of humans or living organisms.
    When I try to imagine the large scale absence of consciousness, everything (from cosmos to mind) collapses into One great mix of no-thing. Probably this is the great One that mystics or ascetics aspire to achieve, but it does not appeal to me.
    Just like a second event is necessary to realize Time, consciousness is the first and basic split (self vs. other) necessary for intelligence to form. If it is illusion, I shall argue it is necessary illusion.
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      Dec 2 2013: It is most certainly necessary. If it were absent, we would be zombies with an instinct to have this conversation. We would be doing almost exactly what we are doing, analysing, exchanging ideas without experiencing it. We would be blind clockworks interacting in this world. However that isn't the case, we are experiencing this moment and we define the fact that we are experiencing this moment as consciousness.

      The fact is we live in a deterministic universe, at least at our physical scale. We are clockworks, and even as clockworks we are designed to perceive our environment, dissociate ourselves from it, and believe that we authentically exist.

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