TED Conversations

Anuraag Reddy

AIESEC India

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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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    Nov 29 2013: An essay by Md. Moulude Hossain reviewed the writing of Paulo Freire; 1921-1997, on education and included these brief points about consciousness.

    According to Paulo Freire there are two views on humankind.

    One view conceives of humans as objects, they are mouldable and adaptable.

    Brief Explanation: On this view humans can be compared with animals. They act and obey without taking time to reflect. An animal cannot see itself as “I” against a “not I”, or in other words it cannot see itself separate from this world. If human beings are seen as objects, they are submerged in the world. They have not been given a chance of self-reflection.

    The other view sees humans as subjects, independent beings, able to transcend and recreate the world.

    Brief Explanation: On this view, human beings are seen as subjects. They can think and reflect for themselves and they can dissociate from the world. The essential difference between humans and animals is that humans can operate in the world through action and reflection.
    • Dec 1 2013: Every living being can operate in the world through action, and many many many many many animals can also operate in the world through reflexion. Many many many many animals can distinguish themselves from other things. They do have concepts of "I." I would argue that all living things do operate under an "I" embedded somewhere in their being, given that in order to survive, at leafs up to reproduction, a living being must operate for its own survival. How to do that without an "I"?
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        Dec 1 2013: Is this to say that there is a conscious experience of the "I" or do you mean to say that there are other organisms that exhibit a "self." Mind you that we can only observe behaviors in other organisms in an objective manner, so, in humans, this equate to observing the "me" and not the "I," but it is still self.
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      Dec 2 2013: I think buddhist philosophy is introspective in nature, and based out of pragmatic analysis. They most certainly don't contradict contemporary scientific views, and therefore gain wide acceptance amongst intellectuals. However, introspection by itself cannot stand for evidence.

      My hypothesis would suggest that consciousness by its more existential definition, or the experience of being conscious is expressed more vividly amongst higher forms of life, but the very nature of its experience seems quite ubiquitous.

      It is tempting to believe that there is a higher consciousness, we as individual fractals of consciousness are validating the existence of corporations, governments, internet, cultures etc and they keep evolving through us, they behave almost as if they have a mind of their own. We are exchanging ideas, communicating, and acting on their behalf, and while its consciousness might not reside in any one of us. Some of us are more, or some of us are less conscious of the existence of such a phenomenon.
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        Dec 2 2013: You raise an important point that introspection does not always constitute reliable evidence. The same can be said about intuition in areas outside of our expertise, as well as visions in dreams, illness, or under the influence of medications or drugs.

        People often think or feel what they see in these situations is somehow more "true" than what they have otherwise seen or realized, but there is no reason to believe that to be the case.
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          Dec 2 2013: I agree, perception is very subjective and we may just be in a circumstance where reality could be altered.

          I think it is possible to deduce a hypothesis, but evidence for it will largely rely on experience given the nature of the subject. It is tricky, so we might have to replicate such a model drawing parallels from computer science, and evolutionary biology as evidence.
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        Dec 2 2013: Merle W. Donald in his essay on human nature write about "distributed cognitive-cultural networks" in the brain. If we start with the concept that consciousness is an emergent property of the brain it is easy to see Donald's understanding; the has not evolve culture and therefore our interactions with it has.
        http://integral-options.blogspot.com/2010/01/merlin-donald-definition-of-human.html

        "We have plastic, highly conscious nervous systems, whose capacities allow us to adapt rapidly to the intricate cognitive challenges of our changing cognitive ecology. As we have moved from oral cultures, to primitive writing systems, to high-speed computers, the human brain itself has remained unchanged in its basic properties, but has been affected deeply in the way it deploys its resources. It develops in a rapidly changing cultural environment that is largely of its own making. The result is a species whose nature is unlike any other on this planet, and whose destination is ultimately unpredictable."

        Also see "The Neuroscience of Enlightenment"
        http://www.frontiersin.org/Journal/10.3389/fpsyg.2013.00870/full
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          Dec 2 2013: At any given point in history, the zeitgeist or the views of humanity have transformed, and as a collective we have become wiser, and more enlightened. We have been growing exponentially in every way imaginable, it's almost an impossible trajectory to predict.

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