Entries tagged with “Consciousness”.

The Dragons of Eden: Speculations on the Evolution of Human Intelligence

Reading Carl Sagan’s “The Dreams of Dragons” is like reading an ancient polymath’s writing – Bacon or Voltaire proposing their best insights from renaissance knowledge. Sagan draws on 1970’s knowledge of the human brain and consciousness to propose a broad vision for what was known from “recent” researches from the likes of Bronowski, Dement, Eccles, Gazzaniga, Gould, Leakey, Minsky, Sperry and Von Neumann. Many of their researches were cutting edge at the time, but have been overshadowed, modified or overturned by new work by themselves and others.

Throughout all of history, folks have tried to determine what it is that makes a person have consciousness. What is it that makes the light illuminating our mind with awareness of being?

No one has found a physical “thing” in a person that could be called a soul. In spite of the images in Harry Potter, Ghost and other works, no structure, vapor or essence has been identified as the soul or consciousness. I suggest that the reason is that the soul is an action, not a thing. In I am a Strange Loop, Doug Hofstadter makes a convincing case that human consciousness consists of a self referential strange loop.Lightbulb

I don’t think Doug completed his thesis. He left the nature of the strange loop as simply “something” within the cranium. The definition of a loop can be anything from a complete electrical circuit, anything round or oval that is closed or nearly closed, a curl or coil, or finally, a computer program sequence that repetitively executes a series of instructions. If one looks at a strange loop as an algorithm that recursively refers to both new input and itself, a clearer picture of what might be consciousness arises.

DesCartes said, cogito ergo sum (“I think, therefore I am”). He should have said “I think, and this makes me be”. Thinking is consciousness – while we are awake and aware the strange loop is the execution of thought. It depends on all the inputs from our senses, the state of our body and all the memories and associations or “tokens” we have developed through life.