Consciousness is awareness. A subjective experience of internal and external phenomenal worlds. It defines our existence. But how and where does it exist? This is what scientists call ‘the hard problem of consciousness‘.
There is the ‘brain as a computer’ view that can account for non-conscious cognitive functions like control of our body functions and behavior. This is accomplished by many distributed mini-brain areas or what I call ‘zombie’ auto pilot modes. In fact, my own personal view is that what we think of as the consciousness is really afterthoughts of a CEO in charge of a group of competing zombie sub brains.
However, even single celled protozoans exhibit cognitive behavior! They can swim, find food and mates, learn and remember…all without a single brain cell or synaptic computation!
Its been experimentally demonstrated that brain activity corresponding to a stimulus often occurs after we’ve responded (seemingly consciously) to that stimulus. In other words, we think it before we think we thought it. This lends some credence to the idea that what we think of as our ‘consciousness moment’, is a epiphenomenal illusion.
The state of the art in consciousness research now lies not in the brain but within each cell! There is intelligent, organized activities accomplished by protein polymers called ‘microtubules’. They are self-assembling and combine in A-lattice patterns that match the Fibonacci series widely found in nature. This suggests large scale quantum processing! The ‘mind’ or consciousness may be a result of simultaneously analog (neural) and quantum processes in our brain running coherent excitations around 8MHZ.
It is theorized that it could only take as few as one hundred neurons, each containing 10E8 tubules, for a quantum conscious ‘moment’ to occur. However, at any given moment, 10,000 to 100,000 neurons are firing in ‘coherent sets’.
This concept of a hybrid quantum analog brain means 10E5 operations per second per neuron!!! This is bad news for AI fans. That means potentially 10E26 operations per second!! If we were to somehow combine 1500 of the fastest supercomputers in existence today, that would only be only 10E18 calculations p/sec. That is such a huge difference that compared to the brain, our computers are just toys. Thus blowing away the idea of an ‘artificial brain’ AI for a long time to come.
SYNCHRONY SIDEBAR: In the human brain, neuronal synchrony i.e. gamma synchrony EEG, which is currently the best measurable correlate to consciousness, does not derive from neuronal firings. Interestingly, gamma synchrony has a frequency range of 30 to 90Hz. Early Buddhist writings describe there being 6,460,000 ‘moments’ per day. Doing the math, this would average one ‘moment’ every 13.3 msec or a frequency of 75.19 Hz.
The hard problem is explaining how billions of neurons swapping chemicals give rise to such subjective experiences as consciousness, self-awareness, and awareness that others are conscious and self-aware; that is, not only the ability to wonder, but the ability to wonder why we wonder, and even wonder why others wonder why….”
- The Study of Consciousness (robertjrgraham.com)
- Folk Intuitions and the Hard Problem (experimentalphilosophy.typepad.com)
- Mind, Brain, Consciousness (linguaphileapprentice.wordpress.com)