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IS CONSCIOUSNESS AN ILLUSION?

How can a physical mesh of neurons generate feelings uncoupled with the physical world? We know the anatomy of a dog’s body and the working of its brain but still not know what it feels like to be a dog. How does the brain produce a subjective experience of a being? For decades, scientists have been trying to unveil the mystery of consciousness but how close we are.

Consciousness relates us to the world around. Without it, we cease to exist. The sweetness of honey, the serenity of the breeze, enjoyment near a beach, the love for your child, the nasty pain of a fractured bone, bitterness against a foe; all sensations, memories, and thoughts are the features of a conscious mind.

Where Is Conscious Located In Your Brain?

None of the scientists has ever found the brain creating consciousness explicitly. However, its standard materialistic locale is closely associated with the brain. The physical regions pinpointed by researchers responsible for regulating consciousness are brainstem and cortex.

Our brain influences consciousness but objectively no one can define it. We all have access to only one consciousness and that is our own. We don’t see it but it is constantly reflected by our behaviours. The neural correlates of consciousness are actually certain measurable behaviours proportional to our consciousness such as awareness, attention, ability to comprehend and communicate and so on. When we can’t study a conscious scientifically, then it is something we can’t reasonably act upon. Why do some patients still have some awareness under anaesthesia?

Does Conscious Create Reality?

Our consciousness is radically based on perceiving reality or effects of reality. Reality is independent of consciousness. Scientists believe that intelligence and consciousness are two different things as consciousness relates to our nature. The Brain that is enclosed in a skull is unable to see or hear anything but with the best possible guesswork it tries to figure out what there is combining sensory signals with its prior beliefs about the world to create a 3D fully immersive panoramic inner movie. For instance, two patches of a single colour always appear as if they are two different shades though there is no difference at all. When combined the shades become one again.

What we call reality is a virtual reality created by the mind. Colours are visually modelled in the brain, they don’t exist in reality. What exists is a spectrum of frequencies. When the visual processing centre or visual cortex are damaged, the mind starts creating hallucinations or disparate figures in those spots doing their job anyway.

Time And Consciousness

Is time a physical reality? No. With clocks, we measure speed, duration and numerical order of material change. We only perceive the irreversible stream of a material change in the universe that runs in a physical space. Time exists when we measure it; it’s a mind model. The concept of time flowing from past to future simply doesn’t exist. If we imagine travelling from London to Amsterdam, we can’t say that Amsterdam doesn’t exist because we are not there yet. Applying the same concept in time, past and future are also there whether we could access them or not. Hence, past, present or future, everything is now!

Humans Vs Zombies

How do we differentiate between a human and a zombie? We would startlingly notice it if we happen to come across a zombie suddenly in the middle of the market. Why? They are like everyone else; they will even utter an ‘ouch’ and flinch as we do if you prick them with a needle! Well, in such cases, they don’t feel pain, it is merely the result of a reflex. It’s the lack of consciousness and subjective sensory experiences in zombies which separates them from us. Can we know assuredly that people around us are not zombies?

The fact of the matter is that there is no way we can detect consciousness in others. Everyone is uniquely conscious due to its intractable subjectivity. We definitely have a survival advantage over zombies because of the function of consciousness.

Why Do We Have Subconscious?

If consciousness is the tip of an iceberg, then subconscious is the part that lies underwater. As a silent partner, our subconscious mind is in close association with consciousness. It includes everything which is hidden from awareness, and about which we are not currently aware of or thinking rationally. They are present in a repressed state in the subconscious but can be easily pulled into consciousness when needed. Face a math problem and your subconscious will activate helping your conscious mind to derive the solution. Its capacity is virtually limitless and memory is virtually perfect. It remembers everything that has ever happened to you or you came across in the world. Its job is to store and retrieve data.

Some scientists believed that our subconscious has a greater influence on our conscious behaviour and actions. It maintains a balance among billions of cells to function in harmony. It practices homeostasis in our mental realm to keep our thinking and habits consistently in a way they have been so far. So if we ever try to do something out of our comfort zone, it’s our subconscious that makes us feel emotionally and physically restless to attempt anything new or different.

The Altered State Of Consciousness

The psychological sense and identification of the self in one’s body within one’s perception forms the baseline state of consciousness. In an altered state of mind, there is a refusal of self, sense of timelessness, no planning and unity, and very little abstract thinking, emotional content, and knowledge about one’s own character or personality.

Some of the most common altered states of consciousness are meditation and hypnosis. Both of them have phenomenological attributes. Apart from producing a deep sense of relaxation, there are some major differences. In meditation, the act of cleansing of mind requires to focus on one stimulus involving spirituality whereas hypnosis is intended for a specific purpose where a participant is administered to focus on selected imagery or feelings. Hypnosis splits consciousness into two components where one aspect is unaware of what roles another aspect is playing. Meditation is believed to enhance focus, concentration and awareness and access subconscious mind. It’s by the consciousness that we strive to attain a meaning to our lives. Why don’t we just feed upon data and produce results without generating an inner movie? Is consciousness universal? Will machines ever become conscious? The answers to these are still concealed. Scientists today are thinking to integrate consciousness with radical ideas scientifically. We need to dig deeper and study fundamental laws that govern consciousness to open new lines of inquiry into human identity. We have still so much to learn and know.

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