There comes a point in everyone's life where they start to question the thing which drives their life. I have the answer for mine.
- 13.5 billion years since universe
- 3 Billion years since earth
- 100k years since homo sapiens
- less than 100 years of sandbox made of time, and Your reality vanishes into nothingness, all the labels, good/bad, right/wrong, everything. Even though objective world keeps existing but all the meaning that you created is gone, because the consciousness that comes bundled with the human body is gone. And if you think about it, the human body still keeps existing but disintegrated and in a more simpler form of structure. The only thing that is gone is consciousness.
What is consciousness?
Well, the sad truth is that we don't really know. There are some interpretations like its an emergent property which is basically when a bunch of tiny little parts come together to form something completely different at the level of the whole system.
Roger Penrose, a leading philosopher of science, perhaps explained the issue best with the following:
"There's nothing in our physical theory of what the universe is like which says anything about why some things should be conscious and other things not."
Leading neuroscientists and philosophers have been slowly converging on the idea that consciousnesses is not all its cracked up to be.
What you perceive to be a steady steam of experiences is merely a number of layered inputs that give the impression of a fluid version of reality. There have been an abundance of experiments that demonstrate this convincingly (see "change blindness").
Now that might not be so bad. When you go to a movie, the fact that you are seeing a massive series of still images perceived as fluid motion is not problematic.
What is perhaps unsettling is that the more we dig, the more we are led to the notion that what we think of as being consciousness is mostly an illusion. That doesn't mean we don't have awareness, we just don't have the level of awareness we think we do.
Most people have this notion that we take in reality and its stored inside somewhere. Why, after all, can we close our eyes and envision our surroundings. This is what famed philosopher Dan Dennett refereed to as the "Cartesian Theater" three decades ago. He refuted the notion that there is a single place in our brain somewhere that it all comes together, and neuroscience has spent the last three decades validating this position.
So what is consciousnesses? Who are "you"? Are you really just a very complex layer of perceptions melded together to give you the illusions of self?
Room for Optimism
There is a significant difference between having a dream and having a lucid dream when you fall asleep. The latter is significantly more intriguing. Someone would absolutely be missing the point if they told you that your lucid dream was still only a dream.
Consciousness, in our experience, isn't just the polar opposite of unconsciousness; it feels like something. It is, in fact, everything. It shouldn't matter if consciousness is just a complicated physical process; it's still lovely.
So, what difference does it make what we learn about consciousness? There's a lot to be captivated by, but none of it will affect how you feel about yourself.
And, even if human consciousness is revealed to be nothing more than a feedback mechanism in which billions of neurons fire to provide the illusion of witnessing reality, we are still left with one major question: Who is actually doing the witnessing?
That's it for this blog post and if you feel that you've something to add to this or you have a different perspective then share it and discuss it on r/StoicHuman or go to the Reddit discussion post for this blog post linked down below.
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