We know what consciousness is, but the question nobody seems to really be able to answer is: how does consciousness work? In this fascinating, if lengthy article by Michael Graziano on AEON Magazine, a look at "the mystery that confounds scientists and philosophers" and whether or not a new theory has finally figured it out.
Some people might feel disturbed by the attention schema theory. It says that awareness is not something magical that emerges from the functioning of the brain. When you look at the colour blue, for example, your brain doesn?t generate a subjective experience of blue. Instead, it acts as a computational device. It computes a description, then attributes an experience of blue to itself. The process is all descriptions and conclusions and computations. Subjective experience, in the theory, is something like a myth that the brain tells itself. The brain insists that it has subjective experience because, when it accesses its inner data, it finds that information.
I admit that the theory does not feel satisfying; but a theory does not need to be satisfying to be true. And indeed, the theory might be able to explain a few other common myths that brains tell themselves. What about out-of-body experiences? The belief that awareness can emanate from a person?s eyes and touch someone else? That you can push on objects with your mind? That the soul lives on after the death of the body? One of the more interesting aspects of the attention schema theory is that it does not need to turn its back on such persistent beliefs. It might even explain their origin.
The heart of the theory, remember, is that awareness is a model of attention, like the general?s model of his army laid out on a map. The real army isn?t made of plastic, of course. It isn?t quite so small, and has rather more moving parts. In these respects, the model is totally unrealistic. And yet, without such simplifications, it would be impractical to use.
|View the Northern Lights|
|Girls are primed to fear spiders|
|"Sleep Has to Have a Basic Evolutional Function [or] it would have been eliminated."|
|Man-Made (But Very Tiny) Black Holes Possible|
|Insect With Built-In Mechanical Gears|
|“The race is on to create lab-grown meat products.”|
|“Google Owns 28% of Your Brain.”|
|“If the tech industry gets its way, none of your stuff will be yours anymore.”|
|CaptchaTweet: Write Tweets in Captcha Form|
|“A novel experiment by a government to work with journalists and educators to combat the spread of online misinformation.”|
|The (Very Scary) People of Public Transit|
|How to Avoid Jury Duty|
|“We’ve received requests to add some artificial noise to the buses so that people can hear them.”|
|“When Life Gives You Lemons.”|
|Bird Shit Advertising|
|Darth Vader Surfing|
|“Both spacecraft are still operational when they reached interstellar space.”|