QR6.3.12 The Nature of Consciousness

The cascade theory of human consciousness answers common questions about it as follows:

1. What is consciousness? Let consciousness be the ability to observe a physical event. In our case, distant brain areas analyze different senses yet give one multi-sense observation. If nerves work as computers do, how can a brain with no central control form one observation? Millions of years ago, nature found a way, to entangle nerves by synchrony into one observer, because forming one observer is as important as analyzing the senses. Even in the womb, some nerves process data while others generate brain waves. When a baby looks at you intently, it may be forming the observer as well as the observed. Human consciousness is the brain’s ability to entangle nerves into an I to observe the world that sense nerves register.

2. What causes consciousness? The primal cause is that quantum entities can observe physical events, but human observation requires a bigger observer. It requires a cascade of brain synchronies for our consciousness to emerge from the electromagnetic field.

3. Is consciousness physical? Every physical event is an observation result so what observes it can’t also be physical, as that would be circular. If consciousness was physical, we could put it in a bottle, but what creates the bottle can’t be contained in it. If a non-physical electromagnetic field underlies consciousness, then the observer isn’t physical either.

4. Is consciousness continuous? A physical observation is an event not a thing, so observations are intermittent not continuous, but the being that experiences can constantly exist.

5. What does consciousness do? Consciousness enables a single being that can observe and choose, whether at the cell or human scale. Acquiring consciousness allows a complex brain to act as an entity. We take ourselves for granted, but imagine an online game whose players asked “What does the player do?” Some might say the player observes and chooses but those who see only the game see no “players” in it, so conclude they don’t exist. They say: “If players exist, point to them in the game!” This can’t be done, yet the game only exists for its players. In essence, consciousness provides the players in the game of physical reality. 

6. Why is consciousness singular? Brain areas act in parallel but can only form one synchrony at a time, to give one global experience at a time. Consciousness is singular because the brain-wide resonance that creates it is singular.

7. Why does the conscious experience never fail? Brain states that give new smells or feelings are experienced with no more effort than familiar ones. How does consciousness know what experience to generate each time, without fail? If the cascade of consciousness builds up from individual nerve observations, the experience is built from scratch each time. Consciousness never fails because every experience is generated from the ground up.

8. Can consciousness change? Consciousness based on neural synchrony can grow or shrink as nerves join or leave the ensemble, so “I” take a while to fully emerge after sleeping. If consciousness increases as nerves synchronize better, one can be more or less conscious over a day or lifetime. Consciousness can also reduce by dissociation, when the unitary self falls apart, as seen in multiple personality cases. 

9. Can consciousness observe itself? An observation is an observer-observed interaction where the observer isn’t the observed, so to observe itself an entity has to divide into observing and observed parts. Brains do this when the intellect observes the emotions, as interpreter theory proposes, but consciousness as an entanglement can’t split into parts. Yet somehow, our ability to observe includes knowing that we observe. The Gnostic saying “Know Thyselfis explored further in Chapter 7.

If consciousness sets us apart in the animal kingdom, how then did it evolve??