Consciousness is generally considered to be an emergent phenomenon of the brain. Meaning that consciousness happens when enough activity takes place in the brain in a way that can be compared to how music emerges from a record player.
The music is not anywhere to be found inside the record player. Intuitively, we tend to say the music is on the record, but even there we really only find a circular vinyl disk with peculiar grooves, it does not produce any sound or music at all.
It is only when the mechanisms of the record player are activated in a certain way that that all its activity produces an emergent phenomenon that we call music. Consciousness is somewhat similar. We can’t physically locate it at one point or in one area.
And if we zoom in on the grey matter of our brain, we find as much evidence for consciousness as we find tiny marbles inside a molecule. None at all.
Yet when billions of neurons fire and communicate with each other, the combination of this enormous amount of activity creates the phenomenon of consciousness. But it would seem that this is far from a complete summary of what brings it about.
Because there is an inevitable consequence that complicates things to an incredible degree. The more this emergent feature evolved in ways that allow it to course-correct and significantly reprogram the brain, the more it became a feedback loop of incredible complexity.
When we point a webcam at a screen that displays its input we see a seemingly infinite pattern, the brain does something similar with the activity from its billions of firing neurons, resulting in an unimaginable depth of iterations and permutations that gives rise to what we call consciousness or experience.
This experience is not a goal, it is simply the ultimate tool that our brain has for finding its way and coming to grips with the consistent patterns of reality. We are the unfathomably intricate interplay of what seems like infinite loops of neural processes.
Our essence may have had humble beginnings, but it exponentially grew on its voyage down the rabbit hole of boundlessly mirroring itself and learning from each mirror image.
Our brain waves ripple and reverberate, creating constant feedback loops of wildly varying degrees of complexity before even a single emotion, let alone a conscious thought can emerge, which then in itself inevitably brings about feedback loops of higher levels of abstraction where it is no longer about the interaction and cascade of neurochemical processes, but also of language, ideas and concepts that then allow such magnitudes of recursive thinking that we become capable of observing and dissecting the patterns of our own existence.
We are incomparably more than the sum of our parts.
Which is why our evolution so greatly favored this extraordinary capacity for reasoning and intuition and why it promoted us from biological machines to sentient architects of our own future, tasked with making the right decisions for ourselves and for our species.
We are a feedback loop that is depending on
how our perception & intention is expressed.
We must also factor in the brain’s remarkable ability for changing itself. This is called neuroplasticity. Whatever it is that we are doing at any point in time, we are training our brain to become better at performing those actions, for better or for worse.
While more pronounced at early age, neuroplasticity and even neurogenesis, the creation of new brain cells, continues to take place throughout our lives, shaping and reshaping the hardware of our consciousness every step of the way.
And while human beings have a remarkable capacity for rationality, enabling us to fly rockets to the moon and build incredible machinery that allows us to dissect the fabric of the universe, we are also very emotional creatures.
We live in a probabilistic universe where nothing is set in stone. Rather than vaguely philosophize about the nature of free will, we can deduce that the that feedback loop of consciousness plays an active role in processing information and making decisions.
Even a hypothetically perfect simulation could not predict with complete certainty how events would unfold. There is a profound sense of acceptance in acknowledging that nothing is ever truly certain, but with our brain’s ability to reason, we can come up with pretty good approximations of what the best course of action is at every point in our lives.
While we are an unfathomably complex and rich phenomenon of continuous information processing and near infinite iteration and transmutation, that somehow at every instant and in every loop, a defining part of us survives.
The electrons that buzz through our neurons to generate our ongoing experience do not exist in any solid or intuitive sense of the word and scientists find no trace of a self inside our brain. Each second, the consciousness that emerges from the grey matter mechanisms behind our eyes is different, sometimes unrecognizably so, from what it was a second before.
The truth is every moment we are a new entity
that existed only for that one single moment and
will never manifest itself again.
From fixating on faulty concepts of what we are, on stories of a phantom that we define as the self, we learn nothing of value. It is fascinating that sometimes science and ancient esoteric wisdoms seem to meet. The idea that there is no actual self is not a new one. But it is one that is logical and has gained more scientific support than other schools of thought.
Consciousness does not emerge from the brain like a genie from a bottle. In fact, without any influence from society, in cases where children grow up in isolation, not raised by humans but among animals, the brain does not adapt to the use of language and becomes forever incapable of speaking or even conceptually thinking in the ways that we constantly do.
So much of what we tend to label as intrinsic personality can not even exist on a basic level without sufficient interaction.