By Chet Yarbrough
The Secrets of Consciousness
By: Essays in Scientific American
Narrated by: Coleen Marlo
A lot of ground is covered in “The Secrets of Consciousness” but for many who are interested in the subject, little new is revealed.
Many articles and books have been written about the easy and hard part of the theory of consciousness.
The easy part is knowledge of the physical characteristics and mechanics of brain function–the “how and where” of information that is stored and transmitted by the brain.
The hard part remains the explanation of what consciousness means, particularly the “whys”. Why are living things aware of themselves, others, and the world from information transmission within a brain. Why do humans get angry? Why do we love? Why do we hate? Why are we sad or happy? Is everything in the universe conscious?
(It is somewhat surprising that “A Thousand Brains” theory is not revealed in “The Secrets…” but it may be timing of publication. Or it may be scientist’s discounting of an engineer’s qualification for understanding consciousness.)
Consciousness is explained as an all-encompassing part of nature. There is an avenue for consciousness in A.I., once the mechanics of consciousness are fully understood. The focus of first chapters are on scientific experiments showing all living things exhibit consciousness through their actions.
Following chapters explain parts of the brain and the mechanics of brain function. They explore the complexity and interconnections of the brain and how different parts of the brain have specific functions. This is the easy part of understanding consciousness because it is something that can be physically measured through brain scans and experiments that correlate actions with brain stimuli.
Next, there are explanations of how experiments with brain stimuli offers potential for reading one’s mind without verbal communication.
It opens the door for a consciousness meter that may allow some level of predictability and mind control. In a positive sense, stimulus experiments might hold a key to reawakening consciousness in comatose patients. The negative sense is the potential for brain washing a non-conforming human being.
Section 4 of these “Scientific American” articles is about “Altered States of Reality”.
A particularly bizarre and threatening chapter suggests someone who sleepwalks can murder another person without being legally guilty of murder.
The last two sections of articles deal with psychoactive drugs, spiritual belief, and their effects on brain function. A listener might view these articles as incentive to experiment with consciousness in two fundamentally different ways. One is with the use of psychedelic’s. The other is to join a monastery or convent.
The last article deals with the end of life. It reveals a possible explanation of why some see a white light just before dying.
Science argues the end of life is the end of consciousness. There is nothing after death–no heaven, no hell, just nothingness.
As an introduction to consciousness, this compendium is interesting. However, after completion, the hard part of consciousness remains a secret.