So, how are we all connected? Is it by a holographic universe? Is it by our shared molecules or just our shared DNA? Is it simply our needs that bind us together? Or is it our shared consciousness that connects us all? However one views our connectivity, there is one thing for certain: by definition, all interactions pass through our personal interface with the system.
Conscious of Consciousness
As i have noted before, it is hard to find a good definition of consciousness, the subconscious or any of the other related processes. There doesn’t seem to a model we can all agree on. So, i’m going to use a version that makes sense to me. It is built from my “what it looks like from here”, personal experience and from viewing our mental attributes as functions within a system. I’m lumping all the functions of consciousness together as elements of the user interface.
Consciousness is but one part of the interface between the agent and the system. An agent functions as an individual unit within the environmental system. Although all agents act through their own interface with the system, a human being is the one we are looking at here. After all, that’s the only agent with which we have first hand experience.
The agent(human being) is a subsystem, composed of a huge number of interlocking, interdependent and intercommunicating sub-subsystems. These subsystems are all involved in one kind of information processing or another. Isolating one subsystem for analysis is ok if you just want a static view, but when you want to observe its functionality, isolation is not possible. The volume of material, information and energy that flows constantly through all living subsystems blurs the boundaries between them to the point that it is difficult to tell where one begins and another ends. All the subsystems function as a single system and must be understood in that context. In other words, mind and body are interlocking subsystems that cannot be understood as stand alone units; their inter-connectivity permeates their functionality. However, when viewed as separate components of the same functioning system, i think we can settle on some functional components.
Components of the User Interface
User/Observer-The part of the Self that views the scene and listens to the narrator. A point of awareness that views itself as a free agent; a separate entity from the scene. The who your name refers to. The pilot of the free agent’s vehicle, the body.
Body-The vehicle that the user/observer uses to navigate the Scene.
Scene-The view provided by the senses and projected as external reality. This isn’t reality, but the version of it presented by the sensory subsystems. What is most amazing about this scene is that it is composed of input from billions of sensory cells that each collect a specialized kind of information from the environment. Just in the eye alone, there are many different types of nerves in action. Some are sensitive to color, movement, edges and other details and each has their own pathway into the brain. Hearing is another separate subsystem that supplies environmental input. The senses of touch and smell, likewise have their own separate subsystems that gather external data. The magic is that all these diverse sources are conveniently combined into one integrated display that is so seamless, so masterfully executed, that it is easily(and often) mistaken for reality by the user/observer. In fact, if we were to reverse engineer such a capability, it would appear that keeping the use/observer ignorant of the reality of reality may have been an original design criteria.
Narrator-Internal Voice(s) The train of thought, stream of consciousness and/or flow of ideas that accompanies the scene as it unfolds. Environmental cues trigger response from the observer and the narrator.
Emotion-An evaluation subsystem that assigns levels of importance to objects and events. The subconscious manages the evaluation process and informs the observer through neurotransmitters.
Screen-The Observer’s imagination. A view where images and ideas merge into a simulated environmental situation that can test proposed solutions to environmental puzzles. The imagination is like a flexible view of virtual reality, where new behaviors can be proposed and tested.
Flow of Consciousness
What we call our conscious mind is the flow of information made available to the observer. That includes the scene, any and all voices, along with emotion and the imagination. All of that flow is managed by what we call the subconscious mind. The observer has some free will, to be sure, but it is the subconscious that assembles and displays the available options.
This where we do the kind of information processing that we are familiar with: thinking. The various components of our interface interact to provide us with the ability to observe reality, form expectations based on the past, plan and execute appropriate action. We like to think that thinking is our own domain, that no other creatures are so endowed, but it was experiments on monkeys that uncovered dopamine neurons, and others that follow this same procedure of forming expectations. These abilities are active at the cellular level in monkeys, therefore human intelligence is not the origin of such mental behavior, rather a higher level refinement of what is a more fundamental attribute. Using sensory input to learn about the environment and adapt to it, seems to be a function of Life itself. Enhancing that capability is certainly an important function of the subconscious.