Think about how this works. Deep inside the wetware we call the brain, resides a virtual world that matches the environment. It isn’t in one spot, but spread over billions of brain cells. Exactly how that world is created is a mystery, but the fact that it exists is right in front of us. That “us” is the little body that inhabits that internal world, the hands and feet you see when you look down. That self is also a virtual entity, complete with virtual body and virtual feelings.
Pinch the big body and the little body feels it. The little body reacts as does the big body. That there exists this connection between the mental image and the physical body cannot reasonably be denied. We can trace nerve impulses from a source of pain to the brain and the return messages from the brain. However, we can also trace the actions of muscles and see quite clearly that they react to pain before the message has had time to return from the brain. The body doesn’t wait for the brain to decide what to do in an emergency.
So the little body, Captain Self, doesn’t exist as a physical reality. It is a virtual copy of the big body, used as a control element. The big body is the reality, the little body is pure imagination. The little body is not responsible for every action, but has a specific role within the system. The ship basically runs itself, so the Captain can focus on important details, like the hairdo.
The rub is that the little body, our Captain Self, is the one that feels most real. It feels separate from the big body. It feels like the one doing the feeling. It is like the senses focus down to a point.
A Point of Awareness
A point of awareness is absolutely necessary for decisions to be made. It takes an entity with a very fixed and limited point of view to act on specific information. The criteria one uses to make decisions needs a fulcrum or pivot point around which to form an opinion. That point is represented by the combined beliefs, prejudices, desires and other elements that make a personality. One must have a sense of self, an understanding of what is to be “individual”.
Captain Self is that point of awareness. In this view the self is a necessary component for the agent to do its job, but not really in charge of present behavior. The subconscious handles that, but the self has the ability to modify future behavior. The self can change.
Captain Self can plan strategically to modify behavior toward specific goals. The crew can be taught new behavior, as can the ship, but neither is able to use a behavior that has not been learned. This is where one can find wisps of the elusive free will. This is where imagination can outline the future. This is where the self can grow.