The origins of conciousness - how unaware things became aware?

The origins of conciousness

Consciousness is perhaps the greatest enigma of nature stripped to its original meaning, consciousness is what allows us to become aware of both our environment and our own inner state. But thinking about consciousness has the habit of making us go in circles. We all know intuitively what consciousness is. That's it... This is what you are experiencing here right now. But once we try to figure out exactly what it is, it lets us drift away. And not just us. Philosophers and scientists have a hard time defining consciousness. Different schools and different ideas compete, but no one is on the verge of understanding it.

Evolution of consciousness

It is disturbing to realize that we do not understand what makes us aware of ourselves and the world. In this blurry area, consciousness and intelligence are also linked, although they are not the same. Like much of what makes us human, our consciousness is likely to have evolved from less complex forms as a product of evolution by natural selection He probably came out of a huge hundreds of millions of years of countless micro steps, which together form a kind of gradient of consciousness.


What was the first step on this path of the unconscious to the fundamental consciousness that ultimately led to the convoluted consciousness that we enjoy today? Take a stone. The consensus is that a stone is not aware however, not everyone agrees, even on this point. Some panpsychics have claimed that a piece of rock can have an interior life. However, no such hypothesis really exists since the stones never show behavior. Their inner life can neither be proven nor refuted. A more common starting point is with living things.

Awareness of the world

A living being or a self is a part of the universe that maintains itself and makes it more of its kind. To do this, you need energy. And this is where an awareness of the world comes in handy. The initial function of consciousness was probably to direct a mobile car that lacked the energy to get fresh food. On the smallest scales of life, you don't have to be conscious to find food. Trichopax adhaerens - one of the simplest animals moves at random. It slows down in the presence of food and accelerates in its absence. This is very effective and forces the little creature to spend more time where there is food than where there is none. But it never goes in a given direction towards a particular target and it doesn't have to be aware of its surroundings. The first big step towards consciousness has probably been taken when the moving individuals started to move in the desired direction. Go to what was good for them, let's say food and far from what was less good, tell someone else who thought they were food.

Take Dugesia tigrina, a tiny worm known for its funny face. Sometimes the worm is hungry and sometimes not. That means when it moves, the self worm does not simply produce an automatic response to an external stimulus, but that its actions depend on its internal physiological state. Whether hungry or full. When it comes to eating, the worm is less energetic, but once hungry for a while, it will move in the direction of tasty things. He uses chemoreceptors on his head to sense his surroundings and guide it in the direction if the scent of the food is strongest. After finding and eating a meal, our worm companion heads to a dark, sheltered place to digest it safely. Until he is hungry again. But animals that blindly follow their sense of smell have no concrete objective. They still do not know where they are going.

Distance perception

The next step on the consciousness scale is therefore to add distance perception. Like vision. The vision adds context and depth to our world. With vision comes a sense of space us and our food exists in. This adds a whole new dimension to awareness and is a huge step forward towards a more familiar awareness. An optical device like an eye allows us to see our target and lock it. But even at this point, a self can only continue feeding while it sees it.

So the next logical step has to take place inside. To visualize food in its absence, for example, an individual needs to create a kind of interior representation of the world. Now, an animal can continue to search for food, even if it escapes its sensory field. Because of this inner representation of what is relevant in the world, he can stay focused on his food and his desire to get it. We now exist in a world with which we can become familiar. The ability to remember things has emerged.

Thanks to memory, animals can be distracted from the chase for a few seconds, but then quickly continue on their way. A related phenomenon is called the permanence of the object. This describes our awareness that things continue to exist even when we cannot see them. Some mammals and birds, perhaps even other animals, appreciate this cognitive ability. Human babies tend to develop this ability around the age of eight months, while baby chickens show this ability within two days of birth.

The ability to remember something in its absence suggests at least a basic sense of time. The perception of time is a big step on the scale of consciousness. It can also allow us to look forward from the present moment, and anticipate the future. Adult chickens, for example, can resist a meal placed in front of them if they expect to receive a larger meal. as a price to hold back for a while. This kind of deferred gratification means there is an ability to visualize a reward that only exists in the future, which can be a challenge even for adult humans. Western jays are experts in delayed gratification. They show an even more sophisticated sense of the future when they hide food in a cache to retrieve it at a later date. Jay will even repaint their food if they realize that a potential thief is watching them.

 It means they know there are other hungry beings, who are aware and see the world from their own, different perspective The erased jays can somehow read the minds of their fellows. This ability to read minds is crucial for complex levels of consciousness. By putting yourself in the place of others, you can outwit a rich competitor, or sympathize with a hungry friend. Language takes the ability to read minds and represents what is missing on a whole new level. Words allow us to build hypotheses about the world, make detailed plans and share them with others. Words allow us to think about ourselves and our place in the universe. And even about our own consciousness.

what is the origin of our consciousness? 

 So what is the origin of our consciousness? It probably started as a directed movement of a hungry self to a food source. Along with the survival benefits, this has given it over competitors who have moved at random or not at all. It all probably started with the desire for more food. So even with the sophisticated consciousness that allows us to dream of space, build skyscrapers or obsessed with novels, it’s no surprise that we don’t stop thinking about where we’ll have our next meal.

Collectively, we put so much thought and ingenuity into looking for food, that we can now get our food to come to us with little conscious effort.

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