Formal System

A site about formal logic, literature, philosophy and simulations. And formal systems!

Free Will Series – 5. The Self: Recognition in Fiction — September 6, 2014

Free Will Series – 5. The Self: Recognition in Fiction

The Walk: Futuristic Personal Development and Former Selves

Personal Development is a topic of interest to many people. Whether by reading books or listening to motivational speeches, people wish to change aspects of themselves. Their beliefs, personality traits and in some parts of the world, their sexual orientation. In the Walk, we are shown a piece of neuro-technology that allows the user to modify his beliefs, personality and morality. A person walks before his soon-to-be assassin and tries to convince the assassin that he will do anything that the assassin wants in exchange for his life. Instead, the assassin offers him a device that will alter the person’s view on the self.

This philosophy considers that there is no such thing as a permanent self but instead a person is made of collection of “selves” which are patterns of thought and due to this, where a particular self is defined as a set of thoughts and personality traits at a particular time. According to this view, since a self is essentially made of a pattern of information, there exists the possibility that sometime in the future, whether for a life or a second, an individual exists with the same self as the holder of the philosophy.

The person to-be-killed argues that his “self” cannot exist in the future because he is self is also made of circumstantial factors (the particular story of his life or life time-line) and thus anyone without his story cannot be him.

The assassin replies that even though he does not have the life time-line, personality traits or beliefs of his 5-year old self but he still regards that the self that existed with his body 20 years ago and the person with his body now are the same. Just like his sense of self transcends all the physical and psychological changes that all humans undergo as they mature, and he identifies himself with a 5 year old that looks and acts nothing like him, he could also identify himself with a future individual that is physically different to him but in some aspects is similar to him.

There is also a bit where they talk about surviving through their sons, the idea being that as long as a living human has a portion of genetic information similar to one (as in the case of a biological son), a person’s body dies but his “self” manages to evade death.

The story is interesting because it touches upon the fact that we can identify with humans that are physically and psychologically different to us but might or might not identify with humans that might be psychologically and/or physically similar to us. Just like due to our particular way we “recognise” our self and we don’t feel sad at the fact that our body is constantly replacing old parts of itself with new ones, or “recognise” our self in our biological descendants however physically and psychologically different they are, the technological device provides an alternative view where our view of the is self considers that our self has a non-zero probability of existing (i.e. being hypothetically recognisable by us) at different points in time (past and future), for different periods of time (lifetime, years, seconds), at varying degrees of self-similarity (individual thoughts or collection of thoughts, individual traits or collection of traits and other behavioural patterns), in different human bodies of different ages.

A Kidnapping: simulated unhappiness, simulated lover

A Kidnapping features the story of a world where individuals activate previously prepared simulations of their selves when they die. A man receives a video where his wife tied up and scared asks for his help. The help consists in paying a ransom to a particular bank account. After checking that his wife is not tied up but safe at her workplace, the husband dismisses the video as a prank. But later, considers to pay the ransom (likely to be a relatively large amount of money). He reasons that the video was an extremely accurate simulation. So accurate, that he could not tell that it was fake as every single gesture of the woman in the video he recognised as the gestures of his wife. Every single subtle aspect of his wife behaviour and physical appearance had been displayed by the woman in the video. Since he loves his wife, he pays the ransom but keeps it from his wife. When his wife discovers that he is paying the ransom an argument ensues. She argues that the one in the video is not her but he thinks she could have been scanned and thus the woman in the video was indeed his wife. His wife, after seeing the video, disagrees that the simulation is an accurate reproduction of her but his husband says something very interesting. He says that no one can reliably judge the simulation of himself. And he has a point.

Sameness and the lack thereof is in the brain of the beholder.

The pattern-recognition powers of the brain are incredibly positive to us. But anything in excess can be bad. And this power is no exception. Apophenia, as was said in a previous post, is the downside of our brain’s pattern-recognition powers. It refers to the annoying tendency of human brains of seeing patterns in random data such as a face in the moon or an agency behind atmosphere dynamics. Similarly, we can sometimes have a sort of “positive negative” and ignore the patterns just to focus on the spaces in the data with no patterns. In the story, the wife seems to do this. She ignores how much the woman resembles her and focus on extremely subtle/tiny differences that might not even exist.

Human bodies are constantly replacing their parts

On another occasion, the protagonist recalls a conversation they had about performing a simulation of her brain. She refused on the grounds that a simulation was an imitation of her “self” by a computer. He replies that life is based on imitation, that every part of her body is constantly being replaced by an “imitation” and thus, it is implied that she is already an imitation.

A meta-simulation: simulating simulations

Later, he figures out that the video is indeed a simulation but not taken from a simulation of his wife but from his simulated brain’s memories of her. The second implication being that, before sending the video to him, the simulation of the protagonist was tested on various ransom scenarios to see which one affected him more emotionally. He pays a ransom (which is actually a regular series of payments) because he thinks his simulated wife might be “conscious/self-aware” rather than a sort of tape-like record extract from his simulated brain.

What we have in our brains

The protagonist considers a hypothetical conversation (a simulated conversation, indeed) ensuing his confession of his honouring the ransom. His wife considers the simulated wife “just” a meta-simulation implying a lower ontological status. His husband considers that all they can ever have of each are the “portraits of each other inside their heads”. She dislikes the idea of him considering her just an “idea”. But he corrects her by saying that he does not consider her an idea but an idea (a simulation or model) of her is all he has and concludes that it’s that simulation in his head all he can ever love because that’s all that there is about her inside his brain. A simulation.

Change and Identity

Learning to Be Me: Who is Who

“I was six years old when my parents told me that there was a small, dark jewel inside my skull, learning to be me.” The neural implant called jewel acts as a sort of supervised neural network that is fed the data of a self and eventually, through trial and error, learns to imitate that self so that when the protagonist’s “self” dies, the jewel can continue the self’s existence. An interesting detail is that the jewel and the brain do not know which “one” is the brain and which the jewel. But when asked, he nevertheless replies that “he” is the “real” human in a rather emotional tone.

It becomes quite tricky to think of “real” and “fake” selfs when the jewel and the human receive the same sensory input and the jewel is constantly trained to act like the brain it simulates. “So as long as the jewel and the human brain shared the same sensory input, and so long as the teacher kept their thoughts in perfect step, there was only one person, one identity, one consciousness.” The story engages with the who-is-who question for a while and gives interesting opinions: “This one person merely happened to have the (highly desirable) property that if either the jewel or the human brain were to be destroyed, he or she would survive unimpaired. People had always had two lungs and two kidneys, and for almost a century, many had lived with two hearts. This was the same: a matter of redundancy, a matter of robustness, no more.” The idea is that one’s self resides in two objects instead of one so the loss of one does not affect you anymore than a loss of kidney does.

The process by which the brain is discarded and the jewel takes its place is called “switch”. The protagonist’s parents reveal to him that they underwent the switch 3 years ago, and since the jewel is a replica of the brain, the protagonist did not notice. “This is why we did not tell you. If you had known we had switched, at the time, you might have imagined that we had changed in some way. By waiting until now to tell you, we have made it easier for you to convince yourself that we are still the same people we have always been.” As was mentioned earlier, if the protagonist knew that he should expect some difference his brain could perform a sort of negative apophenia and find differences where there are none. The rest of the story continues this theme of recognition of the self in the context of a society with advanced neuro-technology and a different conception of the self.

Closer: the sense of other-selfness

“Nobody wants to spend eternity alone.” In the first story, it was mentioned how we change across time and how our sense of identity is not necessarily changed due to it. In Closer, a couple literally decides to temporally merge their selves but the result is not satisfying and the break up. The idea is that they literally got so close that they became one for a brief period of time. As consequence, this merge broke the idea of otherness between them. In the story otherness is defined as the basis of intimacy and intimacy is seen as the major drive in their relationship. “What Sian had always wanted most in a lover was the alien, the unknowable, the mysterious, the opaque. The whole point, for her, of being with someone else was the sense of confronting otherness. Without it, you might as well be talking to yourself.” The idea is that people tend to love other people where “other” refers to any self that is not one-self.

“We knew each other too well, that’s all. Detail after tiny fucking microscopic detail.” In their desire for intimacy which can be seen as a desire to get closer and closer to each other, they accidentally destroyed the sense of otherness between them, they got so close that there came a point where there was no other but only one-self. “Together, we might as well have been alone, so we had no choice but to part. Nobody wants to spend eternity alone.”

Perhaps, the question Who am I? is no different to Why does the Earth not fall? or What keeps the Earth floating in the space? Perhaps, we make assumptions about our identity. Assumptions that are not true. If we cannot recognise ourselves, how can we know that ourselves have this property called free will?

Free Will Series – 5. The Self: Simulation in Fiction – A simulated tale — September 5, 2014

Free Will Series – 5. The Self: Simulation in Fiction – A simulated tale

This is the first of a three-part article to close the regular writings of this blog. The three-part article focuses on the idea of the self. The first part talks about the idea of the self in works of fiction.

What we mean by self

It’s one of those old questions with no straight answer. An attempt at straightforwardness: “self” is used to refer to a thing T that refers to the thing T where either a (a: thing T is the same as thing T) or/and b (there is only one thing T). It is a tricky concept because it assumes that there are some things T that can refer to the things T. When a person points to his chest, we can say that the person is pointing to him-self. In other words, we mean that the thing that does the pointing and the thing that is being pointed is the same thing. But, if a computer displays a message saying: “I cannot access the folder”, does that mean that the computer is referring to it-self? Or does that mean that the programmer, as the person who designed the software and the computer’s messages, is the thing doing the pointing and the computer is the thing being pointed?

How is the idea of the self related to simulation?

Simulation refers to the act of imitating the features of something. So when we simulate something, we aim to imitate all the features of that which is being simulated. This implies the idea of sameness. While the self refers to a situation where the thing doing the reference and the thing being referred are the same. So, if a computer says: “Cogito ergo sum”, does that mean that the computer (as a human would do) is referring to it-self? Or does our interpretation of the meaning change depending on our knowledge about the message? Eliza and Parry were two early AI programs that seemed to be able to have conversations and ,up to some extent, to refer to themselves. But Eliza and Parry were just simulations, and the act of referring to themselves could arguably be said to be a simulation too.


If one of the features to simulate something is the act of referring to oneself, is that feature simulatable? In other words, when a person says “I” and a computer says “I” is there any difference beyond the fact that one is a human and the other a computer? When a person says “I” and another person says “I” is there any difference beyond the fact that they are two different people? Another way of asking the question is, how much sameness is there in the utterances of “I” by the computer-person and person-person pairs?


It is a tale by Stanislaw Lem about simulation and sameness. In the story, a king contemplates being simulated inside a digital world where he can live along his beloved Inefabelle. But no matter how precise the simulations of the king are made, he rejects them on the basis that they are not accurate enough because for as long as he exists, no simulation can be perfect. And of course, it can’t, since, if a simulation is supposed to make a copy with 100% similarity, the simulated and the simulation must have the same physical and non-physical traits. One thing that a simulation cannot simulate is the fact that a simulation is something that comes after something. All simulations are made from simulated things. And if analogies from chaos theory are allowed, you could say that simulating (or approximating) a system of which you don’t have the initial conditions (in our case: you can’t go back to the time before the simulated thing existed) makes a perfect simulation practically impossible.

This is what it seemed to be hinted in the story. The very fact that a simulation does not come into existence at the same time as the simulated thing is the divisory line that separates a simulation from the simulated. In the story, the solution proposed is to annihilate the king’s “original” form. But I think that killing the original would not change the fact that the simulated king appeared after the “original” king and that the word “original” itself suggests that it (the original king) was the thing from which another thing was made. In this case, a simulation.

Simulated songs and original songs

Is there such thing as a simulated song? Of course not. Copying a song character by character produces two songs which are equally original. Yes, a copy was made and you could argue that the act of copying a song implies the preexistence of the song to be copied. However, since the two songs are indistinguishable apart from the fact that one was made from the other, it seems reasonable to argue that the two songs are original, or rather, that both songs are equally-valid instances of a song.

A similar line of reasoning could be applied to any other abstract thing that is simulated. It might be because abstract things, unlike physical things, do not change, and even if they do, they tend to change in rather predictable ways, so that if we simulate abstract things, the simulation and the simulated will change in exactly the same ways. While two otherwise identical physical things can change in different ways merely due to the fact that they do not have the same location in the physical world. And since two things cannot occupy the same location in our physical world, there will always be a feature, apart from the issue of the simulated thing existing before the simulation, that will not be simulatable. Of course, you could always simulate the universe and its physics down to its smallest component.


When a computer displays a message along the lines of “I found a virus”, what does the “I” mean? Who is pointer and who the pointed in that “I”? What does it mean when a human says “I”?


Free Will Series – 5. Simulation in Fiction — June 15, 2014

Free Will Series – 5. Simulation in Fiction

This post will be used as an introduction to the idea of simulation for the last two articles in the Free Will Series.

Origin of the word ‘simulation’:

mid 17th century (earlier (Middle English) as simulation): from Latin simulat- ‘copied, represented’, from the verb simulare, from similis ‘like’.

And the definition thereof:

1. To imitate the appearance or character of.

What is imitation?

1. The act of using someone or something as a model.

2. A thing intended to copy or simulate something else. (This definition is rejected because it is circular. As you can see, it defines imitation in terms of simulation and simulation is defined in terms of imitation. Very bad, Oxford Dictionary.)

What is a model?

1. A 3-Dimensional representation of something at a smaller scale than the original.

2. A thing used as an example to follow or imitate. (Another rejected definition. Simulation is defined in terms of imitation and imitation is defined in terms of models and a model is defined in terms of imitation.)

3. A simplified description of a process or system to assist in calculations or predictions.

From sketching the semantic network of “simulation” we see that simulation is about representation and simplified predictive and non-predictive descriptions of processes.

The stories in the following links directly or indirectly deal with simulation. The Princess Ineffabelle, The Soul of Martha , The Soul of the Mark III Beast. The last two links belong to The Soul of Anna Kleane, a SF novella by Terrel Miedaner.


Assuming that “free will” exists, can a simulation of it be made? If yes, would it be distinguishable from non-simulated “free will”? In order to simulate something, we most likely need to be able to describe it. Can “free will” be accurately described? If yes, what is that description? If not, what does it mean for the claims of the existence of “free will”?

Free Will Series – 4. Science, Philosophy and Conscious Acts — June 8, 2014

Free Will Series – 4. Science, Philosophy and Conscious Acts

4.1.1In carrying out a conscious action, brain activity travels from the prefontal areas to the relevant areas such as Broca’s area in the case of speech. If science can pinpoint the brain activity that precedes and correlates with the performance of actions, what need is there to bring the notion of “conscious acts” as part of the explanation of how actions get started?

The general context is that if every physical event in the universe is determined by other physical events, there is no need for metaphysical notions such as “soul”, “consciousness” and “free will” as explanations for the physical event of an individual carrying out an action. This stance can be called the deterministic stance.

Those who disagree with deterministic views (and agree with soul-ists views), often claim that the basic of human conscious acts is based on quantum processes or chaotic processes. A response to those who hold those views would be that firstly, if quantum processes are truly random, then it just means that if conscious acts are based on quantum processes there is no agency behind them. And if conscious acts are chaotic processes (as opposed to stochastic processes) it still means that they are deterministic.

Feeling of will

The persistence of soul-ist views is a testament to how strongly we feel that we are the agents of the actions we make. In a way, those feelings are reinforced because every time we experienced them, an action happens, just as we would expect. It seems that feelings of will correlate with physical actions. But it is not always the case.

Action without feeling of will

In 19th century, a mode of communication with the dead called table-turning became popular. This way of communication was supposed to be based on tilting the table so as to choose a sequence of letters that would make up a message. English physicist Faraday devised an experiment that showed that the table-turning was due to unconscious muscular actions by the spiritualist sitting before the table. When the spiritualists performing the table-turning were made aware of this, the table-turning ceased. After questioning, it became apparent that they had not been aware that the spiritualists did not know that they were moving the table with their fingers. This is case of an action without a corresponding feeling of will.

Feeling of will without action

In a previous post, Libet’s experiments were mentioned. Brain activity preceded the participant’s “awareness” of his action. It turns out that Libet’s discovery was predated by neurophysiologist William Grey Walter. He placed electrodes in the participant’s motor cortex and he asked them to manipulate a slide projector. Participants pressed a button to change the slides. After the experiment was over, Walter told the participants that the button was fake. The slides changed as a result of activity in the participants’ brains. In this case, there was a feeling of will without a corresponding (real) action. Another case of feeling of will without a corresponding action is sleep paralysis where an individual wishes to move his body but there is no corresponding action.

Illussion of will

The results of Libet’s and Walter’s studies suggest that rather than something associated with our bodies called “consciousness” being the source of our actions, it is the brain activity that carries this actions and somewhat later, some brain activity gets to interpret the meaning of this brain activity and conceptualised it as an intention, once the action happens we link that action to the intention. Repeating this practice over time, reinforces this idea that somewhere in the brain there is “something” called “consciousness” that decides what to do.

Illusions of the brain

Is this a face?
Is this a face?
What do you see?
What do you see?

The human brain as a very neat record when it comes to playing illusions. Apophenia refers to the experience of seeing patterns and meaning where there is none. The Gestalt school of psychology  is based around the idea that the brain “fills the gaps”. Is figure A a white triangle, or is it just a set of three incomplete circles?



What do you see?
What do you see?

What about this picture? Most of us would call this a face even though it is not necessarily so. If a human drew this, we could feel justified to call this a face. But the justification is not there when something resembling a face is found in nature. We are so used to associated a vast array of different shapes to a human face that it sometimes backfires when we start thinking that we are seeing faces everywhere.

Just like the reinforced association to a vast number of shapes to a human face can become difficult to overcome, the feeling of will can also become difficult to overcome. It is like overcoming a habit that has been and is reinforced every second our lives.


The notion of “conscious actions” as synonymous with “volitional acts” is incompatible with a deterministic worldview. And several experiments like Libet’s and Walter’s question the mere possibility that the notion of “volitional acts” can be something more than a pattern of activity in our brains. Do we have any hope to overcome the deeply rooted feeling that our “consciousness or/and our thoughts” is in control of our actions?

Free Will Series – 3. Timed Experiences in Fiction — June 1, 2014

Free Will Series – 3. Timed Experiences in Fiction

What’s Expected of Us

It’s a tough choice…

This is a warning. Please read carefully.

By now you’ve probably seen a Predictor; millions of them have been sold by the time you’re reading this. For those who haven’t seen one, it’s a small device, like a remote for opening your car door. Its only features are a button and a big green LED. The light flashes if you press the button. Specifically, the light flashes one second before you press the button.

This is how Ted Chiang‘s short story begins. The idea of the story starts with a piece of irrefutable evidence that a device called Predictor can predict exactly when you will press the big button on the Predictor. The consequences of this are shattering. Our worldview where we are the ultimate agents of our actions disappears once it becomes obvious that whatever choice you take regarding when to press the button is already determined. The assumption here being that since it was already determined even before you knew it, you have had no agency in the decision to press the button. We have certain assumptions about our the timed nature of our experiences.

a) It is sequential and one-directional

b) We are the agents of our actions (i.e. our actions are determined by us)

c) Agency implies awareness of and sense of responsibility before every action we take

The predictor breaks assumptions B and C and it raises the possibility that we are not fully aware of all our decisions and finally, that rather than being agents of our actions, we simply rationalise those actions so that they are consistent with our previous actions. The end result is a storyline that unites all the actions of an individual in a timed context.


And yet I know that, because free will is an illusion, it’s all predetermined who will descend into akinetic mutism and who won’t. There’s nothing anyone can do about it — you can’t choose the effect the Predictor has on you. Some of you will succumb and some of you won’t, and my sending this warning won’t alter those proportions. So why did I do it?

Because I had no choice.

The ethics of power — May 25, 2014

The ethics of power

Human history has been a history of ethics. Most of the past roughly till the end of the Medieval Ages seems to have been dominated by what I call authoritarian ethics. There is a brief explanation here but I will try to give one myself. In authoritarian ethics, the desirability of an action is decided by the relevant authority (i.e. religious leaders, lords, kings, husbands). From there, we (i.e. the western world) gradually moved on towards the ethics of natural (human) rights. Roughly, natural rights are a set of things a human is entitled to. In a broad sense, over time, more and more humans have had access to some common entitlements. While in practice not all humans currently have access to some common entitlements, there seems to be an interest in moving towards universal human access to common entitlements. So there might come a time where all humans have access to common entitlements. Some tout this point as the final point when it comes to the development/evolution of ethical state of affairs. Let us visualise this.

Circle E and circle H
Circle E and circle H. A set is represented by a circle.
Set H inside set E. Hypothetical future final point.
Set H inside set E. Hypothetical future final point.


If E is the set of life forms with access to common entitlements and H is the set of humans, human history is just the story of how P and H gradually overlapped till the hypothetical future final point where H will be inside P (all humans having access to common entitlements). But is this final stage qualitatively than the previous ones? You could say that yes, for the first time in the history of humanity, all humans have rights (all H are inside E). This should be the homeostasis of ethics in the Earth and presumably cause of celebration for everyone.

However, if an extraterrestrial visitor witnessed how H eventually got inside E, he might ask: what about other life forms? While we saw H as a set of its own, our visitor might see H as part of L (set of all life forms). This is what he would see:

Set A (life forms), Set B (humans) and Set C (all those life forms with entitlements)
Set A (life forms), Set B (humans) and Set C (all those life forms with entitlements)

For our visitor, only some members of set A which call themselves set B have got inside C (the set of those who have entitlements). So the question our visitor would ponder might be: what about those members of set A that are outside B. If he were to ask: “Hey, members of set B! Should ‘members of set A that are not members of set B’ be allowed to get inside C?”, the answer would most likely be an overall “No.”. The visitor would get to hear responses invoking metaphysical inventions and all sort of excuses to keep the current state of ethical affairs. This is what I call Anthropocentric ethics.

Now let us see what authoritarian ethics would look like:

Circle P and circle H
Circle E and circle S.
Set H inside set E. Hypothetical future final point.
Set H inside set E. Hypothetical future final point.

If E is the set of humans with access to common entitlements and S is the set of special humans, human history (till the Medieval Ages) is just the story of how S and E gradually overlapped till the hypothetical future final point where S will be inside E (all special humans having access to common entitlements). By special human I mean any human considered by other humans to be “important”, so special humans would be lords, knights, kings and any other person with some sort of influence on other humans. But is this final stage qualitatively than the previous ones? You could say that yes, for the first time in the history of humanity, all humans that are special have rights (all S are inside E).   This should be the homeostasis of ethics in the Earth and presumably cause of celebration for everyone.

However, if a 21st century human visitor witnessed how S eventually got inside E, he might ask: what about other humans? While we saw S as a set of its own, our visitor might see S as part of H (set of all humans). This is what he would see:

Set A (humans), Set B (special humans) and Set C (all those humans with entitlements)

For our visitor, only some members of set A which call themselves set B have got inside C (the set of those who have entitlements). So the question our visitor would ponder might be: what about those members of set A that are outside B. If he were to ask: “Hey, members of set B! Should ‘members of set A that are not members of set B’ be allowed to get inside C?”, the answer would most likely be an overall “No.”. The visitor would get to hear responses invoking metaphysical inventions and all sort of excuses to keep the current state of ethical affairs. This is what I call Authoritarian ethics.

Now let us make some main points about the visualisations:

  1. Both have a sub-group (called SG1) of a group moving inside another group G2
  2. Both sub-groups are part of a larger group G1
  3. SG1s do not want non-SG1s to move inside another group
  4. SG1s do not seem to have rational and consistent reasons to keep to non-SG1s outside G2
  5.  The only difference between SG1s and non-SG1s is the power they have
  6. Those inside G2 are the powerful members of G1

The final point to make when it comes to the main common characteristic between anthropocentric ethics and authoritarian ethics is that they are both ethics of power. In ethics of power, desirability is defined in terms of the interests of the powerful. When it comes to conflicting interests between the powerful and the non-powerful, that which is desirable or right is that which falls under the interests of the powerful.


Seeing this, how are the arguments supporting anthropocentric ethics any different than arguments supporting authoritarian ethics? It is worth mentioning that both the transition from pre-authoritarian ethics to fully fledged authoritarian ethics and the transition from the authoritarian ethics to the broader anthropocentric ethics was mainly a transition of a larger group of life forms inside the category of those who have entitlements, in other words, an increase of life forms who are considered to have entitlements.

Free Will Series – 3. Timed Experiences in Philosophy (Streams and Drivers) —

Free Will Series – 3. Timed Experiences in Philosophy (Streams and Drivers)

The “stream/train/flow of consciousness” refers to the notion that consciousness flows like a stream and that things we are aware of fall into our stream and things that we are unaware of lie outside our stream of consciousness. The previous posts dealing with stuff like blindsight and electrical stimulations of the somatosensory cortex are inconsistent with the idea of a stream of consciousness. But let us look at it more in depth.

What is consciousness? The description of consciousness is very similar to that of attention (with the difference that attention is a bit more open to scientific investigation). Attention has been defined as a cognitive process that chooses to allocate more resources to some tasks (those considered more important) while allocating less resources to other (less important) tasks. This begs the question, who/what is doing the prioritisation? It seems to be the case that attention is not indivisible or serial as different processes or stimuli can direct attention presumably at the same time. This leads us to ask, assuming that consciousness actually exist and has some effects on our physical body, what are these effects? What does consciousness do? Assuming that brain activity scans, show no difference between driving “consciously” (as in paying attention to your surroundings) and “uncounsciously” (immersed in your thoughts and not paying attention to your surroundings), what is then the physical manifestation of consciousness (assuming that “consciousness” exists)?


One important bit about our own accounts of consciousness is that they seem to talk about a single thing or stream where everything comes together, while on the other hand, attention is a divisible and presumably parallel system with no central executive system or core.