Models of Consciousness
The modern world highlights being constantly on the move. The circumstances that got us to this point are broad and can seem low probability at a distance but the cycles that compose our society make reaching this kind of moment in history more of an eventuality. Social norms move us one way and technology moves us another way. The effect the two have on each other is strong. As we have been able to connect more the number of things we need to be actively aware of has expanded greatly. Newspapers, radio, news shows, news websites, RSS feeds, and increasingly dense forms of gaining quick information about topics of interest in high volume continue to innervate our lives. We can seek them out or they find us through contact with those more active in that process. Being around people invested in staying aware can increase the number of sources you are drawing upon to gain understanding on events.
These demands on the mind for staying engaged have moved the baseline consciousness for our communities. The technical requirements of societal progress raises the explicit consciousness required to participate. A number of parts are at play in this growth. Social awakenings occur both in changes of how we view each other daily expressed through new forms of art as well as our internal explorations. Traditional cultures had long established paths for this kind of growth independent of technological or other kinds of changes throughout daily life. Special events marking transitions in life would come with trials to test growth seen and outline the growth that remained. Many are marked by dealing with pain, trials, or journeys while others are more celebrations focused on gatherings and community. The role of the individual relative to society in each of these forms of growth is crucial for connecting with the reason behind the tradition. A focus on handling extended physical trials can show a need for strength in the daily life for those communities as well as creating a bonding experience for those that go through it together. Gatherings and celebrations highlight the pro-social aspects of the society at work by bringing in all of the members invested in the young persons' growth to make a lasting memory together that can be expanded and built on. These are a couple views on how we can explore understanding consciousness; namely, experiential understanding and how we hold on to memories. These views are not mutually exclusive but the understandings we arrive at can vary based on which we focus on.
Current Thoughts on Consciousness
How we connect with the flood of information reaching our mind is a large part of understanding consciousness. What model outlines this process as we grow is yet to be set in stone. Today, there are at least ten models of consciousness that have been explored and shared widely from neurobiological levels. All of the models can be explored and tested experimentally while those predictions and explorations that are focused more on postulation without experimentation can be better described as theories. Exploring this distinction can be helpful in understanding. Thinking on Neural correlates of consciousness, Eight-circuits model of consciousness, and Orchestrated objective reduction will be the focus here. The brief version of each is as follows:
Neural correlates of consciousness - The NCC are defined to constitute the minimal set of neuronal events and mechanisms sufficient for a specific conscious percept, and consequently sufficient for consciousness. In this formalism, consciousness is viewed as a state-dependent property of some undefined complex, adaptive, and highly interconnected biological system.
Eight-circuits model of consciousness - is a hypothesis by Timothy Leary, and later expanded on by Robert Anton Wilson and Antero Alli, that "suggested eight periods [circuits] and twenty-four stages of neurological evolution". The eight circuits, or eight "brains" as referred by other authors, operate within the human nervous system, each corresponding to its own imprint and direct experience of reality.
Orchestrated objective reduction (Orch-OR) - is a hypothesis that consciousness in the brain originates from processes inside neurons, rather than from connections between neurons (the conventional view). The mechanism is held to be a quantum physics process called objective reduction that is orchestrated by molecular structures called microtubules. It is proposed that objective reduction is influenced by non-computable factors embedded in spacetime geometry which thus may account for the Hard Problem of Consciousness. The hypothesis was put forward in the early 1990s by theoretical physicist Roger Penrose and anaesthesiologist and psychologist Stuart Hameroff.
These models can guide better understanding both how consciousness changes as we grow individually and as a society as well as abstractly in thinking about the nature of the conscious self. These questions are important for understanding how we can continue to grow in an exponentially more connected tomorrow.
A combination of the brief versions of the models above could be that consciousness is the minimal set of neuronal events and mechanisms across the various neural models of the brain that allow us to experience quantum processes happening broadly in our individual present self.
There is a growing body of research exploring the similarities between quantum computers and our brains. Our brains being organic animals with ourselves being able to best display active presence of mind. What a quantum understanding of the mind would mean has far reaching implications. Beyond extending consciousness to systems not born in classical terms we would have to reassess how consciousness is defined given the broad range of systems a brain could draw on to express an idea or complete an action. In nature we see a range of intelligence frameworks. The ones we connect with best are those that can demonstrate conscious intelligence closest to our own. We have examples of other animals such as parrots, dogs, and gorillas that have been able to learn how to communicate in the languages we use. A key piece to note is that for all the progress made sharing our language with other animals we still understand little about theirs or how their minds work.
The explorations of the quantum world arising today bring extensible truths about the general mind. A quantum mind would draw on a broad range of processes to create the conscious self we experience. The importance of childhood and youth is more than just the functional skills we gain through practice, but a deepening connection to solidifying connections with our lived experience. Memories, pain, social experience, and all the parts we do not fully appreciate run through us constantly. In youth we align our minds with the best way to experience all of this information. There are numerous theories on life and death. Thinking of the mind as a connection to an eternal self is exciting. How does the world change with the mind being a key for adding to a deep ocean of experiences flowing through every moment. Be they possibilities or realities felt rather than seen a quantum self constantly exploring a shifting ocean sounds electrifying.
Exploring the Possible
The differences between ourselves and other animals could be an issue of scope. The things that go unseen can completely change the understanding of intelligence. If we are experiencing quantum processes and our consciousness is the result of the number of processes we access how does the shift the importance of brain size more towards a question of structure? What kinds of processes do young minds experience that adults ignore? Humans have the longest gestation period of modern apes, being an average of 266 days. That time for cows is 284 days, one of the highest of quadrapeds. There are several animals that have even longer times in the womb. The time spent absorbing energy and taking in the world in youth through dependence as babies, playfulness as toddlers, and being general sponges throughout youth can point to an area of consciousness we have yet seen explored.