As I grow older, I spend a fair amount of time observing my brain. Am I the same person I was yesterday? A year ago? Ten years ago? Every time I misplace my car keys, I wonder, “Is this forgetfulness normal or reflective of my aging brain?” It’s a curious feeling to use the brain to examine itself, and I’m not certain how that works. I do know what I’m exercising is my consciousness, the interconnectivity of my thoughts. The World Wide Web makes interconnections, too, to but without being aware of it. So what is this light inside my brain that not only allows me to think about myself, but allows me to think about thinking?
At the moment, science knows little concerning the nature of consciousness. We do know it’s a gift we share with all living creatures, including trees. (“Ubiquitous Minds, by Christoff Koch, Scientific American Mind, Jan/Feb. 2014 pgs. 26-29.) But consciousness doesn’t appear to be part of evolutionary development, the mental being “too radically different for it to arise gradually for the physical.” (Ibid pg. 27) Subjective life isn’t simply a piling on of one tactile experience upon another over time. So what is this spark that allows us to know ourselves?
At the moment, the operative word is synergy: The more integrated the system, the more conscious it becomes. (Ibid pg. 28.) Unfortunately, the only way to measure consciousness is with a brain scan which tells us when and how neurons fire or don’t fire. But a measurement is a long way from revealing what consciousness is or how the brain examines itself.
I admit I’m conflicted about my mind. Part of me wants to know all that I can. Another part is appalled to think my thoughts might be mechanical functions arising from a circuit board. I prefer a little mystery.
So how much do I really want to know about my brain? To be honest, not much. At the moment, I’ll settle for remembering where I put my car keys.
(Courtesy of gonzo.wordpress.com)