Piero Scaruffi(Copyright © 2013 Piero Scaruffi | Legal restrictions )
These are excerpts and elaborations from my book "The Nature of Consciousness"
The End of the Struggle and the Luxury of Consciousness
A modest proposal: i think that consciousness came with the end of danger.
The human mind (cognitive faculties plus consciousness) was just an organ of the body, useful like the others to survive in the environment. Where the hand was useful to grab things and the leg was useful for running, the mind was useful for deciding what to do in the face of danger. The mind was capable of organizing knowledge about the world and relating it to bodily needs (food, sex, shelter, etc). In a hostile and unpredictable environment, the mind was presumably busy all the time with practical chores. As humans became less and less vulnerable to natural selection, the mind became less and less "useful". Nonetheless, the mind was still collecting and organizing knowledge about the world. Once survival got easy, the mind had "spare time" to spend with its knowledge. (We can expect that domestic animals will also go down the same path of increased awareness, as they become pets and are sheltered from their ecosystem's selection).
The human mind works in two dimensions: 1. It uses whatever knowledge it has to determine behavior in the environment; 2. It uses whatever spare time it has to refine and increase its knowledge. From knowledge better and better knowledge can always be created. That is what the mind does when it is freed from the need of concerning itself with survival. The more knowledge gets created, the more efficient the mind will be the next time it has to deal with a matter-of-life-or-death situation. That is why it takes advantage of every "break" to increase its knowledge. If the mind is "inactive" (as far as struggling for survival goes), then knowledge keeps increasing exponentially, in all directions. That includes knowledge about the mind itself. The mind becomes more and more aware of its own existence.
The mind was in origin just one of the body's features, caused by one of the body's organs (the brain), just like "walking" is a body's feature caused by a body's organ (the leg). As knowledge about itself increased, the mind became more and more independent of the environment's conditions, more and more independent of the body's needs, more and more a machine to acquire and process knowledge, more and more a feature about itself.
Consciousness comes with the end of the mind's usefulness. As the mind becomes useless, while its brain processes are unstoppable, it turns into higher and higher degrees of self-awareness. Instead of using knowledge to analyze the world, recognize natural patterns, predict situations and mandate behavior, the mind uses knowledge to create more knowledge. Eventually, it also creates more and more knowledge about itself.
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