It is the Easter vacation for our undergraduate students and I am taking a week’s leave to wander the hills, digitally detox and return with my consciousness revived by sensory experiences. So just two sentences and a picture this week though if you want to read more then follow these links: ‘Walking the hills‘ on April 13th, 2022; ‘Digital detox with a deep vacation‘ on August 10th, 2016; and ‘Feed your consciousness with sensory experiences‘ on May 22nd, 2019.
Tag Archives: consciousness
We are no one without other people
It is the Christmas holiday season when many of us will be exchanging seasonal greetings and expressions of goodwill with family and friends. In the Ubuntu philosophy, a person is a person through other people. Genuine value arises from our connections to other people. Life is not about the individual but about friendship, community, respect and compassion. These interactions are experienced by our consciousness and determine who we are – our identity [see ‘Reflecting on self’ on November 23rd 2022 or ‘Is there a real you or I?’ on March 6th, 2019]. It seems unlikely that a computer could experience them in the foreseeable future [see ‘Conversations about engineering over dinner and a haircut’ on February 16th 2022 or ‘When will you be replaced by a computer’ on November 20th, 2019] so switch off your laptops and mobile phones and enjoy life. Happy holidays!
Image: people at Pier Head Liverpool enjoying the River of Light festival.
A couple of years ago I wrote in the abstract about ‘Slow thoughts from a planet sized brain‘ [on March 25th, 2020]. I read on vacation in Suzanne Simard‘s book, ‘Finding the Mother Tree‘ that glutamate, which is the most abundant neurotransmitter in the human brain, is also transmitted through mycorrhizal networks connecting trees in forests. Mycorrhizal fungi live in the soil around the roots of plants in a symbiotic relationship with the plants transmitting water to, and receiving sugar from, the plant roots. Fir trees have been shown to transmit information about threats, e.g., budworm infestations, to one another and to other species of tree. The speed of this information transmission is fast enough that production of enzymes to protect the trees increases within a day of the appearance of the threat. We have assumed that folklore tales about enchanted forests are products of our imagination; but perhaps they are based on a long-lost appreciation that forests possess a level of consciousness. Consciousness seems to require different parts of a system to communicate with one another and form networks [see ‘Digital hive mind‘ on November 30th, 2016], which Simard and others have demonstrated occurs in forests with the mycorrhizal networks being equivalent to the neural network in our brains. The scale of a forest’s network is such that communication will be slower than in our brain but that is not necessarily an inhibitor of consciousness. So, perhaps forest-sized brains would be intermediate between human-sized and planet-sized.
Time travel and rewriting history
I have written in the past about consciousness being an accumulation of sensory experiences [see ‘Is there are real ‘you’ or ‘I’? on March 6th, 2019]. Our memory consists of fragments of images, sounds, smells and feelings from the past that we can re-assemble into a complete experience often triggered by something in the present that resembles a fragment of a past experience. We can time travel in our minds by thinking about the past. It is so ubiquitous that we barely stop to think about it. Yet, we are fascinated by the possibility of time travel into the future. However, our subconscious minds are constantly time traveling into the future [see ‘Predicting the future through holistic awareness’ on January 6th, 2021]. They are constantly making predictions about what will happen next, whether anticipating the path taken by a ball so that your hand can be positioned to catch it or picking up an umbrella as you leave the house so that you do not get soaked when it rains later in the day. The further we attempt travel into the future the less dependable our predictions become and I suspect the same is true for travel backwards in time. The reliability of our recollection of past experiences become less as time and entropy erode the connections between the fragments in our mind so that we struggle to reassemble all of the fragments in the correct order and our personal history is unintentional rewritten.
Stefan Klein, We are all stardust, Melbourne: Scribe, 2015 (a conversation with Hannah Monyer on memory entitled ‘Do You Remember?’).