The Mystery of Consciousness
Part 2
The Ultimate Explanation of Consciousness

The biggest hurdle in resolving the mystery of consciousness is neither limitation of science, nor complexity of the brain, as it is often cited.

Download audio version Full, Part 2

The best thing one can do to resolve the mystery of consciousness is to get past the complex = complicated fallacy explained in part 1, which instigates one to study the brain at the system level.

At a time when science cannot clearly define the nature of consciousness, studying the brain at the system level can provide the most comprehensive understanding of consciousness by explaining topics like…

What is consciousness? What is its nature? What is its purpose? How, why, when and where in the brain does it emerge? What are different types of conscious processes and how do they work together? How do subconscious and unconscious processes work? How do subconscious and unconscious thoughts influence your decisions? What is the difference between subconscious and unconscious states? What degree of control you have over your subconscious and unconscious interactions? When do you become conscious of the experience you are having? How do intuitions work? What is the difference between awareness and consciousness? Can a machine have consciousness? How can a mechanism give rich and magical feel offered by consciousness? Are animals conscious? How physical processes in the brain give rise to subjective experiences (i.e. the “hard problem of consciousness”)? What is the nature of “the self” that becomes conscious? What is the unconscious self? And many more.

As brain processes are highly interconnected, explanations of all above topics should be internally compatible with each other, besides being fully causal.

The only account of consciousness that fits all such requirements and resolves all above mysteries is offered by Dichotomized Operating System Model, a functional model of human mind I have developed using the systems thinking approach, i.e. the brain-as-a-system approach.

It is the first and only account that not only explains all aspects of consciousness, but also how the human brain works as one integrated system. As it is a fully causal and fully falsifiable account based on the process of natural selection, there is no room for guesswork, conjectures, fallacies, etc.

According to the model, the function of consciousness is to help in making optimized decisions for ongoing interactions. 

It does so by helping in optimizing decisions quantitatively, which it does by filtering out unnecessary information, and qualitatively, which it does by awarding the emergent self capability of making free will decisions.

Function 1 of Consciousness: 

Optimizing Decisions Quantitatively

The optimizing aspect of natural selection has designed our brain to make decisions for its ongoing interactions in order to reach our goals in most optimized manner.

To do so, it processes the stream of information filtered from data received from the sensations and perceptions of our interactions with information and knowledge stored in our brain, which helps it analyze its content using out thought processes on an ongoing basis. Explained below is how such filtration works.

The filtration process: As most parts of our interactions are preset (i.e. those that are repetitive, condition based or genetically pre-programmed) or random, they do not require active decision making. An example of the same is walking, which is a condition based repetitive process.

For the same reason, the optimizing aspect of natural selection has designed our brain to optimize its decision making process by filtering out information related to such parts of interactions. As the remainder of information is neither preset, nor random, it is treated as new information.

Only such information, which is a fraction of the overall information received from our interactions, and its related thought processes are sent to the conscious part of the brain in order to make decisions, which helps the process of optimizing decisions on how to deal with them.

Putting it differently, one of the functions of consciousness is to filter out information that is not necessary for decision making in order to reach our goals in an optimized manner.

Analogy for Function 1: A computer monitor displays information that can be intervened upon by a user, who can judge and manipulate elements displayed on it in order to reach his goals. All other information that is processed by the computer does not require his intervention.

Relation between heart and mind

In the same way, information provided by consciousness (which is information we are conscious of) is what we can intervene on to decide how to handle ongoing interaction in order to reach our goals. All other information processing in our brain (which represents unconscious processing) does not need our intervention.

The main difference between the two is that the selection of information to be displayed on the computer monitor is predetermined by a programmer; whereas what information should reach our consciousness is determined by the filtration process on an ongoing basis, as explained earlier.

Function 2 of Consciousness: 

Optimizing Decisions Qualitatively

As explained earlier, the optimizing aspect of natural selection has designed our brain to make decisions for its ongoing interactions in order to reach its goals in the most optimized manner.

Direct Logic and Contextual Logic Processing

According to the DOS model (short for Dichotomized Operating System model), the best way to optimize decisions is by processing them in two ways, 1) using logic directly, which I call “direct logic processing”, and 2) using logic in context with past information of the same or similar nature, or projecting such information into the future (whenever possible), which I call “contextual logic processing”, and then finalizing on the best one.

Example to understand direct logic and contextual logic processing: When you feel like eating a cake while on a weight loss diet, you have to make a decision whether to have the pleasure of eating it or avoid it. In other words, should you enjoy the moment, which is a decision made by applying logic directly (i.e. direct logic processing), or consider that it will result into weight gain in future, which is a decision made by applying logic in context with weight gain in the future (i.e. contextual logic processing).

Direct logic and contextual logic require different types of processing, which cannot be executed using common processing resources. Based on the same, the optimizing aspect of natural selection has designed our brain with two hemispheres so they can be processed separately. 

In the majority of population, direct logic processing is executed in the interaction processing area of left hemisphere, which processes information parallelly and contextual logic processing is executed in the interaction processing area of right hemisphere, which processes information serially (to simplify the explanation henceforth, instead of calling them “interaction processing areas of left and right hemispheres”, I’ll just call them “left and right hemispheres”).

Based on such distribution, all creative, emotional, imaginative, rational, thoughtful, holistic, artistic, introspective, etc. parts of interactions are processed in the right hemisphere (which is the contextual logic processor), as all of them require contextual logic processing using past data or future projections, whereas logical, analytical, objective, detail oriented, rule based, critical, orderly, systematic, etc. parts of interactions are processed in the left hemisphere (which is the direct logic processor), as all of them require the computational power of parallel processing.

Such distribution of brain functions between the hemispheres is called “lateralization of brain function”. Although DOS model is the first ever account to explain mechanisms underlying such distribution, they were observed 6 decades earlier in the studies carried out by neuropsychologist Roger Sperry, who, based on such distribution, discovered in the year 1960 that each human brain has two minds which can think differently and independently. The discovery led to him being awarded the Nobel Prize in 1981.

The Decision Making Process

As mentioned earlier, a decision can best be made by processing it with both, direct logic and contextual logic whenever possible and then finalizing on the most suitable one.

Based on the same, to make decisions for ongoing interactions, the left and right hemispheres initially make one or more decisions on how to handle the ongoing interaction, which it does by processing them with information and knowledge stored in the brain’s memory, and if required, projecting them into the future. It uses direct logic and contextual logic processing respectively to make such decisions. It then selects the most suitable decision out of them to reach its goals in the most optimized manner.

Such a system enables the brain to make best possible decision out of multiple decisions that are made by both hemispheres, but as they are based on information and knowledge that are already stored in the brain, it will end up making the same decisions given the same set of circumstances.

Even with the capability of updating the information and knowledge stored in the brain, it will always either update or not update, as the case may be, based on such given circumstances and thus, end up making the same decisions.

With such a system, if you were Hitler atom for atom, time for time, biology for biology and environment for environment, you would make exactly the same decisions Hitler made.

There is no need of consciousness to drive such a system. It can be programmed and executed automatically on an information processing system like a computer.

Broadly speaking, information processing systems like computers, control systems, robots, etc. are capable of “making decisions”, but they are all programmed by humans. Even in the realm of artificial intelligence, the core programming is done by humans. The decisions they make are based on such core programming and do not originate in such systems, which is not the case with the brain. Decisions made by the brain originate in the brain itself, which can be held responsible for making them.

If the human brain is also a machine equipped with information processing system, what makes it capable of making its own decisions? And how can it be held responsible for making them?

The answer: The brain is capable of making free will decisions.

What is Free Will?

Free will is the ability to choose between different decisions or course of actions based on one’s intentions. It makes it possible for us to make “our own” decisions, e.g. to either turn left or right, to watch TV or not, etc. It holds us responsible for the decisions we make and also holds that it was possible for us to have made some other decision than what we had made in the past.

Its importance to the mankind can be gauged by the fact that other than natural causes, everything that has ever happened or is happening to anybody or anything can be attributed to the ability of making free will decisions.

The current science denies that the brain is capable of making free will decisions. According to it, decisions made by our brain are a result of its electrochemical activity, not free will. The feeling we get that we are the originator of decisions is because our brain fools us into believing so. Such view is largely dependent on faulty interpretations made from experiments done by scientist Benjamin Libet in the 1980s.

Philosophers, who also claim that the brain is not capable of making free will decisions, attribute it to the notion that all events in the deterministic world we live in are predetermined and thus, it is not possible for the brain to have the capability of making free will decisions.

Following is the first ever explanation of the mechanism that gives brain the power of making “its own” free will decisions. A mechanism that is at the root of all human intelligence.

The Mechanism of Free Will

According to the DOS model, decisions made by the brain are not pre-programmed, but are based on pre-programming.

In other words, the brain has the freedom to make its own decisions. It is such freedom that is pre-programmed.

In detail: Free will decision making is a two step process, 1) Emergence of Self and 2) Awarding Acausal Freedom. 

Step 1 – Emergence of Self

As explained earlier, the left and right hemispheres use direct and contextual logic processing respectively to make one or more decisions on how to handle their ongoing interactions and then finalize the best one out of them to execute.

As serial processing in the right hemisphere can be outsourced to the parallel processing left hemisphere if and when required, but not vice versa, the right hemisphere can benefit from both, direct logic and contextual logic processing.

E.g., in the process of making a decision, if high level of direct logic processing is required (like estimating number of people at a party or contemplating the next move while playing the game of chess), the right hemisphere can outsource the same to the left hemisphere, which can process it and send back the result to the right hemisphere, which can use it or process it further if required.

In comparison, the left hemisphere, which is a high speed parallel processor, cannot process contextual logic, which either requires processing multiple threads or requires multiple chains of decisions progressing in a sequential manner, where each decision is based on the previous one in the chain.

Based on the same, as the right hemisphere can benefit from both direct logic and contextual logic processing, the process of natural selection has awarded it the authority of finalizing decisions to execute. With such authority, the right hemisphere can choose whether to finalize its own decision for execution or the decision provided by left hemisphere, and which one in the case of multiple accumulated decisions.

If you assign authority for decision making to a person, he or she becomes an agent for actions taken under such authority. In the same way, assigning authority for decision making to the right hemisphere by the process of natural selection makes it an agent for actions taken under such authority.

The agency that emerges out upon executing under such authority is “the self”. It is what we call I, me and myself. 

The way an agent is responsible for actions executed under the authority given to it, the self is responsible for actions executed under such authority.

As the non-conscious left hemisphere helps the right hemisphere to reach their common goals, it is the non-conscious counterpart of self, i.e. the unconscious self.

After emergence of the self this way, the second step in optimizing decision making qualitatively is to award it the capability of making free will decisions, which is made possible by what I call “Acausal Freedom”.

Step 2 – Awarding Acausal Freedom

As explained earlier, we make decisions based on knowledge we have gained in the past and when necessary, by projecting it into the future. Based on the same, it is pretty much fixed what decision we will make given a particular set of circumstances. 

Putting it differently, our decision making processes use cause-and-effect thinking based on our past experiences and future projections. E.g., “If I do this, that will happen, in which case, I’ll do that”, “If he comes, I’ll go with him”, “if my pen breaks, I’ll buy a new one”, etc.

With such cause-and-effect thinking, we cannot consider anything other than what such basic pattern of thinking offers while making decisions, which is based on the knowledge and information stored in our brain.

Based on the idea that it is not always possible for a person to make the best set of decisions to reach his or her goals, such a limitation can be disadvantageous. With such fixed pattern in decision making, there would be no room for a person to improve and optimize his or her decisions.

Acausal freedom, which is freeing the thought process from cause-and-effect thinking, solves this problem by granting the self, i.e. the right hemisphere, the complete authority to finalize decision on an interaction which may neither be the result of decisions made for such interaction by the hemispheres, nor may be based on cause-and-effect thinking, if and when it desires.

Such freedom allows the self to select an acausal decision it finds suitable for the purpose of evaluation when required by executing or projecting it and comparing its outcome with the expected one, thus helping it optimize its decision making capabilities while optimizing the knowledge related to it stored in the brain.

It is such freedom that is used when a person has problems in recalling, recognising, conceptualizing, etc. the content, structure, flow, etc. of an interaction, for which he or she may need to deliberate and experiment on it, e.g., using it for trend analysis.

It is also used for social purposes, e.g., a person can choose to execute a suitable acausal decision to fail someone’s expectations, which can also help in reducing his or her own predictability.

It is the basis of subjective feeling of freedom and ownership we have while making decisions. It is the very freedom we use when we feel like doing something “just for the heck of it”.

Analogy for Function 2:

Consciousness is like a playground which gives thoughts room to make free will decisions.

Putting it differently, in the way a playground gives us the freedom to roam around on it, consciousness is a playground enabled by the mechanism of free will on which thoughts can roam around freely in order to find solutions on how to handle ongoing interactions.

To Summarize

The human brain is a decision making machine.

The role of consciousness in the brain is to aid in optimizing the process of making decisions for its interactions on an ongoing basis.

Coming soon: Qualia and Subjective Experiences.

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