Who Am I?

Those of you who have been reading here for a while know that I have a particular idea about consciousness and all that this implies. My idea is not really in line with mainstream thought and if it is true, it abrogates much previous thought on consciousness.

THIS is what I’ve been talking about.


We are machines that can remember and predict future events. The ‘I’ in that situation is nothing more than being able to remember the past, experience the present, and predict the future. It’s a reference point in the machine that keeps us from dying.


Screaming rants about how stupid this is?

Ideas of where god fits in that situation?

PLEASE comment. The discussion about consciousness is far more important than it is usually taken to be. I believe it is the key to understanding all the problems that we currently face as a species.


Thank you

  1. Well, I don’t know how I feel about all of that, but it definitely is a unique outlook. I don’t know if I agree with it, but it is interesting to keep in mind.

    • Why you don’t agree with it is as important as the idea itself. Please elaborate at your leisure.

      • Well I identify as pagan and I honestly believe in the concept of a soul, as well as “magic”, which is actually rather scientific in its base, not just us… Existing as robots, I suppose. The concept makes sense, but there are parts in it I just don’t feel comfortable with because it’s a direct disagreement to my own beliefs, if that makes sense.

        • it does make sense. Things which are not intuitive in a common sense way are difficult to comprehend. How can you be a machine yet believe in what appears to be outside the scope of a world where you are only a machine? Do machines dream? The objections to the idea are important in knowing how to test the idea or find it’s faults. An example: would a machine believe in a soul? Does being a machine mean there can be no external intelligent forces (gods)?

  2. Well I don’t feel like a machine. But we are figuring out how to make computers think more like us. Using expert systems which can make rational and logical choices on their own. The machines learn what works and doesn’t through trial and error much as we do.

    Perhaps we are just a very advanced machine after all.

    • That is my position, we are machines. This does a terrible thing to the philosophies of those who are dualists. Does a AI robot have a soul? I think we are close to finding out.

      • Does it want one?

        Maybe an AI robot has a clearer understanding it was created but not by gods, by an inferior flesh machine which is slow and weak by comparison.

        Or at least we will be slow and weak at some point as machines get smaller, faster, smarter we will get slower, stupider and less relevant to them.

        I don’t see a machine thinking of us as gods.

        • Perhaps they will make up a god or gods the way that humans do?

          Perhaps they will think to treat us well, as many of us look after lesser animals?

  3. MAL, have you read Stones of Significance by David Brin? It’s short, a $2 novella, and I know you will truly love it. Would like to hear your reaction on its take on consciousness.

  4. Actually, this is similar to Michael Graziano’s attention schema theory of consciousness. What Faw refers to as the holodeck, Graziano calls an information model or schema. Michael Gazzaniga calls the module that does this the “interpreter.” In all versions, a module collects information from the rest of the brain, makes a quick executive summary, then makes that summary available to the rest of the brain, or to at least some portion of it.

    My preferred metaphor for this has been a city newspaper. The newspaper collects information about what’s going on in the city, then makes that information available to the rest of the city. The newspaper doesn’t really control what happens in the city, but it does have causal influence.

    • Thanks for commenting. I am shy on using a description where there is a central ‘viewing area’ in the brain. It seems probable that we are only consciously aware of what has already been acted on by the brain and are viewing it as it is moved to storage. That puts an entirely different view on consciousness and still fits with the machine model.

      • The attention schema isn’t really the homunculus, the little man sitting in the center viewing things. It’s the rest of the brain that accesses and experiences the summary. According to the theory, it’s what gives us the intuition of an “inner experience.”

        I agree completely that the brain is a machine, with all of its systems completely in this universe, and following the laws of physics.

      • Ignostic Dave
      • May 24th, 2015

      I think of consciousness as self reflection. Basically does the same thing as your newspaper metaphor, but does have an active component in that it can judge what has happened.

      • I do think judgment happens with information from consciousness influencing it, but that the judgment happens across the system. It’s why I often object to referring to our “self” as only our consciousness. We are both our consciousness and subconsciousness.

        • We are in agreement on that. At best consciousness is an observer/overseer function of all the rest that happens.

    • โ€œNewspapers have roughly the same relationship to life as fortune-tellers to metaphysics.โ€ โ€“Karl Kraus
      Yes the unconscious addiction of society…I like this metaphor.

      • Wow, that seems like a dark view of newspapers. (Although I suppose that depends on your view of fortune-tellers.)

  5. In a sense we are, of course machines. Cumulative experience/background/circumstances translate to a very precise mathematical formula. Hence no free will; hence machines.

    • There is that sticky wicket, but I don’t think that a machine model of consciousness rules out free will.

      I missed your move, thought you’d gone AWOL. Glad you haven’t.

      • Planning on returning with a vengeance ๐Ÿ˜€ Religionsists beware.

        But back to your point, doesn’t the mathematics of it out free will? Your exact experience (exact being the operative word) has led you to today, and every single decision you make from this point is based on that precise combination of +1 – 4 x and / ? No?

        • That is a commonly held understanding of deterministic materialist thinking. Free will is also held out as a carrot for dualists which is divisive in the conversation.

          Free will – defined as could you do something different if all the same situation again occurred is moot because the same will never again occur. The real question is ‘are we making decisions now’ and that depends on whether we have the ability to make a decision at all. This is why the understanding of consciousness is very important. What is intelligence? What is a decision? What is a thought? The philosophy of consciousness discussion has conveniently stepped over these definitions for a very long time.

  6. oops, I meant rule out free will…

    • entropy
    • May 24th, 2015

    Since you ask so urgently: I myself became a Hundu just a week now. They have ideas about the nature of consciousness. ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Where does Hunduism say is the seat of consciousness?

      Thanks for commenting.

        • entropy
        • May 24th, 2015

        I don’t know if I’m enough qualified to give an answer, after just one week of Hunduism, but I think I am pretty safe to say that Karma is a key concept in Hunduism, from which everything else is derived concerning human reasoning.

          • entropy
          • May 24th, 2015

          Sorry, forgot I drank a little drink tonight, will come back later! ๐Ÿ™‚

        • I’m going to assume that karma requires a duality of mind and body, leaving consciousness in some metaphysical or spiritual realm?

            • entropy
            • May 25th, 2015

            I could explain to you, but there is excellent info in WikiPedia, and of course in other sources and resources (and teachers!) ๐Ÿ™‚

            • What Wikipedia says does not tell me what you personally believe

                • entropy
                • May 25th, 2015

                I am not sure if I am allowed to explain it, for we may disagree, and our paths would be separated. Since I now believe in reรฏncarnation, that might mean that we both would have to live many lives exra. The whole purpose is to reach Moksha, enlightenment, also known as liberation from earthly life and going back into the cosmic consciousness, which we all are. I could tell you the secret, but you would not believe it. You have to discover for yourself. I’ll give you this pearl: “Everything is deterministic, and still you have free will, for everything is partly an illusion!” Hope you find some use to it. Feel free to ask any question, I’ll try to answer. ๐Ÿ™‚

                • entropy
                • May 25th, 2015

                Oh, and you might have to become psychotic, like I did. The point is to keep your balance. ๐Ÿ˜‰

                • entropy
                • May 25th, 2015

                I am not sure if I am allowed to tell you, for I am not a teacher, you see.

                • entropy
                • May 25th, 2015

                I watched the video. The thought that stuck in my mind is that the hippocampus -thinks- that what it perceives -is- reality. This might mean that what we experience is in fact not reality. In fact, Hinduism has an entirely different approach to reality. Sorry I keep coming back to Hinduism. I will try not to if I don’t have to. ๐Ÿ˜‰

                • There would seem to be a need for some part of our brains to perceive reality as if it is real? No?

                    • entropy
                    • May 25th, 2015

                    Yes. However, it doesn’t nessecarily logically follow from that we experience reality as real, that our perception reflects actual reality, if it exists at all.

                    • It is difficult to know that anything is real. That presupposition is most often taken for granted that what our senses tell us is real as confirmed by other witnesses. To define it as more than the only reality we can know, that is to say it is less than what actual reality is, requires a bit of doing and evidence that has yet to be produced.

                      • entropy
                      • May 25th, 2015

                      Actually, what you’re saying makes a lot of sense.

                • entropy
                • May 25th, 2015

                There you go. I wrote “You would not believe it”. Please delete that part. You are free to believe anything you want of course. ๐Ÿ˜‰

            • entropy
            • May 25th, 2015

            According to Hinduism, mind and body are both illusions. The only reality is consciousness.

            • That sort of goes with the matrix theory of things yet we cannot break out of the matrix if we are in it… where is consciousness then?

                • entropy
                • May 25th, 2015

                I am not familiar with matrix theory…

                • entropy
                • May 25th, 2015

                Regarding that, I think I could respond by saying that human consciousness is equivalent with devine consciousness, that is to say, we are creators of reality. You can see that with respect to chaos theory, which states that small causes can in principle have huge effects on history.

                  • entropy
                  • May 25th, 2015

                  Ah, it’s all nonsense I’m saying. Forget it. Thanks for putting things into perspective for me. ๐Ÿ™‚

  7. From what my best friend explained to me about neuroscience (and really I didn’t understand much of it), the brain is just a giant bundle of neurons. Your analogy to a machine is apt. Basically when the brain receives stimuli, it fires off certain neurons, which react in a certain way.

    Critical mass is achieved, and that is the “thought” that gets carried out. Really it’s a bunch of neurons that are competing for desired effects to get achieved. Maybe we don’t even realize all the different memories required to actually have a “conscious” thought.

    Then again, I could just be missing the entire point. Discussions about consciousness hurts mah brain.

    • I am convinced that we do not realize all the different memories required to actually have a thought ๐Ÿ˜‰

  8. I am not sure I understood much of that video.
    I think we are machines, biological machines, for that matter. We receive information, process it and act accordingly.

    • Machine does not mean preprogrammed. Consciousness is not a thing or a spot, it is the integration of information including that which we cannot consciously experience.

      • I didn’t say preprogrammed. I just said we receive information and act accordingly.

        • Mea culpa. The act accordingly part is not all that we are capable of.

          • Act, would also include doing nothing. I can see a tree, which and do nothing about it,but information is received and processed.

            • the range of action includes no action…

              • I hope that does not involve a contradiction

                • The ability to choose means there is an ability to not choose, in this there is no contradiction.

                  • Choice is a word I don’t like to use much. And whenever I use choice, I mean awareness of alternatives. It has nothing with how I act

    • Patricia
    • May 25th, 2015

    What about hope? What generates the innate human desire to hope in or for something?

    • Hope, I’m afraid is the fear that stuff will not change from what it is now expressed in positive terms to the listener.

      Anything you hope for (as far as I have known) can also be expressed as a fear that the present will not change.

        • Patricia
        • May 26th, 2015

        So, just so I understand correctly, in your perspective there is no “point” or greater hope or anything like that right? It’s reactivity of chemicals in the brain ect.

        • Hope is just the frown of fear turned upside down. Without a fear, hope would simply be another desire. We don’t ‘hope’ to taste chocolate ice cream again… we want to and plan to. Hope happens when you fear the current issue will not change.

  9. I think that Matt Faw defines consciousness perfectly when he states, ‘The entire brain is unconscious, there is no part of the brain which is conscious’. This is simply the answer to what consciousness really is…the Present Moment, the Now! As Mr. Faw says, the brain is merely the unconscious part of us, anything cognitive related is unconscious…so the conscious must be the Present moment, a meditative state, where all thoughts cease to exist.
    Yes, we act like machines these days, in example to Mr. Faw reference to the Driving Mind. We walk, talk, think, speak, without a real conscious perspective these days…everything tends to be how we perceive things rather than for what things REALLY are. If we were less like machines and more like the living, breathing, beautiful, creatures we truly are, we would find ourselves more conscious/aware of our world and everything in it…including who we really are and how we act, react and identify.

    Thank you MAL for this great post!

    • How would you describe the instant when all information in a system is present that is necessary for a decision to be made? Is that moment in time consciousness? I think that ‘moment in time’ creates the potential for consciousness but it is how we act on it, what we do with the information that _is_ consciousness.

      Remember that recently science has decided that whatever way we have of measuring consciousness (important for surgery) it is also present in many mammals. This is a problem for dualists but I think the Buddhists are okay with that.

      That is to say that we can measure brain activity and know when the brain is conscious or not. Search for ‘locked in syndrome’ for interesting stories of science and consciousness.

      A worm, limited as its senses are, is ‘aware’ of the present moment as informed by their senses. We do not infer that this means they are conscious.

    • Ain’t No Shrinking Violet
    • May 25th, 2015

    Very interesting post, MAL. Being that I so recently believed in the pink unicorn in the sky (thankfully no more), I’ve never considered these kinds of issues very deeply. With my medical knowledge in psychiatry, it would indeed seem were are like machines in many ways, as our minds are simply biologic chemical reactions, the vast majority of it the result of genetics. I’m reluctant to say that covers everything about us though…perhaps it is my still-ingrained neural pathways rooted in religion that tells me there must be something more. Either way, it’s interesting to contemplate.

    • Thanks for commenting. It would be interesting to know what in your conscious thoughts tells you there is more than just the brain?

        • Ain’t No Shrinking Violet
        • May 25th, 2015

        What a fine question…and one I’m having enormous difficulty answering.

        I think it is more that when I was a believer, I trained my mind to see the divine in everything. Now I’m trying to look at the world through a different lense, and see the divine in nothing. At times it seems my brain gets caught in the middle.

        Consciously my thoughts are quite nihilistic. There is no one thought I can pick out that suggests there is anything more than just a brain…it is only a vague *feeling*. Which rather pisses me off, because as an atheist I put no stock in vague religious feelings.

        So there’s my twisted up, deconverting, existential angst-y thoughts for you. Ugh.

        • Thank you. You have a new / different perspective. Perhaps from this can come an insight that others could not find. Keep thinking.

    • entropy
    • May 25th, 2015

    The difference between a brain and a machine is the way the information is processed: in a brain the information -is- (part of) the brain, while in a machine the machinery and the information are separated. The meaning of this is that the brain -is- consciousness. More importantly, the -human- brain has -cognitive- ability! I can’t speak for cats and dogs or monkeys and dolphins, but humans are conscious. It is a possibility that human consiousness has an exclusive connection to the divine. This may all become clear by studying Hinduism, at will. We will all sometime be united again in the devine consciousness.

    • There are many mammals that qualify as being conscious according to recent science. I cannot speak for any divine consciousness. I see no evidence for it. Where does it come from? How do humans get such consciousness?

        • entropy
        • May 26th, 2015

        Myatheistlife, did you receive the invitation(s) to my private site? (there appear to be problems with inviting)

  10. You are God. I am God, just not yours.

  11. While I am also intrigued by consciousness, it’s simply impossible to solve the problem. All the events that you percieve can in principle be described mechanically, like a computer. without any consciousness. It seems as if consciousness is a kind of “layer”, that perceives, but does not interact in anyway with the environment. This, it’s simply not science to study this, because science is positivist, and posivistically speaking, it’s not possible to distinguish a non-conscious replica of a human from a conscious human.

    That leads me to wonder… do clones have consciousness?

    • See, what you thought was not the realm of science becomes science in your last sentence.

      If we correctly assume lambs to be conscious then Dolly tells us that consciousness comes from the brain alone.

      That of course doesn’t rule out the matrix theory, but it does put a very large dent in the dualist theories.

    • Scottie
    • May 26th, 2015

    I admit I got rather lost trying to read the post associated with yours. I do have a question. What do you think of the idea of collective consciousness? I was exposed to it in the 1980’s by a man who really believed in it. He explained it like a super mind full of all the thoughts we have all ever thought floating in the atmosphere of our planet. His reasoning is thought is energy and as energy can’t be destroyed it must be transmitted into the collective where others can pick it up if they try to attune themselves to the right reception frequency. He said that explains why different people have the same idea for something at the same time countries apart for each other. I find the idea interesting but I lack the education to be able to really evaluate it so am left to wonder. Hugs

    • Ohhhh! Now I know where those lost trains of thought go. Thanks I never understood my random thoughts that pop into my head *squirrel* or the lost trains of thought.. *what was I saying* Oh well โค

  12. Dear MAL, me a machine/robot?!?…huh..quite an interesting view. Not quite sure where I stand with that. Could it be? Hmmm… will have to research this more. With that said, I do always enjoy reading and learning about how you view life, human minds, the world in general!
    Hope you’re smiling my dear MAL :)!

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