A Basis of Consciousness
(Copyright 2003, James
I define "consciousness" as one brain mechanism having to inhibit or enhance another. This makes one mechanism "aware" of the other. Now this may be magnified into any level of complexity of "on off" mechanisms monitored by other "on off" mechanisms. This is a form of "consciousness."
However, I suggest the real key to "consciousness" is awareness of "need." When the above scenario is connected with a mechanism which generates "need," the interaction reaches the level of self awareness. Hence, hunger, thirst, etc. and sex produce "self awareness" in their satisfaction or deferral. (The memories of how these needs were met are stored in the association areas which refine the opportunity for satisfaction and increase awareness. I suggest “consciousness” cannot exist without memory.)
The third part is "drive." "Need" generates drive. This is the area which machines, at least at this time, may not be able to mimic. A machine that must seek and find energy, for example, is simply using "on off" mechanisms. I suggest the "drive" of animals results from the characteristic of nerves which differentiates them from other tissues. I think our drive comes from the "addiction" mechanism. That is, our nerves evolved the ability to increase receptors in response to the stimulus of entering molecules which trigger the addiction mechanism. Therefore, an accumulation of nerves, the brain, becomes a site which is constantly increasing its "need" for various molecules by constantly increasing receptors for these molecules. This is the basis of our drive mechanism.
I suggest "consciousness" consists of these mechanisms: control of one mechanism over another, especially involving mechanisms that are identified as "needs," and the addiction mechanism which constantly renews "needs."