Self Awareness: The Last Frontier

“One of the last remaining problems in science is the riddle of consciousness. The human brain—a mere lump of jelly inside your cranial vault—can contemplate the vastness of interstellar space and grapple with concepts such as zero and infinity. Even more remarkably it can ask disquieting questions about the meaning of its own existence. “Who am I” is arguably the most fundamental of all questions.

It really breaks down into two problems—the problem of qualia and the problem of the self. My colleagues, the late Francis Crick and Christof Koch have done a valuable service in pointing out that consciousness might be an empirical rather than philosophical problem, and have offered some ingenious suggestions. But I would disagree with their position that the qualia problem is simpler and should be addressed first before we tackle the “Self.” I think the very opposite is true. I have every confidence that the problem of self will be solved within the lifetimes of most readers of this essay. But not qualia.”

(via Edge. h/t: Integral Praxis)


  1. How is that “one of the last problems”? I mean, it’s a big one, but… Also, a more fundamental question would be “How?”

  2. i cannot imagine anyone less qualified to explore these questions that “neuroscientists”. for several reasons, most of which have to do with training, and the fact that they are blind to the need for flipping their model …

    consciousness does not come from meat …. it is the other way around, but either way, the concept of subtler consciousness has to be introduced ….

    the brain is merely the nearest physical correlate to consciousness that the senses can understand, so it is assumed to be “cause” by the sense-attached mind ….

    and, the vocabulary in english is so unsophisticated, clumpy … as example, sanskrit uses five words to distinguish aspects of mind … we, and science, use only one, and a very lumpy and imprecise one at that …

    scientists remind me of small boys jabbing at a radio with a stick, thinking they have found the source of the sound when it stops playing music …

    sorry …

    ask a yogi …

    thanks for your time,

    gregory lent

  3. The biggest world problem to do with self-awareness is: making more people actually be it.

    Sorry to be cynical, but…

  4. I’m a bit partial to memetics myself, but I couldn’t explain the theory of how consciousness trough memes yet.
    Mostly because I haven’t gotten to the book that takes that up yet…

  5. Wouldn’t explaining consciousness through memes just be passing off the burden of explanation from one abstraction to another?

    Anyways, the prize here is definitely that opening line. Personally, I think science’s biggest remaining problem is cleaning up after the catastrophic damage of our past century of scientific “solutions.”

  6. Wouldn’t explaining consciousness through memes just be passing off the burden of explanation from one abstraction to another?

    Agreed. This is why consciousness/mind is covered by real metaphysics, which always require some variety of contradictory or paradoxical language, whereas physics is restricted to non-contradictory and orderly manipulations of symbols.

    The reason being that the plane or region of existence addressed by physics is the region that contains all symbolic language embodied in artifacts, including physics, while metaphysics addresses (or at least attempts to) the higher/superior/super-natural regions of existence.

  7. I’m open to all views and theories on consciousness. From yogi’s to neuroscientists, it’s ALL fascinating to me. Thanks for all the thought-provoking comments!

    (I disagree with the title. I think it’s just the first major step onto a vast unexplored wilderness.)

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