A man thinking looking at the sunrise

Understanding 'I' - the consciousness

We are a part of this world and made up of the same matter as the rest of it. Yet there is something profoundly different about us.
We are the living and thinking ones. Conscious and aware of our own existence. We 'decide' and choose our actions.
All thanks to our complex brains.

But are we really that 'special', are we really that 'free'? Let's examine.

What is thought?

A thought is a virtual partial simulation of reality. Evolution devised it for survival.
E.g. the sight of a predator charging towards oneself triggers a 'thought' of being eaten alive by it next - thereby making the individual act in order to save its life.

What is self-awareness?

Thoughts that are aware of its own existence - the simulator, - can be said to be "self-aware".

As such a self-aware system has a sense of the 'I'. In other words, it can simulate itself.
E.g. a self-driving car's autopilot software will include itself in the drive simulation. Besides its environment, it will have knowledge about its own extents and position and characteristics.
If it also knows that the one running the simulation is the same as its image in the simulation then it could be said to be self-aware.

What is consciousness?

Consciousness is the ability to be able to think - what to think. A conscious system is one that is self-aware and self-directing in that it can select what to think upon.
As such, it does not take direct instructions as to what to think about - from an external agency. It is the 'master' program, tasked with the role of managing thoughts and routing information and actions.

What is the mind?

A mind is that software platform on which the thought-simulations run.

Updated: 2020 Jul 12