Spirals and Consciousness
So far we have learned that all forms of life are assembled from the same basic stuff.
Everything, including both nonliving phenomena like hurricanes and living, biological creatures like chimpanzees, is created through the same processes, constructed from the same basic materials. Now we consider how the assembly of matter into living organisms transcends mere life and creates sentience—in other words, what is it that makes humans animate whereas plants are simply alive?
To address this issue, we must ask the questions, how are brains assembled out of the basic building-block materials of the universe? And how does human consciousness emerge from the chaos of star stuff?
Images from I am a Strange Loop
by Douglas Hofstadter
Video feedback loops that occur when a camera is pointed at a computer monitor presentation, thus creating a self-perpetuating, dynamic display.
What is a Human Brain?
Deep down a human brain is a chaotic seething group of particles, on a higher level it is a jungle of neurons, and on yet a higher level it is a network of abstractions that we call “symbols.”
The most central and complex symbol in your brain or mine is the one we call “I.”
I am a Strange Loop,
Douglas Hofstadter is a physicist and philosopher who has written extensively on the subjects of consciousness and pattern recognition.
The concept of “I” is a cognitive symbol that represents the idea, “I am me. I am a person.”
One of the hallmarks of being human is our disposition to store chunks of information. We are creatures who have the ability to ask questions, such as where did I come from? what am I made of? what type of creature am I?
There are many ideas about the nature and source of human consciousness. There is the hypothesis that sentience is no more than the product of neural activity and the interaction of brain chemicals—in other words, a simple biological function. At the other end of the spectrum is the idea that the body is inhabited by a spirit or soul that has an existence separate from biological life. No hypothesis has been proven.
Here is another idea: Is it possible that consciousness is born out of feedback loops in the brain? A loop, of course, is a form of spiral that constantly circles back on itself. Perhaps these strange loops allow for the creation of human language, identity, and culture. As we know, the spiral is generative form. So might it be possible that consciousness is a manifestation of the dynamic force of spiral activity?