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The Primacy of Consciousness
by Jeffrey Sax
September 1, 2000
The primary function of consciousness appears to be to organize information.
When investigating the nature and properties of consciousness, it may be a good
idea to look at this function in its most general form. Indeed, why should be
restrict ourselves to a source of information as limited as physical reality,
when compared to everything that is thinkable and unthinkable?
There can be no doubt that human consciousness has had a decisive influence on
the physical evolution on our planet. This is acknowledged by several theories
of mind-brain interaction, where conscious events are associated with
large-scale, macroscopic quantum-mechanical events in the brain.
When we look at everything as information in various forms, then physical
reality is - from our point of view - the near-final one of a series of
representations of information. Many physical systems exhibit behavior that is
more complex than their physical structure alone would suggest. These physical
structures are representations of patterns of information, that need an
organizing agent such as human consciousness to produce the rich dynamics.
Is all such information contained in physical structures such as the brain?
Human consciousness is an individualized information processor. As individual
consciousness, we each carry a representation of physical reality. Every
individual can act independently, and in addition to its representation called
physical reality, it carries a large collection of personal,
subjective information: thoughts, emotions...
Since much of those individual representations is shared, they must have a
common source. One could also say that the individual representation of
physical reality is, for all practical purposes, a representation of
this common source. Indeed, because they are independent, there is
no a priori reason to assume that the representation in the form of physical
reality should be the same for everyone. The presence of 'subjective'
information (i.e. specific to each individual consciousness) makes it unlikely
that the physical realities should be the same.
The 'duality' of mind stuff vs. matter stuff is hereby resolved. Both
are representations of information that are equal from the point of view
of consciousness, although they do play different roles. They all belong to the
There is an essential difference between processes (consciousness) and
the raw material they work with (particles and thoughts). Even then, the
transormative processes can be looked at as information from the point of view
of a 'higher' level, which will have its own transformative processes, and so
on, ad infinitum.