Why are you conscious?

Susan Blackmore asks the cuestion “Are you conscious now?” in her “Consciousness – an introduction” over and over again, making you eventually remember to ask that from yourself a few times per day.

How can I know I’m conscious? How does it feel to be conscious? What’s the difference between consciousness and focus? What the hell is consciousness? How does it function? How does it feel to see? These and many questions Blackmore discusses about. Of course, Why and how consciousness happens remains a mystery.

So first, we, humans, gotta get on with exploring phenomena that seem easier to explain. There’s a concept she describes named Libet’s delay. That means, when something happens, it takes 0,5 seconds for us to become conscious about it. Libet had explained it as that it’s the time that takes to create “neuronal adequacy” – neurons having to fire for that long for you to become conscious about it. That 0,5sec delay itself means that if someone touches you, and then slaps you 0,5 sec or less time after – you won’t feel the first touch.

There’s also a long debate why there is and cannot be a place where consciousness happens, so phrasings like “it entered consciousness” are just plain wrong. There’s no neuronal structure in the brain that would decide what we become conscious about, at least not discovered yet if there were (or me not aware, correct me if there’s news) and definitely noone looking through an inner screen, making the decisions. All that we’re conscious and unconscious about is “just” the behavior of our neurons.

That all got me thinking. What if the 0,5 seconds are not because the neurons have to fire that long – what if it’s what it takes to discriminate between which stimulus creates the most intense firing of neurons? Which neuronal networks have either slightly higher voltage, or higher concentration of neurotransmitters. After all, we sense our clothes on our backs every moment we wear them, but most of the time we’re not aware of them. We become aware if we either think of them, (which probably adds intensity to the neurons firing about the clothes) or if we feel uncomfortable – the uncomfort resulting in a more intense firing of neurons. The stronger the firing, the more likely we become conscious about those concepts the neurons that are firing respond to. This is a hypothesis. I don’t know well enough yet to say whether there’s a point in pursuing studying it.

That little hypothesis was all i wanted to say now. I’m not even half way in the book yet – so maybe someone has pursued studying that option already. I’ll see to it!


If you know better, let me know in the comments why this hypothesis would or would not find proof or if there were any incongruent links in the discussion or if something confused the shit out of you!

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