There’s something to momentum. You can build momentum in so many different directions, and yet its results seem to dominate our lives somehow. I guess momentum means that we are no longer conscious of our actions. These actions are transferred from slow thinking to fast thinking, from conscious decision to habits. Once we lose consciousness of what it is, it can morph without our knowing, or affect other things in our lives without our making the conscious connection.
I am being vague in my phrasing and content, but this is another nascent idea that I am developing.
At some point in time, we are in a state. In this state, at this instantaneous point in time, our brain is wired in a particular way. Our pathways are defined, some more strongly than others, and those defined and undefined pathways are what makes us who we are. They are what has given us our habits, our feelings, our thoughts. But not many of us are thinking about this fact. Not many take the step of being conscious of our consciousness.
What is the value in being conscious of our consciousness? Is it a good thing to be more self-aware in that way? Defining ‘good’ has always been a problem. And if we define the word, there is always going to be conditions. It always depends on how we use this consciousness of consciousness. It always goes deeper than our definitions of what is ‘good’. Why do we each have our definition of ‘good’? Where do these definitions come from?
Having conversations with a theologian challenges this question. There is often the debate of where an atheist finds his sense of good and bad without gaining it from God. My standard answer has been that we all experience suffering, and from that suffering we understand ‘bad’. Conversely, we understand pleasure, in both the short and long term – from this, we can understand ‘good’.
A more evolutionary answer would be that we understand what is ‘good’ in how we evolved. It has always been useful in prolonging the human race to understand when we, and those in our community, are suffering. If we suffer too much, in a physical sense, we will die. If we just let ourselves and our communities suffer, the human race would likely cease to exist. Or, more likely, those with these empathetic and suffering-reducing tendencies will prosper, leaving those less empathetic to die out and fail to pass on their genetics.
I have gone down a path and found myself far away from consciousness. But there does seem to be a path back.
Consciousness itself lends itself to empathy. It is difficult to be empathetic without being conscious. There are certainly examples of empathy which are automatic and aren’t thought about a great deal. But even those examples are likely a result of having built a habit, or at least a value system, which stemmed from conscious thought.
My point is that consciousness is evolutionarily positive. Empathy is a big part of the reason for this. If we can empathise with people and understand when they are suffering, we can work to reduce that suffering. On a mass scale, this has clearly worked well for us as a species.
But it doesn’t stop with empathy. Consciousness is important for many different things. I guess you could trace consciousness back to the cognitive revolution at which point our past stopped being purely biological and started being history. We were no longer apes with a very limited consciousness but rather humans with vast expanses of awareness.
There is a strong argument that, in the decades to come, a revolution will take place that is equivalent to that of the cognitive revolution. What our lives would be like on the other side of this revolution would be inconceivable. Trying to understand it now, even if we knew what it looked like, would be like trying to explain agriculture to a monkey. They simply won’t understand. This is what I find so engaging about the subject of technology.
But for now, we have this relationship with technology that is sickening. Instead of making us more conscious, in many ways it is making us less conscious. We are now cyborgs, with the world’s information at our fingertips, ready to be consumed and utilised in as diverse a way as our imaginations can muster. And yet the vast majority are trapped in a cycle of scrolling and wasted time.
This content has served a purpose of dividing us into groups and making us so well-defined as thinkers that we no longer think. Instead, our groups think for us. Nuance is destroyed. Critical thinking a thing of the past. Technological tribalism rears its ugly head. The internet has offered us the easiest way to remove ourselves from this tribal trap, and yet the ‘powers that be’ seem to have used it to trap us even further.
But we are still conscious. There is still room for critical thought. There is still time to save ourselves. There is still time for nuance. There are plenty of people who see through the bullshit. Our conscious minds are adept at such skills. So many have become disenfranchised with politics and the media. So many want something of substance, something better than what they have now.
This doesn’t seem to be something which is articulated well. It is something which is very difficult to communicate. But unless we try, we fail and get slightly better each time, there is no way of stopping the tribalism that has seen the end of empires through the millennia.
Now that we are a global society with the capability for ending civilisation, the extension of this environment wouldn’t simply be a setback of decades or even centuries. It would be the end. That would be ultimate evolutionary fail. Some see it as inevitable, asking the question of why we haven’t encountered any similar life if life could move past this point. It’s a good question, and only time will tell.