The Spectrum of Consciousness

If our conscious states can change, why do we think we’re always as conscious as each other?

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been considering the idea of how the vast majority of people might be leading their day-to-day lives in a state of subdued consciousness. The aggregate result of this is that many people might forever be in a low-moderate state of consciousness all the time.

Consider a time when you had to drive for a few hours. You would’ve driven for a portion of that trip in a mindless state that you only realised in hindsight — a sudden idea that breaks the blankness of your mind. Suddenly you note your lack of memory, your lack of total perception over what has just previously occurred for an indistinguishable amount of time. Evidently, this was an example of slipping out of consciousness, but not in the same manner that follows from head collisions or the like.

Clearly, consciousness fleetingly exists — and emerges at the forefront of our mind only when it’s noticeable. It sounds like a tautology, but the idea that consciousness alludes only what’s noteworthy about our surroundings alludes to its general absence in our day-to-day lives given how inactive it is most of the time. Thoughts are discrete in whether they’re present or not, and I suspect that an average person would have only a few hundred per day. From this, it would seem that for the vast amount of time we’re awake, we exist in a subdued version of consciousness that only fleetingly emerges as a temporal thought before vanishing again — bringing us back into mindlessness.

“Empty Valley” — Ettore Moni

It’s obvious that human-level mindfulness isn’t integral to an acceptable standard of orderly behavioural given the social complexity that emerges across different animal species such as chimpanzees, whales and ants. Secondly, consciousness appears to be symptomatic of the ability to reflect, meaning a failure to be introspective is in turn, a failure to be as conscious as one could be. There is also something to be said — although what specifically requires more research — about the innate nature of what it is to be ‘wise’ and how these individuals could be simply more conscious than others.

The result of consciousness potentially existing on a spectrum is that many people are simply not as conscious as we might expect them to be and so, can some of us be ‘more human’ than others?

Electrical engineering/Neuroscience at University of Sydney. Aspiring neuro-trauma surgeon with a few software/hardware goals.

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