Conscious by Annaka Harris (Book Summary)


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When you deliberate on consciousness, you may consider things such as mindfulness or the capacity to indulge in sophisticated thoughts. As a rule, we are in general inclined to ponder about consciousness especially in connection to other attributes and qualities that are regularly identified with humans. However, this might be a restricted perspective on the subject. 

In this outline, we’ll investigate two central issues: Is there particularly any external proof of human consciousness? Furthermore, is being conscious a significant factor in human conduct? To respond to these inquiries, we’ll pursue some lines of thought to arrive at certain deductions that may amaze you. 



We’ll additionally delve into understanding exactly how far-reaching consciousness could conceivably be in the world. Conscious entities other than human beings may not realize levels of complex thought similar to ours, yet that does that mean they don’t have conscious experiences at all? 


1 – To better grasp consciousness, we should scrutinize our comprehension of experience and instinct. 


What comes to mind when you try to discern what it means to be conscious or to encounter consciousness? For something that is so integral to our lives, consciousness constantly remains evasive and enigmatic, and one of the essential purposes behind this is we usually in general have an assortment of ideas with respect to what we truly mean when say we are conscious. 

To create a better comprehension of what consciousness is, we can start by excluding what it isn’t. In any case, so as to start this probe on a proper note, it would be useful for us to form a consensus upon a general idea of what it is we’re discussing in any case. 

Regarding this, we’ll talk about the renowned philosopher Thomas Nagel, who in 1974 proposed that “an organism is conscious if there is something that it is like to be that organism” Essentially, this implies that a conscious living being is one that has a form of experience. 

So, it would be similar to assuming your existential state at this moment since you’re presently experiencing things. Be that as it may, it may not conceivable to be the seat you’re perched on if the seat isn’t experiencing anything, correct? 

Considering that, we can begin taking a gander at things that are frequently firmly identified with experience to check whether they are for sure parts of our consciousness or can be excluded by and large. 

In any case, note that when we do this, our instincts are assuming charge over our thoughts. Since nobody knows without a doubt what consciousness is, we frequently depend on our instinct to reveal to us what appears to be correct or wrong when we consider questions like which things in our universe experience awareness. 



Incidentally enough, instinct is additionally a baffling thing that science presently can’t seem to completely get a handle on. Essentially, instinct is that premonition you have when you realize something is awry but you can’t pinpoint why.

Suppose you see an unknown person making his way to the subway and sense that he presents a threat. Your instinct could be because of the man’s face being flushed and his eyes enlarged. These are signs that he may be about to do something violent, and you may have seen them, yet just on an instinctual, subliminal level. 

Be that as it may, our instinct can, and regularly does, mislead us. Earlier in time, our senses informed us that the Earth was flat until somebody realized that the stars in the sky pointed to a different description. Also, today, numerous individuals feel instinctually more stressed when they get on board a plane than when they get into a road vehicle, despite the fact that a ride in a road vehicle presents a higher probability of accidents. 

Along these lines, in the parts ahead, tune in to your instinct, yet additionally attempt to keep a receptive outlook about the conceivable outcomes of consciousness. 


2 – Attributes we frequently identify with consciousness aren’t specific to human behavior. 


There are not many things we can say for sure about consciousness, however, one of them is that we humans are definitely conscious. Obviously, our kind of consciousness is just the one we experience directly and are thus acquainted with. Therefore, our instinct can guide us on the thought path that consciousness can only be seen in organisms that have human-like characteristics and behaviors. 

In any case, if we investigate our very own behaviors, we can see that they’re not all that specific to us, all things considered. 

Consider the illuminating exploration that has gone into the generally unknown behavior of the plant world. In investigations of Douglas fir and paper birch trees, scientists have discovered that there is a great deal of movement going on underground, in the midst of a huge system of fungi and roots called the mycorrhizal network. 

Biologist Suzanne Simard was surprised to discover that these two types of trees normally help each other out in periods of need, with nutrients being sent underground, across, from one tree to another. Not just that, the Douglas fir can distinguish a tree which is a descendant, send it supplements and exchange information with it, so as to enable it to endure unfavorable conditions. 



By and large, plants are cognizant of and responsive to their environment. They can send harmful products into the mycorrhizal system to resists other plants that present a threat. What’s more, a few plants, similar to ivy, will even probe their surroundings over the ground, feeling their way around their surroundings to discover suitable structures to assist their growth. 

It’s relevant to argue that numerous plants additionally have some type of memory. The venus fly snare, for example, won’t snap shut and ensnare its prey until two triggers are set off, which means it must recollect the initiation of the first trigger.

The more we find out about plants, the more we come to an understanding that they’re not as far different from us as we thought. All things considered, the genes that produce a response in plants in darkness and light are made of DNA similar to that of humans! 


This gives rise to two outcomes. The first is that plants have some kind of experience – and in this manner some kind of consciousness. The second is that events like having memories, light detection, reacting to threat and helping others cannot be identified with consciousness by any means. 

In the following section, we’ll delve into human qualities like these, and we’ll discuss how they’re very independent of consciousness completely. 


3 – Consciousness is different from the choices we make and the contemplations we have. 


Generally, our conduct in life involves a spontaneous cause and effect relationship. Something occurs and we respond to it naturally. What’s more, and things being what they are, these natural responses have little to do with our consciousness. 

This is partly based on the fact that the brain receives information from the human senses at different times, and what we consider conscious experience happens basically after the brain has processed information from sight, sound, smell and contact. 

In this way, in fact, you could state that consciousness is “the last to be informed” about what’s happening. 

Numerous research has been undertaken to investigate the relationship between perceptions and responses with respect to time, and they’ve brought up fascinating queries about how much conscious reflection goes into our behavior versus how much of our actions are instinctually programmed by our brains. 

By and large, the framework for choosing what you do right now is really similar to the framework that controls a car without a driver: it’s learning about your immediate environment, processing that data, and responding to it. What your consciousness is doing is seeing your decisions paly out and properly placing them into the context of your life experience. 

In a different way, we could say that your consciousness is sitting in the car as a passenger while your brain drives the car along.  

Another part of human nature frequently connected with consciousness is complex thought. However, here as well, a more intensive study shows that the two are very different. 



Suppose you simply just had a reflection about an old companion from grade school that you haven’t encountered in a very long time. Was this though deliberately dug up, or did it apparently spontaneously just occur?

Primarily, we really have little authority over our thoughts as they go back and forth. Much the same as everything else, they’re a response to what’s happening and the aftereffect of our brain’s wiring. Bear in mind that our brain’s wiring is the consequence of hereditary qualities, instincts and the knowledge that we’ve gained from past experiences. 

Obviously, we can endeavor to intentionally plan out our activities in advance and accomplish something eventually. Be that as it may, when it comes down to the moment-to-moment decisions we make, we can see that these behaviors are more affected by inherent, spontaneous cerebral processes than they are affected by consciousness.


4 – Consciousness can likewise be viewed as discrete from our understanding of self. 


The mind is wee-equipped to form illusive mental images for itself. As we previously cited, there’s the delusion that our movement and the actions we take involve some conscious decision making. 

But at the same time, there’s the false understanding that our brain perceives most of the information coming in through all our senses at the same time. It appears as though everything is bound together, however, in actuality, our sense of touch takes more time to arrive at our brain than our sense of hearing, for example. 

A few people even experience this absence of synchronicity. For instance, those experiencing the medical problem known as disjunctive agnosia will end up in the confusing condition of non-synchronization of sight and sound.

And after that, there’s something that we’ve all experienced: our feeling of self. This, as well, is by and large connected with consciousness; it is the idea that everything going on around us is exerting influence on the principal subject of self. The impact of this line of thought is that we will, in general, think of self as being from all that it sees, as opposed to being a piece of it. 

Be that as it may, in specific situations, the evident association between self and consciousness likewise becomes non-existent. For example, when individuals consume psychedelic medications like LSD, they frequently experience intense familiarity with their environment. Thus, their sense of self breaks down, and they feel more content with and associated with the world, as opposed to being separate from it. 

Such sentiment of being linked with the world and less concerned about the self can likewise originate from meditation. Experts additionally experience elevated mindfulness that can hamper an ordinary binding system in the brain. This leads them to feel less interconnected to the self and more in unity with the world. 



These events uncover the fact that the self is a mental creation that is legitimately identified with our view of our general surroundings. The minute these recognitions change, so too does our understanding of self. That sense of self can cease to exist, while our consciousness remains.

In this way, our consciousness and our sense of self must be separate from one another, since each can exist independent of the other

To some extent, the subject of self isn’t that different from the subject of the flat Earth: it appears as though it’s real until you relax and let yourself see things in an alternative manner. 


5 – The idea that all matter has some kind of consciousness may sound insane, nonetheless, it is somewhat reasonable. 


So now’s a suitable time to pose the following queries: If there are no human practices or attributes attached to consciousness, is it conceivable that consciousness isn’t constrained to human beings by any stretch of the imagination? What’s more, when we begin opening our brains to this plausibility, we can even take it to to a different level and pose a more challenging query: What if all matter has some kind of consciousness? 

From the outset, it might sound bizarre to propose that all matter is conscious, yet this hypothesis, known as panpsychism, is a long way from being scientifically unreasonable. Truth be told, it concurs with all that we think about biology and physics. 

The closer we’re capable of examining the matter that constitutes human beings, the more evident it is that we’re made of components not different from what is found in everything else known to man – from plants on Earth to the stars far away. 



Since this is the situation, it makes sense to say that this matter wouldn’t all of a sudden gain consciousness in certain cases and not in others. In scientific language, if this occurred, it would be viewed as an extreme development, and science, for the most part, considers radical rise to be unwelcome since it just brings up more issues. 

Science likes clear, basic answers – and from numerous points of view, panpsychism gives just that. 

Indeed, there are researchers and thinkers who’ve been strong advocates of panpsychism dating back to the 1930s, including biologists J.B.S. Haldane and Bernhard Rensch. 

As indicated by philosopher savant Galen Strawson, every single physical event is viewed as a kind of energy, as dictated by the laws of physics. Panpsychism, thus, is a reasonable conjecture that suggests experience as being an inherent part of that energy. Not in the slightest bit does it violates physics, while attempting to express a distinction between things that have consciousness and things that don’t, it  will very likely encounter scientific problems


Generally, the individuals who are against panpsychism are inclined towards admitting that the hypothesis is proposing that a stone has something that could be compared to human consciousness. Yet, this isn’t what panpsychism is recommending by any means. Rather, it is available to the probability that the different types of consciousness are endless, some of which might be difficult for humans to understand.

Be that as it may, in the event that you can envision what it would look like to observe the disparity between light and darkness, or heat and cold, without pondering these differences only just realizing them, at that point you may start to comprehend what a constrained kind of consciousness may look like. 


6 – If we consider rethinking a portion of our limited thoughts on consciousness, panpsychism could give important answers to complex inquiries. 


The idea of panpsychism is a long way from having far-reaching acknowledgment. All things considered, it requires a paradigm shift in our assumptions and instincts about our general surroundings. Be that as it may, as we are probably aware, our instincts are not always right. 

Indeed, even among researchers who are happy to consider the hypothesis of all matter is conscious, some of them scoff at the idea that a kidney or liver would include its very own consciousness inside a conscious human’s body. 

But then there really is scientific proof of different forms of consciousnesses existing inside one individual. The proof originates from split-brain research. 

Since the 1960s, scientists have been treating patients who’ve incapacitating seizures using the corpus callosotomy procedure. This strategy successfully isolates the two sides of the equator of the cerebrum by splitting the corpus callosum, which is in charge of all correspondence between the two parts. 

Strikingly, the patients were observed to be generally left intact after the procedure, however, it left them with some intriguing changes. 

Basically, the patients started to have two distinct experiences, with information being derived from one side of the parts never corresponded to the next. This gets somewhat complex, since the right side of the brain controls the left-side appendages of the body, while the left half controls the right-side appendages. What’s more, here’s one more truth to know: the left side additionally controls an individual’s speech. 



In view of that, suppose a patient was holding a key in his left hand, yet couldn’t really observe it. In the event that he was asked, “What are you holding?”, he would react that he wasn’t holding anything. Why’s that? All things considered, the right half of his brain would perceive the impression of the key in his grasp, yet the left side  – and thus the area of his brain that creates speeches – would be uninformed of it. 

Along these lines, it is feasible for two diverse conscious experiences to exist in one body. Furthermore, truth be told, this may clarify how complex thought and brain processes really came to exist.

Split-brain research demonstrates that consciousness is flexible – that it can without much stress adjust when there are changes to the information it gets. This opens the entryway to the likelihood that human consciousness, in the entirety of its multifaceted nature, is the consequence of the consolidation of matter that would some way or another have its own, less sophisticated consciousness. 


Sadly, we’re still a long way from really understanding the answers to significant inquiries like these. Be that as it may, it is critical to continue contemplating consciousness. 

Also, similarly to the Higgs boson’s unraveling of one the longstanding questions of particle physics, there’s a probability that we may locate the particle that solves the enigmatic issue of consciousness in matter. 


Conscious: A Brief Guide to the Fundamental Mystery of the Mind by Annaka Harris Book Review 


Consciousness is a puzzling thing, however being conscious basically implies that you are having an experience. The one thing we know without a doubt about consciousness is that individuals have it, but we have not gone any further. After looking deeply, notwithstanding, we find that consciousness isn’t connected to particular human thoughts or behaviors. When we exclude these human parts of consciousness, we can start to think if other things in the world have conscious experiences. The theory of panpsychism makes further claims, asserting that consciousness is an inherent component of all matter.


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