August 23, 2019


How the New Science
of Consciousness Explains Our
Insatiable Search for Meaning

by Daniel Bor.
Basic Books, 2012 (326 pages)



"The science of consciousness is coming of age. Consciousness can explain the origin and purpose of awareness, its mental features and neural mechanisms, as well as its intense fragility." (265)

"From this picture, we can see the seeds of awareness in the history of life on earth." (265)

"All ancient cultures blindly clung to survival by capturing and combining useful ideas about the environment. But this limited learning happened randomly, awkwardly, via DNA changes and the rhythmic fall of generations." (265)

"Consciousness first arose out of this evolutionary endeavor via a specialist information-processing organ, a 'neural computer' (the human brain) capable of acquiring accurate concepts and deep strategies far more rapidly and flexibly than ever before." (265)

"Some evolutionary branches created complex brains, which were optimized to build pyramids of knowledge out of simpler ideas cemented together. This critical skill in combining mental objects [thinking and memorizing] to generate increasingly meaningful, useful structures of thought is both the essence of consciousness and its overriding purpose." (265)

"Humans have a unique place in the world." (265)

"We have an exceptionally complex brain, whose central wired core, in the form of the prefrontal parietal network, is greatly expanded even compared to our nearest primate relatives." (265)

"We can process and combine information (compute) like no other species, and consequently we experience the world in exceptionally rich, varied ways." (265)

"Our consciousness allows us to unlock nature's secrets." (265)

The book presents a "new model for how consciousness works. This brain-based faculty evolved as an accelerated knowledge gathering tool. Consciousness is effectively an idea factory. It is a choice mental space dedicated to innovation, a key component of which is the discovery of deep structures within the contents of our awareness." (Source: book publisher)

"This model explains our brains' ravenous appetite for information -- and in particular, its constant search for patterns ... This search for structure can yield immense evolutionary benefits --- it led our ancestors to discover fire and farming, pushed modern society to forge ahead in science and technology, and guides each one of us to understand and control the world around us. But the sheer innovative power of human consciousness carries with it the heavy cost of mental fragility." (Source: publishers description of book)

"The book discusses the medical implications of this theory of consciousness, and what it means for the origins and treatment of psychiatric ailments, including attention-deficit disorder, schizophrenia, manic depression, and autism.

All mental illnesses can be reformulated as disorders of consciousness: this perspective opens up new avenues of treatment for alleviating mental suffering." (Source: publishers description of book)


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