Conciousness is an afterthought
Suppose we analyse the brain as one might a computational machine. There are various parts which perform various tasks.
There is a graphics processing unit located close to the eyes where sensory information is received and assessed. We have quite a few Terrabytes of storage in the hippocampus, located between the two general processing cores.
If we imagine these parts as separate, i think we would be making a mistake, especially given what we know about the brain’s ability to adapt to major trauma. Nevertheless, it can give us an idea of the magnitude of each area. I head once that the motor function allocated to the fingers occupies as much physical space in the brain as the motor function of the entire upper body.
Given these metaphors and system of analysis, how big would we suppose a hypothetical ‘conciousness lobe’ to be? I think it is only sensible for us to claim this part to be significant in size, perhaps even taking up more than half of our total brain capacity. The reason I think this claim is sensible, is because we live in the concious area of the brain, with the unconscious largely unavailable.
However, while such a claim may seem reasonable at first glance, it is quite narrow-minded. The rooster is only king atop a pile of manure. I wish to suggest a different hypothesis in this article, one which supposes conciousness to be a minor part of the mind, an evolutionary afterthought.
For my argument to work, I need to make one major assumption. I believe that this assumption can be argued for, but this goes beyond the scope of this post. The assumption shall be the following: pleasure must be experienced in order to exist. In other words, it is impossible for pleasure to exist without the presence of a being which knows it is experiencing pleasure.
Given this, suppose the following: Conciousness was evolved as a means for the (unconscious) mind to experience pleasure. Without it, the mind could not experience pleasure, it is however not necessary for the conciousness lobe to be particularly significant in computational power.
Since pleasure is a seemingly fundamental tool wielded by evolution to ensure reproduction, it is fair to say that conciousness evolved quite early, and that is a fundamental part of the functionality of the (human) mind. When it comes to more complex tasks however, especially those that do not involve pleasure and are not conducive to reproduction, would not employ the conciousness lobe to any major extent.
I think this system fits quite well into my experience of the world. For instance, when I am tasked with solving a mathematical equation, I am not concious of the actual calculation, I am merely concious of the question and – moments later – of the answer. The same goes for the process of language. Concepts are translated into sounds without me being concious of the process.
Learning to rely on unconscious knowledge is something I believe to be very conducive to accelerated brain function. Once you stop worrying about knowing what you know, and start relying on the knowledge of which you are unaware, you can expand your knowledge much faster. It furthermore allows you to delegate certain tasks to the – larger and more capable – unconscious mind. In a sense, many people are already going this my employing electronic devices. We do not know the birthdays or phone numbers of our friends, but we rely on the sudden appearance of said knowledge when we need it. Relying on the unconscious mind is much the same, only it is much more powerful.