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Where does it stop?

What defines the edge of consciousness? What is conscious and what is not?

These questions highlight one of the primary challenges when talking about consciousness. The problem is that we only have our own window to look out of. Our entire experience is confined to our first person perspective.

We only ever get our own eyes to look out of. We feel the world through our skin. Air is channeled into our ears where the tiny cilia turn vibrations into music.

It’s easy to feel isolated because of this limited point of view.

Fortunately we’re not alone. We have each other. We’re so social it is almost invisible sometimes. Language is out water. And not just words. There are so many ways we can share our selves with each other. We communicate volumes with just the way we say something, our tone and timbre. Our brains are wired to detect minute changes in other peoples faces, especially eyes and mouths. It’s so innate we see faces everywhere in the world, like in the bark of a tree or an electrical outlet.

If you look around you there are people everywhere. Somebody actually made most of these things that are right in your view. Even the plants that are growing were likely placed there by others. So many people helped shape the space that you’re in right now. Strangers everywhere we look. The world we live in has been molded by the consciousness of all who have come before the people who are here now.

While it’s theoretically possible that other people are not conscious, that my experience is the only real thing, and every thing else is an illusion, it’s a much simpler explanation to assume you are conscious, like I am, and I can extend the courtesy to all humanity. Mammals? Yes, I can believe they have an experience of their own. Reptiles? Yes, they’re not substantially different. Insects? Sure. Bacteria? Maybe. I guess. A virus? IDK. What is it like to be a virus? What’s it like to be a complex organic molecule? An atom? Proton? Electron? Quark?

Is consciousness exclusively a property of things we call alive? Where do we draw the line between what is conscious and what isn’t? Is it simpler to think that only when a bunch of organic molecules are arranged just so, a previously empty collection of matter suddenly gains an interior experience and becomes conscious, or is it easier to think there an experience inside of everything? Does all matter have some sense of being itself?

So many questions. How far do we have to look to find the answers?


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