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Wayne L. Klein, PhD

Neuropsychological Assessment of Children & Adults; Couples & Individual Psychotherapy Offices in Franklin, MA & Spaulding Center for Children, Sandwich, MA
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Consciousness
Q: Is everthing conscious?
A: The apparent fact that only specific brain circuits are associated with consciousness suggests that consciousness is not a universal quality of matter. On the other hand, brain mechanisms limit consciousness. Were this not the case, our capacity for conscious processing would be totally overwhelmed.

A: Many individuals suffering from ADHD (Attention Deficit Disorder) are unable to effectively screen out extraneous stimuli (e..g, sights, sounds, thoughts) resulting in attention being pulled every which way. Delirium is similiar. In both instances, effective frunctioning is greatly hampered. Insomnia is the inability to reduce all consciousness.

A: There is probably minimal or no consciousness during certain non-dreaming stages of sleep. Most, but unfortunately not all people are not conscious during surgery. Because their muscles are paralyzed they are unable to communicate their plight. It is presumed that this horrendous problem could be prevented by EEG monitoring during surgery. However, what is often done is drugs to prevent memory of being awake during surgery are often administered along with the anesthesia.
The intensity of consciousness varies.

A:To alter an old saying, nothing intensifies consciousness like a walk to the gallows. Threat, opportunity and novelty intensify consciousness. Most of us experienced the sensory world much more intensely when we were children and everything was novel.
A:Yes. As novelty becomes old hat we habituate and no longer orient to the stimuli.

Q: Why is consciousness reduced?
A: Conservation of limited processing power and conservation of energy. Consciousness costs energy. The additional brain function associated with consciousness is expensive. To emphasize this, gram for gram, brain can cost 22 times as much energy as muscle.
In addition, once an effective routine is developed, conscious tinkering with the response runs the risk of doing more harm than good. Think of the proverbial caterpillar who could not walk when thinking about its legs, or you struggling to recite a phone number that you routinely dial automatically.

Q: Does consciousness serve a function?
A: Since consciousness costs energy, if it didn't serve a useful function it would not exist.

A: Consciousness underlies all pleasure, all ecstasy as well as horrendous unspeakable agony. It therefore seems probable that these carrots and sticks serve a function, which may be related to the more obvious function of over riding automatic responses and enabling the generation of novel responses. Other complex systems function similarly. Modern aircraft and manned spacecraft operate on autopilot unless a novel situation arises, at which point a pilot takes over.
 
 
Hard Problems
Q: What is the Hard Problem?
A: What appears to be the greatest problem confronting science is simple to grasp, but defies explanation. How the hell can matter be conscious.


Q: What is the other Hard Problem?
If conscious experience can not affect the machine, then conscious experience, including agony and ecstasy, are mere bi-products of brain function and serve no purpose. A machine or philosophical zombie devoid of consciousness could function just as well. Yet, it is impossible for the ghost to affect matter. Neurons do not, as far as we can imagine, have ghost receptors. The other Hard Problem is how can immaterial consciousness affect the material brain, that is, how can consciousness make a difference? Is it mere epiphenomenon with absolutely no function?

A: I think the following presumed facts speak loud and clear. Most brain function and most behavior is not conscious. Consciousness costs energy and appears or increases in novel, dangerous or opportune situations. This strongly shows that consciousness must serve a function. If it served no function it would not appear at the times that the system would be benefit from going off of autopilot. If it served no function then those creatures not incurring the energy costs of consciousness would have a survival advantage over conscious creatures. To serve a function, consciousness must impact matter. There can be no other conclusion than this: the ghost affects the machine.

Q: How does consciousness affect matter?
A: Beats me.What does appear clear is that the machine generates a ghost and the ghost feeds back and affects the machine.

Q: Doesn't this go against the grain of the entire history of science, which has involved eliminating the need for explanatory spirits?
A:Depends who is writing the history. Darwin's theory of evolution was initially deemed impossible by mainstream science becomes of the objection of physicists. the objection from physics was that the earth could not be as old as Darwin's theory required because the sun's supply of flammable gas was not that vast. Likewise, the evidence of geology in support of a very ancient earth was rejected for the same reason. Physics was wrong. Biology and geology were right. The error of physics was that an entirely new domain was not recognized. This would be corrected with Einstein's work and the discovery of nuclear energy. My history of science sees no reason to give present-day physics hegemony over the other branches of science.