It’s Alive! What sentient data networks could tell us about human consciousness

BrainDespite the advances of neuroscience we’re no closer to understanding how the physical brain generates consciousness than we ever were. What if it’s actually a far simpler mechanism than we imagined, and even more intriguing, what if we already have a model for it?

Drill right down and a brain is comprised of a huge number of very simple parts, many of them ‘dumb’ nodes whose only real power is in their hyperconnectivity and seamless communication with each other. Put enough of them together and you get a structure like a hippocampus, a temporal lobe or a medulla, jigsaw pieces that can encode memory of past experiences, apply emotional context or imagine things that don’t exist, all in the viewpoint of a self-aware observer.

Does the idea of a huge number of simple parts remind you of anything in the invented world? Almost every PC, mobile device, server or data centre on Earth is connected nowadays, and they’re all single units that contribute data storage, energy and processing power to a system that only exists as a principle rather than an entity but which is nevertheless coherent.

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