International Journal of Yoga - Philosophy, Psychology and Parapsychology

: 2021  |  Volume : 9  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 80--81

Rethinking consciousness: A scientific theory of subjective experience

Manasa R Rao 
 Division of Yoga and Physical Sciences, Swami Vivekananda Yoga Anusandhana Samsthana University, Bengaluru, Karnataka, India

Correspondence Address:
Dr. Manasa R Rao
Division of Yoga and Physical Sciences, Swami Vivekananda Yoga Anusandhana Samsthana University, #19, “Eknath Bhavan”, Gavipuram Circle, Kempegowda Nagar, Bengaluru - 560 019, Karnataka

How to cite this article:
Rao MR. Rethinking consciousness: A scientific theory of subjective experience.Int J Yoga - Philosop Psychol Parapsychol 2021;9:80-81

How to cite this URL:
Rao MR. Rethinking consciousness: A scientific theory of subjective experience. Int J Yoga - Philosop Psychol Parapsychol [serial online] 2021 [cited 2022 May 22 ];9:80-81
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Author : Michael S. A. Graziano

Year : 2019

Publisher : W. W. Norton and Company Ltd.,

Pages : 256

ISBN : 978-0393652611

The mystery of the brain is real. The neurons have been outthinking us for millions of years now. The book: Rethinking consciousness – a scientific theory of subjective experience by Michael S. A. Graziano – delves into the logical deductions while dissecting the origin of consciousness. The first three chapters of the book detail the evolution of neurons that appeared in the animal kingdom about half a billion years ago and tracks the evolving complexities of the nervous system. According to the author, the crucial aspect in this process of evolution was the ability of the brain to focus. He examines this facet of attention using examples from the animal world, how consciousness may have emerged and the basis of consciousness in an attention schema. The theory of attention schema, where the brain seizes on information and processes it has been explored extensively from the point of evolution, neuroscience, psychology, and engineering.

Chapter four deals with the evolution of the sophisticated cerebral cortex, which the author says is an attention machine and also suggests that it is the cerebral cortex which sustains consciousness. The next chapter outlines social use of consciousness, where social cognition is used to reconstruct someone else's attention, thus predicting behavior. In chapter six, the author proposes the significant role of temporoparietal junction in computation about consciousness. Chapter seven digs deeper into the other perspectives on consciousness, whether consciousness is an illusion. Calling the philosophical approach to consciousness an illusion in itself, the author tries to present an unbaked version of illusion with loose ends. Further, he tries to highlight the difference between attention and awareness. Drawing a plethora of examples, the author says that it is awareness that tracks attention.

The last two chapters are quite intriguing in its content on building conscious machines and uploading minds. Author dissects the future of technology of building an artificial consciousness, the influence of such machines on social and ethical fabric of our society, its benefits, and hindrances. The aspect of transforming this society with mind uploading for a virtual afterlife in this multiverse seems not just out of a Sci-Fi but truly mind-boggling. The possible application of such technology in traveling to places where human bodies cannot access yet, beyond the realm of our galaxy is spine-tingling. The appendices and notes disclose the technical details on every aspect covered in the book. Overall, it is a well-articulated work from the point of view of neuroscience with umpteen examples to illustrate the intent of the author.

Nonetheless, although the logical deductions are an empowering tool, it creates as many questions as it solves. Here, the author substantiates his stance from the perspective of psychology and neuroscience trying to deduce the concept of consciousness in his own unique and limited way. The greatest obstacle while exploring the mystery of consciousness would be to limit our brain just as a thinking machine, where no brain = no attention = no consciousness! Probably, the fundamental difficulty and the ultimate prank of this universe and its evolution have been in keeping the brain navigating on its enormous potential, while using it. As science makes key advances toward theorizing, redefining, redetermining the concept of consciousness, we tend to feel that we are almost there, less realizing that we have barely begun!

Indian philosophy has extensively scrutinized the concept of consciousness where the universe exists in consciousness and it projects in our life as this body-mind. To adopt a cosmic censorship of such a holistic possibility and root the consciousness in matter would be archaic when the world is moving toward transcendence. While philosophy looks at nature as it is, science will lag behind if it digs into only what the nature reveals to the human nervous system. Much said, the material world has a huge display offering an array of possibilities where we cannily select what's best for us. If you are defining your choices regarding the concept of consciousness from the dimension of physicality, then this book is an engaging read for you.