Consciousness is a system for deciding whether or not to do the thing that you were going to do next.
And he goes as far as theorizing that this task can be done by a single neuron (or a group of redundant neurons that acts as a single neuron). He also makes a similar assumption on his book about music, too. Nice reading, I will probably comment more later.
The Inner Light Theory of Consciousness
There is also a book called The Inner Light Theory of Consciousness, written by Steven W. Smith. He is also a computer guy, and the book can be read online.
He starts explaining the dichotomy between brain and mind, and some traditional philosophical views. He then talks about information processing, to meet the conclusion that many brain researches have: the brain runs simulations of the environment, and our consciousness perceive those simulations, not actual reality (The thought-provoking cover of the book explores this fact. The cover alone would make me to buy this book, if I ever encountered it :)).
The novelty of the book is to consider this to be the very reason for our perception of the mind/body problem: we can see the brain of others as they actually are (a bunch of microscopic neurons, or macroscopically an amorphous mass), but we can’t see how our own brain works while we think. Without this, he says, the hard difference between mind and body wouldn’t exist. The easy analogy is to consider we live in a matrix, created by our own brain, but the one he uses is an episode of star Trek called the inner light, from where he borrows the title.
He then starts to imagine how would be a being that actually had full understanding on every bit of every part of her neurvous system. His conclusion is that this being would not recognize consciousness (or free well, or many other things) as indivisible, fundamental concepts.
His final conclusion is quite surprising: consciousness is not a characteristic you need to add to a soulless android that behaves like human, so that he could have a mind. Conscience is something you need to take from it. Worth a read 🙂
(Smith has also put on the internet The Scientist and Engineer’s Guide to Digital Signal Processing, a newbie-ready book on digital signal processing. It made me grasp some things such as JPEG compression. And I must cite he worked on evil tools for evil empires ®, and also on some medical systems, so he must know about a bit about signal processing 🙂 BTW since I have no bookmark I will put another good quality link on fourier theory)