This is by no means a complete thesis but the reason I’m posting this is to gather my thoughts on what is a very abstract concept. I’m basically just practicing the transcription of such a nebulous idea. I will risk sounding like a broken record posting this because several of my previous posts covered similar material. But I wanted to unpack some of my previous thoughts further. If you plan on following along, you’ll need to focus very carefully on what I’m saying.
My first idea requires an understanding of solipsism. For those who don’t know, solipsism is the philosophical theory or view that one’s self is all that exists. For instance, if I am a solipsist, it is of my understanding that the only thing I know that’s real or true is my existence. For all I know, you could be an illusion, hologram, or lacking a subjective consciousness. Or as Daniel Dennett and others put it, a zombie.
While it’s true that I cannot know whether you experience reality in just the same manner that I do, for the sake of simplicity, I’ll assume we’re not taking a solipsist perspective here. Let’s work with the assumption that you’re not a zombie and have a very real and authentic conscious experience just as I do.
This is the tricky bit. This is where I’ll be attempting to pull some rather loose ideas from my mind and put them into words. Bear with me.
So we understand that everyone has their own subjective experience. To grasp where I’m going next, you’ll need to reconsider your conceptual understanding of the phrase, “I and him”. “I and him” can otherwise be seen as “subject and object” but I prefer the terms “subject and participant”. When we say “I and him”, we understand there to be two subjects (let’s use “characters” instead). The first character, Character 1, is me. Character 1 has the property of subjective experience. Everything is from Character 1’s point of view and never from that of Character 2. We always look through the eyes of Character 1. Character 2, on the other hand, is the participant. We can only ever see this participant through Character 1’s eyes.
The reason why this is flawed is a simple matter of perspective. In the eyes of Character 2, he’s the protagonist here. He’s the the guy who it’s all happening to and Character 1 is simply a participant in Character 2’s reality.
How can this be? We made it quite clear that there’s an “I and a him” and yet from the perspective of “him”, the “him” is the “I” and the “I” is the “him”!
So is there a better way to look at all of this without having a first person perspective? What if we add a third person? That won’t work, because there will be an “I, him, and her”. Three people now: one subject and two participants.
Before I introduce the solution, you must remember one golden rule: you can never experience reality as the participant. You’re always the “I” and you’re always the Character 1. Because even though we refer to other people as “him” or “her” and assign them some sort of participant-based consciousness within our reality, this cannot be true. The reason is because they never feel as though they’re a participant. They’re always the “I” also.
And so we’re left not with Character 1, 2, and 3. Not “I”, “him”, and “her”. But instead we’re left with Character 1, 1, and 1. We have “I”, “I”, and “I”. There are no more participants in the solution. Everyone is the subject.
Quick analogy. You and your four buddies decide to meet up at a friend’s house to play computer games together. A LAN party. You’re all playing a first-person shooter game like Counter-Strike or Call of Duty. You all bring your gaming PCs and sit in a room together. After a while, everything is set up and ready to go. In the game, you have a perspective (akin to in real life) known as “first person”. In the game you look through the eyes of your player. You can see the enemies and your four teammates. However, if you look over at your friends, you’ll notice they each have a “first person” perspective and can similarly see you running about on the screen. Their idea of you is what your idea of them is to you is. You may need to repeat the previous sentence a couple of times to ensure it sinks in.
We must look at consciousness as the sixth person. The spectator, perhaps. You and your four buddies have your computer screens each showing five different “first person” perspectives. But you can only see one of them. The guy standing behind you all, watching you play, sees all five of them. This is how we must look at consciousness. You see, the sixth guy is standing back far enough that he can’t make out what’s on the screen clearly. It’s blurred. He can’t see the players running around in-game but he can clearly see the “first person” perspective that each of the five players has.
The easier way to do all of this is to imagine a person standing in front of you. Now put yourself in their shoes. You’re no longer the person standing in front of anyone. You’re no longer the participant, but the subject. Everyone is always the subject.
So now let’s look at death. Death is a pretty good tool for explaining the aforementioned. Isn’t it peculiar that “you” never play the role of the person who dies? Around 150,000 people die every single day. And yet, none of them are you. Your odds are pretty good for surviving the next day, but the game is actually rigged. Let’s work with the assumption that consciousness immediately terminates at death.
Player 3 dies. What most of us think happens next is that his screen will go blank and he’ll sit there doing not much while his friends are still alive in the game. This is true in our analogy but the relevance is no longer tantamount. In the game of consciousness, player 3 is obliterated. They evaporate. They disappear form the room and so does their PC. We’re left with four players remaining. The fifth person (the spectator) now only sees four “first person” perspectives on the remaining four screens.
And so we now have four players. They all witnessed the death of their teammate. But on our map of collective consciousness, there’s only four nodes now instead of five. We have four “I’s” in the picture. Here’s where my future thesis may fit into the picture. Player 3, who just died, had is own very real first person perspective on reality. He may even have been a solipsist. When he dies, we must zoom out. We can no longer view reality from Player 3. Immediately upon his death, we shift “focus” to the spectator (he was the sixth guy standing behind the gamers but is now the fifth since Player 3 disappeared from the picture).
The question is, does the spectator now focus on one particular player’s screen and see everything from their perspective, effectively embodying that player? Or does he just stand back and watch all four players at once?
The answer is the former. He randomly picks Player 2. The spectator now disappears and we are now Player 2, sitting there viewing the game through his first person experience.
The reason for this is simple. Obviously we can’t watch four people at once! We experience reality through one vessel at a time. Personally, I see reality through my eyes and my eyes only. Everyone is limited to experiencing reality through a single entity.
The interesting part is how we shift realities at death. And whether we shift reality at death at all or if it can happen sporadically and at any time. If the spectator is a hypothetical construct only and is never an actual entity, how does Player 3 get to the perspective of Player 2?
We know we cannot experience death so this seems like a perfectly logical time for this “focus” to shift from one subjective experience to another. But there’s birth as well which adds an entirely new variable to the mix. Birth is an even bigger mystery because the point at which consciousness becomes present is more ambiguous than at death. Death, we presume, consciousness terminates instantly. No one remembers birth. No one remembers being one year old. Does this mean consciousness develops during the first year of life?
I want to introduce you all to a concept I’ve been thinking a bit about lately. I don’t think it’s an original idea at all but perhaps my way of describing it may be less well adopted. We currently say that everyone has a consciousness. Implying multiple consciousnesses. One consciousness per person.
What if this wasn’t the case? What if there was only a single consciousness but each person was a different node of that consciousness? This would explain the shifting nature of consciousness when someone (a node) dies.
Now if we run with our single consciousness theory, does this mean it takes approximately a couple of years before this new person can be registered as a new entry or node into our network of nodes within our single consciousness?
I know this post has dragged on way too long. I know you really have to focus on the analogies to have any sort of shift in thinking here. So let’s recap.
We have one giant system. It’s called consciousness. It is omnipotent. When a baby is born, at some point in the first few years of its life, it registers as a separate entity and therefore creates a “node” onto our consciousness map. To continue with a programming analogy, we could say this baby is now an index of the array ‘Consciousness’. Note that this baby doesn’t receive its own “consciousness” but simply its own place within our single consciousness. Like a hotel room of a hotel.
Now if someone dies, it’s not a catastrophic event. All it means is a node on our consciousness network dies. It disappears. Our hotel room explodes and is turned to rubble. The circuitry of our consciousness circuit board is rewired so as to bypass this dead node.
We don’t know how the electricity flows through the circuit board of consciousness. We assume all nodes receive current simultaneously but we don’t know for sure. All we know is that our particular node is receiving electricity and we presume the others do too.
Are all the nodes lighting up simultaneously or is only one node lit up at any single moment but the current travels through five billion nodes per split second creating the illusion of focus only ever being on a single node? We don’t know how new nodes are added to the circuit board or how dead nodes are removed either.
I plan on cleaning up my analogies and presenting a more coherent theory further down the track.