Our body, brain and mind are the evolutionary results of natural selection, the adaptations of our species to evolving environmental conditions. Those fundamental conditions set the parameters of our physiological and cognitive adaptations. Our conscious cognition of fundamental conditions is a subset of our adaptation to an evolving environment.
An organism is dependent upon its species for conception and development. The existence of a species is dependent upon the successful conception, development, adaptation and reproduction of at least some of its organisms and the eventual death of all. The existence of an individual organism thus depends upon the previous successful conception, development, adaptation and reproduction of all of its ancestors and the eventual death of all. Our conscious cognition of that fundamental social condition is a subset of our adaptation to an evolving social environment.
The scientific process - proposing a hypothesis, testing predictions, evaluating results and reformulating theories - has produced a set of fine regularities that help us define specific and fundamental conditions. However the scientific process limits physical and temporal variables in order for theories to be testable and for experiments to be replicable. Limiting physical and temporal scales implicitly assumes that the laws of nature are fixed and they do not evolve or change. The cosmological implication of that assumption denies the existence of time. The results of evidence based scientific process is therefore limited to producing a gradually increasing probability of accuracy in defining subset processes within static fundamental conditions. So scientific inquiries are also evaluated with the statistical mechanics and whole system models of systems theory. These models can be used to form hypotheses of dynamic whole systems which can be tested within subset processes.
Species and organisms are both maintained over time with the internal property of homeostasis, the tendency of bodies to regulate variables and decrease internal entropy so that internal states maintain relative constancy. Organisms maintain homeostasis by updating internal states with sensory information, a process that can be modeled by Bayesian statistical inference. A prior probability distribution determined by past experience and conditioning is factored with a likelihood function determined by current sensory evidence to produce a posterior probability distribution or an updated working hypothesis of the world.
Premise 1: Time is real, the Second Law of Thermodynamics implies an irreversible arrow of time so the laws of nature are not fixed, they evolve.
Premise 2: Homeostasis is the distributed organizing principle of low entropy organisms which are maintained over time within an environment of increasing entropy by Bayesian inferential process.
Premise 3: Consciousness is an organism's cognitive expression of its species adaptation to increasing entropy and the instantiation of order into emergent levels of complexity.
Fundamental and cognitive bias
Homeostasis is the foundation of emotion, the physiological response to immediate or potential disruption of homeostasis. Physiological emotion is unconscious but it is expressed as instinct subconsciously and as feeling consciously. When an organism is ill or feels threatened by something in the environment emotion in the conscious form of feeling signals the initiation of a survival response. Emotion in that sense grounds all cognitive processes in biologic value, prioritizes cognitive attention, motivates action and gives memories a dynamic valence.
The fundamental emotional bias of homeostasis is the demand for certainty; the on-going re-establishment and re-balancing of internal constancy and the sense of individual agency that can maintain that internal stability. Anxiety is the demand for certainty exceeding the supply.
The natural cognitive bias of sensory inferential process, the means by which organisms maintain homeostasis, is the constant search and detection of unpredicted or novel process in the environment. Boredom is the demand for novelty exceeding the supply.
The emotional preference for constancy conditions the prior beliefs of Bayesian inference with a regularity bias. The cognitive bias of seeking novel process insures that organisms at least factor that emotional bias with a likelihood function and relevant evidence from sensory and motor inferential process in order to produce updated beliefs about the environment.
The fundamental emotional bias for certainty and agency also leads us to assume that we are physiologically and cognitively autonomous. We are in fact dependent upon our species for our physical existence and our consciousness originates and is sustained within a social web of cooperation and language.
It is in our fundamental nature to think that the laws of nature are constant and predictable and that we are autonomous beings. We find it difficult to understand consciousness because it is a socially emergent adaptation to a complex, unpredictable and disordered reality that we cannot consciously experience in it's totality except in moments of insight or inspiration.
The adaptive advantage of consciousness
The moment to moment reality of potentially infinite possibilities and choices in an environment of increasing entropy presents a profound challenge to biological bodies. Cognition becomes the task of sorting a barrage of sensory information, identifying relevant threats and opportunities and responding appropriately within an uncertain and randomly changing environment.
Consciousness adapts to complexity, uncertainty and increasing entropy with an illusion of simplified choices, a serial narrative of self in an imagined predictable environment. Parallel processing of predicted conditions is unconscious so that conscious processes can adapt to unpredicted conditions by synthesizing physical and social predictions into a serial narrative of optimum choices. That narrative can impose order on future conditions if it is based on predictions that are relatively accurate. Consciousness is subjectively experienced as an illusion of an ordered present that creates a reality of an ordered future as long as it also mediates ongoing unpredicted processes.
The cognitive task of all biological organisms is the maintenance of internal homeostasis within a physical environment of increasing entropy evolving in time that is a mixture of predicted, unpredicted and unpredictable processes. As elements of a species organisms also have the cognitive task of adaptation to social homeostasis and the facilitation of reproduction within a social environment evolving in time that is a mixture of predicted, unpredicted and unpredictable processes.
If adaptation to predicted process is unconscious and adaptation to unpredicted process is conscious then biological organisms have individual cognition, individual consciousness, social cognition and social consciousness. Humans have all those types of cognition along with an extended social consciousness.
Memory is the cognitive instantiation of order. Working memory is the short term conscious inference of regularity with a homeodynamic valence. Fixed intrinsic memory is the unconscious molecular and genetic instantiation of regularity with a homeodynamic valence. Dynamic intrinsic memory is the unconscious epigenetic instantiation of regularity with a thermodynamic valence.
The core self process is a default mode network, the constant internal inferential justification of intrinsic memory with working memory. In sleep working memory is detached from sensory input and dynamic intrinsic memory becomes fluid in the process of thermodynamic simplification and instantiation of learned regularities. In waking consciousness all of intrinsic memory is fixed and working memory is fluid and synchronized with sensory and motor inferential processes in homeodynamic adaptation to the environment.
A. Individual cognition is the neurological expression of an individual organism's adaptation to predictable processes in the environment. It is the inference of perception and autonomic motor control acting with intrinsic memory for orientation in the physical environmental present. Individual cognition is unconscious although it is experienced by individual consciousness proprioceptively.
B. Individual consciousness is the cognitive expression of an organism's adaptation to uncertainty and increasing entropy. It is the cognition of reactions to unexpected events in the physical environment; attention, inferential experimentation and learning within working memory. Individual consciousness is active when emotion determines that a change in cognitive attention is required in order to maintain physiological homeostasis.
C. Social cognition is the individual cognitive expression of adaptation to predictable social processes. It is a function of inference of social perception acting with intrinsic memory for orientation in the social environmental present. Social cognition is unconscious although it is experienced by social consciousness proprioceptively.
D. Social consciousness is the individual cognitive expression of a species adaptation to increasing entropy. It is the cognition of socially modified adaptive behavior that requires communication or cooperation between individuals at any level. Social consciousness is the dynamic inference of social perception with working memory based on a social virtual reality. It is driven by the emotional response to immediate or potential social disruption of homeostasis or a hormonally induced homeodynamic imbalance naturally selected to provoke and reward instinctual procreative, parental and subsistence co-behavior. Social consciousness is active when emotion determines that a change in cognitive attention is required in order to maintain internal and social homeostasis.
Ontogeny of Cognition
The precursors of working memory and intrinsic memory develop in utero in a relationship that is the origin of sleep; a developing working memory is detached from sensory input and dynamic intrinsic memory is fluid in the process of thermodynamic simplification of developmental cognitive processes. Fixed intrinsic memory expresses the instantiated order of genetic information that guides natal development.
Consciousness is initiated upon waking by synchronizing external sensory and motor inferential process with a dynamic working memory anchored in a fixed intrinsic memory. That synthesis is subjectively experienced as a self acting within a virtual reality of memory but oriented to place and time with the serial ability remember past scenarios or to attend and act on sensory input.
That facilitates the potential to internally simulate actions before initiating them in the environment. Immediate feedback from actions in the environment effectively enables real time learning and adaptation.
So learning occurs at two levels; in conscious working memory from ongoing predictive inference with the environment and in unconscious intrinsic memory from thermodynamic simplification of learned associations in sleep. Transforming knowledge learned from predictive inference into unconscious intrinsic memory allows organisms to react to predicted and unpredicted processes simultaneously.
Evolution of human extended consciousness
The co-evolution of tool-use and social cooperation in the three million year epoch preceding the emergence of pre-modern hominids out of Africa around 100,000 BC created a set of adaptations that are the precursors of human extended consciousness. Those adaptations are; bilaterally asymmetric functionality of motor interaction required by tool making and use, the social sharing of an embodied tool making syntax (right hand/subject, action/verb, left hand/object), and the dropping of the larynx to enable complex vocalizations and symbolic speech structured by embodied syntax. These adaptations enabled hominids to survive the changing environments of the Ice Ages with the use of tools and complex social cooperation facilitated by the development of a proto-language. Those adaptations did not in themselves result in human consciousness, neoteny was required for the development of an extended social consciousness.
As brain size increased the limited pelvic opening required by bipedalism enforced premature birth and neotenous child rearing. The neotenous infant required constant protection and attention, only possible within a cooperative social system.
The neotenous infant’s sensory and motor interaction with the environment is focused on the parent and is utilized by the child to predict patterns of vocalizations. These patterns are given value by the child's projection of intentionality and then reproduced by mimesis. Motor and sensory development thus becomes dedicated in part to the manipulation and expression of embodied syntax and language becomes a primary tool for the development of agency.
The sleeping neotenous child gradually instantiates the regularities of embodied syntax into dynamic intrinsic memory. The waking infant then begins to use language in the internal inferential justification of working memory with intrinsic memory to construct a model of a self acting within a virtual reality of memory that is based on the external model of the parent (theory of mind).
The hard problem