Okay folks, hold on to your hats. This is likely going to be a rather bumpy ride through a philosophical minefield.
I’ve been thinking some more about, isolation. Yes, I do have a habit of worrying a topic to death. I’ve been wondering if it might be a state that is inescapable for all of us. I’m not thinking here about physical isolation; that’s something we can do something about. In the sense that we can reach out to each other. We can touch, caress and hold each other. We develop language so that we can share our thinking with each other. However, I’ve begun to wonder if that’s as far as it goes. That there might be some element of ourselves that will be forever alone.
I read somewhere, that a new born babe has no sense of anything being separate from itself. I found that idea a bit hard to take on board initially; at least until I’d had a chance to think it through. If one assumes that consciousness begins to develop fairly early on in the womb; then for quite some time there might be no sense of anything other than self. Everything within the parameters of that space will be accepted simply as the limit of one’s self, and therefore the limit of the universe. Then for a time after birth, this state of mind may persist. A state of mind that is omnipotent in the sense that everything from the Mother, the bed sheets and even the light fitting are accepted as not being separate entities or objects.
For a short while this developing mind might have a sense of being God like; at least until it begins to learn the concept of separateness. It’s been suggested that some male infants actually manage to retain this God like sense and carry it into adulthood; but I digress.
Apparently, the human brain begins to develop within three weeks of conception. By the time a child is two years old its brain is already 80 percent grown. The adult brain contains some 86 billion neurons. With the number of connections these neurons can make with each other, it’s said, greater than the number of atoms in the universe. I’ve no idea who counted the atoms.
I’m kind of wondering when, in this process of growing, consciousness might kick in. When might we become conscious of consciousness. Is it something that happens suddenly when enough neurons have developed; and how many would that take? Or is it more of a gradual awakening; a much more gentle process a bit like waking from a very deep sleep?
In some fields of research into artificial intelligence. It’s thought that AI could not be achieved without some form of body. That is a body that possesses a sensory system that can interact and communicate with its environment. If this is the case, then I wonder if a parallel can be drawn with the developing human mind in its early stages of growth? Might it be that consciousness is developed in stages as the various sensory mechanisms begin to make their connections with the brain? What does the embryonic mind make of the first Photons picked up from the first light sensitive cells of the human eye? The first vibrations from the ear, or the first sensations of touch?
What might be the first state that could possibly be labelled as an emotion be? How does the growing mind make sense of the trickle and then, as it continues to grow, the flood of information that it has to deal with? While we could probably rule out telepathy; might the embryonic mind be hard wired via the umbilical cord to the mental processes of the mother. If this is the case, does the foetus share the dreams of it’s mother. Aside from DNA, might the sharing of data in this way contribute to the developing personality.
I feel in some danger here, of tying my own mind in knots. But the whole field of human intelligence fascinates me. That we are gifted with the capacity to create and explore an entire universe within our own heads; as many as we wish. I find it a little sad, and yes more than a little scary that this is a playground that we can never truly share with other people. We attempt it yes, via art, music, writing, but we can never invite someone in to play in the same space. This is where I believe we are forever alone. We are not a hive mind where we can enter each other’s heads and become each other’s thoughts.
Maybe one day our species may be able to overcome this fundamental sense of isolation. The technology may be developed, to enable us to enter each other’s personal mental universe. The question then will be, do we choose to do so; or will the prospect of this be even more frightening than the sense of being alone in our own private space.