Consciousness: An Evolutionary Heuristic to Simplify Interactions?

Consciousness is an inevitable consequence of the complexity of life and the universe. It may arise when the interactions between objects becomes so complex that nature needs a way to simplify these interactions. Then, a conscious agent is introduced to mediate these interactions and make the network simpler.

Protective immune mechanisms in helminth infection
Soon after the big bang, there was just uniform disorder of particle soup, and so not much complexity in the interactions between various objects, or nodes, in the universe. Over time, this disorder grew into complex interactions of particles into atoms into molecules into cells into multicellular networks, such as our brain. With more and more complex interactions between objects, the network of interactions became very complex. A simplified example is the biological system represented as a network to the right. I propose that consciousness arose as a heuristic to simplify the complexity of these interactions. us consider 5 objects that must interact. If we represent the objects by nodes, or circles, and the interactions by lines between objects, then we have a complex network as shown to the left. If we count the number of lines, there are 10 interactions to create this system of 5 objects.

However, if we introduce a conscious agent, modeled by the star graph with five peripheral nodescentral node to the right, then we have only 5 lines, or half as many interactions, to create the system of 5 objects. Introducing a conscious agent reduces the complexity of the system by HALF.


So we see that consciousness may simply be an evolutionary heuristic in response to an overload of complexity. More about consciousness as information or networks to come.


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