Consciousness is the Final Frontier!
You know you are alive, right? It’s obvious. You wouldn’t be reading these words otherwise.
Light hits a receptor in your eye, and that information travels to your brain and makes you conscious of an image. Sound waves hit your ear drum causing it to vibrate, and that information travels to your brain and makes you conscious of words and sound. Something is put in your mouth and touches your tongue, and that information travels to your brain and makes you conscious of a taste. A molecule carried on the breeze hits a receptor in your nose, and that information travels to your brain and makes you conscious of a smell. Receptors in your skin press against something, and that information travels to your brain and makes you conscious of touch.
You know you are alive because you are conscious. Conscious of what you see, hear, taste, smell and touch. Our five senses provide all the conscious proof we need.
When light hits the receptors on my computer’s webcam, that information travels to my computer’s processor which displays an image on screen. When sound waves hit the inbuilt microphone, that information is conveyed to my computer’s processor which plays words and music. When I move my fingers against a touch-screen, that information is conveyed to my computer’s processor which becomes aware of my touch.
I’m pretty certain I am a conscious living being. I am also pretty certain my computer is not conscious or a living being. We seem to instinctively know the difference between living and non- living things, but when we try to explain those differences we get in all kinds of trouble.
Scientists have come up with hundreds of different definitions of life, but few stand up to close scrutiny. Almost without exception, each definition excludes something we instinctively know is alive, or includes something we instinctively know is not alive.
My popular science book takes the NASA definition of life as its starting point and examines the search for the ingredients differentiating living and non-living things. Scientists such as Nobel Prizewinning Professor Sir Roger Penrose and Professor Stuart Hammeroff are boldly going where no man has gone before and believe consciousness is the final frontier.