• Article by: Jonathan MS Pearce

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    • I don’t agree. Around 24:15 Harris says that there is time lag between when we decide to do something and when “our brain decides”. This is a senseless remark insisting our brain is not “us”. I know Harris understands this, and is merely talking about conscious vs. non-conscious brain processes.It could hardly be otherwise. For our experience to be 1:1 match with cognition and sensation, it would mean neurons were infinitely fast, transmitting and processing information far faster than the speed of light.

      But this doesn’t work with his other remarks about the author of our thoughts and moral responsibility. We most definitely are the author of our thoughts. Consciousness is a kind of reporting of that volition as much as it is anything else. Harris is right, it is a kind of buffered memory. But a memory of what? A memory of what a part of our brain has done. That’s as much the definition of “us” as anything could ever be.

      And why do we need this consciousness thing at all? Probably because the nonconscious sub-systems are like subject matter experts in their own topic (perception, calculation, emotion…) but are incapable of comparing output of disparate systems to make decisions about them. Is it more important that I eat, or that I use a rare opportunity during a social dinner event to speak to someone who can advance my career? My hunger subsystem doesn’t know anything about ambition and vice versa. There has to be a superordinate calculator that has no specialty at all other than comparing and synergizing the otherwise radically different meanings of different subsystems. And if there were such a superordinate calculator? The contents of its processing would look exactly like consciousness feels.

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