What is consciousness? The question has been around for centuries now. Many of our scientists and researchers have been working to decode this fundamental aspect of our existence—consciousness. Though consciousness is being perceived as a great gift for long, it may have a cost. Similar to the universe, our brains are programmed to make the most of chaos.
According to the second law of thermodynamics, the movement from hotter to cooler is an expression of a more fundamental drive in the universe: disorder, as measured by entropy, always increases. The specifics don’t matter, it always holds true – heat always flows, burning logs always turn to ash, flipped coins always jumble. Everything is infused with a particle of chaos, and the particle tends to grow larger and larger, until it ultimately engulfs the entire system. Your favorite car will eventually break down, your house will be grounded to dust, the sun will expand and die out, the universe will suffer a heat death, and you, a real one. Some objects have low entropy – the degree of chaos, – while others have high entropy. The systems naturally move from a low to a high rate of entropy. Systems which have a low rate of entropy, such as the Sun, won’t begin their destruction soon. Five billion years to go in case of the Sun. Comparatively, a human life has a high rate of entropy, of about seven or eight decades depending on your health, gender and lifestyle. The principle of entropy implies that everything around us is in a constant state of decay. Only the rate, at which the devastation takes places, changes.
So, you must be wondering, how is all this related to with human consciousness? In order to increase our chances of survival, our brains develop themselves to maximize the information around us, recognizing probable threats and opportunities. But this evolutionary benefit may come at a price, a higher rate of entropy. Our brains, just like any other system, are hurdling towards the ultimate end with constant transfer from low-to-high entropy. Consciousness, according so some scientists from France and Canada, is a byproduct of that process.
It might sound interesting that the human brains are made up of the same ‘star stuff’ that forms the universe. However, the characteristics of consciousness emerge when certain levels of complexities are attained. It is then possible that the complexity, needed for consciousness to arise, requires the maximum number of configurations that allow for a greater variety of interactions leading to optimal segregation and integration of information.
When tested for around nine people under study, five of them being epileptic, their brains displayed higher entropy when the subjects were in a fully conscious state. However, the scientists need to explore more with different brain states in different people, such as for people under anesthesia.
Researchers suggest that the study opens a playground for new hypothesis on why our brains tend to be conscious. The team plans to extend their experiments to general cognitive behaviors. For example, observing the difference between the structuring of neural networks in the brain when people are concentrating on a task and when they’re absent minded. Also, the advent of cognitive computing has led to a major shift in the evolution of technology over the past decade as the global market is expected to garner $13.7 billion in near future. Cognitive computing, backed-up with cognitive and memory enhancers are the drugs or supplements, might contribute to further progress in the study.
While this is just a baby-step towards understanding the way our brain’s organization might affect our consciousness, it’s a pretty fascinating journey to expatiate. Also, it addresses the fact that we’re all connected by the laws that govern the Universe.