What is everyday experience?

I’m looking at beautiful rose, decide to pick it up and enjoy it’s honey-lemon scent. It’s sunny outside, and photons of light bounce off my skin and warm me up. I reach for some water, quench my thirst and return to my dinner.

As I enjoyed the rose and my meal my brain was in constant electro-chemical change, and it always is. Apparently, it has the capacity to orchestrate 100 billion neurons into vast neural networks, which are supported by about 1 quadrillion synapses. I’m certain of it. These neural networks and their correlations weren’t part of my rose-dinner experience.

So what is everyday experience?

This is the question science is currently struggling with. It’s known as the Hard Problem. There is no clear explanation as to how sensations acquire characteristics, such as colors and tastes also known as qualia or phenomenal experiences. Maybe it’s hard to solve because it begins with the assumption that the underlying nature of reality is physical. If we deconstruct an atom, for example, what’s left are just waves of energy with no exact location in space. I used to think that an atom was 99.99999% empty but it turns out that an electron’s wave packet size is comparable to the size of the atom it is bound by. So it is not empty after all but filled with electron waves that blip into existence as electron particles in one moment, and waves in another.

If I were betting on whether the underlying nature of things were physical or non-physical, I’d probably put my money on it being non-physical given that electrons and atoms are essentially waves of energy and particles that appear and disappear from this Universe at random.

Some believe consciousness is both the source of qualia and the underlying nature of things. I’m quite fond of this approach as it allows me to keep smelling the roses and eating well while my brain does all the work.


Posted in consciousness, Reality, Science on September 23, 2015 and tagged with