Consciousness and happiness

Let us apply Occam's razor to consciousness, and continue applying it. How simple can consciousness be?

We are only conscious of, at most, seven items in short term memory. And each item is in fact a collection of simpler ideas delivered as quickly as we need them by our unconscious brain. It is possible in this way to reduce consciousness to maybe five or so binary bits of data. For example, the belief that "My eyes see the whole room" can be one binary bit that flags "yes". It would just mean that your unconscious has all it needs, and can deliver the information so quickly that your consciousness is not aware of any gaps.

A state of five or so bits can be encoded in a single sub-atomic particle. And since consciousness is data, Occam's Razor requires that all data is consciousness.

What is it like to be conscious if you do not have a brain? Think about going to sleep. Your brain still exists, but (in the absence of dreams) delivers very little data. So you calm down to a peaceful level. Since most matter does not have a brain, this is probably the normal state of matter. Human matter might worry about tomorrow's bills, and a rock might simply react to forces, but it's the same basic idea. When we die we simply downsize, as in sleep.

Taking Occam's razor to its greatest extreme, we could argue that there is only one electron in the universe, travelling back and forth in time. So our consciousness could very easily be the only thing in the universe, and sooner or later we experience being everything: every human, every animal, every speck of interstellar dust.


There are two kinds of happiness, as far as I can see: change and peace. "Change" is when things change to become right: you win the lottery, find your true love, etc. "Peace" is when you sit on a rocking chair with your loved one, and everything is still and good. Now "change" is only happiness if it leads toward peace (the state where everything is right), and change is fleeting: once you win the lottery you settle into a new normal with new worries. So really there is only one form of happiness: peace.

Most of the universe is at peace: it might explode or collides, but does not mind. It reacts (e.g. to a force), it feels (information is consciousness, remember), but it does not worry: because whatever happens is right. The speck of dust has eternal happiness. Contrast this to a human consciousness that is always being fed data from the brain, data that says "this might be wrong, that might be wrong, things are wrong". Brains worry, rocks do not. Brains are engines of inner conflict. Without them we have inner peace.


If you are a point in your brain, then the odds are that a trillion other points in your brain are doing the same thing. You have a lot of friends.

As a point in space you only have meaning in relation to other points. For example, as part of a brain you need a lot of other atoms to work together to make the whole system work. And a whole lot of other human bodies to make this human body work (parents, tribe, etc.) And whole lot of environment to make you what you are. And a whole lot of history stretching back to infinity: history that might be stories in your brain, or in books, or in the evidence of the rocks around you. This is even true for a speck of dust in space. It has meaning because of how it relates to other specks. It changes because of its interaction (gravity, collisions, heat, etc.) Its position and momentum forms a history, allowing observers to reconstruct its past. Whether in a brain or in the vacuum of space, you are part of something very big even when you don't realise it. You have a lot of friends and relations.


So you die. You decompose. Dust to dust. Your shared ideas can live on and spread, but what of your minimal conscious self? You rest for a long time. Being semi-conscious you feel like you are asleep, with occasional vague dreams. So the time passes quickly. Then you are reborn as something different, and you enter your next adventure.

For example, the dust that makes your body was once part of the plants you eat. Before that, it was in the rocks and oceans. Before that, every elements in our bodies (except hydrogen and helium) were created in stars. The stars got those elements from the dust of space, by means of gravitational attraction. So you have already been reborn as dust, as a star, as a rock, as a plant, and as a human. When your body decomposes you are reborn as more parts of the food chain, and maybe as another human.

Sometimes you may sleep for billions of years between rebirths. So what happens when time runs out, at the eventual heat death of the universe (or big crunch, or whatever)? Remember, Occam's razor pushes consciousness down to just five or six bits of data. You are a point in space, a mathematical relationship. At the origin of each universe you either get very close to your friends or recombine in singularity ready to explode once more. Either way, you continue to the next adventure.

So no worries, friend. Be patient, like the dust. Life is a dream. Sometimes you sleep for indeterminate periods, sometimes you wake. You are immortal and infinite. Everything comes to those who wait.