After years of indifferent and heavily diluted science programmes, Horizon (BBC last night) eventually came up with something half interesting. I say half interesting because I am fascinated with consciousness and so was already familiar with practically all of the content in the programme. My ten year old son however, watched it and was spooked by it, so for anyone not familiar with the material it must have been full on interesting.
One criticism of it though was the assertion in the programme that only humans, chimpanzees and orangutangs possess self knowledge. As far as I am aware, experiments have been carried out with elephants that demonstrate they too have self knowledge (I actually read about it on the BBC web-site) so why weren’t they included?
The most astonishing item which surprised me (if it is true) is that an experimenter could predict six seconds beforehand which decision the presenter was going to make by simply observing the electrical activity in his brain. Six seconds.
It suddenly dawned on me that our bodies are like a large organisation and that consciousness is the representative on the reception desk who is the last to know anything important that is going on within it. The management (our brains in constant contact with all the other heads of department – excuse the pun) decide the firm is going bust (for example) as it has been doing for quite some time. It goes bust then decides to inform consciousness. The beauty of it is, is that the sap on reception believes he or she is in control and is making all the decisions as they immediately forget about the memo they have just been sent.
Where does that leave free will?