Abstract Details

The Choice-making Theory of Consciousness  Mark Friedman (Santa Fe Policy Institute, Santa Fe, NM )   P1

Evolutionary theory teaches that all modern biological functions have precursor forms. A growing scientific consensus holds that consciousness is a biological function and therefore a product of evolution. To understand human consciousness, we must first understand its precursor forms. What biological function, present throughout evolutionary history, could have become consciousness? One answer is "choice-making." The first function of all life is acquisition of nutrients necessary for survival and reproduction. The earliest choices were about selective ingestion of contacted substances. Following the line of animal evolution, choices about movement enabled greater contact with nutrients. The animal capacity for directed movement, required a centralized function to mediate choice of direction. The modern self is descended from this function. Animal food acquisition strategies became increasingly complex. Predation increased choice-making complexity for both predators and prey. Animals began to cohere in social groups as early as 150 ma, requiring choices about social competition for food and mating. Sexual selection and choices associated with tool use and language may be largely responsible for the level of choice-making complexity in humans. All functions of the human mind-brain can be viewed as choice-making functions. Choice-making is the evolutionary "purpose" of the mind-brain. Human consciousness is hyper-complex choice-making.