Okay, she made a point that the stream of vision appears to be rich but in fact is not. I am aware of this, but this has no bearing on my theory. Processed sensory information still must come together at some point for it to be consciously considered together when making decisions.
I suggest that there is no stream of vivid pictures that appear in consciousness. There is no movie-in-the-brain. There is no stream of vision. And if we think there is we are victims of the grand illusion.
But she isn’t arguing against the “stream” part. She’s arguing against the “vivid” part. She says,
Change blindness is the most obvious evidence against the stream of vision.
...and gives examples. But don’t these examples just show that when there is a jarring event, our vision processing system has to start over, and therefore can make continuity errors? Isn’t this what one would expect if there was a stream of vision, and it was broken and restarted? She concludes,
What do these results mean? They certainly suggest that from one saccade to the next we do not store nearly as much information as was previously thought. If the information were stored we would surely notice the change. So the ‘stream of vision’ theory I described at the start has to be false.
To me, these examples seem to indicate that the processing of the stream of vision is not as continuous and rich and stable as you would think, but the stream of vision itself seems to be intact. She continues,
Finally, O’Regan (1992) goes even further in demolishing the ordinary view of seeing. He suggests that there is no need for internal representations at all because the world can be used as an external memory, or as its own best model - we can always look again.
This doesn’t seem to make sense. When you are looking at something and then turn to look at something else, you are still aware of that previous thing that you were looking at (it’s location, color, size, etc.), even though you are not currently looking at it. Therefore, it seems there is some internal representation that persists even when you are not directly looking at something.
It is not yet clear which of these interpretations, if any, is correct but there is no doubt about the basic phenomenon and its main implication. Theories that try to explain the contents of the stream of vision are misguided. There is no stable, rich visual representation in our minds that could be the contents of the stream of consciousness.
I’m not a neurologist, but from what she’s told me in this article, this doesn’t seem to follow. Just because the stream of vision isn’t stable or rich, doesn’t mean attempts to explain its contents are misguided. There is still content, it’s just not as stable or rich as you’d think.
Then she continues on to sound. Here she says,
Even simpler than this is the problem with all speech. You need to accumulate a lot of serial information before the meaning of a sentence becomes unambiguous. What was in the stream of consciousness while all this was happening?
Perhaps the idea of a stream of consciousness is itself the problem.
Okay, I see what she is saying. Previously she was using “stream of consciousness” and “stream of vision” seemingly interchangeably, which is confusing. But here she is saying that because our consciousness can “reach back” and make sense of information that we weren’t even paying attention to at the time, it isn’t really a stream. Yes, I agree, but this is not a problem for my theory. The brain is a parallel machine; some part of the brain keeps track of words being said and interprets what it means (or what it could potentially mean) as we hear it, then we are made conscious of it and it appears that we had been conscious of it the whole time. Not so, but also not a problem. The information is still coming together at some point. It just isn’t as passive as I may have made it sound. Instead, it is actively being probed.
Second, the backwards streams may overlap with impunity. Information from one ongoing process may end up in one stream, while information from another parallel process ends up in a different stream precipitated a bit later but referring to things that were going on simultaneously. There is no requirement for there really to be only one conscious stream at a time - even though it ends up seeming that way.
Really? How can two parallel processes seem to be one singular process unless those processes are connected in some way and are thus in a sense one? If two parallel processes are completely independent, they will not be aware of each other and thus cannot create the illusion of oneness. If there is a third process that is aware of the other two, that is the only way to create an illusion of oneness, but at that point, it really is oneness since they are connected.
This is particularly helpful for thinking about the stream of sounds because sounds only make sense when information is integrated over appreciable lengths of time. As an example, imagine you are sitting in the garden and can hear a passing car, a bird singing, and some children shouting in the distance, and that you switch attention rapidly between them. If there were one stream of consciousness then each time attention switched you would have to wait while enough information came into the stream to identify the sound - to hear it as a passing car. In fact attention can switch much faster than this. A new backwards stream can be created very quickly and the information it uses may overlap with that used in another stream a moment later, and another, and so on. So at time t was the bird song really in your stream of consciousness or was it the children’s shouting? There is no answer.
Why not? Isn’t it whichever one you were paying attention to at the time? Your brain can still process the other sounds unconsciously until your consciousness starts paying attention to those sounds, at which point those processes are probed for their information.
Thinking about the chiming clocks, and listening as sounds come and go, the once-obvious linear stream begins to disappear.
It still seems like a stream to me. Just a broken, unreliable, and tricky one . And I have been paying attention to these things in my own consciousness for some time, so I am aware of change blindness and stuff like that. I don’t disagree that consciousness is illusory in many senses. But still, I don’t see it as a problem for my theory. In fact, consciousness must be illusory - it feels like it is special, something non-physical, independent; but we know it is just a concoction of our physical brains. So it must be emergent. But since there are parts of our brain that do things that we are not consciously aware of, I cannot agree that consciousness is comprised of our entire brain. I think it is an emergent phenomenon of just a part of it.
It is helpful to imagine what it must be like to be a “lesser” animal like a lizard or an insect. They have no language and therefore no thoughts (although they may still have imagination). They have emotions. They have some senses, maybe more than us. I would argue that they are, on some level, conscious. But not as conscious as us. And you can do this thought experiment back to simpler organisms that don’t even have brains, and imagine what it would be like to be them.
Or imagine being a computer. You are mindless. But the more advanced artificial intelligence you have in you, the more you become conscious. It’s a spectrum. What would it be like to be a computer who is conscious like us? Presumably they would have a similar experience to us. But here you could see exactly how their program works, and see that it is just signals like our brains. Where does consciousness come in? Well, it’s whatever part of the computer has the ability to synthesize information and think that it is conscious. Since computers are serial processors, this won’t be “any one place” in it, although it may definitely be a single thread of execution.
Anyway, basically what I’m saying is, if there is information that comes together in your consciousness (vision, hearing, memories, etc.), it must mean it is physically coming together in your brain. That’s the gist of my argument.