This is an attempt of an amateur to explain my own view of the nature of what I am and how I function. I make no claims of validity or expertise in this area, merely indicate it is what makes sense to me and invokes no elements of other than what seems necessary and logical. I have been involved with various discussions in this area in different internet sites and have discovered that much of the speculation wanders off into cultural and even metaphysical prejudices which seem to me to be illogical and unnecessary.
As an exhibition designer I became involved in assisting, back in 1960, in supplementary side exhibits of the nature and functioning of the brain for a New York firm. At that time, I knew almost nothing in this area although I had been through several scientific courses in my education and had a very rough concept of some of the main aspects. Obviously, a great deal more is known today in neurological research since the tools are far better and more precise, but it seems to me that the field still has a long way to go to collate and comprehend the possibilities. In that sense this permits me to roam extensively in my speculations.
To aid me in my exhibit project I was privileged to be assisted by a neurologist who provided me with several preserved human brains and we disassembled them to reveal the various sections and how they integrated to contribute to the system. It presented the understanding that each of the sensory inputs for hearing, sight, touch etc. were allocated special areas of the brain for processing and tailoring the nerve inputs so that the more abstract analytical sectors could fit the information into an overall dynamic pattern that could be used to simulate the external world in a useful way. It is of prime importance to understand that the brain is isolated within its protective skull and all information and understanding comes from these sensory inputs and the genetic patterns provided by evolution to assemble the most probable model within which a living creature must prosper and reproduce. This is what is commonly accepted as reality, but it is actually the presumed best model constructed by the brain within which a living creature must operate.
One of the basic operative dynamics of the living system is to select the basic inputs of sight and hearing and other senses that are important to pass on to the central brain and toss away what is not essential. Each living creature is provided with the sensory instruments necessary for its existence and this varies hugely amongst all the different life forms. Dogs, cats, dolphins, owls, wasps, worms, bats, mosquitoes, and people not only receive a different range of sensory inputs but even that quite limited avalanche of information is far too much to retain or be of use. Since each creature requires a special set of information to live, various components of the brain polices this input so that only essential material is retained. It is this small selected component of sensory material which is collated and used to construct the model of reality which is accepted by the creature and it differs greatly between species and even individuals.
One of the prime puzzles that seems to confound both scientists and philosophers is the nature of what we perceive as consciousness. Some thinkers even deny it totally, theologians tend to label it the soul, and physicists do not seem to understand how it perceives the nature of time. Nevertheless, people cannot dismiss it since it seems the most real part of existence. I have no special expertise in the matter, but my own view involves how it might fit into the mechanics of survival and the dynamics of the brain dealing with the sense messages and how they are patterned into what we call reality.
Consciousness is essentially our way of perceiving what we call reality, so we may deal with it. One of the most common diversions of human dynamics is to create pseudo-realities in various ways and play with them or use them as tools. Stories in the form of books and films and even instruction manuals are manufactured realities. But they are rather static. Board games like chess or checkers are simple realities with special rules and are dynamic as they change with time and require player response which is how we deal with our lives. Video games also fit this category and are far livelier. Stage plays are more static since the characters and actions are fixed but a variety of that wherein the characters may be fixed but the actions unpredictable may be much more a problem to enact so I have not heard that that has been tried. This innovative dynamic could be attempted with ballet and has some relationship with modern music like jazz where talented players can do original variations within a set piece, but classical music is rather fixed with the main variable being the skills of the individual players and the conductor.
It seems reasonable to me that the way the brain deals with reality is very much the way we play games. A game is set up with rules as to how the player who is provided with a representative of him or herself must behave and a terrain such as a board of squares or one of a set path through which separate dynamics of rules change as the representative navigates the board. Chess and checkers and Go retain a static board and a set of representatives, the pieces. Each have their opportunity to occupy the board to indicate dangers and opportunities. Games like Monopoly employ dice to create variations in opportunities that can be unexpected.
In dealing with reality the brain creates its field of operations to mimic the game board by creating a pattern of possible reality from the various sensory inputs it receives and it represents the itself with what we call the consciousness. Although the general configuration may be compared to the playing of a game, the brain system is extensively different in that its map of reality, which simulates the board of a game, is extensively dynamic and changes moment by moment as the brain responds to sensory input to modify the field of play. And the elements of this reality simulation are also hugely dynamic with understandings of their potentials in all sorts of ways. Also, very much different from a game, its representation of itself within this pseudo-reality depends upon a huge very dynamic data base involved with experiential, cultural, genetic and emotional and other very variable intents far beyond the current structures and rules now common to the games now being played. The interplay of the map of reality within the brain with continuous updating and other forceful variables creates complexities of relationships well beyond what happens in games.
There is one other major and striking difference that must be acknowledged. The data within a living brain is very different from the data stored in a computer. A brain is composed of living cells and complexes of data stored therein are not static. A living memory contains within it intents both emotional dynamics and structural capabilities that change with time and new sensory input. My memories of people I have known are alive within my brain and visit me in dreams and other ways. My re-evaluations of relationships as I have matured change these memories radically and as I got to understand how the world works whole sections of patterns of the world were affected. Living stored data has a life of its own, quite different from the rather rigid libraries of computers, and their strengths and alliances with other understandings encompasses analog elements which do not exist within the digital landscape. Thus the plastic variations of a living creature far outweigh the current static qualities of our current digital mechanisms.