In Wider than the sky, Nobel Prize-winning neuroscientist Gerald Edelman sets out his theory of the nature and evolution of consciousness. Like others, he divides consciousness into two types, that possessed by humans, who have the advantage of language, and that possessed by other animals. Consciousness as possessed by the latter is characterised by his term, ‘the remembered present’, which feature lacks any concept of past, future or self. Nonetheless, it is founded on massive neuronal quantity, complexity and connectivity, the whole of which has been refined by dint of experience post-natally, an idea that he terms ‘neural Darwinism’. Crucially, the aspect of connectivity features reentry, otherwise known in AI circles as back-propagation. Reentry connects ‘perceptual categorisation to value-category memory’, thereby giving rise to consciousness. He is at pains to explain that consciousness is entailed, not caused, by this process. Moreover, consciousness (the subjective experience aspect of it rather than its neural correlates) has no causative powers itself. This raises the question, what is the point of subjective experience? Either way, the subsequent development of language enables the emergence of higher-order consciousness in humans.

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