We can’t escape our subjective experience, this thing we call consciousness. When we speak objectively or about things that are objective, we’re doing it through our subjective lens. We communicate with other humans via spoken language, body language, touch, smell, etc. as a means of communicating our emotions, feelings, thoughts, and desires.  We feel as other humans can mostly understand our perspective, which enables us to work together on projects, explore together, change together, and learn together.  But we can’t escape our subjective experience (listen to the excellent “This is Water” speech for some more insight on this).

People have contemplated what consciousness is for millennia, and how these processes in our brain give rise to this feeling of being – consciousness.

The “hard problem of consciousness” has been discussed and debated for decades, in which philosopher David Chalmers states:

It is undeniable that some organisms are subjects of experience. But the question of how it is that these systems are subjects of experience is perplexing. Why is it that when our cognitive systems engage in visual and auditory information-processing, we have visual or auditory experience: the quality of deep blue, the sensation of middle C? How can we explain why there is something it is like to entertain a mental image, or to experience an emotion? It is widely agreed that experience arises from a physical basis, but we have no good explanation of why and how it so arises. Why should physical processing give rise to a rich inner life at all? It seems objectively unreasonable that it should, and yet it does.

So humans seem to have this subjective state of being we call “consciousness”.  What about other animals, insects, or creatures we see around Earth? Are they conscious? Can they perceive?

Many think so, for the right reasons. The result of these contemplations has led many to believe “that consciousness is one”.  When they say this, they mean that feeling of perceiving, this ability to perceive, is all connected, in that we as humans can see each other, bats can use sound waves to know we’re here, snakes can sense our warmth, and they can sense each other, to an extent.  We may perceive it differently, but we all perceive something, and this state of perception is what we call consciousness.  This is a common philosophical view of consciousness in that all sentient beings can perceive, and therefore consciousness is connected, it’s “one”.

While this is one plausible view, I had the opposite realization – while it is all connected in the sense mentioned above, it’s infinitely separated.  As humans we use language, touch, sound, body language, etc. to communicate with each other.  While it is the best we can do, it is far from perfect.  Some say that the barrier of philosophy is language, in that at some point philosophically people start debating what “is” means, or “the”, or other words in language.  This happens because as mundane and straight forward as those words seem, to do carry some meaning which can cause philosophical discussions to fork.

Misunderstandings, lack of connection, and lack of agreement all occur due to the imperfection of our communication – a barrier which we can’t overcome.  In other words, it is impossible to communicate ones consciousness amongst us humans, and is equally impossible to communicate our consciousness to other sentient beings, such as a bat, a bear, or an insect (assuming they are sentient).  While we can communicate some of our consciousness, such as describing how something tastes, our consciousness is infinitely separated.

Will it forever be that way? Only time will tell.  As we understand the mind better, I suspect we may be able to bridge the gap and connect each other more than perhaps can possibly be perceived.