Ramblings on Consciousness, AI, and the Bicameral Mind

by Alayna Kennedy

Over winter break, I read an extraordinary book by psychologist Julian Jaynes titled The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind. Jaynes makes the fantastic assertion that human consciousness is not merely a biological phenomenon of firing neurons, but that it came into being around the 19th century BCE, paralleling the development of language, metaphors, and cultural evolution. This would mean that the ancient Greeks were not conscious! That consciousness is a cultural phenomenon instead of a biological one! Arguing that consciousness is merely the very tip of the iceberg of habit, assumptions, beliefs, and instincts, he writes “it is perfectly possible that there could have existed a race of men who spoke, judged, reasoned, solved problems, indeed did most of the things that we do, but were not conscious at all.” 

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