The Next Truth edition of March, Out Now!

If someone asked you to explain consciousness, could you provide a coherent answer?

Many philosophers have argued that it is a unitary concept that is understood intuitively. Others, though, have argued that the word indicates that it either means different things to different people, or it encompasses a variety of distinct meanings with no simple element in common. Despite millennia of analyses, definitions, explanations and debates by philosophers and scientists, consciousness remains puzzling and controversial.

There is this idea that identity is continuous. Each person alters over time piece by piece, and so, eventually, you are a completely different person as the one you started out as. Because your body keeps replicating cells and changing things, you could ask the question “Am I still the same person that I was 10 years ago, or am I someone completely different?”

If that was not mind boggling enough for you, let me introduce you to the Boltzmann brain.

Imagine the universe in a far-flung future. Due to entropy and the expansion of the universe, everything will one day no longer exist. The universe will have unraveled from itself, leaving nothing but an infinite amount of empty space, except it will not be entirely being empty. Space will experience random thermal fluctuations.

So if the universe is infinite, then that means every possible configuration of fluctuation happens. And as bizarre as it might seem, sometimes these fluctuations will perfectly recreate a temporary version of ourselves. Those are called Boltzmann brains. I wonder if this is our consciousness.

Regardless, if the Boltzmann brains exist, it is mathematically likely that we are currently living inside one of these fluctuations. That means we are a strange temporary approximation of people who once lived perhaps billions of years ago. So you are you, but you are also someone else that was you, but you are that person, but you are only you….(sigh)…. never mind I will let myself out.

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