Learning! A new theory of consciousness
One of my favourite things about science and research is delving into areas where we still don't really know what the heck is going on. Areas like consciousness and a sense of self. We still have pretty much no idea what actually brings together all our thoughts and perceptions into consciousness itself.
There is a relatively new theory on the market, however, that is interesting: Attention Schema Theory (AST).
AST supposes that consciousness developed slowly over about 500 million years in vertebrate species as an increasingly complex system of dealing with all the sensory input our brains receive.
We can't possible attend to everything coming at us, and so, just like (almost) any living organism, we developed ways to prioritize certain information over others. AST suggests that consciousness is simply the highest, most complex evolution of that prioritization system.
There is, obviously, a lot more to explain with this theory, and for that I recommend you read this excellent article in The Atlantic.