Can we bring the study of evolution to schools? Can children be taught that we are one big evolutionary entity? Can we instill the spirit of enquiry and keep young minds away from mischief?

A meeting in the midst of books was in order as I had the privilege to get some of Dr.David Christians’ time and views.

In this blog, I’ve been on ajourney, exploring how human beings got the gift of language. Consciousness has played a major role in human beings acquiring the gift of language. But by and large, we do not understand consciousness, yet.

Somewhere, since the beginning of time, 13.7 billion years ago, to the cognitive revolution roughly 70000 years ago, we got both consciousness and language- we don’t know the order.This is nothing short of a miracle- and our ability to communicate with each other has saved our species- and may save humanity itself in future.

The clue to ending the violence and unrest in the world, may just lie in a greater appreciation of where we have come from. Young minds in schools all over the world, can be instilled with the spirit of enquiry. A mind once opened by possibilities, is more likely to see all of humanity as one great evolutionary entity. There is nothing so dangerous as uninspired young minds- they set out to mischief & violence.

Dr. David Christian shared that most of our understanding of the world today is owed to scientific modesty- our scientists admit what they do not know- and keep looking for answers. Reproducing here a part of our discussions.

Would there be big history if there was no consciousness?

Neuroscientists around the world have been looking at consciousness, and have been advancing evidence-based theories about it- there’s a lot of good work being done. Consciousness is one of the three big questions we are grappling with today.

Consciousness is a complex arrangement within the brain- and it’s only fair that from time to time, we talk about collective consciousness, as opposed to individual consciousness.

Is consciousness fundamental?

Referencing the now famous discussion between Nagasena and Milinda, a lot of our answers may lie in the theory of emergence. The property of a system is said to be emergent if it is in some sense more than the “sum” of the properties of the systems’ parts. An emergent property is said to be dependent on some more basic properties (and their relationships and configuration), so that it can have no separate existence.

The Homo sapiens drove the most resilient species to extinction, the Homo erectus. What role did our consciousness play in that?

We certainly know that language played a role. But unless we have hardcore scientific evidence, any discussion on consciousness would only make for interesting theory. What science needs is evidence- not theory. For eg; there is scientific evidence that energy congeals to form matter- the very basis of big history; but none yet to show that energy could congeal to form consciousness.

Would you rather the earth was hit by another asteroid and wiped out Homo sapiens? Or will it be violence?

65 mn years ago, that’s how the dinosaurs bid adieu; thanks to an asteroid. Our history, at least over the last 200 years has seen a lot of violence. It is encouraging that; there is evidence that violence is declining around the world. However, to keep violence at bay, we need to inspire our young minds with the spirit of inquiry- there is nothing so dangerous as unemployed youth.

Finally, Dr Christian had a question for me-  if you never talked to one other human being in your whole life, would you be the same person?

No. Even though our experience of the world is uniquely ours, it is influenced by the collective; because consciousness is a social phenomenon and there is such a thing as a shared experiences and collective consciousness. In any group situation, revolutions around the world and

Two recent interviews of Dr. David Christian attached.

May 22, The Edge.org: “We Need a Modern Origin Story: A Big History”, electronic publication & video interview, The Edge.Org, http://edge.org/conversation/david_christian-we-need-a-modern-origin-story-a-big-history

May 23, the Australian Financial Review: “Lunch with the AFR: David Christian, Bill Gates and their Big Adventure”, http://www.afr.com/lifestyle/food-and-wine/lunch-with-the-afr-david-christian-bill-gates-and-their-big-history-adventure-20150522-13c9da.

About Dr.David Christian.

Dr. Christian is credited with coining the term Big History and he serves as president of the International Big History Association. His course entitled Big History caught the attention of philanthropist Bill Gates who is personally funding Christian’s efforts to develop a program to bring the course to high school students worldwide.

Develop a Google clone: That’s what our consciousness should do.


Most of us know that there is a lot of hoax on the internet – for instance Margaret Hello is Graham Bell’s girlfriend, and that’s why we say ‘hello’ when we pick up the phone.

Hypothetically, if we were to slowly re-write history, then in another 500 years, Google could potentially be representing new truths, which the next generation will not know better but to believe.

So, if I were to claim that it was not Alexander Graham Bell, but John Telephone who invented the said machine, and fed enough of it into Google, as arguments, in 500 years, there would be enough evidence that someone named John Telephone contested the invention.

Imagine the magnitude of hoaxes that vested interests could perpetrate! In 500 years, we can safely assume that library reading will at best be an esoteric, rare pursuit. So, our consciousness will be influenced, by what the internet says and that’s pretty much what Google throws up!

Google seems to have an incredible consciousness. It is predictive, intuitive and it knows a lot. It is incredibly useful. Yes, it can’t move physically, but it can track our movements- what is google maps all about?

So human beings have created another consciousness outside of ourselves, called Google, which will not be able to control, the expediency of vested interests that may rewrite history itself- and the impact of which cannot be fully grasped by one human generation.

We will need an Google clone to document things-just to keep things sacrosanct. Let’s try and create consciousness again and call this clone AlterEgo-Google. Lets start with a chemistry laboratory.

For the sake of argument, let us say that the chemical formula of consciousness is Tri-oxyTetra-carboTrihydoDiNitroPorphyrin evolutionase (crazy enough?)

This compound developed about 800 million years ago, when the first trace of multi cellular organisms appeared- at the hypothetical beginning of consciousness. So if it’s a compound, I should be able to see it. Makes sense! I distinctly remember reading that a quantum microscope had been able to see an “excited hydrogen atom.” (on google)

So lets mass produce consciousness. I’m told we cannot, because consciousness is a form of energy and permeates all living beings- it can neither be  created or destroyed. So chemistry lab needs to be revisited later.

Human consciousness is more complex than the world wide web, and is the only thing that probably knows more than Google itself. Tempered by morality, societal expectations and ethical considerations, humans have not killed each other, but have rather been vested in each other’s progress.

So the AlterEgo-Google will surely be created, but not by scientists and researchers. But by brilliant programmers and then run by equally brilliant businessmen; it will present a search alternative to Google.

Alternatives have always been important, even from an evolutionary perspective. The theory of natural selection its billion-year old infinite wisdom, has made several adjustments with our species, the brains and the bodies, primarily making us clued into surviving. Anarchy works only in favour of the anarchist- so we need to create some more consciousness outside of us. Isnt our consciousness telling us that we must allow Google and Alter-Ego Google to battle it out, hopefully on the battleground of facts, and may the best man win!

Google lovers, all of us, definitely need an Alter-Ego Google, just to keep facts under check, if not for anything else. The starting point for this could be questions such as was there another universe before ours? If the universe began 13.7 billion years ago, when there was no time and space, can we say conclusively, that this is the first cycle? Were there cycles before ours?

Let human consciousness first answer these questions. And then put it up on Alter-Ego Google.

Are we using 13.7 billion ears of evolution to make our lives easier or more expendable than ever before? Let the collective consciousness decide.



I’m writing this article- you’re reading it. Thanks to something called consciousness.

Some postulate that consciousness is fundamental, like gravity. (credit: David Chalmers)

In that case, is consciousness older than language? Lets examine what experts have said.

No discussion on consciousness, can be complete without a mention of Julian Jaynes, who said that that the human brain, until very recently (~3000 years ago) was truly split into very distinct hemispheres: the left half allowed a person to function in day-to-day routine matters; the right side came into play under stress, providing guidance through hallucinated voices, usually those of authority figures, alive or dead leaders, or gods.

People were not self-conscious, and operated almost as automatons in responding to the hallucinated voices. This phenomenon provided social stability, order, and safety in ancient societies.

Many experts argue against this today.

For instance, did homo habilis, who created tools, gesture to a fellow homo habilis to pass it to him?

And if yes, did that act demand consciousness? Possibly.

Considering that consciousness goes to sleep when we go to sleep, and awakens when we get up, isn’t consciousness much older than 3000 years? Walker and Stickold (2004) postulated that there is strong evidence that that sleep enhances or assists learning. Hence, sleep was an important part of evolution itself.

In that case, what went to sleep, when early homo went to sleep? Surely, it was their consciousness that went to sleep (even if it was not as evolved as we understand it today)

Earlier in this blog, we have surmised that somewhere between 90000 years ago and 40000 years ago, speech made its first appearance. Modern language is a much more evolved phenomenon, while sound and sign language could date 4mn years ago.

We needed consciousness to speak and gesture coherently.

Much of archaeological evidence has emerged after Jaynes published his theory. Hence, probably in relative terms, we can describe consciousness more accurately today. Chances are, logically, that more evidence will create better understanding in the future.

Our brains have a lot of similarities with those of our ancestors going back 40,000 years. It seems highly probable that consciousness co-evolved with brains as a successful survival strategy.

For instance, consciousness and communication would’ve been be critical to helping groups of homo sapiens to coordinate and survive great climactic changes.

My theory of consciousness is, that as each sense evolved, sight, touch, smell, hearing and speech, consciousness evolved in tandem with it, gradually, as a combination of all of the above. Consciousness is the glue that connects the meaning of all the other senses.

I also believe that consciousness evolves at a faster pace than the other senses. Ironically, it’s the other senses, that are helping consciousness evolve faster.

We adapt, accept and conceive things that do not exist, not because of sight, smell, taste, touch or speech alone, but thanks to our imagination.

I am sure everyone would agree that imagination definitely falls into the realm of what we call “conscious understanding of current surroundings and future possibilities.”

So I argue, further that consciousness, like energy, cannot be seen. This is logical. Borrowing some lines from David Christians brilliant Ted talk, “history of the world in 18 minutes”, we know that

  1. The universe began 13.7 billions ago. There was no time and no space.
  2. First energy congealed to form matter.
  3. Floating hydrogen and helium atoms, compacted by gravity, gave us stars.
  4. The solar system was formed 4.5 billion years ago. The universe gained chemical complexity. Then there were planets, with water in it.
  5. We definitely have carbon, and other exotic combinations between elements, to thank for all the living beings we have today.

So far, so good. Energy was the starting point. So is consciousness, like energy, also 13.7 billion years old?

Unlikely. Consciousness has been described as the state of being awake and aware of what is happening around you, and of having a sense of self.

This could be more easily applied to living beings- and perhaps modern day machines too?

So perhaps, we need to put a date to the first “conscious” act. Is “motion” the first conscious act? Moving towards something- food for instance?

If yes, then consciousness is definitely much older than we think it is today.

More thoughts soon!