The Origin of Consciousness – How Unaware Things Became Aware

Consciousness is perhaps the biggest riddle in nature. Stripped to its core meaning, consciousness is what allows us to be aware
both of our surroundings and of our own inner state. But thinking about consciousness has
this habit of taking us round in circles. We all intuitively know what consciousness is. It’s this… It’s what you’re experiencing here, right now. But once we try to pinpoint just what exactly it is,
it leaves us grasping at thin air. And not just us, philosophers and scientists
struggle to define consciousness. Different schools and ideas compete with one another,
but no one has come close to figuring it out. It’s unsettling to realise that we don’t understand
what makes us aware of ourselves and the world. In this fuzzy area, consciousness and intelligence
are also related, although they are not the same. We’ll talk in greater depth about theories of consciousness and intelligence in other videos. Like much of what makes us human, our consciousness is likely to have
evolved from less complex forms, as a product of evolution by natural selection. It has probably emerged from an immense several
100 million years sequence of countless micro steps, that together make up a sort of
gradient of consciousness. What was the first step on this
path from the non-conscious to the basic consciousness that ultimately led to the convoluted consciousness we humans enjoy today? [Intro] Take a stone. The consensus is that a stone is not conscious.
Though, not everyone agrees even on this. Some panpsychists claim that
a lump of rock may have an inner life. However, there are no real grounds for any such
assumption since stones never show behaviour. Their inner life can neither be proven nor disproven. A more common starting point is with the living things. A living thing, or a self, is a part of the universe
that sustains itself and makes more of its kind. To do so, it needs energy. And this is where an awareness
of the world comes in handy. The original function of consciousness was probably
to direct a mobile self that was short of energy to a fresh supply of food. On the smaller scales of life,
you don’t need to be aware to find food. Trichopax adhaerens – one of the simplest
of all animals moves around haphazardly. It slows down in the presence of food,
and speeds up in its absence. This is highly effective, and makes the tiny creature
spend more time where there is food spend more time where there is food
than where there is not. But it never moves in a particular
direction towards a particular target, and there’s no need for it to be
conscious of its environment. The first major step towards consciousness was probably taken when mobile selves
started to move themselves directionally. Moving towards what was good for them,
say food, and away from what was less good, say someone else who thought that they were food. Take Dugesia tigrina – a tiny worm
known for its funny face. Sometimes the worm is hungry, and sometimes not. This means that when it moves, the worm self is not simply producing an
automatic response to an external stimulus, but that its actions depend
upon its inner, physiological state, whether it’s hungry or sated. When it’s just eaten,
the worm is less energetic, but when starved for a while,
it will move itself in the direction of tasty things. It uses chemoreceptors on its head
to smell its environment, and guide it in the direction
where the scent of food is strongest. After finding and eating a meal, our worm buddy heads
back to a dark sheltered spot to digest it in safety, until it’s hungry again. But animals that blindly follow their sense of smell
don’t have a concrete objective in view. They still lack any sense of where they are heading. So, the next step on the ladder of consciousness
is to add some perception at a distance, like vision. Vision adds context and depth to our world. With vision comes a sense of
the space we and our food exists in. It adds a whole new dimension to awareness, and is
a huge step towards more familiar consciousness. An optical apparatus, like an eye, enables
us to visualise our goal and lock onto it. But even at this stage, a self is only able
to pursue its food as long as it sees it. So, the next logical step needs
to happen on the inside. To visualise food in its absence, for example, a self needs to create some sort of
inner representation of the world. Now, an animal can continue looking for food,
even when it escapes its sensory range. Because of this inner representation
of what is relevant in the world, it can remain focused on its food and its desire to get it. Our self now exists in a world it can get familiar with. The ability to remember things has emerged. Thanks to memory, animals can be
distracted from the pursuit for a few seconds, but quickly continue their path afterwards. A related phenomenon is called ‘object permanence’. This describes our awareness that things
continue to exist even when we can’t see them. This cognitive skill is enjoyed by some mammals
and birds, and perhaps other animals too. Human babies tend to develop this ability
around the time they turn eight months, while baby chickens show this ability
within a day or two of being born. The capacity to remember a thing in its absence
suggests at least a basic sense of time. A sense of time is a big step
on the ladder of consciousness. It may also enable a self to look forward
from the present moment and anticipate the future. Adult chickens, for example, are able to resist a meal put
in front of them if they expect to receive a bigger meal as a prize for holding back for a while. This sort of delayed gratification means there is an
ability to visualize a reward that only exists in the future, which can be quite a challenge even for adult humans. Western scrub jays are experts in delayed gratification. They show an even more elaborate sense
of the future when they hide food in a cache to retrieve it at a later date. The scrub jays will even rehide their food if they become aware that a potential thief has been watching them. This means that they know
that there are other hungry selves out there, who are aware and see the world
from their own, different perspective. Crafty scrub jays can sort of
read the mind of their fellow birds. This ability to mind-read is crucial
for complex levels of consciousness. By putting yourself in the position of others,
you can outsmart a rich competitor, or empathise with a hungry friend. Language takes the ability to read minds
and represent what is absent to a whole new level. Words enable us to construct
hypotheses about the world, make detailed plans, and to
communicate them with others. Words enable us to think about ourselves
and our place in the universe, and even about our own consciousness, which is something we’ll be doing more in future videos. So, what is the origin of our consciousness? It probably began as the directed motion
of a hungry self towards a source of food. With the survival benefits, this gave it over
competitors that moved at random or not at all. It probably all started with the urge for more food. So, even with the sophisticated consciousness
that allows us to dream about space, build skyscrapers, or obsess about novels, it’s not surprising that we can’t stop thinking
about where we’ll get our next meal. Collectively, we’ve put so much thought
and ingenuity into getting food, that we can now just get our food to
come to us with little conscious effort. This video is part one of a three-part video series
relating to big questions of life and the universe, made possible by a grant from the
Templeton World Charity Foundation. You can find our sources and
further reading in the video description, or get the consciousness book
by Rupert Glasgow for free- link down below. If you want to help us make more videos,
you can do so on, or get one of our posters from our shop.

Comments 100

  • Get the Consciousness poster here:

  • 8:25 Is that Plumbus? 😀 😀

  • Consciousness just is, its the very essence of existence itself. Consciousness creates reality.

  • The better video would be to explore why does consciousness exist independent of our physical bodies? What is the true nature of our existence? Why is there a physical world at all?

  • Sometimes ,I tell myself that I am not afraid to die .The reality is what scares me after I die .What will happen.Will we be conscious and if so how ?Will we feel nothing and again how ?How does one feel nothing.This fact scares me; the thought of not being able to think and to nothingness.

  • Can you make a video on sub consciousness

  • cute music starts playing
    me: fucking superb you funky little Kurzgesagt

  • The brain named itself.

  • 2:00 “Some panpsychists claim a rock may have an inner life.” No, they really don’t. None of the top pansychists believe rocks have a tangible interiority. That’s such an oversimplification as to be entirely misleading. They claim all matter already has the building blocks which later constitute what we call “mind”, not that a rock has an interior state.

  • Theres only 2 things in the world, friends and food.

  • What was the things we lost over time video in the last few days? There was a thumbnail with some dude and a third eye. Wanna see it.

  • We are humans created in Gods own image. So we are created with consciousness.

  • I like it when kurzgesgt said when a moving thing gain consiousnes to have better survival options then thigs moving randomly or non moving which is weird because why could anything want to survive in the first place I am not questioning life here I am just curios that's all😂.

  • @
    Kurzgesagt – In a Nutshell The headline should say: Bevidsthedens oprindelse – hvordan livsformer blev bevidste

  • Consciousness shouldn’t be possible because of time.

  • Can you know that a thing that can react to it's environment is conscious? take a robot for example, a simple machine with one sensor is apparently not conscious, it does not perceive, it is only math end electricity with simple predictable behaviours, what is the difference with ourselves if we are the same thing only more complex? Where to draw the line if it is all the same thing? Why does even consciousness exist? it does not have any evolutionary purposes, humans could just be empty bodies that behave like conscious feeling humans and that would not make any difference from the outside which is what matters from a biological evolutionary standpoint.

  • Similar naive comments can be found on any of Daniel Dennett's talks on consciousness

  • Survival has nothing to do with consciousness – despair does not drive anyone, love does

  • But why can we create fake scenarios and why do you and me read this with a voice in the mind?

  • I ask a stone once if it were conscious, what are the chances that I don't speak stone?
    Or is it more complicate, than just a different language, or maybe the stone doesn't consider me intelligent enough to deal with,

  • 💯 my niggas

  • I have evolved

  • The problem, that is. As you said… Animals can anticipate the future, and choose whether to eat the less or the more. Means its consciousness does not have any feelings of impatience, not a true consciousness. Like the worm moving when hungry, and when not.. it does not move. It feels like consciousness is similar to a basic IF statement, switch cases, and while/for loops.

    If you had created a robot with senses, and pain and program it similar to the worm consciousness. Would it do the same?

  • How unaware things became aware
    maybe food
    probably to survive
    or more honestly — nobody fuckin knows

  • Well yeah vision is important for our kind of consciousness but what about bats? Or a blind person, blind people are still very conscious:D

  • This is better than national geographics

  • The little ball creature reminds me of the things I created in Spore a long time ago.

  • The essence of life is the pursue of food…..Okay…

  • consiousness is a lie there is only senses and instinct. instinct is only intelligence we have.

  • First we need to find out what unconsciousness really is!

  • too shallow

  • Where's the next conciousness video?!

  • Any discussion of autism, by the way? And how many claim autists do not 'have a theory of mind of other people'?

  • That "little conscious effort" gave me a sting on my spines….

  • These eyes make me uncomfortable

  • This channel is literally just a big existential crisis

  • We make our own rules as to what consciousness is and then remain perplexed when faced with the inevitable contradictions that arise from that assumption. Consciousness is simply the capacity for change, therefore everything in timespace is conscious. The ability to direct change is a result of complexity of design only. For example, if you give a monkey and a human a relatively simple puzzle, the monkey will complete the task quicker than the human and with less errors. This is because of the complexity of our nervous system by comparison, not because the monkey is smarter or has more consciousness. Some animals can grow back whole limbs, tails or heads, because of a lack of complexity, so the error count in cell regrowth is much lower. We channel a wider band of the consciousness spectrum than animals, which creates interference patterns that we call thought and emotion which give us the impression of free will.

  • Never mind this video its misleading I know the brain has enough intlegence to survive honeslty ok having consiouness helps us make our food come to us which makes ourwork as an intelligent species easy but this video does not state why we have consiouness only the brain fictions like memory and such smh😂

  • Probably the best explanation of consciousness I’ve read so far was “God Speaks” by Meher Baba. Simply amazing. 🙌🏼

  • Where you show the parts of the worm and it points to its face and it just says funny LOL

  • Man this has always been my favorite

  • I think to understand consciousness, we have to follow reasoning without prejudices. Surprosingly, consciousness is acally a word. It has a relationship to the language cortex. We ask "are you conscious of X"? Example: are you conscious of your blood sodium level or heart beat? The answer is no. Your body knows it very well and controls tightly, but there is no pathway how to reroute that information into your language cortex. Consciousness is the set of percepts that can be queried inside the brain and rerouted to language cortex or other part of brain that is able to transmit information outside the body – by speech, gesture, facial expression etc. When you sleep you can talk about your dreama later but cannot talk about what was going in your head during deep sleep. Therefore you are conscious of dreams, but not of deep sleep. Your visual cortex perceives thousands of edges and corners every second but you are not conscious of them. You can reroute them into your language cortex on demand and become conscious of them. Example: "how many lines does my lower eyelid form?"

  • To make a machine conscious you need to make it capable of telling you what it is perceiving in a given percept.

  • My stone shows crumbling behaviour.

  • When I drive bicycle on a road with trees and want to reduce my sun exposure, I ride slower in shadow and faster on the sun. Same like the somethingium bacterium in the water.

  • Imagine we could put a million of electrodes into all places of our brain and connect them to a decoder and allow other people send a wireless signal into the decoder and activate various neurons all around our brain (with the possibility of disabling this access function). That is language. The wireless signal is acoustic. The decoder is the language cortex.

  • Wheres the follow up to this video

  • looks like 60fps animation? if so, props

  • Birdfree?

  • Can you do a video on quasar and chaos theory

  • The cutest video on YouTube.

  • Your animation style is awesome and really helps in understanding

  • God equipped us with all "Senses" and wisdom to communicate and realize the outer and our inner worlds. It is the the "Designer's Work" Bro….higly sophisticated …and Complete…with "Irreducable Complexity"……Come out of the Darwin's mythical postulations…he didn't even know about the structure of a cell…lol!!

  • that animation is so clean i just had to like and sub

  • 8:32 How can something with no conscience "urge"?

  • I want google to stop translating video titles

  • This video equivocated consciousness with intelligence. That's an error of perspective.

  • And our want for food came from wanting to stay alive. So maybe consciousness came from wanting to live 🙃

  • You didn't explain how unaware things became aware.rather postulated how awareness evolved.

  • Are plants considered Conscious

  • Our senses interpreting the world around us is our "graphical user interface" for a large data structure we exist in.

  • 6:17 haha creepy asf. Hiding teddy bear

  • Advaita Vedanta seems to explain consciousness in greater detail.

  • The mantle of responsibility

  • say it pussies – it's Divine

  • Great video but still no explaination really… i really think it's outside of what we understand but I have no idea what or how, obviously.. I just hope I find out when I die haha

  • 1:30 – 1:37 enjoy is a strong word

  • Kurzgegst narrator said a living thing needs energy to survive then why does an cell which is unconscious even know it needs energy to survive what nonsense is this actually😂.

  • So basically, food was the first thing anyone thought about.

  • Nice Video… Good concepts!…
    Keep Rocking…
    Looking forward for lot More interesting Video's…
    Much Love, Peace and Harmony…😇

  • 🇲🇨🔫🇩🇪

  • Why are most of the people in these videos black?

  • We are just a wet squishy muscle with chemicals in it

  • Evolution? Really? I thought you guys were smart..

  • Is it not just memory+the ability to speak ?

  • Very good video, thank you.

  • got a feeling I'll be having an existential crisis now everything I get hungry 😛

  • This was the first Video I watched od this channel.
    No regrets.

  • All along the video, the notions of cognition and consciousness are confused. The video doesn't talk about consciousness at all. It's pitiful. The author has absolutely not understood the concept of consciousness, and claims to be able to explain it to others. The definition of consciousness is very clear. By the way, this is an entity which can't be observed. Each of us knows that he has consciousness, but we can't prove that the others have. It's just intuition. Consciousness is a metaphysical entity. Natural selection and adaptation have no reason to induce consciousness, and even they had, they couldn't do it, because it's metaphysical. Consciousness is the greatest mystery, with the origin of the world, but to understand what I'm saying, you have to understand the concept of consciousness, and it's not on PubMed (metaphysics is not about science), it is rather in the philosophical literature (Aristotle, St. Francis Aquinas,…). Scientific fanatisme is a barrier for the mind. I love Science, but everthing is not about science.

  • The ability to be aware of our habits and the big picture

  • Tfw you're just a tiny worm known for your funny face.

  • Am halfway through the video and somehow of all the videos I have seen of this guy , this is somewhat the worst it just lacks the point he is trying to make. He argues for a fact that living things exhibited consciousness when they started searching for food like how would they know they were hungry if they had not been conscious at the first place and moreover to be hungry there's a preceding action of consuming food and they couldn't have eaten unless they were conscious at all, they would have never blinked were they not conscious at all and this is the whole problem of evolution theory it can't explain consciousness. It asserts that consciousness has become complex but they just don't get the point its only the degree of being conscious that has changed. Consciousness is still the same as it was in the beginning and it is at now but the degree of being conscious is the one changing , all I can say is that consciousness preceded the formation of the first cellular life or if you have any thought just table it.

  • bold of you to assume i enjoy consciousness

  • If the way to become more intelligent is to look for food, then I'll be a genius in a few years!

  • PLEASE READ :p You can't pinpoint consciousness because it is actually the totality of what we can perceive. Let me explain : we as humans are sensible to a very small fraction of all the spectrum, wich means in a way that our consciousness is the capability to "digest" information from a certain wavelength. We don't need to feel or to be aware of the magnetic field of the earth because we simply don't need this step of consciousness to evolve in our specie. So basically being FULLY conscious would mean that your biological system could interpret 100% of the information given to the universe and therefore know everything about it so : it would be able to view the future with 100% precision, wait wtf ?

  • I forgot how well funded this channel is, I expected that ending to transition into “this episode was sponsored by Doordash”

  • That’s why restaurants are op

  • And people call religion a fairytale lol

  • We know what consciousness is but we still don’t know it’s origins

  • Here we go again

  • This video made me think about isekai anime.

  • Flat earth is consciousness. This content is unconscious.

  • Bing bang lie, evolution lie, "what consciousness is" lie.

  • Stones do have behaviour! They lie around…

  • Consciousness is the Consciousness that sees everything behind and before the eyes. you cannot define it because it cannot be seen, you are it, and you can only be it, but you can never find it as an object of perception

  • The best video ever seen…..


  • Man people will think of anything they possibly can to make sure that the answer to such complexity in the world and ourselves isn’t God. Of course animals had an ACciDenTal mutation that allowed for their simple consciousness right? Who’s to stay it couldn’t happen. Fucking hell such complexity because of MilLioNs of years of accidents. Right.

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