Hi BK,

I wrote something about free will and consciousness (I’ll post a link below) and then headed out to see what others had to say. I like your article and the way you think through all this. I have similar preoccupations. It’s a bit hard to comment, though, because your article was so wide-ranging…might even be worth breaking it up into a 5 piece series and putting it back out there. Instead, I’ll lob an idea into the mix.

I have a theory — or at least a story — about what shapes a lot of our consciousness and morality. We start with a primate approaching our brain size with fire and hunting tools. (We had fire and tools at approximately 2/3 our current brain size.)

There’s a concept called planning depth. In a game, it’s how many moves ahead you can think ahead. Life isn’t nicely divided up into moves but it’s a useful framework. So now you have a primate extending its planning depth as it evolves adding to its ability to survive.

And then comes the ‘oh, shit’ moment. The ability to think ahead drops the death of the individual, family, and tribe right in the main current of a key survival tool powered by the impulse to not die. Enter God, eternal life, a lot of the sort of echoing nature of our consciousness, etc. (Perhaps our ability to reflect is an echo of the back flow when we hit the big wall?)

Neitzche asks how we maintain meaning once we pull out the props and are left facing an uncaring material universe and our own inevitable demise. It’s a good question.