The origin of consciousness was a world-defining event, comparable only with the origin of life itself. But the moment that consciousness emerged is buried deep in the evolutionary record and is hard to identify.
In this article, Simona Ginsburg and Eva Jablonka put forward their new theory about how and when consciousness evolved. They identify a unique marker of minimal consciousness that they believe drove the Cambrian explosion of biodiversity and answers the age-old question of which organisms are conscious.
MuZero is an algorithm with a superhuman ability to learn: it has learned to play 57 different Atari video games as well as Chess, Go and Shogi, and defeated the greatest human masters in every one of them. Yet, this amazing algorithm and the computer in which it is implemented are as conscious as your washing machine. Its “intelligence”, manifest in its learning ability, has nothing to do with consciousness – the ability to feel, perceive and think in the deeply subjective sense that we cherish. If you were told that you would become deprived of all subjective perceptions and feelings, you would be devastated and consider such a life to be meaningless. Intelligence – having the ability to learn and solve complex problems like MuZero does – and consciousness – being the subject of experience – seem to be unrelated.
But are intelligence and consciousness really unrelated? Most people have the strong intuition that clever animals like chimpanzees, dolphins, elephants and dogs are conscious, whereas they are less sure about animals like sea anemones, worms and slugs that show only very simple forms of learning.
SUGGESTED READINGConsciousness Cannot Have EvolvedBy Bernardo KastrupIn the 19th century George John Romanes, an ardent follower of Charles Darwin, articulated this intuition. He interpreted animal psychology within the Darwinian evolutionary framework and defined mind (which he and others of his time used as a synonym for consciousness) in terms of the ability to make learning-based choices:
“The criterion of mind, therefore, which I propose, […] is as follows: – Does the organism learn to make new adjustments, or to modify old ones, in accordance with the results of its own individual experience?” (Romanes 1883).
Romanes thought that most animals were conscious, although the consciousness of the animals with the simplest learning capacity was correspondingly simple. Mind, and the intelligence that marked it, evolved gradually from very simple and fuzzy to very complex. He assumed that the more similar animal intelligence is to human intelligence the more developed its consciousness.
However, as the MuZero example shows, intelligence and consciousness can be decoupled. Do we therefore have to conclude that there is no deep relationship between them and forget about learning as a key to consciousness? We believe that this would amount to throwing out the baby with the bathwater. Although learning is not sufficient for consciousness, we have reached the conclusion that the evolution of learning drove the evolution of consciousness and that the cognitive architecture of complex learning in living organisms constitutes basic consciousness.
The evolution of learning drove the evolution of consciousness and the cognitive architecture of complex learning in living organisms constitutes basic consciousness.
How can we study the evolutionary transition to consciousness?
The possibility that the evolution of learning led to the emergence of consciousness was not initially on our research radar, though our approach to the study of consciousness, has been evolutionary. Not only is evolutionary theory the most powerful theory in biology, but an approach that focuses on the evolutionary origins of consciousness has many specific advantages. For example, identifying the earliest forms of consciousness may offer an answer to the “who is conscious” question, tell us when, and under what ecological conditions consciousness first appeared, what its functions might have been, whether it evolved once or more than once, how it evolved into new, richer forms and what future forms it may take.
Our quest for the evolutionary origins of consciousness was inspired by the work of the Hungarian theoretical chemist Tibor Gánti, who was interested in the nature and origins of life. We used his methodology for investigating the nature of life to study consciousness. Gánti started by characterizing minimal life: he compiled a list of properties that most scientists would agree are sufficient to characterize a very simple (minimal) living being. These included: maintenance of a boundary, metabolism, stability, information storage, regulation of the internal milieu, growth, reproduction, and irreversible disintegration. According to his reasoning, if someone found an entity manifesting all these capacities on Mars, they would be very excited and agree that it is, very probably, a living entity.
Gánti identified a single diagnostic capacity that, when present, requires that all the eight capacities he listed (which suffice for inferring that a system is living) are in place. The diagnostic capacity that marks the presence of a living system was, he proposed, unlimited heredity. This is the capacity to form lineages that vary in open-ended ways from the initial system, so the number of possible different variants is vast. If we find on Mars (or anywhere else in the universe) an entity with the capacity for unlimited heredity, we should be able to re-construct or reverse-engineer on the basis of this capacity the simplest system with all the properties that characterize a living system. On planet Earth it would be something like a proto-cell.
Figure 1: Reconstructing a minimally living system (a protocell) from an unlimited inheritance system (a DNA-like molecule)
We generalized Gánti’s idea, and called a diagnostic capacity that marks the completion of an evolutionary transition to a new mode of being (such as the transition of life, to consciousness or to rational reflection) an evolutionary transition marker. A single, tractable diagnostic marker would make it possible to identify the simplest evolved living or conscious system, reconstruct the processes and structures that underlie it, and figure out how they interact. If the evolution of the marker can be followed, we can discover when and how the mode of being that it marks originated.
Figure 2: A transition marker is a capacity that requires that all the attributes that characterize a mode of being, such as life or consciousness, are in place.
Characterizing minimal consciousness and its evolutionary transition marker
We applied Gánti’s methodology to the study of minimal consciousness. We started by extracting from the literature a list of characteristics that most consciousness researchers would agree are jointly sufficient for the simplest conceivable system to be deemed conscious. These partially overlapping characteristics are:
• Perceiving a composite object or action as an integrated whole with parts that can be discerned and discriminated. For example, a peahen can discriminate among peacocks that differ subtly in their color patterns.
• Bringing together information from different cognitive systems (sensory, motor, memory, and value systems) so that comparisons, discriminations, generalizations and evaluations that inform decision-making can occur: perceiving the python under your bed as long, large, brown, frightening and requiring immediate retreat, is an example.
• Holding on to incoming information long enough for it to be integrated and evaluated, so the present can be said to have duration, being continuous with the immediate past and immediate future.
• Flexibly evaluating perceptions and actions as rewarding or punishing. Values can be changed and differently prioritized when conditions change (for example, sources of danger can become sources of pleasure) and new goals are pursued.
• Selectively excluding or amplifying signals resulting from the effects of changes in the body or in the world according to evaluations based on present and past experience, such as the formation of search images for salient percepts and perceptual blindness to (uninformative) noise.
• Mapping signals from the world and body, and their relations. The maps or representations are constantly updated. The spatial maps constructed by birds and bats are an example.
• Representations must be implemented in a body that is not just reactive but has spontaneous intrinsic activity leading to variations that can be harnessed by selection processes. Exploratory activity enables controlled learning about both the world and one’s own activities.
• Having a stable perspective from which the system can construct models of the world and body and respond to changes in them. Such a system is able to distinguish between the effects of a stimulus that is the result of its own activities and the effects of an identical stimulus that is independent of its own activities. (Think of the effect of being tickled by another person and tickling oneself).
Wherever in the universe an entity that has all these capacities is found, scientists would take the possibility that it is conscious very seriously.
Wherever in the universe an entity that has all these capacities is found, scientists would take the possibility that it is conscious very seriously.
The next step we took was search for an evolutionary transition marker that requires that all the characteristics we listed are in place. We looked at genes, proteins, anatomical brain regions and neurophysiological processes, but none of the many possibilities we examined entailed all the characteristic of consciousness. After a year of searching we found a promising marker: a capacity for open-ended associative learning, which we called unlimited associative learning.
Unlimited associative learning (UAL) refers to an organism’s ability to:
(i) Discriminate among differently organized, novel, multi-featured patterns of sensory stimuli and select among new compound patterns of action. For example, between more and less promising sources of food or mates.
(ii) Learn about a predictive, composite neutral stimulus or action even when there is a time gap between the presentation of the composite stimulus or action and its reinforcement. For example, learning that a sound-pattern predicts danger, even if danger appears few seconds after the sound subsided.
(iii) Alter the value attributed to patterns of sensory stimuli and motor actions when conditions change. For example, learning that a shelter has become a trap when a new predator appeared.
(iv) Use previously learned stimuli and actions as a basis for future learning. For example, birds learn that fire predicts tasty escaping insects and that smoke predict fire (and hence escaping tasty insects).
Unlimited associative learning (UAL) requires that all of the characteristics of minimal consciousness in the list we compiled are in place: it requires that the system has an ability to integrate spatial and temporal information; map relations between objects and actions from a stable point of view; discriminate between different patterns of percepts and different actions; generalize and flexibly transfer what it learned from one domain to another; direct, shift and sustain attention and assign changing values to different models of the body and the world flexibly and rapidly. UAL is an enormously rich and generative learning capacity: the number of associations that can be formed within and between different sensory stimuli during the individual’s lifetime is vast, as is the number of patterns of action that can be linked to them.
Experimental evidence (at present mostly based on human studies) supports our claim that UAL and consciousness are intimately related. UAL can be manifest only when organisms are conscious of the composite stimuli presented to them. UAL tasks, such as complex decision-making and discrimination among new patterns cannot be learned when the relevant stimuli are presented subliminally (unconsciously), while simpler learning tasks can be learned when the stimuli are presented unconsciously.
The consciousness explosion: ancient origins and dramatic effects
If one accepts UAL as an evolutionary marker of minimal consciousness, one can begin to trace its evolutionary origins, the ecological context in which it evolved, and its evolutionary effects. Unlike consciousness, UAL is a tractable cognitive capacity, which has observable behavioral manifestations and which requires supporting brain structures. Both UAL and the brain anatomy supporting it can be studied in living present day organisms, while in well-preserved fossils the brain structures supporting UAL can be identified. What, then, does comparative psychology, anatomy and paleontology tell us about the distribution of UAL and its evolution?
Our survey of the vast (yet very patchy) learning literature of the last 100 years revealed no evidence of UAL in most animal groups, including medusa, flat worms and slugs. It has, so far, been found only in three groups: most of the vertebrates (fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals), some of the arthropods (e.g., crabs, bees, crickets, cockroaches) and some mollusks (the cephalopod – squid, cuttlefish and octopus).. We discovered that although the brains of these animals are anatomically very different, they have similar functional units that generate models of the world, the body, and prospective actions, a memory system that can store composite representations, and an integrating and flexible system that evaluates and updates them. This cognitive architecture gives us a clue to the function of consciousness: it enables the organism to make context-dependent decisions that are based on its subjectively-experienced perceptions and motivations. In the words of William James, who laid the foundations of consciousness studies, consciousness is “a fighter for ends, of which many, but for its presence, would not be ends at all” (James, 1890, James’s emphasis).
Once we know which brain structures can support UAL we could begin to find out when it evolved. The fossil record told us that in arthropods and vertebrates brain structures that could support UAL and consciousness first appeared during the Cambrian era, a geologically short period beginning 542 million years ago (MYA) and ending 485 MYA. This era is aptly called the Cambrian explosion, because it was during this period that almost all currently existing animal phyla originated and diversified. The cephalopods mollusks appeared in the fossil record 250 million years later, so UAL and consciousness seem to have originated more than once and the first origins of UAL are very ancient indeed.
Animal evolution ever since has been guided and driven by the perceptions, motivations, aversions, appetites and choices of learning, conscious animals.
Unlimited associative learning was an adaptive strategy that dramatically expanded the ability of animals to learn to exploit new environmental resources during their own lifetime. So was it one of the engines that drove the Cambrian explosion? We believe that it was. The abilities of associatively-learning animals made them more effective predators, more discriminating mates, and more evasive prey. They exerted enormous selection pressure on interacting species, leading to co-evolutionary arms races – to the evolution of adaptations and counter-adaptations. This, we believe, fueled the rapid, explosive, adaptive Cambrian diversification. Animal evolution ever since has been guided and driven by the perceptions, motivations, aversions, appetites and choices of learning, conscious animals. The intricate, sensory, motor and social patterns such as the seductive adornments of male peacocks, the haunting songs of nightingales and whales, the elaborate patterns of warning, attracting and camouflaging of insects and the rich colors and smells of flowers would not exist was it not for the ability of learning, conscious animals to discriminate among mates, cooperators, competitors and prey and predator species. Life would be much impoverished without consciousness.
Figure 3: Would the beautiful patterns on the body of the male fish have evolved were it not for the female’s ability to discriminate and choose among subtly different male adornments?
Once in place, consciousness and learning evolved further. Imaginative, planning animals, like great apes, elephants and crows, which are not only conscious of the actual present reality but also of the virtual realities of the past and the future – appeared. And in the human lineage, a powerful capacity for symbolic communication and representation evolved, leading to further reality-expansions through the creation of artefacts and learning algorithms like MuZero.
Acknowledgement: We thank Marion Lamb for her critical and constructive comments.
Readers who want to delve deeper into our ideas can read The Evolution of the Sensitive Soul: Learning and the Origins of Consciousness by Simona Ginsburg and Eva Jablonka MIT Press, 2019. The citation by Romanes is from: Romanes, G.J. (1883). Mental Evolution in Animals, with a Posthumous Essay on Instinct by Charles Darwin. London: Kegan Paul, Trench & Co, pp. 20−21. The citation by James is from: James, W. (1890). The Principles of Psychology. New York: Dover Publications, vol 1, p. 141.
Pictures 1 and 2 are taken from an art-science book Picturing the Mind: Consciousness through the Lens of Evolution (due in February 2022, MIT Press; Simona Ginsburg and Eva Jablonka (Texts); Anna Zeligowski: Art), with permission of MIT press. All three pictures were drawn by Anna Zeligowski.
What is the evolutionary origin of consciousness? ›
In Darwinian evolution, consciousness would have occurred initially some 200 million years ago in relation to the primitive cerebral cortices of evolving mammals.Who was the first conscious person? ›
Consciousness began with humans, homo sapiens, around 200,000 years ago. Consciousness began when human culture became advanced, around 3,000 years ago (Julian Jaynes). Consciousness does not exist, as it is just a scientific mistake (behaviorism} or a “user illusion” (Daniel Dennett).Is consciousness an evolutionary trait? ›
Yet one of our most important biological traits, consciousness, is rarely studied in the context of evolution. Theories of consciousness come from religion, from philosophy, from cognitive science, but not so much from evolutionary biology.What makes a person conscious? ›
Consciousness is your individual awareness of your unique thoughts, memories, feelings, sensations, and environments. Essentially, your consciousness is your awareness of yourself and the world around you. This awareness is subjective and unique to you.What are the 3 stages of consciousness? ›
Sigmund Freud divided human consciousness into three levels of awareness: the conscious, preconscious, and unconscious. Each of these levels corresponds to and overlaps with Freud's ideas of the id, ego, and superego.What are the 3 main functions of the consciousness? ›
According to C.G. Jung consciousness is comprised of four aspects -thinking, feeling, sensing and intuiting.Who founded consciousness? ›
The origin of the modern concept of consciousness is often attributed to Locke's Essay Concerning Human Understanding, published in 1690. Locke defined consciousness as "the perception of what passes in a man's own mind".What is the highest level of human consciousness? ›
Finally, unity consciousness, 7th state of consciousness—the complete identification with the unified field of all laws of nature—is the highest state of human development possible. In this state of consciousness, there is no separation between oneself and to creation.At what point did humans become self aware? ›
Humans begin to develop a sense of self and pass the MSR test starting around 18 months of age, and by 24–36 months, almost all western children will show a positive MSR response (Amsterdam, 1972).What are the 4 pillars of evolutionary theory? ›
There are four principles at work in evolution—variation, inheritance, selection and time. These are considered the components of the evolutionary mechanism of natural selection.
What are the five characteristics of consciousness? ›
William James wrote five characteristics of the streaming way conscious thinking occurs: consciousness is personal and is changing, consciousness has a fringe and focus, consciousness includes the apprehension of relationships, consciousness is selective, and consciousness deals with inner states and external realities ...Is consciousness in the DNA? ›
Genes that pattern the proposed elements of consciousness (isomorphism, neural crest, placodes) have been identified in all vertebrates. Thus, consciousness is in the genes, some of which are already known.Where is our consciousness located? ›
Neuroscientists believe that, in humans and mammals, the cerebral cortex is the “seat of consciousness,” while the midbrain reticular formation and certain thalamic nuclei may provide gating and other necessary functions of the cortex (12).What controls the conscious mind? ›
The brain stem connects the cerebrum with the spinal cord. It contains a system of nerve cells and fibers (called the reticular activating system) located deep within the upper part of the brain stem. This system controls levels of consciousness and alertness.Where does our consciousness go when we sleep? ›
Consciousness fades when brain regions stop talking to each other. Prepare to doze. Monitoring the brains of sleeping volunteers may provide clues about the nature of consciousness. Scientists may have gained an important insight into the age-old mystery of why consciousness fades as we nod off to sleep.What is a level 4 consciousness? ›
The fourth level of human consciousness is about finding freedom and autonomy. You will want to discover who you are beyond the parental programming and cultural conditioning you received during your formative years.What are the 5 dimensions of consciousness? ›
The model contains five dimensions: 1) Time perspective, 2) Agency beliefs, 3) Openness to alternatives, 4) Systems perception and 5) Concern for others.What are the 7 types of consciousness? ›
The seven states of consciousness are: waking, dreaming, sleeping, transcendental consciousness, cosmic consciousness, God consciousness and unity consciousness.What is the prime purpose of consciousness? ›
Consciousness, via volitional action, increases the likelihood that an organism will direct its attention, and ultimately its movements, to whatever is most important for its survival and reproduction.What are the 4 types of consciousness? ›
Consequently, it seems reasonable to differentiate the following four dimensions of consciousness: the phenomenological, the semantic, the physiological, and the functional (adapted from Jonkisz, 2012, 2015). Each of these will be characterized below.
How many realms of consciousness are there? ›
There are four primary realms of consciousness accessible to human beings: subconscious, supraconscious, super consciousness, hell. The subconscious realm is present on the left side; the supraconscious realm on the right side.What is the theory of consciousness? ›
The theory begins with the observation that when you are conscious of something, many different parts of your brain have access to that information. If, on the other hand, you act unconsciously, that information is localized to the specific sensory motor system involved.What is consciousness in the Bible? ›
It is a knowing beyond knowledge. It is supernatural. As a Christian, the author is convinced that God is the one who causes a conscious spiritual awakening and personally reveals himself to individuals in their own unique way. Expressly, they become conscious of God.At what age are humans conscious? ›
The tentative answer to the guiding question is that children become consciously aware between 12 and 15 months (+/-3 months).What is the lowest form of consciousness? ›
The lowest level of consciousness one can ever be at is that of shame. At this level of awareness, we see ourselves and others in a very despising way. We loathe ourselves and others, and we see our life as miserable. Our main emotion is humiliation, and we go about life through a process of elimination.What are the two 2 types of self that we can be aware of? ›
Two states of self-awareness
There are two distinct kinds of self-awareness, public and private.
As early humans faced new environmental challenges and evolved bigger bodies, they evolved larger and more complex brains. Large, complex brains can process and store a lot of information. That was a big advantage to early humans in their social interactions and encounters with unfamiliar habitats.What are the 5 principles of evolution? ›
Natural selection is a simple mechanism that causes populations of living things to change over time. In fact, it is so simple that it can be broken down into five basic steps, abbreviated here as VISTA: Variation, Inheritance, Selection, Time and Adaptation.What are the 5 theories of evolution? ›
In fact, we may distinguish five theories that Darwin combined: evolution as such, common descent, gradualism, multiplication of species, and natural selection.What are the 5 concepts of evolution? ›
The five theories were: (1) evolution as such, (2) common descent, (3) gradualism, (4) multiplication of species, and (5) natural selection.
What are the 16 levels of consciousness? ›
From low to high, the levels of consciousness are: shame, guilt, apathy, grief, fear, desire, anger, pride, courage, neutrality, willingness, acceptance, reason, love, joy, peace, enlightenment.What are the 2 main functions of consciousness? ›
According to Morsella (2005), for example, cognitive psychologists generally agree that consciousness functions to “integrate neural activities and information-processing structures that would otherwise be independent,” which she calls the “integration consensus” (p. 1002).What are 4 examples of altered states of consciousness? ›
There are also many common experiences that create altered states of consciousness (ASC), such as sleeping or daydreaming, sleep deprivation, euphoria or panic. Dream state, hypnosis, and meditation are also considered as ASC.Can your thoughts control your DNA? ›
In fact, Dr. Lipton's research illustrates that by changing your perception, your mind can alter the activity of your genes and create over thirty thousand variations of products from each gene.Can a human have two consciousness? ›
The idea of dual consciousness has caused controversy in the neuroscience community. No conclusive evidence of the proposed phenomenon has been discovered.Do thoughts alter DNA? ›
Some of the key findings suggest that that too much stress related thinking speeds up cellular aging, which can make us more susceptible to illness and disease. In other words, our thoughts can damage our DNA. Blackburn and Epel found 5 patterns of thought which can damage our chromosomes.Is consciousness in the brain or heart? ›
Electrical signals coming from your heart and other organs influence how you perceive the world, the decisions you take, your sense of who you are and consciousness itself.Can the mind exist without the brain? ›
The prevailing consensus in neuroscience is that consciousness is an emergent property of the brain and its metabolism. When the brain dies, the mind and consciousness of the being to whom that brain belonged ceases to exist. In other words, without a brain, there can be no consciousness.Can consciousness exist outside the brain? ›
Neuroscience today says consciousness is generated by and localized in the brain because it emerges from brain activity. Alternatively, we propose that consciousness may not originate in the brain, although some aspects of human perception of consciousness may be dependent on the brain.How do you unlock consciousness? ›
- Live Mindfully.
- Set Intention.
- Act Consciously.
- Awaken. Become more aware of what is going on inside you, inside others and in the world around you.
- Live mindfully. Consciously pay attention to your thoughts and feelings.
- Set intention. ...
- Act consciously.
How do I shut down my conscious mind? ›
- Stop and Breath. The first step to gaining control over your subconscious may seem a little counteractive, but in fact, it's this inactivity that sets you on the right path. ...
- Meditation. ...
- Mantras. ...
- Yoga. ...
- Take time to yourself.
There are many methods for unlocking your subconscious mind power. The most popular techniques are meditation, guided visualization, and hypnosis. Their effectiveness in this case depends on the individual's mental state.What time does the body repair itself? ›
Between the times of 10:00 pm and 2:00 am the body goes through a dramatic process of physical repair. Between roughly 2:00 am and 6:00 am the body will go through a process of psychological repair. A disrupted sleep pattern will cause the Cortisol to elevate and negatively affect the regenerative process.What happens to your brain when you sleep high? ›
Short-term cannabis use appears to increase the time you spend in deep sleep, the stage that helps you wake up feeling refreshed. However, THC decreases the amount of time you spend in rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, when you spend more time dreaming, processing emotions, and cementing new memories.Why do we lose consciousness when we hit your head? ›
The heaviest part of the brain puts a lot of pressure on the brainstem, which can be twisted and pulled during the blow as the rest of the brain moves out of place. That twisting and pulling can cause brain circuits to break, or lose their insulation, or get kinked up, and that shuts off parts of the brain.Where does consciousness come from science? ›
Somehow, within each of our brains, the combined activity of billions of neurons, each one a tiny biological machine, is giving rise to a conscious experience. And not just any conscious experience, your conscious experience, right here, right now.Where did stream of consciousness originate? ›
Article. The term 'stream of consciousness' was first coined by psychologist William James in The Principles of Psychology in 1893, when he describes it thusly: “consciousness as an uninterrupted 'flow': 'a 'river' or a 'stream' are the metaphors by which it is most naturally described.When did humans develop a conscience? ›
First of all, there could be little doubt that humans had a conscience 45,000 years ago, which is the conservative date that all archaeologists agree on for our having become culturally modern. Having a conscience and morality go with being culturally modern.Who is the father of consciousness? ›
|Notable ideas||Will to believe doctrine pragmatic theory of truth radical empiricism James–Lange theory of emotion psychologist's fallacy brain usage theory soft determinism dilemma of determinism stream of consciousness James's theory of the self the term multiverse|
Who is the father of stream of consciousness? ›
The term was first used by the psychologist William James in The Principles of Psychology (1890). As the psychological novel developed in the 20th century, some writers attempted to capture the total flow of their characters' consciousness, rather than limit themselves to rational thoughts.What is the theory of stream of consciousness? ›
The stream of consciousness is a metaphor describing how thoughts seem to flow through the conscious mind. Research studies have shown that we only experience one mental event at a time as a fast-moving mind stream.What are the four states of consciousness? ›
In verses 3 to 6, the Mandukya Upanishad enumerates four states of consciousness: wakeful, dream, deep sleep and the state of ekatma (being one with Self, the oneness of Self). These four are A + U + M + "without an element" respectively.Why did God give us a conscience? ›
Conscience helps us hear the voice of God; it helps us recognize the truth about God and the truth about how we ought to live. Conscience is "a judgment of reason"1 by which we determine whether an action is right or wrong. Jesus told the apostles, "If you love me, you will keep my commandments" (John 14:15).What is evolution of the conscious mind? ›
Conscious evolution refers to the theoretical ability of human beings to be conscious participants in the evolution of their cultures, or even of the entirety of human society, based on a relatively recent combination of factors, including increasing awareness of cultural and social patterns, reaction against perceived ...