René Descartes once wrote, "I think, therefore I am." As useful as inarguable as that may be, the French philosopher hasn't really helped us answer the biggest mystery of all: why is human consciousness so advanced that we are capable of creating the Mona Lisa, MySpace and My Chemical Romance? How did we come so far that we can ponder our own existence, and question our role in the seemingly infinite universe, while—at the same time—scroll through dozens, if not hundreds, of pictures of cats playing with boxes?
Human consciousness is truly the greatest mystery there's. It is, in essence, the very mystery of life. And, honestly, science isn't much help. Sure, some scientists have figured out that it's the results of neurons firing in your brain in unique ways, but that's just the mechanism, and it tells us surprisingly little. In November 2016, some clever neurologists at the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center also claimed to have "pinpointed the regions of the brain that may play a role maintaining [consciousness]"—surely a shocking discovery, but we forgive you if your mind isn't blown by the revelation that the seat of your consciousness is somewhere in your brain. The Division of Anthropology at the American Museum of Natural History claims that the origin of human consciousness was an accident, while others at Princeton claim that our awareness is "a construct of the social perceptual machinery." Fight the power, man!
The deeper you dig into the leading research on human consciousness, the more you realize we're not really any closer to finding a definitive answer than we were ages ago. Thus, at least for now, we're back to turning to Descartes.