The book describes the development of consciousness in animals and humans, demonstrating its causes and utility in social behaviour, and particularly the group behaviour of primates and Homo sapiens.
The human group, with its moral burden, was initially the means by which humans were able to develop society and culture; the process culminated in the emergence of the State, which is portrayed as a perversion of the natural, ethical 'groupishness' of humans. But the book shows how the Internet and the globalization of human society that it engenders will reclaim the moral high ground for individuals.
Individuality is seen as a social tool – self-awareness emerged to allow the 'Human Agent' to function effectively in a group, social setting. But our felt conscious awareness is detached from the workings of the underlying human psyche; at a conscious level, we often deceive ourselves and others, for once valid evolutionary reasons. By now this does more harm than good – but there is a way out!
Our self-awareness allows us to consider improving ourselves and the condition of the individual in society; and technology presents multiple opportunities for this. The book ends with an exploration of the future of consciousness, and by extension the future of people.
Although the emergence of consciousness is initially described at an anatomical and neural level, supporting material is included to assist the general reader in understanding the technical details.
There are of course many books about consciousness, but they tend to focus on particular aspects:
In general, existing books on consciousness fail to treat of the causes and purposes of consciousness, and so they are unable to construct a predictive theory of the future for consciousness. There are some honourable exceptions, but many of them were written years or even decades ago, and do not reflect modern cognitive scientific achievement.
Agent Human is the first book which combines a rigorous treatment of the biological and behavioural underpinnings of consciousness with a comprehensive theory of human agency, thus allowing robust predictions of the future both of human society and of consciousness itself, the human species' greatest achievement.
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