The latest Because Science video takes on the challenge of quantifying consciousness in honor of the new Ghost in the Shell movie. At its most fundamental level, being conscious means being awake and able to process information. The confusing part about consciousness is that it “feels” to us like it exists in our heads, but inside the skull is the brain, and nothing more. Consciousness is also more complex for humans when compared to any other living creature. So where is consciousness located?
The idea that Ghost in the Shell gives us is that downloading consciousness into a robotic body allows us to compare the weight of a human body with and without its ghost, or consciousness. Does the brain simply contain data that expresses human consciousness that can itself be quantified? Or is consciousness inextricable from the brain, simply our subjective experience of having a prefrontal cortex?
If we are nothing more than our consciousness, then we are made up of signals moving between neurons. If we can master the technology to change the storage system for those signals and the data they’re sending, the mass of the ghost could change; would its character? In the video, the host (Kyle) says that estimates for how much data your brain holds range from one terabyte to one petabyte. He goes on to explore calculating the weight of your consciousness—and that of every single human on earth—and arrives at a surprising conclusion.