I'd like to criticise the preceding writeup, I hope constructively
I just find the first part confusing. It seems to be saying "the unconscious is conscious too" - since "unaware thinking" can't be anything but unconscious. (I don't believe in an "internal monologue", since I don't think in a sequence of words - it requires conscious effort to express thoughts in verbal form, and when I do they usually come out to be something slightly different from the original intention. For me, the "stream-of-consciousness" style works by creating a sympathetic stream of consciousness in the reader's mind, not by actually reproducing the consciousness of its subject.) But that's not important for the rest of the argument. (If it means that what cannot be put into words is a major part of consciousness, it seems to contradict it, if anything.)
A distinguishing feature of thought in the brain, be it verbal, inchoate, (un)conscious, (un)aware, is action - dynamics - motion; being out of equilibrium. The storage medium, however, like a book or a music manuscript, just sits there: in equilibrium. An essential requirement for consciousness is changefulness and the possibility of reacting on itself. The medium is an inanimate object that acts as a stimulus to change the consciousness of whoever plugs in to, reads, or plays it. If I can take the musical analogy further, no two performances of the same piece are the same; you never read the same book twice, since every time you are a different person.
"Consciousness would migrate out of the brain and into the storage unit" sounds deeply problematic. If this really happened, you'd be left brain-dead. I hope it'd be more like writing a book: you create something inanimate outside yourself that nevertheless has an intimate - if rather mysterious - connection to your thoughts at the time.
Imagine you wrote some notes of a wonderful new idea down on a bit of paper. Then the next morning, or years later, you find it and wonder what the hell you were thinking of. If one person can't even store his or her thoughts reliably, what hope for communication between people?
Yet it occurs, which shows that communication isn't thought transfer. The skill of good writers is in using words which most readers will associate with particular thoughts, because the readers have some experiences in common, and in coordinating these thoughts to stimulate the reader's consciousness in an organised, or cunningly disorganised, way. Still, people read the same novel and come up with incredibly different interpretations of what the author intended, or was thinking of. To be pedestrian, people have radically different experiences of the same thing, so to name the thing in a book will lead to radically different states of consciousness in different people.
A book is a connection between two minds, to be sure, but with a high degree of anti-redundancy. What does this mean? - the book only gets its meaning when read, and a lot of the information that goes into the meaning comes from the previous experiences of the reader. On the most basic level, this includes the experiences that enable such a reader to learn the meanings of words. To get metaphorical, meaning, thought, consciousness lie dormant in a medium, hibernating until the next human interaction - then emerge as a changed species in a different brain.
Now, how would this electronic storage medium work? By picking up the detailed electrical activity of the neurons, I guess. Here comes the crunch: how would one read back such a medium? Presumably, by its (re)creating some neuronal state in one's brain, or by feeding back the electrical activity to the appropriate places. But even given the required technical expertise this creates a host of problems.
What might it feel like? What happens to the thoughts that you had in that bit of the brain just before the readback? Suppose the configuration of your neural connections had changed in the meantime, so that the same pattern of activity had a different meaning? Suppose the essence of the thought actually involved some far-lying neurons that didn't get picked up by the scan? (There's non-locality, if you like.) Well, then let's make it a whole-brain scan. Then you would be resetting your entire neuronal state - ad then you would proceed to think the same thoughts as before ad infinitum, until jolted out of the repeat by external events. Now imagine trying to feed someone else's neuronal activity into your own brain, with the catch that the other guy's neurons are, as always, configured totally differently to yours. Like feeding a Fortran program into a C compiler - or sticking cogs into your gas tank?
Unlike wire-in-the-head, books and websites have a language, a set of sounds or symbols common to different people, which are associated with particular things or actions by repeated usage. In order to use the wire-in-the-head, you'd have to develop a neuronal language which allowed you to make sense of the assault of impulses from the wire. Your brain isn't set up to deal with this sort of input: whatever comes out of the neuronal feed surely won't be in the form of words.
"Consciousness can be seen as flowing freely through all manner of different media. We tend to identify our brains as its centre only because in our brains thoughts can interact with one another, recombine, produce new thoughts, so much more rapidly than anywhere else."
Flowing like ketchup
... uh, sorry, my mind was wandering. There seems to be a confusion
here between the cargo and the ship. The media enable information to travel safely from one place to another, but it only becomes thought once unpacked at the destination. What kind of thought, depends on who is doing the unpacking. "Consciousness flowing" is a fine metaphor
, but no more than a metaphor.
It would be great if thoughts could breed and interact while they were outside brains. Or indeed, if thoughts existed at all outside brains. Just think of it - you write down a few sentences in a notebook, then next day they've had a litter. In reality, the sentences don't even know that they're supposed to be thoughts - they just sit there until the next English-speaking human comes along. We call them thoughts because they stimulate our consciousness in interesting ways.