In the IMPROVISING CONSCIOUSNESS lectures Professor Årnstay links different mind configurations to radical upheavals in the earth’s climate.
The Walkthrough Mind (2.5M 12K BCE) is a prelinguistic, collective consciousness that allows early humans to detect complex analogical patterns in the world and exploit them for survival. Over the millennia the brain develops distinct and sophisticated cognitive modules grounded in specific worldly domains: food; earth/space; sky/time; wayfaring; materials etc. (lecture one)
In The Reconfigurable Mind Professor Årnstay discusses the switch from the ancient Walkthrough Mind to the Bicameral Mind, with its two very different chambers. First she backtracks to explain the evolution of the language module (~400K BCE), specialized for the group domain & handling social interactions, located on the left side of the brain. Then she describes the chaotic time at the end of the last ice age (~12K BCE). Rapid climate swings lead to food shortages. The right side of the brain (the modules specialized for the domains of the world) leverages the new language module sending auditory hallucinations to the left side, telling the group what to do: plant here, water, come back tomorrow, do it again. Humans survive by developing agriculture. (lecture two)
The Bicameral Mind is the dominant mind configuration from 12K- 3K BCE. Over this period humans come to belief that the voice in their head in the voice of God. Consciousness and memory reside not at the level of the individual but at the level of the village, and as as the villages grow, at the level of the city. Professor Årnstay tries to destabalize your everyday mindset and give you a sense of what it’s like live with such a mind. (lecture three)
Next Professor Årnstay discusses the origin of Linguistic Consciousness in the breakdown of the Bicameral Mind in ~3K BCE. This adaptation is in response to another round of chaos both environmental and human-made: volcanic eruptions, climate disturbance, food shortages and wars. An individualized linguistic consciousness supported by narrative operations emerges; an I that is not dependent on the city for existence, but can carry itself and the stories/memories of itself around in its own head. The Istruct Mind that emerges is your own familiar mind configuration. (lecture four)
The Istruct Mind (3K BCE 2.5K CE) This period sees the complete domination of the language module of the brain. This is a successful adaptation as can be attested by the increasing global dominance of humans. However, that success carries the seeds of disaster. As human activity spawns the Anthropocene collapse it becomes clear that the domination of a cognitive module specialized for handling the human social group has become a problem. (lecture five)
The Dislocated Mind ( 2,500-3,000 CE) develops in response to the chaos of the Anthropocene. This new mind configuration, with multiple and non-linguistic consciousnesses rooted both in the deep history of humans in landscape and technological advances, makes survival of the Anthropocene possible for humans and non-humans. (lecture 6)