# Consciousness is intentionally ordered information
Many people may get quite mystical when they talk about consciousness, but like many aspects of human being, consciousness can be explained from biological perspective. Consciousness is a part of our brain where information collected by our senses can be evaluated and acted upon. Without consciousness, we will respond to information in an instinctive way (Mihaly 24). Consciousness is unique in such a way that it’s self-directed, it has developed the ability to override its genetic programming.
As there is no single branch of science that deals with how consciousness works, Mihaly simplifies the concept of consciousness by presenting it based on phenomenology (think phenomena, events) and information theory which can be summarised as intentionally ordered information (Mihaly 26). He removes the complexity of how consciousness works, and focus from the perspective of the information themselves and how we can direct their course by intent.
Imagine that we feel hunger, a piece of information that have just entered of our consciousness. By our genetic programming, we may form an intent to find foods when we feel hunger. But as consciousness is self-directed, we could have a stronger opposite intent not to find foods. If we have the intent to lose weight, for example, we may disregard the feeling of hunger and carry on with our day. From biological perspective, we may go into the detail of how the level of blood sugar is forcing us to find foods, but this is phenomenologically irrelevant in Mihaly’s model.
Mihaly, Flow (p. 24).
In this sense, it functions as a clearinghouse for sensations, perceptions, feelings, and ideas, establishing priorities among all the diverse information. Without consciousness we would still “know” what is going, but we would have to react to it in a reflexive, instinctive way.
Mihaly, Flow (p. 26).
[…] The events that constitute consciousness - the “things” we see, feel, think, and desire are information that we can manipulate and use. Thus we might think of consciousness as intentionally ordered information.
Mihaly, Flow (p. 27).
We mall intentions the force that keeps information in consciousness ordered. Intentions arise in consciousness whenever a person is aware of desiring something or wanting to accomplish something. Intentions are also bits of information, shaped either by biological needs or by internalised social goals. They act as magnetic fields, moving attention toward some objects and away from others, keeping our mind focused on some still in preference to others.
- To control consciousness is to override biological and social instruction
- Understanding that Consciousness is intentionally ordered information is the key to control consciousness. Most of us have our intents coming either from biological instruction or social instruction. We form goals based on these instructions, such as living a long and healthy life or to get a job. As our intents are coming from a hierarchy goals, we could actually have a higher level goal up in the hierarchy that overrides those biological instruction or social instruction.
- The limits of consciousness
- Humans are constrained by biological limits, and our consciousness has its limits too. Because Consciousness is intentionally ordered information, the limit that we want to understand is how many bits of information can we process. Apparently, we can only handle 110 bits of information per second. For us to understand what another person is talking about, we must also process roughly about 60 bits of information per second, which is why we can’t simultaneously listen to 2 people talking that well.