Week 6- Memory + Consciousness by Morgan Oberstein

Thursday’s lecture was very interesting and thought provoking. His slides were very visually pleasing, and the way he presented his ideas kept me very entertained and interested to hear more. Like all of the lectures and ideas presented in this class, it really opened my eyes to a new way of thinking and made me second guess the way in which I was thinking in the first place. Siddharth Ramakrishnan lectured about the idea of consciousness. When I think of the word “consciousness”, I automatically associate it with human beings and our ability to make conscious decisions and be conscious of things that are happening around us. Before this lecture I did not know the extent and complexity of human consciousness. Ramakrishnan’s lecture however, convinced me that consciousness is not just something that human’s have, but animals as well.


Although we are both mammals and have minor similarities, I think of animals as obviously being very different from human beings. However, these thoughts were somewhat altered as I walked out of class last Thursday. Through his lecture, Ramakrishnan showed us examples of animal consciousness, including bees and octopus, chimpanzees and elephants. I found his example of an octopus to be the most interesting.   

An octopus has thousands of tiny pores called cephalopods which enable it to change color and camouflage with its surroundings. An octopus uses its conscious as a process of survival and self protection. It must aware and conscious of its surroundings in order to sense or acknowledge any predators. If or when it does, the octopus becomes conscious that it is in danger and rather than just running away or fleeing, as a human would do, it consciously changes color to blend in with its surroundings. However, the octopus does not just automatically change colors to match its surroundings perfectly, it must be consciously aware of the surrounding and change to the color that will most blend in with the surrounding environment.


            The way in which animals use their conscious varies from animal to animal. For example, when a bee becomes consciously aware that it is in danger, it doesn’t have the ability to change colors to blend in with its environment. Instead, it makes a conscious decision to sting its predators, using its stinger as a defense mechanism. It was very interesting to learn about the conscious decisions that animals make every day. When I think of a bee stinging someone, I think of it as a simple, quick process. Although the process is quick, it isn’t as simple as some may think because the bee is in fact making a conscious effort to protect itself. I think that it is very common for human beings to doubt other species because we feel that we are consciously and intelligently superior, but we do not give other species such as animals close to enough credit as they deserve for the intelligence and consciousness they posses.



By Morgan Oberstein

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