Why Aren’t Plants Conscious?

I suggested the idea that consciousness arose from the necessity of putting together the disparate processes of multi-modular brains in such a way that it can result into a decision to bring forth a single action.


For example a visual input would be made to interfere with a memory module and the result will be a threat… And action has to be taken fast. 

That’s why animals have consciousness: because they need lots of fast paced actions, thus lots of fast paced decisions. Why are animals fast? Because they need to move to exploit… the plants… and avoid predation.

As plants get their energy from the sun, passively, they can afford to react slow: orienting branches and leaves just so doesn’t have to be rushed.

The more complex the inputs, the more subtle the computations. The more different inputs, the more modules, distant modules, and thus the more consciousness to handle it all together.

We flowers are, and yet we don’t think, because we don’t need to. Just like the average bimbo. [BTW, I climbed a new route up the steepest part of the fierce, sharp black peak in the background, the Drus… since then, caused by global heating, the entire face collapsed…]

Predation is part of the computations, predation complicates the universe of inputs. It’s like the Hilbert space attached to each and any Quantum process… in reverse. The analogy with Quantum Physics is total. In Quantum physics, any fundamental (“Quantum”) process gets to know the totality, all over, instantaneously, before collapsing to a single energy exchange, the “particle”. Each Quantum process evolves in a Hilbert space spanned by possible outcomes… and ends with one particle, an energy transfer. A Conscious process evolves in a space spanned by possible inputs (most internal to the brain at hand), and ends with a decision… which is also an energy transfer.

Because plants can afford to live slow, they don’t need to compute fast, they don’t need spread-out inputs, thus no consciousness… In light of the human condition, reflection without action is congelation without resuscitation. In other words, if one doesn’t act, one doesn’t need to think.

It goes without saying that, on a planet older than Earth by say, a billion years, it’s not excluded that fast plants would evolve. After all, flowering plants, and their attending pollinating insects and birds, are recent on Earth… Even more recent than mammals… Fast plants means plants taking quick decisions, smart plants, with spread-out inputs, and thus conscious plants…

Animals are intrinsically exploitative, plunderers (praedators, in Latin): animals depend upon plants, or animals eating plants, thus they need to move fast, smart, making the whole out there into the one they are, thanks to that gathering together we call consciousness. Plants, the ultimate pacifists, are none of this, so need none of that.

If you want to evolve consciousness, prepare to plunder… (Said creation to evolution.)

Patrice Ayme


P/S 1. A related question is the nature of mathematics, long debated. That too has a neurological angle, and a consciousness angle.

Mathematics is real, as a set of neurological construct (or, more exactly of categories, in the technical sense found in the foundations of mathematics). Mathematics is fleshed up by consciousness, as distant modules get connected, and logical arrows followed.

Real science looks also at the built of the universe itself, not just one’s navel. In other words, mathematics tends to look at the universe inside the brain, and physics, more outside.

The ill-conceived “Multiverse” sprang out of mathematics of convenient, simplistic interpretations of Quantum Physics, thus human neurology, not the universe in full.


P/S 2. Interestingly, one meta-principle in action above is “E Pluribus Unum” (Long the motto of the USA; first used by a London based French Huguenot journalist). In consciousness, out of many inputs, one output. In Quantum Physics, out of many possibilities, one output (the proverbial “Quantum”). View the “possibility” (“Eigenvector” in Quantum Mechanics axiomatics) as an input, and the analogy with consciousness is total… As Maxwell would say, if it looks so much the same, it should be the same…

Heraclitus‘s tenth fragment guessed this general meta principle: “The one is made up of all things, and all things issue from the one” (ἐκ πάντων ἓν καὶ ἐξ ἑνὸς πάντα). Of course, in Quantum Physics, this is now proven: each Quantum process needs a whole, the Hilbert H, to get to the particle (my slight difference with Einstein is that he has the particle always… mine is created… With consciousness, we need to prove something like that…

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4 Responses to “Why Aren’t Plants Conscious?”

  1. Gmax Says:

    Sci fi talked about this a bit, like in Avatar. There the plants talk to the animals. You say that makes no sense?


  2. John Goldman Says:

    Some plants are parasitic.
    There are fast moving plants.
    And there are plants with no roots.
    A fast moving unrooted parasitic plant with eyes is an animal.
    Beautiful flowers and scenery.
    Do you know that Ockham is near Wisely?


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