In a recent Scientific American site article (here) I noticed this quote of Peter Watts and found it quite eloquent in its own way.
Consciousness continues to confound us on all fronts we havent even established what its good for, Watts says. Its slow, metabolically expensive, and as far as we can tell unnecessary for intelligence. More fundamentally, we dont have a clue how it works how can the electrical firing of neurons produce the subjective sense of self? How can a bunch of ions hopping the synaptic gap result in the sense of this little thing behind the eyes that calls itself I?
One thing we have discovered is that consciousness involves synchrony groups of neurons firing in sync throughout different provinces of the brain, he says. Something else weve known for some time is that when you split the brain down the middle force the hemispheres to talk the long way around, via the lower brain, instead of using the fat high-bandwidth pipe of the corpus callosum you end up with not one conscious entity but two, and those two entities develop different tastes, opinions, even different religious beliefs.
What this seems to point to is that consciousness is a function of latency it depends upon the synchronous firing of far-flung groups of neurons, and if it takes too long for signals to cross those gaps, consciousness fragments. I decoheres into we, Watts says.