. 1
( 2 .)



>>

10
The Tale of
Big Head Bill


The Alien Drug
I once was like you, a mere human, common in every way.
My thoughts were filled with events of the day, dinner plans,
my wife in her new red dress, the faces of my children. I was
a psychologist by trade. What a wonderful thing to happen to
one who studies the mind. Even now it is hard for me to believe
that the adventure only began a year ago, the day the alien probe
reached earth, the first day of my unimaginable new life. My
name is Bill, and I would like to tell you my story.
We still do not know what race of beings sent the probe, or
why it only contained a single vial of pills. They must have
meant it as a gift. I certainly accept it as such, the most
incredible gift ever received by a human. My colleagues were
eventually able to analyze the drug, at least in part. They found
it to be similar to DNA, but far more complex, and probably
created by engineering rather than evolution. Our own DNA
contains the blueprint to create a human brain in the developing
fetus. As we soon found, the alien drug was capable of creating
a better brain. Many volunteered to take the drug, but I was
accorded the honor and accepted it gladly.
The first changes were dramatic, but not necessarily outside
the realm of common experience. I would describe it as a
greatly heightened awareness, much like being under the
influence of a strong stimulant. I was more awake that I have
ever been in my life. It seemed I was conscious of everything
I saw, heard, smelled, tasted, and touched. I understood and
scrutinized every word that was spoken to me. I continually
perceived details that others soon ignored, such as the drip of a

157
The Inner Light Theory of Consciousness
158

leaky faucet or the smell of a stuffy room. My thoughts were
clear and open to introspection. I liked it; it seemed to be my
normal human mind operating at its fullest capacity.
But soon I realized that more was going on than mere
stimulation of my existing abilities; the boundaries of my
awareness were expanding. I began to understand processes in
my mind that were previously unknown to me; portions of my
unconscious were gradually becoming conscious. It was as if a
dense fog had always hidden the foundations of my mind. Day-
by-day the mist dissipated, allowing me to perceive the vast and
wondrous network that creates who I am.

Decisions, Thoughts, and Emotions
During the first few weeks I came to fully understand my
thoughts and decision making. These are the most complex and
abstract processes in my mental world, lying just outside of my
original awareness. For instance, news reporters frequently ask
me why I decided to take the alien drug. Before the changes I
could only give them vague answers. I knew beyond doubt that
it must be done, but how and why I came to this conclusion
seemed unexplainable. My decisions came to me without basis
or reason; they just appeared in my consciousness. But the alien
drug provided total clarity. I now can see that my mind has
been shaped by decades of human experience, from playing
with the toys in my crib, to struggling with calculus in college.
My thoughts originate and are shaped by the totality of this
accumulated knowledge, and my expanded mind can perceive
it all. I could now write a book on why I decided to take the
drug, outlining my reasons in the finest detail, citing the
influence of every experience in my life. It became so obvious,
once the cloud obscuring the workings of my mind was finally
lifted.
Perhaps most enlightening of all, I learned that my emotions
are nothing more than decisions. Let me relate an example from
my life. I was walking home late one night in a rather bad part
of the city, when a robber approached me and demanded
Chapter 10: The Tale of Big Head Bill 159

money. My mind was overwhelmed with the threat, the
robber™s gun, his large physical size, the threatened violence in
his voice. I knew in the next few moments I could be injured or
killed. The terrible injustice of the act also permeated my
thoughts. I thought of the robber running free only to attack my
wife or children on another day, and how I could rid society of
this filth by overwhelming my enemy. Then my mind became
filled with childhood memories of being beaten by the
playground bully, and the fear and shame that remains with me
to this day. The flood of thoughts seemed uncontrollable, an
internal struggle between two courses of action, attack or flee,
attack or flee, attack or flee. I decided to attack. And with that
decision my mind and body prepared for the combat; adrenaline
poured, my heart raced, and I became angry, very very angry.
My thoughts were singular, destroy the threat; nothing else
mattered.
I lunged at the robber and was shot in the arm. Searing pain
engulfed me, and my thoughts rushed in reevaluation. I was
going to die if I didn™t do something quickly. I realized that I
could not win; my death would be meaningless. My wife and
children would be devastated. I did not want to die. And with
that realization my mental state changed to terror. All I could
think of was getting away. Fear controlled me; it overwhelmed
my thoughts. Run; get away; don™t provoke; be submissive;
escape at all costs.
Fortunately, the robber was even more afraid than I, and ran
quickly from the scene. The whole episode took only a few
seconds. Any normal person, such as myself before the change,
would have shown the same anger and fear that I experienced.
But a normal person would have experienced them blindly, not
understanding the logic or reasoning behind the emotions. They
would not understand that the threat demanded a decision for
survival, and that the decision had only two answers, fight or
flight. The decision to fight resulting in the body and mind
being prepared for combat, the mind set to overcome the
obstacle by force or violence, the essence of anger. The
The Inner Light Theory of Consciousness
160

decision for flight being manifest as fear, the overwhelming
urge to escape or flee.
But I am no longer a normal person. My experience of
emotion is not limited to the result of the decision; I can
examine the decision process itself. Emotions such as fear,
anger, sadness and love had always puzzled me before the
change. They seemed mysterious and unexplainable, as familiar
as anything can be, yet seemingly defiant of scientific
description. But the alien drug has allowed me to see that this
mystery is one of concealment. The boundaries of my
awareness have now expanded beyond the obscuring veil, and
I perceive emotions no differently than conscious decisions.

Bulging Eyes and Big Head
The physical changes began a few months after I took the
drug. My rapidly expanding consciousness was made possible
by tremendous growth of my brain and other nervous system
tissues. The simplest description is that all of my neural
pathways doubled, forming two separate networks with each
being able to monitor the other. As I was soon to experience,
this allowed my mind to become aware of each and every
operation being carried out by within my brain. Eventually this
duplication extended to all parts of my nervous system, from
my brain, through my spinal cord, to the very sensory cells in
my skin. My eyes bulged from the duplication of the nerve
cells in my retinas; my skin and tongue swelled to twice their
normal size. Most disfiguring of all was the increased size of
my head, needed to accommodate the doubling of my brain.
Soon the press had given me a new name, fitting of my
appearance and mental abilities. I became Big Head Bill.

The Cup of Tea
Day-by-day my awareness grew, expanding downward
through the hierarchy of my mental functions. First came an
understanding of the highest operations, as I have already
described, such things as decision making, thoughts and
Chapter 10: The Tale of Big Head Bill 161

emotions. But then I became aware of something even more
incredible, the vast and complex network upon which these
higher functions are built. As I gaze out over my mind I
become breathless with astonishment, perceiving billions upon
billions of neurons interconnected by trillions upon trillions of
data paths. Over the weeks and months I gradually came to
know that this was my mind, from the raw information passing
through my spinal cord, to the subtlest thought in my cerebral
cortex.
Of course, you cannot know these things as I do; your mind
is still within the fog. But let me try to explain what I have
learned, what I now know from direct experience. As an
example, this morning at breakfast I observed a tea cup resting
on a table. Before I tell you how I perceived this situation,
consider how you or any normal human would have reacted.
Your immediate conscious impression would be one of
recognizing the object and its environment. Within a second
you would say to yourself, “Ah ha, this is a tea cup resting on
a table.” This knowledge enters your thoughts without
explanation; it seems to just appear.
But that is your experience, not mine. My consciousness
operates on a time scale of milliseconds, the interval required
for individual nerve cells to fire. I am fully aware of the
millions of operations taking place to develop the final
conclusion, all compressed into the first second of observation.
I perceive my eyes detecting light from the scene, and the image
data passing along my optic nerves to my brain. I witness the
extraction of features by my neural processing, the legs on the
table, the handle of the cup, the smell of the tea. I then see it all
come together, the neural activity combining and intertwining
to provide me with the final conclusion, this is a tea cup resting
on a table. There is nothing magical or sudden about the final
recognition I perceive; I am conscious of each step, decision,
and criterion upon which it is based.
The Inner Light Theory of Consciousness
162

Intelligence and Memory
Surprisingly, these magnificent changes to my brain and
consciousness have not made me smarter, not even in the
slightest. I play chess with my teenage son, and usually lose,
just as a few years ago. Don™t bother asking me about politics,
mathematics, or God; I don™t know anything more than you.
What I do know in fine detail is the inner operation of my mind,
from the firing of individual neurons in my toes, to my
appreciation of the beauty of an ocean sunset.
You may question how I can be aware of everything within
my mind but not be any smarter than a normal person. For
instance, how can I be conscious of every action needed to
recognize the face of my child, but not be an expert in the
science of facial identification? The answer lies in the neural
network of my brain, the structure creating my mind. I
perceive the raw neural signals passing from my senses to my
brain, where they enter a network of billions of nerve cells. I
watch the patterns unfold and congeal as the signals pass from
layer to layer. I can focus my attention on each operation, from
the firing of individual nerve cells, to the massive coordinated
activity of my cerebral cortex. I can see it all, unfolding step by
step, neuron by neuron, layer by layer.
But this is far from a complete description of the process;
a key ingredient is missing, the synaptic weights. As you
probably know, this refers to the strength of the connections
between neurons, the fundamental way that the brain remembers
its experiences. I am fully aware of these weighting factors and
can observe their effect on my mental operations. I can also
perceive how each new experience slightly changes the synaptic
weights, incorporating the new data into my accumulated
knowledge. However, I have no idea whatsoever of why the
weights that exist in my brain are as they are. They appear
almost random to my inspection. Thus you see, I am aware of
everything that occurs in my brain as it exists today. But since
I don™t know how my synaptic weights came to be as they are,
I can tell you little about the science of information processing.
Chapter 10: The Tale of Big Head Bill 163

My Senses
When I was a normal human my awareness was bounded,
limited to the short distance I could see through the fog that
filled my mind. And as you know from your own experience,
this boundary is not sharp, but a gradual transition from what
one is aware of, to what one is not aware of. The boundary is
an obscuring haze, not a rigid wall. You might say that normal
consciousness has fuzzy edges. This was the nature of my mind
a year ago, and your mind today.
I tell you this so that you might better appreciate what I
have become. Day by day the alien drug expanded the
boundaries of my awareness, gradually encompassing more and
more of the underpinnings of my mind. This process eventually
became complete, and I gained an awareness of each and every
event occurring within my brain and other nervous tissues.
Today my awareness is also bounded, but the enclosed arena is
immensely larger than anything your limited mind can imagine.
The boundaries of my awareness now corresponding to each
and every nerve cell in my body, no more and no less.
Let me try to tell you what this is like. Imagine that you and
I are on a tropical island, surrounded by palm trees and sandy
beaches. We both sense exactly the same things, the sound of
the surf, the warmth of the sun, the smell of bananas and the
ocean. Your eyes and ears and other senses receive the same
information as mine; we are equal in our ability to gather
knowledge about our environment. Further, we process this data
in exactly the same way, and come to the same conclusion, we
are on a tropical island surrounded by palm trees and sandy
beaches. This is what we know, based on the information
gathered by our five senses.
But here is where you and I differ; you know nothing but
this conclusion; you have no awareness of how it was
developed. The image of the palm tree and the sound of the surf
simply appear in your mind without any apparent steps,
procedures, or effort. You are astonished that objects from the
external physical world can somehow exist within your mental
The Inner Light Theory of Consciousness
164

reality. Of course, I have no such limitation; I can trace the

. 1
( 2 .)



>>