Twenty years ago David Chalmers laid out the two problems of consciousness. The easy problem, which wasn’t easy at all: how do brain functions construct experiences (like taste or smell). And the hard problem: why does that subjective experience arise at all.
Progress on the easy problem has been solid as we map the neural correlates of consciousness.
Two contenders for tackling the hard problem are Michael Graziano’s attention schema theory and Tononi & Koch’s Integrated Information Theory. (See EV#28 on IIT
Graziano explains his attention schema by way of phantom limbs in the Atlantic this week
: “Consciousness is phantom attention … [w]ithout resorting to magic, mysticism, hard problems, or spooky soul energy.”
Elsewhere, several interesting articles on perception, representation and awareness: