Self-awareness does not require high complexity. It is likely an inevitable property arising at a certain arrangement of electrical circuits. It does not require centralization, such a brain.
A neuropsychologist, Dr. Mark Solmes, a bona-fide genius born in South Africa, where he is a professor and a department chair, recently made an astonishing discovery. He located self-awareness to a very specific area, less than half inch across, within so-called reticular activating system (RAS) of the brain. He also postulated that self-awareness has emerged as a system of homeostasis of our emotions essential for survival. This completely destroyed a prevailing paradigm that self-awareness is exclusive to humans and requires those large hemispheres that we are associating with being self-aware. Since RAS can be found in all vertebrates where it performs the same function as in humans, we can safely infer that all of them are also self-aware. But it gets even more interesting. It turns out that insects also have a system analogous to RAS and there are accumulating experimental evidences that they have subjective experiences. In other words, a bug knows she is a bug and has feelings. Evidences of some rudimentary self-awareness are found even is some plants, such as mimosa.
It is not controversial that fear is a primary emotion, probably the first to appear in evolution. But fear is pointless without self-awareness, because in order for it to be meaningful the organism must know who is in danger. Fear can’t even be experienced without self-awareness, ink linking that fear probably was the initial form of self-awareness. This means that every single organism that responds to external stimuli by avoidance must be self-aware in some way.
This means that jellyfish for example is also self-aware. Indeed, they are capable of very complex behavior, particularly during mating. This is important, because jellyfish does not have brain, but a distributed network of neurons.
Since any form of consciousness manifests objectively as electrical activity, it can be inferred that conciousness is not a sole property of carbon life. Any matter supporting conduction of electtricity with a certain arrangement will inevitably become concious. In fact, some matters can be even more concious than carbon based.
This is not unsimilar with flying. Yes, carbon-based bird are good flyers. But it turns out that inorganic planes and rockets can fly faster and higher at the speeds, elevation and accelerations that would kill a bird. without many limitations that but it turn
The red dot indicates location of area of the brain providing self-awareness – “I”. It is smaller than small been.