In his book, Gazzaniga uses the metaphor of the system of democracy to help explain his take on consciousness. "Consciousness is a 'thing' the way democracy is a 'thing'—it's not something you can put on the table, it's a process," he said. "It's a summation of processes that all happen in parallel and our consciousness is a product of these interacting parts."
This concept of modular organization suggests that specialized areas of the brain do different things, and consciousness itself is the amalgamation of thousands of those processes happening at the same time. Specialized capacities come up one at a time, he explained, and through time they are stitched together to give the illusion of a unified consciousness. In effect, each individual part of the brain is doing its respective job, and each then passes information to the next level of command. This continues until the thought or function—say, sight or sound—becomes apparent.
"There are many layers behind the curtain, so to speak," Gazzaniga said.
The real question, though, is how to figure out how those layers communicate with one another. What is the protocol? "We have to think about this from the perspective that something can have dual natures, such as how light can be a particle and a wave," he said, adding, "but we don't yet know how that works."