It's been a while since I've really thought about this, since I was last in college and considering graduate school.
A lot of things that I remember branched out of the study of semiotics, in the sense that I was looking at the possibility of heading into aritficial intelligence, or more accurately synthetic consciousness. I was looking into what it would take to model consciousness in a computer, or through some man-made means.
This led into a very strange world where language fails to be adequate to describe the concepts. Semiotics comes close in that it deals with things like symbols, signs, and icons. But there is a concept that I was trying to get to the heart of: for a symbol to have meaning, there must be an entity there for the symbol to have meaning to.
That entity represents the consciousness.
Now if we extrapolate internalized thought into symbols, where there are primitives of thought, there must be at least two pieces inside of our minds: the generator of the symbols and the interpreter of those symbols. They develop together so that the representation and the meaning of those symbols become symbiotic.
But I don't have a good handle on the process, other than to know it is organic. I have a feeling that it is also emergent, because it has the fingerprints of emergence.
The other question is the nature of self-awareness. I believe that self-awareness and consciousness are intimately tied together, and I think that the moment that self-awareness is established, that there is a consciousness at the same moment.
That assumes that there is a sort of epiphany, and this is where words begin to fail. There is an assumption of binary existence: either something exists or it doesn't. But nature is rarely so clean, so I have to start dealing in concepts of partial consciousness and partial awareness. The concept that rather than the sudden coalescence of a consciousness, that there is sort of an oozing into it.
So if consciousness forms out of something, what is the something that it forms from? What are the building blocks that lead us into self awareness-- the recognition of the difference between the self and the other?
I don't know.