dimension of interpretation
This is a crazy idea. The idea is that maybe consciousness is a dimension, like space* or time. Here are some armchair philosophy thoughts along these lines:
When I watch the movie, the characters of the movie "come alive" inside my head. The characters are really just bits representing a sequence of images, but I interpret them as characters in a story, with thoughts and feelings. But those thoughts and feelings only really exist inside my head. So in some sense, the characters in the movie are conscious, but only because I'm watching and interpreting them. The film itself is not conscious. Maybe we are only conscious because we are being watched and interpreted by a higher-level being that is simulating our universe, and watching the results very closely.
The term "qualia" refers to subjective experience. It is unclear why qualia exists at all. Why can't humans just do what they do like machines, without actually experiencing anything? Perhaps the answer is that they do, and the qualia we feel is really inside the mind of a higher entity watching and interpreting a human machine.
Of course, this experience may only go in one direction, like watching a movie, nothing that the watcher does will impact the sequence of events in the film. Similarly, perhaps qualia cannot impact our lives, and that is why it is impossible to express our subjective experience -- if we could, then the mechanical notion of the universe would be violated since some states of the universe would depend on what an observer did while watching them progress**.
This may also speak to debates about whether our subjective experiences of something like "redness" are the same. In this theory, they wouldn't necessarily be the same, any more than the subjective experience of reading a book varies from reader to reader.
This theory would also suggest a concrete sense in which "we are all the same", since we may all be watched and interpreted by the same higher-level entity. In fact, that entity wouldn't even need to watch everyone at the same time. The entity could write out the bits of our universe, from the big bang to whenever, into a giant book, and read different parts of it at different times.
On the other hand, the theory has a hole. The higher-level entity watching us could only be conscious itself if it was also being watched by an even higher-level entity. And that progression of higher and higher level entities would need to go on forever, and even then, it would not answer the question of where consciousness comes from.
So, not a great theory. But food for thought.
* I act as if space is a single dimension, whereas we usually think of it as three. But one could imagine writing out a three dimensional state of our universe onto the single dimensional tape of a turing machine. In this case, the time dimension would refer to changes that the turing machine makes to the tape, and not necessarily our common notion of time -- since our conventional notions of space and time are not quite orthogonal anyway, according to Einstein.
** I'm not referring to the quantum sense of observation. As far as I'm aware, all of quantum mechanics can be packaged up into a probabilistic turing machine, without requiring a "consciousness dimension".