Man looking at his feet

This fairly clear 2011 paper by Axel Cleere­mans reveals an under­stand­ing of where con­scious­ness comes from: the brain attempt­ing to describe itself.

“Learn­ing and plas­ti­city are thus cent­ral to con­scious­ness, to the extent that exper­i­ences only occur in exper­i­en­cers that have learned to know they pos­sess cer­tain first-order states and that have learned to care more about cer­tain states than about others.” 

Take that, Skynet.