Consciousness abounds in paradoxes. Far from being put off, it is clear from this interview with Chris Frith that he relishes them. Although it is obviously such a central part of human life, we don’t even know what consciousness is there for, what it’s function is. So much so that many leading scientists doubt that it has a function at all.
T. H. Huxley compared consciousness to the whistle on a steam engine. For Huxley, the analogy was a picturesque way of saying that consciousness is epiphenomenal – it has no effects on the operation of the organism. For Professor Frith the analogy is a surprisingly neat illustration of an important function that consciousness has: it allows us to communicate with others. That has a big effect on how others act. (The steam whistle can stop another engine in its tracks.) And that, indirectly and over time, has effects on the person who was communicating about their mental states in the first place (the one who was sounding the whistle).
Consciousness is such an obviously personal and individual phenomenon that the idea that its function is social is initially counterintuitive, perhaps barely credible at all. See if this interview with Chris Frith changes your perspective on the sundry collection of blobs and lines that make up our current picture of consciousness. (If so, that will of course go to prove his point.)