Connected systems are those where the state of one node is affected by the states of all other nodes, including itself.
The effect of one node on another can't be instantaneous because cause has to come before effect. So, the state of each node is affected by the past states of all other nodes, including itself.
Connected systems tend to self organise themselves. Sometimes a stable pattern emerges and no further change happens, this is rather boring. But big connected systems, like carbon atom chains tend to continuously change. That is how life happened on Earth, through a process of self-organisation.
Looking at natural history, we could say that connected systems self-organise and self-organising systems cognate. That is, they become aware of their surroundings and themselves.
Cognitive systems become conscious given a few million years. At least, that is what happened on Earth.
All conscious action is based on anticipation. If you raise your hand, your brain decides to do so and imagines where the hand will be - before the action starts.
So, a connected system where the state of each node depends not only on the past states of all other nodes, but on the imagined future states of all other nodes including its own future state, would be conscious.
This could be a simple explanation of what consciousness is.