Consciousness

aka cnxns

Tending Toward a Model of Consciousness

  • In Second Nature, Gerald Edelman defines human consciousness as: "... what you lose on entering a dreamless deep sleep ... deep anesthesia or coma ... what you regain after emerging from these states. [The] experience of a unitary scene composed variably of sensory responses ... memories ... situatedness ... "
  • demands awareness (according to Nunez)
  • Some neuroscientists seem to conflate consciousness with a physical condition near to awakeness, alertness, responsiveness. Take Massimini.
  • The state of being awake, aware of, and responding to one's surroundings - OED
  • From the Latin conscire meaning "to know with" or "to be privy to"
  • Unconscious: action lacking awareness
  • Preconscious: influencing conscious behavior without direct awareness; subconscious

Layers of Consciousness via Antonio Damasio

  1. Protoself
  • All lifeforms are this conscious.
  • Responds to environment in its own interest
  1. Core consciousness
  • Sense of self in the present moment
  • Does not require language, memory, or the projection of past or future (time travel)
  1. Extended consciousness
  • Temporal sense expands to past, present, and future

Aspects of Consciousness via Anil Seth

  1. Level - depends on a complex balance of differentiation and integration
  • awake
  • dreaming
  • vegetative state
  • comatose
  • locked-in
  • dead
  • anesthetized
    • General anesthetics may give us a window into death or nothingness.
    • No sense of the passage of time coming back from anesthesia or a dreamless sleep.
  • dreamless sleep
  • hyper
  • psychotic
  • epileptic
  • autistic
  1. Content - brain's best guess of the causes of its sensory input
  • sensation + prediction = perception
  • sensation
  • interoceptive - internal signals
  • proprioceptive - nearness and position
  • exteroceptive - signals from the environment
  • expectation/prediction
  • perception
  1. Self - I predict myself therefore I am.
  • body
    • I am this avatar.
    • interoception - the experience of the body from within
  • perspective - I am this vantage point.
  • volition - I am manifested intent.
  • narrative - I am this story.
  • social - I am a reflection I see in others.

The Beast-Machine evolves consciousness

  • Descartes ("Cogito ergo sum") argued that animals lack consciousness and are therefore bΓͺte machines or animal-machines: "Without minds to direct their bodily movements … animals must be regarded as unthinking, unfeeling machines that move like clockwork."
  • Anil Seth argues, in the opposite, that a beast machine becomes conscious as a result of making predictions about and testing its environment as it moves about, turning sensation into perception by way of prediction.
  • A beast machine embodied in spacetime, given sensory inputs and the ability to manifest its intent in its environment through feedback or movement, will more likely survive if it can predict what those sensory inputs mean or model about the environment and its objects and characteristics. So consciousness is then the evolved ability to make successful predictions about one's environment.
  • Consciousness is the ability to predict meaning in one's environment.

The Binding Problem

A two-part problem, dealing with how sense becomes idea through segregation and combination

The Computational/Segregation/Discrimination Problem (BP1)

  • How do we sort sensory data into qualia?
  • How do we separate complex patterns of sensory data to form conceptions/perceptions of discrete objects?

The Phenomenal/Aggregation/Combination Problem (BP2)

  • How do we combine sensory data into a unified conscious experience of reality? Neuroscientists like to ask more specifically, "How does the brain accomplish this?"
  • How do we combine objects, background, and abstract/emotional features into a cohesive experience of reality?

My speculative solution

Not all of the processing of sensory data occurs in the brain. The unexplained bits are processed in the non-physical mind. Concepts and thoughts do not reside in the brain.

Free Energy Principle via Karl Friston

Organisms, over the long run, maintain themselves in states they expect to be in.

The Hard Problem of Consciousness

  • "The really hard problem of consciousness is the problem of experience. When we think and perceive there is a whir of information processing, but there is also a subjective aspect." - David Chalmers, "Facing Up to the Problem of Consciousness" (1995)
    • expands on this line in The Conscious Mind (1996)
  • How do we explain the existence of qualia (individual instances of subjective, conscious experience)?
  • concerned with the existence or origin of consciousness
  • scientists take one of four stances:
    1. Deny it. The mind arises from the brain. Hard materialism.
    2. Admit but ignore it. Hide behind fear of mysticism.
    3. Delay it. Science cannot help yet.
    4. Explore it. Baby steps.
  • a review of various approaches to the Hard Problem by Oliver Burkeman
    • Dennett - there is no problem, cxnxs is an emergent illusion of the complex brain
    • Chalmers - why are there are no philosophical zombies? what do we possess?
    • Thomas Nagel asks "What is it like to be a bat?" in his 1974 paper and follows up in Mind and Cosmos (2012) arguing that mind is fundamental like space, time, energy, matter.
    • Colin McGinn denies the Hard Problem is solvable - Mysterianism
    • Patricia Churchland - it's physical, we just haven't seen how yet
    • Koch and Tononi - cnxns is everywhere, we just need to measure its phi with Integrated Information Theory

The Easy Problems of Consciousness

  • According to David Chalmers, explaining the ability to discriminate, integrate information, report mental states, focus attention, etc., represent easy problems because all that is required for their solution is to specify a mechanism that can perform the function. That is, their proposed solutions, regardless of how complex or poorly understood they may be, can be entirely consistent with the modern materialistic conception of natural phenomena.
    • the ability to discriminate, categorize, and react to environmental stimuli;
    • the integration of information by a cognitive system;
    • the reportability of mental states;
    • the ability of a system to access its own internal states;
    • the focus of attention;
    • the deliberate control of behavior;
    • the difference between wakefulness and sleep.
  • "The easy problem is concerned with various electrical or chemical measures of brain function that occur in different mental states. These measures, called conscious correlates or signatures of consciousness are revealed with various brain imaging methods as well as by the mental conditions of patients with brain injury or disease." Psychology Today

See also consciousness-evolved

Unified Reality Theory

"consciousness evolves into the awareness of experience by repetitively and progressively forming relationships with itself."

Kaufman, Steven. Unified Reality Theory: The Evolution of Existence into Experience (Kindle Locations 4525-4526). Balboa Press. Kindle Edition.

Formative perspectives

Descartes declared it dual. Newton's Prism may have grayed the garden, but Einstein warped it. Oppenheimer nuked it. Feynman played it backwards and forth. Hawking sent it into a black hole. Bohm sees through it. And Jobs put its pixels in our hands. Tononi would have us count it up.

Consciousness