VI. Life’s Cerebral Faculties Become More Complex, Smarter, Informed, Proactive, Self-Aware
A. Natural Econsciousness and Ecognition
A perennial, mystic, more Eastern belief is a fundamental plenum of panpsychic consciousness, from which cognizant human sentience naturally arises. Now into the 21st century, a global brain scientific recovery, verification and acceptance is well underway, along with philosophical support. As a result, this original, encompassing mind milieu from which sequential scales of relative awareness, intelligent knowing and our manifest selves arise is being fulfilled. In this vein, another aspect would be that we microcosmic Earthly beings are achieving some measure of the animate macrocosmos looking back upon itself, so to self-recognize, realize and begin a new, cocreative, evolitionary future. See also the Conscious Integrated Information Knowledge section in Chapter VII.
The Science of Consciousness. www.tsc2019-interlaken.ch. This is the main international meeting all about the presence of aware knowing perception in ourselves, and as now seems apparent, must suffuse a quantum evolutionary cosmology. Its venue is Interlaken, Switzerland in June 25-28, 2019. This home site has links to an extensive program and a Book of Abstracts. See also a Models of Consciousness meeting to be held at the Mathematical Institute of Oxford University on September 9-12, 2019. Its scientific scope is broad enough as to draw a luminous array of speakers from such as Roger Penrose, David Chalmers, Eva Jablonka, William Seager, Olaf Sporns, and Christopher Fuchs.
The Science of Consciousness (TSC) 2019 is the 26th international interdisciplinary conference on fundamental questions and cutting-edge issues connected with conscious experience. TSC is the largest and longest-running interdisciplinary conference emphasizing conceptual, empirical, cultural and even artistic approaches to the study of consciousness. Held annually since 1994, the TSC conferences alternate between Tucson, Arizona, and various locations around the world. TSC 2019 will include themes such as connectomics, placebo research, first-person experience, anesthetics, psychedelics, plant cognition, quantum biology, phantom limbs, dual-aspect monism, bistable perception, insight, religious studies, evolution, language, embodiment, time consciousness, critical neuroscience, micro-phenomenology and more.
Aerts, Diederik, et al. From Quantum Axiomatics to Quantum Conceptuality. arXiv:1805.12122. As we gather frontier articles as this from a worldwide repository, we note that it has not yet dawned that into the 21st century, a whole scale revision of quantum phenomena has arisen in contrast to past hardly intelligible arcana. Here Free University of Brussels and University of Leicester (Sandro Sozzo) “interdisciplinary physicists” propose an axiomatic (self-evident) view, which can then be traced all the way to human acumen (quanthuman). As the second quote alludes, the paper is an example of how scientific scholars are coming to explain and realize that the natural cosmos (as long intimated) does deeply possess its own mindfulness and ascendant cognizance. See also Modelling Human Decision-Making: An Overview of the Brussels Quantum Approach by Diederik aerts, et al at 1807.11035.
Since its inception, many physicists have seen in quantum mechanics the possibility, if not the necessity, of bringing cognitive aspects into the play, which were instead absent, or unnoticed, in the previous classical theories. In this article, we outline the path that led us to support the hypothesis that our physical reality is fundamentally conceptual-like and cognitivistic-like. In our approach the measurement problem is considered to be essentially solved, at least for what concerns the origin of quantum probabilities, which we have reasons to believe they would be epistemic. Our conclusion that conceptuality and cognition would be an integral part of all physical processes comes instead from the observation of the striking similarities between the non-spatial behavior of the quantum micro-physical entities and that of the human concepts. This gave birth to a new interpretation of quantum mechanics, called the “conceptualistic interpretation.” (Abstract)
Annila, Arto. On the Character of Consciousness. Frontiers in Systems Neuroscience. Online March, 2016. The University of Helsinki physicist draws upon his non-equilibrium thermodynamic theories (search), along with statistical mechanics, to show how cognitive sentience has an intrinsic, natural essence which then arises in kind and content through nature’s evolutionary transitional stages.
The human brain is a particularly demanding system to infer its nature from observations. Thus, there is on one hand plenty of room for theorizing and on the other hand a pressing need for a rigorous theory. We apply statistical mechanics of open systems to describe the brain as a hierarchical system in consuming free energy in least time. This holistic tenet accounts for cellular metabolism, neuronal signaling, cognitive processes all together or any other process by a formal equation of motion that extends down to the ultimate precision of one quantum of action. According to this general thermodynamic theory cognitive processes are no different by their operational and organizational principle from other natural processes. Cognition too will emerge and evolve along path-dependent and non-determinate trajectories by consuming free energy in least time to attain thermodynamic balance within the nervous system itself and with its surrounding systems. Specifically, consciousness can be ascribed to a natural process that integrates various neural networks for coherent consumption of free energy, i.e., for meaningful deeds. The whole hierarchy of integrated systems can be formally summed up to thermodynamic entropy. The holistic tenet provides insight to the character of consciousness also by acknowledging awareness in other systems at other levels of nature’s hierarchy. (Abstract)
Arsiwalla, Xerxes, et al. The Morphospace of Consciousness. arXiv:1705.11190. In an intricate article, a team from the Universitat Pompeu Fabra, Barcelona, including Paul Verschure, consider several degrees, substrates and features of sentient, practical awareness such as autonomous, computational, group social, and 3D continuums. See also Spectral Modes of Network Dynamics Reveal Increased Information Complexity Near Criticality by this group at arXiv:1707.01446.
Baluska, Frankisek and Michael Levin. On Having No Head: Cognition throughout Biological Systems. Frontiers in Psychology. Vol 7/Art. 902, 2016. University of Bonn and Tufts University biologists contend that as an increasing number of studies find an active intelligence in place for invertebrates, cells, microbe, and plants, which do not have a brain-like capacity, nature seems suffused with an universal, independent cognizance. The presence of archetypal interconnective networks everywhere, which are similar to neural architectures, is a main basis. A behavioral scale across life’s evolution is then sketched from randomness to more purposeful, teleological feedback, predictive skills, onto aware self-reference. Another graphic depicts Tiers of Biological Cognition from genomes, cytoskeletons, nervous systems, tissue organs, onto whole organisms, and social groups. See also From Neural and Social Cooperation to the Global Emergence of Cognition in Frontiers in Bioengineering and Biotechnology, search Paolo Grigolini. Might an organic developmental cosmos then be broached that proceeds to learn, think, remember, gain knowledge, so as to discover and continue her/his self?
The central nervous system (CNS) underlies memory, perception, decision-making, and behavior in numerous organisms. However, neural networks have no monopoly on the signaling functions that implement these remarkable algorithms. It is often forgotten that neurons optimized cellular signaling modes that existed long before the CNS appeared during evolution, and were used by somatic cellular networks to orchestrate physiology, embryonic development, and behavior. Many of the key dynamics that enable information processing can, in fact, be implemented by different biological hardware. This is widely exploited by organisms throughout the tree of life. Here, we review data on memory, learning, and other aspects of cognition in a range of models, including single celled organisms, plants, and tissues in animal bodies. We discuss current knowledge of the molecular mechanisms at work in these systems, and suggest several hypotheses for future investigation. The study of cognitive processes implemented in aneural contexts is a fascinating, highly interdisciplinary topic that has many implications for evolution, cell biology, regenerative medicine, computer science, and synthetic bioengineering. (Abstract)
Baluska, Frantisek and Arthur Reber. Sentience and Consciousness in Single Cells: How the First Minds Emerged in Unicellular Species. BioEssays. 41/3, 2019. University of Bonn (search) and University of British Columbia psychologists trace a developmental continuum of conscious knowing acumen which seems to be reaching ever deeper into life’s origins, and by inference even further into a sensitive genesis cosmos.
A bottom‐up, cellular‐based concept of the origins of sentience has been put forward. Because all life is based on cells, any evolutionary theory of the emergence of consciousness must be grounded in mechanisms that take place in prokaryotes, the simplest unicellular species. It has been posited that subjective awareness is a property of cellular life which emerges as an inherent feature of the very first life‐forms. All other varieties of mentation are the result of an evolutionary course based on this singular event. It has also been identified that three cellular structures and mechanisms that likely play critical roles here are excitable membranes, oscillating cytoskeletal polymers, and structurally flexible proteins. Finally, basic biophysical principles are seen to guide those processes that underlie the rise of supracellular sentience from cellular sentience in multicellular organisms. (Abstract)
Barron, Andrew and Colin Klein. What Insects can Tell us about the Origins of Consciousness. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 113/4900, 2016. In a paper edited by Michael Gazzaniga, Macquarie University, Sydney, cognitive biologists reach a similar conclusion as Todd Feinberg and Jon Mallatt’s The Ancient Origins of Consciousness (below) that a degree of informed sentience appears even at evolutionary life’s earliest stages. From these initial stirrings, a relative mental awareness and acumen manifests and arises with creaturely somatic and neural complexity to we peoples who are able retrospectively to learn all this.
How, why, and when consciousness evolved remain hotly debated topics. Addressing these issues requires considering the distribution of consciousness across the animal phylogenetic tree. Here we propose that at least one invertebrate clade, the insects, has a capacity for the most basic aspect of consciousness: subjective experience. In vertebrates the capacity for subjective experience is supported by integrated structures in the midbrain that create a neural simulation of the state of the mobile animal in space. This integrated and egocentric representation of the world from the animal’s perspective is sufficient for subjective experience. Structures in the insect brain perform analogous functions. Therefore, we argue the insect brain also supports a capacity for subjective experience. In both vertebrates and insects this form of behavioral control system evolved as an efficient solution to basic problems of sensory reafference and true navigation. The brain structures that support subjective experience in vertebrates and insects are very different from each other, but in both cases they are basal to each clade. Hence we propose the origins of subjective experience can be traced to the Cambrian. (Abstract)
Baruss, Imants. Beyond Scientific Materialism. Journal of Consciousness Studies. 17/7-8, 2010. A King’s University College, Canada, psychologist further plumbs quantum domains as an approach to discern a primordial mindfulness in addition to, and serving to inspire ascendant explicate matter.
I like to think of this fundamental level of reality as a prephysical substrate from which physical reality as we encounter it emerges. Equivalently, this level can be thought of as deep consciousness – not the intentional experiential stream of everyday consciousness, but a form of transcendent consciousness accessed through the sense of presence that gives qualia their qualia-like properties. This would correspond roughly to David Bohm’s implicate order from which both physical and mental events arise, thereby explaining their uncanny correspondence. (224)
Braun, Claude and Shaun Lovejoy. The Biology of Consciousness from the Bottom Up. Adaptive Behavior. 126/3, 2018. A University of Quebec psychologist and McGill University geophysicist weigh in by proposing to track life’s whole quickening evolution from proteins and bacteria to human beings. In this view, an episodic tandem of relative cerebral complexity and sentient awareness becomes evident. Their intent is to balance and brace top-down opinions by formulating a deeply natural source. Additional credence is added by affinities with swarm complexity and intelligence and physical “self-patterning in non-living particles.”
This essay aims to outline a scientific approach to the investigation of consciousness emphasizing achievements and promise of hardcore bottom-up biology. We propose to contemplate what would be the minimal requirements of consciousness in the simplest of life forms. We show that, starting from the molecular nuts and bolts of such life forms, it is the extreme multitudinousness of the moving material components forming consciousness, and their organized swarming, that appears outstanding. This is in stark contrast with the impression obtained from introspection that consciousness is a single, unconstrained, immaterial stream. (Abstract)
Bronfman, Zohar, et al. The Evolutionary Origins of Consciousness. Journal of Consciousness Studies. 23/9-10, 2016. With Simona Ginsburg and Eva Jablonka, Israeli philosophers conceive a deepest penchant for aware life for continuing education as a means to evolve and emerge. If once again this quality and pursuit is paramount, then may we muse over a (self) Learning Universe.
We suggest an approach to studying consciousness that focuses on its evolutionary origins. The proposed framework is inspired by the study of the transition from inanimate matter to life, which proved extremely useful for understanding what 'life' entails. We follow the theoretical and methodological scheme put forward by Tibor Ganti, who suggested a marker for the transition to life -- an evolved feature that is sufficient for ascribing dynamic persistence to a minimal living system and that can serve as a point of departure for reconstructing it. We apply this approach to consciousness and suggest an overt behavioural trait -- unlimited associative learning (UAL) -- as a candidate transition marker. We show that the enabling system of UAL instantiates the set of properties that are considered jointly sufficient for minimal consciousness, and discuss the experimental predictions and the implications of our approach for the taxonomic distribution of consciousness in the animal world. (Abstract)
Bruntrup, Godehard and Ludwig Jaskolla, eds. Panpsychism: Contemporary Perspectives. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017. Munich School of Philosophy professors collect the latest realizations and admissions that in some real way this Earthly and cosmic evolutionary milieu ascends from and is suffused by a mindful essence. Chapters consider panprotopsychism, cosmopsychism, emergence, consciousness, monism, dualism, and idealism by scholars such as David Chalmers and Brian McLaughlin. See also Consciousness and Fundamental Reality by Philip Goff (Oxford, 2017) for a concurrent view.
Recent debates in philosophy of mind seemingly have resulted in an impasse. Reductive physicalism cannot account for the phenomenal mind, and nonreductive physicalism cannot safeguard a causal role for the mental as mental. By 1979, Thomas Nagel argued that if reductionism and dualism fail, and a non-reductionist form of strong emergence cannot be made intelligible, then panpsychism - the thesis that mental being is a fundamental and ubiquitous feature of the universe - might be a viable alternative. But it was not until David Chalmers' The Conscious Mind (1996) that debates on panpsychism entered the philosophical mainstream. Since then the field has been growing rapidly, and some leading philosophers of mind as well as scientists have argued in favor of panpsychism. (Publisher)
Busemeyer, Jerome and Peter Bruza. Quantum Models of Cognition and Decision. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012. Indiana University and Queensland University of Technology physicists and psychologists contribute to growing realizations that subatomic phenomena can be found in formative effect at all macro phases, in this case mental processes. A good part of this budding quantum-classical synthesis is a clarification of aspects such as contextuality, interference, entanglement, and so on. And as this merger goes on, quantum realms become better appreciated through familiar complex system theories. See also Applying Quantum Principles to Psychology by Busemeyer, et al at arXiv:1405.6427.
Much of our understanding of human thinking is based on probabilistic models. This innovative book by Jerome R. Busemeyer and Peter D. Bruza argues that, actually, the underlying mathematical structures from quantum theory provide a much better account of human thinking than traditional models. They introduce the foundations for modelling probabilistic-dynamic systems using two aspects of quantum theory. The first, 'contextuality', is a way to understand interference effects found with inferences and decisions under conditions of uncertainty. The second, 'quantum entanglement', allows cognitive phenomena to be modeled in non-reductionist ways. Employing these principles drawn from quantum theory allows us to view human cognition and decision in a totally new light. (Publisher)