VII. Our Earthuman Ascent: A Major Evolutionary Transition in Individuality
4. Conscious Integrated Information Knowledge
Circa 2010, Giulio Tononi, Larissa Albantakis, Christoph Koch, Bernard Baars, Tim Palmer and others have engaged theoretical and experimental reasons that have since given knowing consciousness a physical essence. (An Intrinsic Consciousness has more about how a natural ecosmic source is evident.) The Integrated Information phrase was added to the title to represent this popular mathematic explanation for how our daily noosphere arises by way of a parallel, episodic reinforcement of complexity and consciousness. In a broad view this tandem interaction graces both our own senses, and distinguishes an evolutionary ascent to our worldwide moment. Another main model is known as the Global Workspace Theory whence thoughts are collected so as to enter aware notice.
Models of Consciousness 2022. amcs-community.org/events/moc-3-2022.. This conference hosted by the Association for Mathematical Consciousness Science was held at Stanford University in September. The Program booklet contains abstracts for some 47 talks such as by Ian Durham, Giulio Tononi, Carlotta Langer, Tudor Baetu, and Peter Grinrod. The main persuasion is an historic, 2020s capacity, not accessible earlier, to fully admit our knowable sentience as a natural subject which is no longer ephemeral or spurious. With this cast in place many papers then refer to the Integrated Information Theory IIT as a good working guide.
WELCOME to the third Models of Consciousness conference series (MoC3-2022). As we push further into the third decade of the 21st century, mathematical approaches in the scientific study of consciousness are bringing a novel frontiers for revolutionary acceptance and advancement. The introduction of a mathematical basis into the research program allows established methodologies from theoretical physics and computer science to be applicable.
Models of Consciousness Conference. models-of-consciousness.org. A site for a September 2019 meeting at Oxford University on formal approaches to the mind-matter relation. A full book of Abstracts is available here. As the Summary says, it has become evident that studies of human sentience have gained a valid, brain-based, mathematic trace and credibility so they should rightly be a subject for academic erudition. A premier cadre such as Roger Penrose, Adam Barrett, Adrian Kent, Ian Durham, Peter Grindrod, and Tim Palmer (search for paper review) out of 37 presenters covered across a wide expanse. A leading topic and basis was Integrated Information Theory, see W. Marshall below, along with statistical physics, quantum phenomena, cognitive aspects and more.
Consciousness and its place in nature has been a great mystery for human beings and has been the focus of philosophical and religious investigations for millennia. Lately the subject has generated a worldwide interest among mathematicians, physicists, and others who aim to translate the results of quantifiable investigations into forma models. To date, a good part of this work has been pursued in isolation and outside of the academic mainstream. The aim of this conference is to begin to foster broad collaborations and the exchange of ideas between diverse researchers and theories. (Summary)
Albantakis, Larissa, et al.
Integrated information theory (IIT) 4.0: Formulating the properties of phenomenal existence in physical terms.
PLoS Computational Biology.
Sixteen senior theorists mainly at the University of Wisconsin, including Melanie Boly, William Marshal and Giulio Tononi, post a latest 2020s version of this expansive, collegial school that has grew in veracity and acceptance since the 2000s (See Tononi 2008). As an Author Summary says, the overall intent is to robustly be able to join sentient, knowing, creaturely consciousness with a conducive physical, material, natural essence. Its technical density opens with From Phenomenal Axioms to Physical Postulates, goes on to Intrinsic Existence, Information Content, Integrative Synthesis, Definitive Composition and 40 similar pages.
This Integrated Information Theory (IIT) 4.0. edition aims to account for the properties of experience in physical (operational) terms. It identifies the essential experience (axioms), and the necessary features (postulates) in mathematical terms. IIT offers a parsimonious view of empirical evidence, makes testable predictions, and permits inferences. IIT 4.0 blends several developments of the past ten years such as more accurate formulations of axiom expressions, a unique measure of intrinsic information consistent with postulates, and an explicit assessment of causal relations. (Abstract)
Ananthaswamy, Anil. Brain Chat. New Scientist. March 20, 2010. A report on the growing verification of Bernard Baars’ and colleagues such as Stanislas Dehaene’s theory of a “global workspace” whereof if enough neurons distributed across disparate cerebral regions enjoin and “talk” to each other in unison, then out pops consciousness.
Aru, Jaan, et al. Cellular Mechanisms of Conscious Processing. Trends in Cognitive Sciences. September, 2020. By virtue of the latest theories and techniques, Humboldt University of Berlin neurobiologists advance ways that human awareness can be associated with and seen to arise from intrinsic, complex neuronal properties and interactivities. Might one imagine a quickening ecosmos is stirring and awakening into its own perceptive sentience?
Recent breakthroughs in neurobiology can help us understand how cellular-level mechanisms are related to conscious experience. Here, we study the biophysical properties of pyramidal cells which allow them to act as gates that control the evolution of global activation patterns. In conscious states, this cellular mechanism enables complex sustained dynamics within the thalamocortical system, whereas during unconscious states, such signal propagation is prohibited. We then suggest that conscious processing is the flexible integration of bottom-up and top-down data streams at the cellular level. This cellular integration mechanism provides the foundation for Dendritic Information Theory, a novel neurobiological theory of consciousness. (Abstract)
Baars, Bernard. The Conscious Access Hypothesis. Trends in Cognitive Science. 6/1, 2002. This phrase is offered as another name for “global workspace theory” (see Dehaene and Naccache below) whose “massive distributed set of specialized networks” gives rise to and verifies an informed consciousness.
Baars, Bernard, et al, eds. Essential Sources in the Scientific Study of Consciousness. Cambridge: MIT Press, 2003. A comprehensive reference with over 60 articles on the admission and recognition of reflective sentience as a respectable subject.
Bieberich, Erhard. Recurrent Fractal Neural Networks. BioSystems. 66/3, 2002. The brain is composed of self-similar systems from a ‘global coding structure’ to neuronal networks. A consistent mapping occurs throughout its many-layered, dendritic architecture. By this view, the same fractal data and pixel compression used in computers may be the way a ‘fractally structured memory’ is formed. Bieberich then sees his theory to converge with Bernard Baars ‘global workspace model’ as the seat of consciousness.
Blum, Lenore and Manual. A Theory of Consciousness from a Theoretical Computer Science Perspective. PNAS. 119/21, 2022. This esteemed octogenarian wife and husband team are Career Professors at Carnegie Mellon University. In this paper they press onward with their project to integrate novel computational advances with growing neuroscience realizations that cerebral geometries and cognitive procedures can actually serve the vital presence of knowing awareness.
This paper views consciousness from the perspective of theoretical computer science (TCS), a branch of mathematics concerned with the underlying principles of computation and complexity. We propose a formal TCS model, namely the Conscious Turing Machine (CTM) from Alan Turing's iconic model of computation, along with the global workspace theory (GWT) from the cognitive neuroscientist Bernard Baars and furthered by Stanislas Dehaene, Jean-Pierre Changeux, George Mashour, and others. Explanations derived from the model draw confirmation from consistencies at a high level, well above the level of neurons, with the cognitive neuroscience literature. (Abstract excerpt)
Boly, Melanie, et al. Consciousness in Humans and Non-Human Animals. Frontiers in Psychology. 4/625, 2013. A joint commentary on a July 2012 meeting in Rockport, Maine organized by the Mind Science Foundation. With authoritative attendees such as Bernard Baars, Steven Laureys, Melanie Wilke, others, these studies are said to attain a mature synthesis. It is thus averred this phenomena is real, fundamental, and amenable to scientific study. In accord with concurrent papers by Tononi, Koch, Dehaene, and colleagues herein, the global workspace and integrated information theories are seen as good explanations. Along with contributions from animal cognition research and more, a gradated continuum is affirmed throughout the creaturely kingdoms and an evolutionary scale from the earliest invertebrates to Maine Mind.
Bor, Daniel. The Ravenous Brain: How the New Science of Consciousness Explains Our Insatiable Search for Meaning. New York: Basic Books, 2012. In this accessible work, a University of Sussex, Sackler Centre for Conscious Science, researcher equates the rise of knowing visuospatial awareness with its survival value of being able to perceive crucial, fluid environmental patterns. Early chapters such as “Evolution and the Science of Thought” consider proponents such as Gerald Edelman, Giulio Tononi, and the global workspace model of Bernard Baars and Stanislas Dehaene. In perspective, an engaging entry to an apparent awakening human cosmos that seems to be trying to better recognize and create itself.
Consciousness is subjective, personal, and famously difficult to examine: philosophers have for centuries declared this mental entity so mysterious as to be impenetrable to science. In The Ravenous Brain, neuroscientist Daniel Bor departs sharply from this historical view, and builds on the latest research to propose a new model for how consciousness works. Bor argues that this brain-based faculty evolved as an accelerated knowledge gathering tool. Consciousness is effectively an idea factory—that choice mental space dedicated to innovation, a key component of which is the discovery of deep structures within the contents of our awareness. This model explains our brains’ ravenous appetite for information—and in particular, its constant search for patterns. Why, for instance, after all our physical needs have been met, do we recreationally solve crossword or Sudoku puzzles? Such behavior may appear biologically wasteful, but, according to Bor, this search for structure can yield immense evolutionary benefits—it led our ancestors to discover fire and farming, pushed modern society to forge ahead in science and technology, and guides each one of us to understand and control the world around us. (Publisher)
Bronfman, Zohar, et al. The Transition to Minimal Consciousness through the Evolution of Associative Learning. Frontiers in Psychology. December, 2016. Israeli scholars of science EB, Simona Ginsburg and Eva Jablonka, with colleagues, continue their endeavor to properly identify life’s essential advance as a relative analogical increase in aware cerebral knowledge. In March 2019 The Evolution of the Sensitive Soul: Learning and the Origins of Consciousness by S. Ginsburg and E. Jablonka (MIT Press) will provide a book length essay. By this view, in some real way a bioworld and cosmos is on a track to evolve and emerge in complexity and sentience so to come to its own personal and communal senses.
The minimal state of consciousness is sentience. This includes any phenomenal sensory experience – exteroceptive, such as vision and olfaction; interoceptive, such as pain and hunger; or proprioceptive, such as the sense of bodily position and movement. We propose unlimited associative learning (UAL) as the marker of the evolutionary transition to minimal consciousness (or sentience), its phylogenetically earliest sustainable manifestation and the driver of its evolution. We define and describe UAL at the behavioral and functional level and argue that the structural-anatomical implementations of this mode of learning in different taxa entail subjective feelings (sentience). We end with a discussion of the implications of our proposal for the distribution of consciousness in the animal kingdom, suggesting testable predictions, and revisiting the ongoing debate about the function of minimal consciousness in light of our approach. (Abstract)