VI. Earth Life Emergence: Development of Body, Brain, Selves and Societies
4. Conscious Integrated Information Knowledge
Changeux, Jean-Pierre. Reflections on the Origins of the Human Brain. Lagercrantz, Hugo, et al, eds. The Newborn Brain: Neuroscience and Clinical Applications. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010. Noted also in Phylogeny and Ontogeny, the College de France, Institut Pasteur, neuroscientist provides a luminous addition via the latest appreciations of pre- and post-natal, fetal and infant, cognitive states to the processive advance of knowing consciousness. See also his chapter “The Molecular Biology of Consciousness” in Consciousness Transitions (Elsevier, 2007).
Phylogenetic Ancestors of the Human Brain. As mentioned above, many important anatomical features of our brain have been inherited from our direct ancestors. The soft parts of their brains may be lost forever, but comparison of the endocranial casts of modern humans and their fossil ancestors provides interesting information. It reveals striking analogies between the various stages of the phylogenetic evolution of the ancestors of H. sapiens and the ontogenetic development of the brain in the modern human. (6) The simplified topography of the human newborn meningeal system strikingly resembles the arrangement in Australopithecus robustus (who lived about three to two million years ago). The meningeal topography of Homo habilis, who lived two million years ago (cranial capacity 700 ml), is rather similar to that of a modern 40-day-old infant. Homo erectus, who lived one million years ago (cranial capacity of about 1000 ml), has a meningeal system topography similar to that of a modern 1-year-old child. (6)
Cleeremans, Axel, ed. The Unity of Consciousness. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003. A collection of leading edge papers which consider how the phenomenon of knowing sentience evolves and arises in embodied persons.
As the contributions to this volume so vividly illustrate, explaining unity involves many different levels of analysis: From an understanding of the concept itself to the neural mechanisms that subtend it; from empirical studies on normal or disordered participants to overarching computational analyses of what it means for information to be integrated in the complex dynamical system that the brain undoubtedly is. (19)
Cleeremans, Axel, et al. Learning to be Conscious. Trends in Cognitive Sciences. December, 2019. As the abstract cites, a “meta-representation” is a “second-order” stage of a brain’s conceptual content so that a person can know that they know. Eight Free University of Brussels cognitive psychologists conceive a synthesis akin to integrated information theory such that the more someone gains vital knowledge, the more actively aware s/he becomes. In regard, by a mega-historic view we might refer to the “Great Learning” of Chinese tradition (Sterckx, Roel) and our 21st century sapiensphere to get a retrospective upon our grand Earthly and cosmic endeavor of sentient self-realization.
Different theories of consciousness have proposed many mechanisms to account for phenomenal experience. Here, appealing to aspects of global workspace theory, higher-order theories, social theories, and predictive processing, we introduce a novel framework: the self-organizing meta-representational account (SOMA), in which consciousness is viewed as something that the brain learns to do. By this account, the brain continuously and unconsciously learns to redescribe its own activity to itself, so developing systems of first-order representations. In this sense, consciousness is the brain’s (unconscious, embodied, enactive, nonconceptual) theory about itself. (Abstract)
Clement, Fabrice and Abraham Malerstein. What is it Like to be Conscious? The Ontogeny of Consciousness. Philosophical Psychology. 16/1, 2003. A study of the sequential lifetime phases of awakening ones individual sentience. This process is seen to move from initial phenomenal awareness in infancy to an ‘access’ of shifting representations for appropriate responses and onto the formation of a rational self in latter childhood. Throughout the paper is a tacit recapitulation between our personal ontogenesis of learning about the social and natural world and the cognitive phylogenesis of humankind.
Combs, Allan. Consciousness Explained Better: Towards an Integral Understanding of the Multifaceted Nature of Consciousness. St. Paul, MN: Paragon House, 2009. Not yet seen, the California Institute of Integral Studies “transformative psychologist,” writes what Ken Wilber endorses as: “…the finest book on consciousness in modern times.”
Table of Contents: The Introduction, Chapter 1 – A Word Worn Smooth, Chapter 2 – Never at Rest, Chapter 3 – Four Streams of Experience, Chapter 4 – From One Great Blooming, Buzzing Confusion, Chapter 5 – The Adult Mind, Chapter 6 – States and Structures of Consciousness, Chapter 7 – The Hierarchy of Minds, Chapter 8 – Horizontal and Vertical Evolution of Consciousness, Chapter 9 – The Many Faces of Integral Consciousness.
The Evolution of Consciousness.
Zelazo, Philip, et al, eds.
The Cambridge Handbook of Consciousness.
Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007.
We choose this contribution for itself and to introduce the large volume. As also popularly explained in the May/June issue of American Scientist, the University of Auckland psychologist proposes that a critical breakthrough to human linguistic cognition involved “recursion,” the ability to generate a series of representations which refer to and build on prior statements. (A process akin to algorithmic iteration or autopoietic cycles.) As a result, we are uniquely autonoetic entities who can know that they know.
Coward, L. Andrew and Ron Sun. Hierarchical Approaches to Understanding Consciousness. Neural Networks. 20/9, 2007. In a special issue on Brain and Consciousness, an article that joins computer and cognitive science to perceive a nested modularity which can facilitate the micro to macro emergence of aware sentience. Such a scaffolding is then seen to be connected with nature’s physical scale.
Dehaene, Stanislas. Consciousness and the Brain: Deciphering How the Brain Codes Our Thoughts. New York: Viking, 2014. The College de France experimental cognitive psychologist and author (search) popularly reviews his laboratory findings into our dynamic sapient brain – mind conversation. Chapters such as Consciousness Enters the Lab, Signatures of a Conscious Thought, and Theorizing Consciousness explain a “global neuronal workspace” whence “consciousness is global information broadcasting within the cortex: it arises from a neuronal network (via) the massive sharing of pertinent information throughout the brain.” An excellent entry to the latest advances.
Dehaene, Stanislas and Lionel Naccache. Towards a Cognitive Neuroscience of Consciousness. Cognition. 79/1-2, 2001. A landmark paper which summarizes an international project to find neuronal correlates of awareness. Its working model is a dynamic merger or symbiosis of specific modules to compose a global workspace. In an evolutionary frame these schemas are seen to increasingly empower active organisms.
Any theory of consciousness must address its emergence in the course of phylogenesis. The present view associates consciousness with a unified neural workspace through which many processes can communicate. The evolutionary advantages that this system confers to the organism may be related to the increased independence that it affords….By allowing more sources of knowledge to bear on this internal decision process, the neural workspace may represent an additional step in a general trend towards an increasing internalization of representations in the course of evolution, whose main advantage is the freeing of the organism from its immediate environment. (31)
Dehaene, Stanislas, et al.
What is Consciousness, and Could Machines Have It?
Cognitive neuroscientists Dehaene, College of France, Paris, Hakwan Lau, UCLA, and Sid Kouider, CNRS, Paris conceive a novel, significant discernment of two complementary modes of sentient awareness. A first C1 stage tends to serial, information, word or detail focus, which is made available in a global cognitive workspace. A second C2 phase is defined as an integral self-reflexive, perceptual monitoring. Altogether these modes present to a unitary sapient notice. This “meta-memory” operation performs an “orthogonal double dissociation” so to accomplish ones instant, constant reality check. Thus a synergistic interaction goes on whence C1 gathers disparate facts by which C2 can view to attain a modicum of meaning.
The controversial question of whether machines may ever be conscious must be based on a careful consideration of how consciousness arises in the only physical system that undoubtedly possesses it: the human brain. We suggest that the word “consciousness” conflates two different types of information-processing computations in the brain: the selection of information for global broadcasting, thus making it flexibly available for computation and report (C1, consciousness in the first sense), and the self-monitoring of those computations, leading to a subjective sense of certainty or error (C2, consciousness in the second sense). We argue that despite their recent successes, current machines are still mostly implementing computations that reflect unconscious processing (C0) in the human brain. We review the psychological and neural science of unconscious (C0) and conscious computations (C1 and C2) and outline how they may inspire novel machine architectures. (Abstract)
Dennett, Daniel. Freedom Evolves. New York: Viking, 2003. We cite again this recent book by the premier philosophical thinker in the field, which can be a good entry to his many works on the nature and occasion of conscious thought.
Di Biase, F. and M. Rocha. Information Self-Organization and Consciousness. World Futures. 53/4, 1999. In a holistic, nonlocal universe, consciousness arises from its quantum source as emergent information. With David Bohm, the human mind is seen as an “holoinformational” enfoldment of the implicate, self-organizing cosmos.