VII. Our Earthuman Ascent: A Major Evolutionary Transition in Individuality
4. Conscious Integrated Information Knowledge
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.
Edelman, Gerald. Wider Than the Sky: The Phenomenal Gift of Consciousness. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2004. This latest work by the Nobel laureate neuroscientist explains by his theory of Neural Darwinism both the evolutionary rise of sentient awareness and its constant presence in brain function. Its three developmental, experiential, and reentry phases employ a selection process on both modular and global cerebral scales as brains evolve, form and awaken to reflective consciousness.
Edelman, Gerald and Giulio Tononi. A Universe of Consciousness. New York: Basic Books, 2000. An entry to the innovative concepts of Nobel laureate neuroscientist Edelman and his colleagues. These are generally based on a Darwinian view of brain structure and its resultant cognition due to a selective process among weighted neurons and remembrances. This present work considers how conscious awareness arises from a biological source both in evolution and in instanteous thought, which is facilitated by an increasing informational and linguistic content.
Our position has been that higher-order consciousness, which includes the ability to be conscious of being conscious, is dependent on the emergence of semantic capabilities and, ultimately, of language. (208)
Ellis, Ralph. Curious Emotions: Roots of Consciousness and Personality in Motivated Action. Amsterdam: John Benjamins, 2005. A consensus grows today, informed by the late Francisco Varela’s enaction theory, carried forth by Nakita Newton, George Globus, Jan Panksepp, Antonio Damasio, and colleagues, that an organism’s behavior has a somatic, indeed emotive, source. Beyond old stimulus-response and epiphenomenalism, sentient entities are seen to possess their own proactive “curiosity,” rather than as just passive recipients. Ralph Ellis, a psychologist at Clark Atlanta University, provides one of the first surveys of this advance. Consciousness thus arises from such endemic, self-organized, complex dynamics. Implied once again is a salient shift to an active self-organization prior to selection, and further an encompassing animate universe. (A “curious cosmos” in many ways.)
Enactive approaches to intentionality and consciousness propose that such mental processes as feeling, representation, and consciousness, including perceptual consciousness, can result only from a self-organizational system that in an important sense acts upon rather than only reacting to its environment, and one that appropriates, organizes, and replaces its own micro-constituents on an as-needed basis rather than being only a causal epiphenomenon that is built up from the interactions of the micro-constituents. (1)
Esteban, Francisco, et al. Informational Structures: A Dynamical System Approach for Integrated Information. PLoS Computational Biology. September, 2018. Some eight decades ago, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin proposed that complexity and consciousness rose in an episodic tandem toward the human phenomenon. Here University of Jaen and University of Seville, Spain bio-mathematicians and philosophers contribute to its 2010s scientific confirmation as this theoretical version from Giulio Tononi, Christof Koch and others gains wide acceptance and usage. A view of informational fields in a continuous-time mode is advanced, which is seen to facilitate a global brain dynamics.
Integrated Information Theory (IIT) has become nowadays the most sensible general theory of consciousness. In addition to a deep theoretical basis, it opens the door for an abstract (mathematical) formulation. Given a mechanism in a particular state, IIT identifies a conscious experience with a conceptual structure, an informational object which exists, is composed of identified parts, is informative, integrated and maximally irreducible. This paper introduces a space-time continuous version of the concept of integrated information. To this aim, a graph and a dynamical systems treatment is used to define, for a given mechanism in a state for which a dynamics is settled, an Informational Structure, which is associated to the global attractor at each time of the system. A detailed description of its inner structure by invariants and connections between them allows to associate a transition probability matrix to each informational structure and to develop a measure for the level of integrated information of the system. (Abstract)
Fazekas, Peter and Morten Overgaard. Perceptual Consciousness and Cognitive Access. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B. Vol. 373/Iss. 1755, 2018. University of Antwerp and Aarhus University philosophical psychologists introduce this issue about dynamic bases and interactions for our sentient awareness as this phenomenon becomes increasingly amenable to collaborative quantification and understanding. Authors such as Victor Lamme, Daniel Dennett, Ian Phillips, Steven Gross, and Ned Block consider aspects of seeing, attention, knowing, panpsychism, degrees of access and report, and more.
The problem of perceptual consciousness—the question of how our subjective experiences (colours as we see them; sounds as we hear them; tastes, etc., as we feel them) could be accounted for in terms of brain processes—is often regarded as the greatest unsolved mystery of our times. In recent literature, one of the most pressing questions in this regard is whether the neural basis of perceptual consciousness is independent of the neural basis of cognitive access mechanisms that make reporting and reflecting on conscious experiences possible. The Theme Issue focuses on this central problem of consciousness research and aims to contribute to the field by critically discussing state-of-the-art empirical findings, identifying methodological problems and proposing novel approaches.
Feinberg, Todd and Jon Mallatt. The Evolutionary and Genetic Origins of Consciousness in the Cambrian Period Over 500 Million Years Ago. Frontiers in Psychology. 4/667, 2013. Along with Ann Butler, Giuilo Tononi, Christof Koch, others herein, and across brain, behavior, and cognizance sections, a convergence confluence such as this paper are affirming an episodic ramification of “complex, integrated isomorphic representations” associated with neural acumen. Through progressive “sensory imagery” life quickens in cognitive content and resultant self-awareness. As if a single encephalization, brains are composed of a “hierarchical system of isomorphically organized, reciprocally communicating sensory-integration nuclei and centers with conscious images emerging through higher-level processing.” For a similar take, see Brain Rhythms Reveal a Hierarchical Network Organization by Karl Steinke and Roberto Galan in PLoS Computational Biology (7/10, 2011).
Vertebrates evolved in the Cambrian Period before 520 million years ago, but we do not know when or how consciousness arose in the history of the vertebrate brain. Here we propose multiple levels of isomorphic or somatotopic neural representations as an objective marker for sensory consciousness. All extant vertebrates have these, so we deduce that consciousness extends back to the group's origin. The first conscious sense may have been vision. Then vision, coupled with additional sensory systems derived from ectodermal placodes and neural crest, transformed primitive reflexive systems into image forming brains that map and perceive the external world and the body's interior.
Freeman, Walter. Indirect Biological Measures of Consciousness from Field Studies of Brains as Dynamic Systems. Neural Networks. 20/9, 2007. The University of California at Berkeley research neuroscientist has long pioneered novel understandings of neural activity in terms of intrinsic nonlinear networks. By this significant advance, human and universe gain a 21st century spatial and temporal affinity, psychogenesis and cosmogenesis become one and the same. This is a dispensational discovery we have just begun to appreciate. See also his 2007 paper: Scale-free Neocortical Dynamics online at: http://www.scholarpedia.org/article/Scale-free_neocortical_dynamics.
Dynamic systems are collections of entities that organize themselves into continually changing groups by exchanging matter and energy. Examples range in scale from molecules of air and water creating hurricanes to citizens creating committees. Dynamic brains likewise range from quantum excitations of receptors to molecules that organize into DNA, proteins, and membranes to people collectively creating tribes and teams. (1021)
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