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A Sourcebook for the Worldwide Discovery of a Creative Organic Universe
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VI. Earth Life Emergence: Development of Body, Brain, Selves and Societies

4. Conscious Integrated Information Knowledge

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.

This brain must also have (1) hierarchical systems of intercommunicating, isomorphically organized, processing nuclei that extensively integrate the different senses into representations that emerge in upper levels of the neural hierarchy; and (2) a widespread reticular formation that integrates the sensory inputs and contributes to attention, awareness, and neural synchronization. We propose a two-step evolutionary history, in which the optic tectum was the original center of multi-sensory conscious perception (as in fish and amphibians: step 1), followed by a gradual shift of this center to the dorsal pallium or its cerebral cortex (in mammals, reptiles, birds, step 2). (Abstract)

Conclusion This is the first hypothesis that dates the origin of consciousness, explains its neural architecture, explores its genetics, identifies the most basal animal that has it, and accommodates its neurobiology with the “hard problem” of consciousness and subjectivity, all knitted together in one model. We hypothesize that primary or sensory consciousness stems from a confluence of neurological features common to all vertebrates, especially from multiple, reciprocally connected, isomorphic representations at different hierarchical levels within the nervous system. These features co-emerged, probably in a rather short interval of time, between 560 and 520 mya. (19)

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)

Gabora, Liane. Amplifying Phenomenal Information. Journal of Consciousness Studies. 9/8, 2002. Drawing on the work of David Chalmers and others, the proposal is made that consciousness, as a property of the universe, has an informational component. The degree to which an entity is conscious depends on its ability to amplify and enhance this quality. If brains are understood as a self-organized web of autopoietic systems, this emergence is achieved by a process of conceptual closure. What results is an evolution which possesses a central axis and arrow of informed sentience.

The basic idea is that biological and cognitive systems accomplish this (amplification) by trapping information through autocatalytic closure, and maintaining the dynamics at the edge of chaos through simultaneous processes of divergence and convergence. (5)

Gennaro, Rocco, ed. Higher-Order Theories of Consciousness. Amsterdam: John Benjamins, 2004. Pro and con discussion about the view that a mental state becomes conscious when it is the object of a higher-order representation.

Ginsburg, Simona and Eva Jablonka. The Evolution of the Sensitive Soul: Learning and the Origins of Consciousness. Cambridge: MIT Press, 2019. Veteran scholars (search) Simona G., an Open University of Israel psychologist and Eva J., a Tel Aviv University geneticist and historian of science achieve a lucid exposition of the ascent of sentient knowing from its earliest flicker to our human integrated information. As worked out in prior papers, a continuum can be traced from limited rudiments to an unlimited learning process. EJ and Marion Lamb were the authors of Evolution in Four Dimensions (2005, 2014) whose stages are here joined with the major evolutionary transitions model (Maynard Smith & Szathmary) so as to fill in an oriented, sequential scale. By 2019 life’s long development can be well realized (as we try to report) as a deeply homologous, teleological, quickening by way of an epigenetic knowledge gain in social groupings from minimal microbes to our linguistic florescence. A “rational” soul is seen to rise in tandem, as if (though not formally put) a meaningful holistic complement to an analytic detail mode. Self-organizing, goal-directed systems are thus at work to engender an emergent, autopoietic self-making. Altogether again, a universal gestation which (whom) is trying to come to her/his own senses, witness and discovery becomes evident.

What marked the evolutionary transition from organisms that lacked consciousness to those with minimal subjective experiencing, or, as Aristotle described it, “the sensitive soul”? In this book, Simona Ginsburg and Eva Jablonka propose a new theory that finds learning to be the driving force in the transition to basic consciousness. Using a method that helped identify the transition from non-life to life then allows biological, psychological, and philosophical aspects to be considered. Along with historical, neurobiological, and philosophical foundations, the authors propose an evolutionary marker of basic consciousness as a complex form of associative learning, which is then seen as the driver of the Cambrian explosion and its diversification of organisms. Finally, symbolic language as a similar type is proposed as a marker for the evolutionary transition to human rationality.

I read The Evolution of the Sensitive Soul with an immense interest. It is the best synthesis I know about consciousness. It includes a fascinating history of the concepts and discoveries about consciousness together with an outstanding presentation of the most recent scientific data, theories and philosophical speculations. The evolution of consciousness from the 'Cambrian explosion' up to the Golem predicament is one among the many original aspects of the book. A book that must be read and meditated on. (Jean-Pierre Changeux)

Goerner, Sally and Allan Combs. Consciousness as a Self-Organizing Process. BioSystems. 46/123, 1998. Systems philosophers find an affinity between dynamic streams of awareness and nonlinear dynamics.

From this perspective consciousness is viewed as an ecological system in which streams of cognitive, perceptual and emotional information form a rich complex of interactions, analogous to the interactive metabolism of a living cell. The result is an organic, self-generating or ‘autopoietic’ system continuously in the act of creating itself. (123)

Grindrod, Peter. On Human Consciousness. Network Neuroscience. 2/1, 2018. The Oxford University mathematician is an authoritative contributor to frontier explanations about why and how we individual and collective human beings are graced with a sentient, informed awareness. If such mindful imaginaries are indeed possible, they must somehow be associated with and arise from a similarly endowed cerebral cosmos.

We consider implications of the mathematical modeling and analysis of large modular neuron-to-neuron networks. We explain how the dynamical behavior of relatively small-scale strongly connected networks leads to nonbinary information processing and thus to multiple hypothesis decision-making. In turn we address some aspects of the hard problem of consciousness, We discuss how a proposed “dual hierarchy model,” made up from externally perceived, physical elements of increasing complexity, and internally experienced, mental elements (feelings), may support a learning and evolving consciousness. We argue that, within our model, the mental elements and thus internal modes (feelings) play a role akin to latent variables in processing and decision-making, and thus confer an evolutionary “fast-thinking” advantage. (Abstract excerpt)

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