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A Sourcebook for the Worldwide Discovery of a Creative Organic Universe
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VII. Our Earthuman Ascent: A Major Evolutionary Transition in Individuality

4. Conscious Integrated Information Knowledge

Palmer, Tim. Human Creativity and Consciousness: Unintended Consequences of the Brain’s Extraordinary Energy Efficiency?. arXiv:2020.03738. This contribution by the Oxford University polyphysicist (search) was an invited talk at the Models of Consciousness Conference at Oxford in September 2019, see herein. As our human scientific acumen now seeks to unite with deep quantum physical origins, a reference to the cognitive dual process model with its opposite but complementary left and right, brain-like propensities is seen as a vital aspect. In accord, whatever will it take to realize that nature avails and requires this salutary balance at each phase and instance, so that it might at last be applied to resolve our political destructive conflict between them.

It is proposed that both our creativity and consciousness are consequences of the brain's extraordinary energy efficiency. These topics are treated separately, though have a common sub-structure. Creativity is seen to arise from a synergy between two cognitive modes which broadly coincide with Daniel Kahneman's systems 1 and 2. In the first, available energy is spread across a relatively large network of neurons. In the second, energy applies to a small subset of neurons in a deterministic operation. The notion of consciousness is then defined by way of a perceived awareness of nearby counterfactual worlds in state space. It is argued that in situations where quantum physics plays a role in the brain, it does so for reasons of energy efficiency. (Abstract excerpt)

The idea of changing from a mode of thinking where one focuses hard on a problem without distraction, to one where one simply relaxes, is suggestive of a switch in modes of cognition which refers to simply as “System 2” and “System 1” respectively. Kahnemann refers to System 2 as slow, effortful, logical, calculating; whilst System 1 is fast, automatic, frequent, emotional and stereotypic. Although it is simplistic to characterize cognition entirely in terms of such a dichotomy, it is conceptually convenient to do so here. (3)

Perl, Yonaton, et al. Non-equilibrium Brain Dynamics as a Signature of Consciousness. arXiv:2012.10792. Eight neurophysicists posted in Argentina, Belgium, Germany the UK, and Spain including Enzo Tagliazucchi describe evident neuroimaging parallels between dynamical systems theories and recorded states of aware cognitive consciousness.

The cognitive functions of human and non-human primates rely on distributed neural assemblies. As such, it seems unlikely that cognition can be supported by an overall brain dynamics at the proximity of thermodynamic equilibrium. We confirmed this hypothesis by investigating electro-corticography data from primates undergoing unconscious states (sleep and anesthesia), and magnetic resonance imaging data from humans. All states of reduced consciousness unfolded at higher proximity to equilibrium dynamics than conscious wakefulness. Our results establish non-equilibrium macroscopic brain dynamics as a robust signature of consciousness, opening the way for the theoretic characterization of cognition and awareness by way of statistical mechanics. (Abstract excerpt)

Pestana, Mark. Complexity Theory, Quantum Mechanics and Radically Free Self Determination. Journal of Mind and Behavior. 22/4, 2001. Self-similar patterns of neural activity are shown to possess quantum and nonlinear properties by which to substantiate an indeterminate ‘radically free will.’

It has been claimed that quantum mechanics, unlike classical mechanics, allows for free will. In this paper I articulate that claim and explain how a complex physical system possessing fractal-like self similarity could exhibit both self-consciousness and self determination. (365)

Pickering, John. The Self is a Semiotic Process. Journal of Consciousness Studies. 6/4, 1999. On the symbolic, content-rich essence of sentience and personhood.

Popiel, Nicholas, et al. The Emergence of Integrated Information, Complexity, and “Consciousness” at Criticality. Entropy. 22/3, 2020. An international neurotheorist collaboration posted at Western University, Canada, Monash University, Australia, and Research in Advanced Neurohabilitation, Italy suggests a way that the “critical brain hypothesis” (Chialvo, et al) can be joined with IIT so to reveal a similar poise in this model. Once again this state of dynamic balance is seen to be natural evolution’s preferred optimum.

A growing body of evidence has emerged suggesting that many disparate natural, and particularly biological, phenomena reside in a critical regime of dynamics on the cusp between order and disorder. More specifically, it has been shown that models tuned to criticality exhibit similar dynamics to the brain, which, has led to the emergence of the Critical Brain Hypothesis. Systems tuned to criticality exhibit a number of useful informational properties that allow for the efficient distribution of, and susceptibility to, information. (1)

Ultimately, this study is best framed in the context of the emerging complexity of our world. The brain is one of the most complex objects ever studied and the theory of it acting critically is gaining credence. New research into critical systems has shown that criticality may be useful for learning, and for optimizing information processing. Phase transitions and criticality are gaining more relevance, and the evidence in this paper demonstrates that by defining consciousness with IIT and using the Ising model as a substrate, ‘consciousness’ undergoes a phase transition at criticality in the investigated neural network motifs. This, when combined with evidence that the brain may be critical, suggests that ‘consciousness’ may simply arise out of the tendency of the brain to self-organize towards criticality. (8-9)

Revonsuo, Antti. Inner Presence: Consciousness as a Biological Phenomenon. Cambridge: MIT Press, 2006. A psychology professor at the University of Turku, Finland, draws on the latest neuroscience to argue that embodied brains are intrinsically capable of generating mental awareness. This approach termed “biological realism” is facilitated by a first-person “world-simulation metaphor.”

Roth, Gerhard. The Evolution of Consciousness. Gerhard Roth and Mario Wullimann eds. Brain Evolution and Cognition. New York: Wiley; Heidelberg: Spektrum, 2001. A good summary which finds a modular basis for sentience grounded in an increasing informational content. At the human phase, everything changes due to language which raises the cognitive discourse to a collective social plane.

Seager, William. Theories of Consciousness. London: Routledge, 1999. A philosopher melds quantum physics and connectionism to affirm that mental awareness requires information, which leads to a “representational” model. Consciousness depends on content, which places it in an evolutionary scale of the emergence of knowing mind. These features are seen to revive a “panpsychic” view of the universe whence “all matter, or all nature, is itself psychical.”

Seth, Anil, et al. Theories and Measures of Consciousness. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 10799/103, 2006. Along with co-authors Eugene Izhikevich, George Reeke, and Gerald Edelman, a report on ways to quantify the occasion of knowing sentience. Three domains are cited – dynamical complexity of neural systems, information integration, and causal density – each an aspect but even more is going on for which some guidelines are noted.

The notion of recursive complexity refers to the balance between differentiation and integration across different levels of description within a system. At the neural level, brains exhibit rich organization at multiple levels of description, ranging from molecular interactions within individual synapses, to the dynamics of cortical microcircuits, to reentrant interactions among functionally segregated brain regions. The phenomenal structure of consciousness also appears to be recursive; for example, the individual features of conscious scenes are themselves Gestalts and must therefore share organizational properties with the conscious scene as a whole. (10803)

Singer, Ming. Unbounded Consciousness. London: Free Association Books, 2001. A work in progress toward a synthesis of philosophy, psychology, quantum physics, and nonlinear systems which argues for a complementarity and superposition of qualia (felt awareness) and quanta (objective aspects) of the dynamically emergent self.

Tagliazucchi, Enzo. The Signatures of Conscious Access and its Phenomenology are Consistent with Large-scale Brain Communication at Criticality. Consciousness and Cognition. 55/136, 2017. A Netherlands Institute for Neuroscience scholar (search ET website) scopes out a necessary synthesis of the global workspace and integrated information models, see G. Mashour, et al above. By so doing, he adds a further aspect by noting a move toward and poise at an active critical mode.

Conscious awareness refers to information processing in the brain that is accompanied by subjective, reportable experiences. Current models of conscious access propose that strong sensory stimuli can ignite a global network of regions which allows further processing. The immense number of possible experiences indicates that activity associated with awareness must be highly differentiated. However, information need also be integrated to account for the unitary nature of consciousness. We present a computational model that identifies conscious access by way of self-sustained percolation in an anatomical network. We show that the amount of integrated information is maximal at the critical state threshold. (Abstract excerpt)

In conclusion, we proposed that the two influential theories could be compatible when considered as addressing different aspects of consciousness. While the motivation behind the development of both theories might be different, the criticality hypothesis offers a picture in which experimental predictions from both of them can successfully co-exist. It is therefore important to focus future efforts on testing this model, especially whether incoming sensory information propagates to the edge of becoming self-sustained. (146)

Tannenbaum, Arnold. Consciousness and the Self-Sensing Brain. American Journal of Psychology. 119/2, 2006. The University of Michigan psychologist expands his theory of a dynamical sentience which emerges via self-organizing complex adaptive systems from sensory experience.

This article builds on the argument in the literature that the brain senses itself and that a coherent sensing system within the brain, a sense of consciousness, is essential to the generation of consciousness and is a basis for the special richness of human subjective experience. (205)

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