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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

Tononi, Giulio. Consciousness as Integrated Information. Biological Bulletin. 215/3, 2008. In a paper cited as a “provisional manifesto,” the University of Wisconsin psychiatrist sets out a detailed equation of sentient awareness with its contained knowledge. A mathematical exposition in cerebral qualia space of this “integrated information theory” (IIT) leads to the claim that consciousness ought to be appreciated as an intrinsic natural quality. A gradated evolutionary ascent is then seen to accord with relative information levels, or “discriminable states” with various encodings. Not said to be a panpsychism but as a result, as the several quotes aver, a radically different kind of universe and human becomes possible. Rather than the old moribund machine whereof people are “specks of dust,” if a rising, awakening sentience is the measure, human persons appear as its brightest, phenomenal center. Here, deep in the scientific literature, dawns some 70 years later just the vectorial tandem of complexity and consciousness that Pierre Teilhard de Chardin presciently foresaw in his cosmic genesis vision.

The IIT claims that, just as the quantity of consciousness generated by a complex of elements is determined by the amount of integrated information it generates above and beyond its parts, the quality of consciousness is determined by the set of all the informational relationships its mechanisms generate. (224)

Consciousness exists beyond any doubt (indeed, it is the only thing whose existence is beyond doubt). If consciousness is integrated information, then integrated information exists. Moreover, according to the IIT, it exists as a fundamental quantity—as fundamental as mass, charge, or energy. (233)

If one accepts these premises, a useful way of thinking about consciousness as a fundamental property is as follows. We are by now used to considering the universe as a vast empty space that contains enormous conglomerations of mass, charge, and energy—giant bright entities from planets to stars to galaxies. In this view (that is, in terms of mass, charge, or energy), each of us constitutes an extremely small, dim portion of what exists — indeed, hardly more than a speck of dust. (233)

However, if consciousness (i.e., integrated information) exists as a fundamental property, an equally valid view of the universe is this: a vast empty space that contains mostly nothing, and occasionally just specks of integrated information — mere dust, indeed — even there where the masscharge–energy perspective reveals huge conglomerates. On the other hand, one small corner of the known universe contains a remarkable concentration of extremely bright entities (where brightness reflects high consciousness), orders of magnitude brighter than anything around them. Each bright “star” is the main complex of an individual human being (and most likely, of individual animals). I argue that such a consciousness-centric view is at least as valid as that of a universe dominated by mass, charge, and energy. In fact, it may be more valid, since to be highly conscious implies that there is something it is like to be you, whereas if you just have high mass, charge, or energy, there may be little or nothing it is like to be you. (233)

Tononi, Giulio. Consciousness, Information Integration, and the Brain. Laureys, Steven, ed. The Boundaries of Consciousness: Neurobiology and Neuropathology. Amsterdam: Elsevier, 2005. Sentient awareness is due to the brain’s modular capacity to join experience and knowledge into a coherent whole. Akin to the global workspace theory of Baars, Dehaene and Changeux, consciousness is associated with an informational content. But this not need be linguistic based for infants and animals are also seen as self-aware. One then wonders if humankind itself might reach a common consciousness, a grand intentional synthesis of human learning, the one story, which is an aim of this website.

Tononi, Giulio and Christof Koch. Consciousness: Here, There but Not Everywhere. arXiv:1405.7089. After a decade of thought and research, the University of Wisconsin and Allen Institute for Brain Science neuroscientists post a summary document on this phenomenal occurrence both for its cerebral and evolutionary aspects. As the Abstract details, our aware sentience can be understood to arise from and supported by its relative knowledge content. As animal studies then aver, gradated degrees of informed cognition and sensory acumen can be traced through life’s procession back to the nematodes. By this 2010s synthesis, the long materialist or physicalist phase whereof mindful subjectivity is ephemeral can be set aside. While not a panpsychism, by this theory “consciousness is an intrinsic, fundamental property of reality.” Such a 21st century conclusion, aided by global collaborations, is seen to resolve and affirm deep intuitions from Plato to Teilhard.

With regard to consciousness studies, similar to syntheses in other fields, a flurry of reports about we people and our creaturely forebears confirm an evolutionary neural and cognitive elaboration and stirring as if an embryonic gestation. For a sample see, Integrated Information Increases with Fitness in the Evolution of Animats by Jeffrey Edlund, et al (PLoS Computational Biology 7/10, 2011), The Minimal Complexity of Adapting Agents Increases with Fitness by Nikhil Joshi, et al (PLoS Computational Biology 9/7, 2013), From the Phenomenology to the Mechanisms of Consciousness: Integrated Information Theory 3.0 by Masafumi Oizumi (PLoS Computational Biology 10/5, 2014), Information Integration Without Awareness by Liad Mudrik, et al (Trends in Cognitive Science Online June 2014), and Toward a Computational Theory of Conscious Processing by Stanislas Dehaene, et al (Current Opinion in Neurobiology, June 2014).

The science of consciousness has made great strides by focusing on the behavioral and neuronal correlates of experience. However, correlates are not enough if we are to understand even basic neurological fact; nor are they of much help in cases where we would like to know if consciousness is present: patients with a few remaining islands of functioning cortex, pre-term infants, non-mammalian species, and machines that are rapidly outperforming people at driving, recognizing faces and objects, and answering difficult questions. To address these issues, we need a theory of consciousness that specifies what experience is and what type of physical systems can have it. Integrated Information Theory (IIT) does so by starting from conscious experience via five phenomenological axioms of existence, composition, information, integration, and exclusion. From these it derives five postulates about the properties required of physical mechanisms to support consciousness.

The theory provides a principled account of both the quantity and the quality of an individual experience, and a calculus to evaluate whether or not a particular system of mechanisms is conscious and of what. IIT explains a range of clinical and laboratory findings, makes testable predictions, and extrapolates to unusual conditions. The theory vindicates some panpsychist intuitions - consciousness is an intrinsic, fundamental property, is graded, is common among biological organisms, and even some very simple systems have some. However, unlike panpsychism, IIT implies that not everything is conscious, for example group of individuals or feed forward networks. In sharp contrast with widespread functionalist beliefs, IIT implies that digital computers, even if their behavior were to be functionally equivalent to ours, and even if they were to run faithful simulations of the human brain, would experience next to nothing. (Abstract)

Tononi, Giulio, et al. Integrated Information Theory from Consciousness to its Physical Substrate. Nature Reviews Neuroscience. 17/7, 2016. As this model which equates degrees of cognitive awareness with relative knowledge content grows in veracity and usage, Tononi with Melanie Boly, Marcello Massimini and Christof Koch (search names) proceed to discern its deeply rooted basis in material nature. At this late worldwise vantage, by way of many diagrams for brain anatomy and neural connections, human beings become ever more of a microscopic icon for an increasingly cerebral macrocosmos.

Torey, Zoltan. The Immaculate Misconception. Journal of Consciousness Studies. 13/12, 2006. Reflective awareness is a dynamic process that involves information gathering and its linguistic medium. Ones ‘self,’ our qualities of mind, agency, and free will, arise from this self-directed attention. A succinct, accurate comment.

In summary, we have seen that the new language-based dispensation turns baseline awareness conscious, hands the control of attention back to the brain, generates the experience of the ‘self,’ generates the module that is the ‘mind’ and the functional autonomy that is our ‘free-will.’ The immaculate misconception, the ‘obvious’ we all seem to overlook is that human consciousness is a production routine and not an entity, further that its components can be identified and their interaction traced. (109)

Varela, Francisco and Evan Thompson. Neural Synchrony and the Unity of Mind: A Neurophenomenological Perspective. Cleeremans, Axel, ed. The Unity of Consciousness. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003. Reflections on how our agental awareness emerges from both local to global “upward causation” and reverse “downward causation.”

There is now little doubt in cognitive neuroscience that specific cognitive acts require the transient integration of numerous, widely distributed, and constantly interacting functional areas of the brain. For this reason, any hypothesis about the neural correlates of a moment of consciousness must account for the integrated or coherent operation of large-scale brain activity. (268)

Zanardi, Paolo, et al. Towards Quantum Integrated Information Theory. arXiv:1806.01421. As this IIT model gains veracity and broad acceptance, we note this certain entry because these USC physicists pursue its application to and synthesis with quantum phenomena as it lately becomes reconceived (see Quantum Organics) as a complex network system akin to all other “classical” phases.

Integrated Information Theory (IIT) has emerged as one of the leading research lines in computational neuroscience to provide a mechanistic and mathematically well-defined description of the neural correlates of consciousness. Integrated Information (Φ) quantifies how much the integrated cause/effect structure of the global neural network fails to be accounted for by any partitioned version of it. The holistic IIT approach is in principle applicable to any information-processing dynamical network regardless of its interpretation in the context of consciousness. In this paper we take the first steps towards a formulation of a general and consistent version of IIT for interacting networks of quantum systems. (Abstract)

The main goal of classical Integrated Information Theory (IIT) is to provide a mathematical and conceptual framework to study the neural correlates of consciousness. In this paper we took the first steps towards a possible quantum version of IIT. Our approach is a quantum information-theoretic one, in which neural networks are being replaced by networks of qudits, probability distributions by non-commutative density matrices, and markov processes by completely positive maps. The irreducible cause/effect structure of the global network is encoded by a so-called conceptual structure operator. We have studied quantum effects in small qubit networks and provided examples, analytical and numerical, of families of low integration networks. (11)

Zelazo, Philip, et al, eds. The Cambridge Handbook of Consciousness. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007. With coeditors Morris Moscovitch and Evan Thompson, a formidable survey to date of the scholarly and scientific admission that human awareness in all its phases is a valid subject amenable to study and explanation. Part I: The Cognitive Science of Consciousness, contains sections of Philosophy, Computational Approaches, Cognitive Psychology, Linguistics, Developmental Psychology, Alternative States, Anthropology/Social Psychology of Consciousness, and Psychodynamic Approaches. Parts II and III are The Neuroscience of Consciousness and Quantum Approaches. An authoritative sample might by The Evolution of Consciousness by Michael Corballis, and Asian Perspectives: Indian Theories of Mind by Georges Dreyfus and Evan Thompson. On its Amazon page you will be directed to similar volumes such as The Oxford Companion to Consciousness (2009), and others as a good entry and survey.

Zeman, Adam. Consciousness. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2002. An innovative, accessible work which situates human perceptual abilities in an evolutionary context. This course of earth life is seen as a long, developmental gestation whose phylogenesis generally similar to the ontogenesis of an embryonic organism and person.

Encephalization is associated with small broods, long lives, increasing biological intelligence, ever richer representations of the environment and increasingly flexible repertoires of response. (275)

Zlatev, Jordan. The Dialectics of Consciousness and Language. Journal of Consciousness Studies. 15/6, 2008. An introduction to a special issue on the cross-fertilization of linguistics and sentience. But with an all-male cast, the reality of such discourse seems to be more what some man has previously written on the subject.

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