Questioning Consciousness

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Re: Questioning Consciousness

Postby Pele'sDaughter » Mon Nov 05, 2018 4:58 pm

https://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech ... ience.html

[....]
Consciousness, I argue in a new paper, may be caused by the way the brain generates loops of energetic feedback, similar to the video feedback that 'blossoms' when a video camera is pointed at its own output.

I first saw video feedback in the late 1980s and was instantly entranced.

Someone plugged the signal from a clunky video camera into a TV and pointed the lens at the screen, creating a grainy spiralling tunnel.

I hallucinated almost identical imagery, only intensely saturated with colour.

It struck me then there might be a connection between these recurring patterns and the operation of the mind.

Fast forward 25 years and I'm a university professor still trying to understand how the mind works.

Our knowledge of the relationship between the mind and brain has advanced hugely since the 1990s when a new wave of scientific research into consciousness took off.

But a widely accepted scientific theory of consciousness remains elusive.

The two leading contenders – Stanislas Dehaene's Global Neuronal Workspace Model and Giulio Tononi's Integrated Information Theory – both claim that consciousness results from information processing in the brain, from neural computation of ones and zeros, or bits.

I doubt this claim for several reasons.

First, there is little agreement among scientists about exactly what information is.

Second, when scientists refer to information they are often actually talking about the way energetic activity is organised in physical systems.

Third, brain imaging techniques such as fMRI, PET and EEG don't detect information in the brain, but changes in energy distribution and consumption.

Brains, I argue, are not squishy digital computers – there is no information in a neuron.

Brains are delicate organic instruments that turn energy from the world and the body into useful work that enables us to survive.

Brains process energy, not information.

Recognising that brains are primarily energy processors is the first step to understanding how they support consciousness. The next is rethinking energy itself.

We are all familiar with energy but few of us worry about what it is. Even physicists tend not to.

They treat it as an abstract value in equations describing physical processes, and that suffices.

But when Aristotle coined the term energeia he was trying to grasp the actuality of the lived world, why things in nature work in the way they do (the word 'energy' is rooted in the Greek for 'work').

This actualised concept of energy is different from, though related to, the abstract concept of energy used in contemporary physics.

Brain and memory preservation has been explored at length by futurists, scientists and science fiction junkies alike.

Many say it falls under the category of 'transhumanism.'

Transhumanism is the belief that the human body can evolve beyond its current form with the help of scientists and technology.

The practice of mind uploading has been promoted by many people, including Ray Kurzweil, Google's director of engineering, who believes we will be able to upload our entire brains to computers by 2045.

Similar technologies have been depicted in science fiction dramas, ranging from Netflix's Altered Carbon, to the popular series Black Mirror.

Another prominent futurist, Dr Michio Kaku, believes virtual reality can be used to keep our loved ones' personalities and memories alive even after they die.

'Imagine being able to speak to your loved one after they die ... it is possible if their personality has been downloaded onto a computer as an avatar,' he explained.

These ideas haven't been met without criticism.

McGill University Neuroscientist Michael Hendricks told MIT that these technologies are a 'joke.'

'I hope future people are appalled that in the 21st century, the richest and most comfortable people in history spent their money and resources trying to live forever on the backs of their descendants. I mean, it’s a joke, right? They are cartoon bad guys,' he said.

Meanwhile, neuroscientist Miguel Nicolelis said recently that such technologies would be virtually impossible.

'The brain is not computable and no engineering can reproduce it,' he said.

'You can have all the computer chips in the world and you won't create a consciousness.'

When we study what energy actually is, it turns out to be surprisingly simple: it's a kind of difference. Kinetic energy is a difference due to change or motion, and potential energy is a difference due to position or tension.

Much of the activity and variety in nature occurs because of these energetic differences and the related actions of forces and work.

I call these actualised differences because they do actual work and cause real effects in the world, as distinct from abstract differences (like that between 1 and 0) which feature in mathematics and information theory. This conception of energy as actualised difference, I think, may be key to explaining consciousness.

The human brain consumes some 20% of the body's total energy budget, despite accounting for only 2% of its mass. The brain is expensive to run. Most of the cost is incurred by neurons firing bursts of energetic difference in unthinkably complex patterns of synchrony and diversity across convoluted neural pathways.

What is special about the conscious brain, I propose, is that some of those pathways and energy flows are turned upon themselves, much like the signal from the camera in the case of video feedback. This causes a self-referential cascade of actualised differences to blossom with astronomical complexity, and it is this that we experience as consciousness. Video feedback, then, may be the nearest we have to visualising what conscious processing in the brain is like.

The suggestion that consciousness depends on complex neural energy feedback is supported by neuroscientific evidence.

Researchers recently discovered a way to accurately index the amount of consciousness someone has.

They fired magnetic pulses through healthy, anaesthetised, and severely injured peoples' brains.

Then they measured the complexity of an EEG signal that monitored how the brains reacted.

The complexity of the EEG signal predicted the level of consciousness in the person.

And the more complex the signal the more conscious the person was.

The researchers attributed the level of consciousness to the amount of information processing going on in each brain.

But what was actually being measured in this study was the organisation of the neural energy flow (EEG measures differences of electrical energy). Therefore, the complexity of the energy flow in the brain tells us about the level of consciousness a person has.

Also relevant is evidence from studies of anaesthesia. No-one knows exactly how anaesthetic agents annihilate consciousness.

But recent theories suggest that compounds including propofol interfere with the brain's ability to sustain complex feedback loops in certain brain areas. Without these feedback loops, the functional integration between different brain regions breaks down, and with it the coherence of conscious awareness.

What this, and other neuroscientific work I cite in the paper, suggests is that consciousness depends on a complex organisation of energy flow in the brain, and in particular on what the biologist Gerald Edelman called 'reentrant' signals. These are recursive feedback loops of neural activity that bind distant brain regions into a coherent functioning whole.

Explaining consciousness in scientific terms, or in any terms, is a notoriously hard problem. Some have worried it's so hard we shouldn't even try. But while not denying the difficulty, the task is made a bit easier, I suggest, if we begin by recognising what brains actually do.

The primary function of the brain is to manage the complex flows of energy that we rely on to thrive and survive. Instead of looking inside the brain for some undiscovered property, or 'magic sauce', to explain our mental life, we may need to look afresh at what we already know is there.
Don't believe anything they say.
And at the same time,
Don't believe that they say anything without a reason.
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Re: Questioning Consciousness

Postby DrEvil » Mon Nov 05, 2018 6:35 pm

That's a lot of words to describe recursion. :)

His idea that it's all energy and not information sounds a little weird. The neurons may not contain any information themselves, but their constant firing is a way to transmit information.

Information, in the computer processing sense of the word, is just that: energy. No energy = 0, energy = 1. The brain also has energy pulsing around it, so, to simplify a lot, a neuron firing = 1, not firing = 0, so obviously there is information bouncing around in there. Also, just the fact that you can read this means the brain operates on information. It has to get the knowledge about what these squiggly symbols mean from somewhere.
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Re: Questioning Consciousness

Postby Pele'sDaughter » Tue Nov 06, 2018 9:06 am

That was the impression I got, too. Something is missing. That seems to be the case with all of the theories we've examined in this thread. Often close, but no cigar. :wallhead:
Don't believe anything they say.
And at the same time,
Don't believe that they say anything without a reason.
---Immanuel Kant
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Re: Questioning Consciousness

Postby chump » Fri Nov 09, 2018 11:49 pm



via Sofia:



Collective Evolution
Published on Nov 3, 2018

Are you so engrossed in your daily concerns that you are missing the cosmos? Sadhguru delves into how we can evolve into consciousness.

Clip from Sadhguru Talks @ An Evening with The Mystic, Pune, Jun 2017
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Re: Questioning Consciousness

Postby JackRiddler » Sat Nov 10, 2018 1:49 am

Can't access the link to see the author (everyone please always throw the author, date and URL into your quoted matter). So I'll just call it Daily Mail. (!?)

More side point: Agreement on the madness of transhumanists who would enslave all future generations to a suffocating multiplication number of immortals. It's bad enough with institutions and legacies and royal houses and traditions and memory cultures and constitutions and ancestor cults. Like anyone will want or need the literal Bezos and Gates still running their shit in 400 years. Kaku on the radio always creeps me out at some point, but I never forget seeing him on a visit to my high school in the 80s. He was resolutely anti-nuclear then and remains so, as far as I know.

Anyway, to the main matter, what's fascinating is the suggestion that no amount of mapping or encoding is going to reproduce a consciousness, real energy has to be in motion. Only the alive can have consciousness. What he's clearly evading is where does the memory reside, or by what means do we hold and recall it? I'm often ready to believe the brain's but a radio of the mind, which is elsewhere. But less than half the time. (It's not like memory is a literal accessing of past experience, we all know it's reconstruction and changes each time it's remembered; what the fuck is it?!)

Now I'm so stuck and memory feels like a greater problem than consciousness. There's something so natural about that. There's something of it all around us, peeking back.

I love the 20% stat. Makes me feel I'll lose weight just by thinking!

.
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Re: Questioning Consciousness

Postby Elvis » Sat Nov 10, 2018 3:30 am

Pele'sDaughter » Tue Nov 06, 2018 6:06 am wrote:Something is missing. That seems to be the case with all of the theories we've examined in this thread. Often close, but no cigar.


Consciousness doesn't arise in the brain. They'll never get it until they realize that, or at least take it into consideration.

And even then, the mystery at the bottom of it all will remain.

Much better than the 'computer' model is the 'transceiver' metaphor:

JackRiddler wrote: I'm often ready to believe the brain's but a radio of the mind, which is elsewhere.
"Frankly, I don't think it's a good idea but the sums proposed are enormous."
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Re: Questioning Consciousness

Postby BenDhyan » Sat Nov 10, 2018 7:26 am

"I'm often ready to believe the brain's but a radio of the mind, which is elsewhere."

'Everywhere' better describes it, the Cosmic Mind is omnipresent....and for the transceiver's 'antenna', consider the concept of 7 chakras...many 'bandwidths' of Cosmic vibrations...

The question begs....who am i?
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Re: Questioning Consciousness

Postby dada » Sat Nov 10, 2018 7:37 pm

Mind is elsewhere, mind is everywhere. I guess I'll present a third view, it's nowhere. And memories reside in the same place. Nowhere, at all. There's no 'space' that the thoughts, feelings and images are generated in, no 'screen' that they're displayed on. Having faith that science will eventually find or figure out the mechanism that generates this nonexistent space or screen is a sophisticated religious sentiment, not a scientific one.

Ben's question - who am I - gets closest to clearing this confusion up. Not the I of identity, but the I that sees the thoughts, feelings and images on the nonexistent screen when you close your eyes. That I is located in the same place as the screen and the memories.
Both his words and manner of speech seemed at first totally unfamiliar to me, and yet somehow they stirred memories - as an actor might be stirred by the forgotten lines of some role he had played far away and long ago.
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Re: Questioning Consciousness

Postby DrEvil » Sat Nov 10, 2018 7:54 pm

JackRiddler » Sat Nov 10, 2018 7:49 am wrote:Can't access the link to see the author (everyone please always throw the author, date and URL into your quoted matter). So I'll just call it Daily Mail. (!?)

More side point: Agreement on the madness of transhumanists who would enslave all future generations to a suffocating multiplication number of immortals. It's bad enough with institutions and legacies and royal houses and traditions and memory cultures and constitutions and ancestor cults. Like anyone will want or need the literal Bezos and Gates still running their shit in 400 years. Kaku on the radio always creeps me out at some point, but I never forget seeing him on a visit to my high school in the 80s. He was resolutely anti-nuclear then and remains so, as far as I know.

Anyway, to the main matter, what's fascinating is the suggestion that no amount of mapping or encoding is going to reproduce a consciousness, real energy has to be in motion. Only the alive can have consciousness. What he's clearly evading is where does the memory reside, or by what means do we hold and recall it? I'm often ready to believe the brain's but a radio of the mind, which is elsewhere. But less than half the time. (It's not like memory is a literal accessing of past experience, we all know it's reconstruction and changes each time it's remembered; what the fuck is it?!)

Now I'm so stuck and memory feels like a greater problem than consciousness. There's something so natural about that. There's something of it all around us, peeking back.

I love the 20% stat. Makes me feel I'll lose weight just by thinking!

.


I think memory is pretty well understood as far as understanding the brain goes. They're stored in the grey goo inside our skulls. I know the computer analogy isn't popular here, but it's a very useful tool for illustrating things, so, long term memory gets stored to the hard drive, short term memories only reside in memory (the computer kind, which loses all information when you turn it off).

I was pretty dismissive of the daily heil article, but one thing I think he might be on the right track about is recursion. It's a powerful tool when used "correctly", like fractals. Simple code becomes complex patterns.

I'm still in the strictly materialist camp of consciousness. There's just so many things supporting it, and pretty much every explanation I see that goes beyond that has a strong whiff of religion, which to me is just wishful thinking.

For instance: If the brain really is a receiver, does that mean that every living thing has consciousness, or is there a cutoff somewhere down the tree of life where less complex beings are just dumb, soulless automatons? And if not, do we extinguish a unique soul every time we step on an ant, or commit genocide when we mow the lawn?

And what about computers? Can your iPhone tune in to the right frequencies if it gets complex enough? The brain itself is just a physical organ in the material world, so if that can connect, why not something artificial, as long as it has the correct circuitry?

And alts? Are there people with two minds tuning in to the same brain, or do they spontaneously split of a new soul in extreme circumstances? Or how about people who have a stroke and come out of it with a completely different personality. Did they accidentally change the frequency?

Also, by what mechanism would our meat brains access information outside of them? As far as I know the current understanding of quantum mechanics doesn't allow for the transfer of information through quantum entanglement, so it has to be some other completely unknown mechanism. It just feels to me like the whole radio hypothesis raises more questions than it answers, unless you start going down the religion rabbit hole, in which case you might as well say that Santa Claus gives us consciousness.
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Re: Questioning Consciousness

Postby JackRiddler » Sat Nov 10, 2018 8:17 pm

Yeah, I tend to be on the Dr. Evil side, except that there has never been an observation of where this memory-data is actually stored. Approximately in the brain-organ doesn't cut it. In this or that part of the brain doesn't cut it.

You're using a metaphor: the hard drive. Real hard-drives do in some rudimentary sense record past facts, as do cabinets full of files. We call it memory, but it is not memory. The computer does not experience this as a consciousness. It does not have our immediate sense of being "there" again (even if our sense is not a true reproduction or reliving of the past event). The computer never lived it, isn't living it again, feeling it, re-creating it, seeing it from new angles (new, yet often truthful ones!). Until the medium and method of animal event and fact-memory "storage" is actually observed, the hard-drive metaphor is a model without empirical evidence. Not even a model, it's a metaphor. Like the brain radio receiver.

We have seen actual hard-drives, it is true, so those are more observable than chakra-receivers accessing immaterial spirit by quantum entanglement (which I just made up). But we have no more seen the former IN THE BRAIN than we have the latter. I see the paper on the desk and I can write "memories" on it in the same way as on the hard drive. The paper does not have the memory. I do. The paper is not in my brain.

My full quote was "I'm often ready to believe the brain's but a radio of the mind, which is elsewhere. But less than half the time." You quoters left out the last part.

One reason for my reluctance is social and pedestrian: expressing such thoughts usually prompts someone to start talking authoritatively about imaginary spirit-stuff (which, hey, could also be right at random, just as the hard-drive could randomly be a correct model; I mean maybe it is those 7 chakras that receive all from everywhere, and Mr. BenD has "seen" it.)

I like dada as a poet much more. It comes closer to my feeling, for whatever it's worth. But it's also well-hedged. Elsewhere, everywhere, nowhere, all and nothing covered.

.
Last edited by JackRiddler on Sun Nov 11, 2018 2:22 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Questioning Consciousness

Postby Elvis » Sun Nov 11, 2018 7:03 am

DrEvil wrote:I'm still in the strictly materialist camp of consciousness. There's just so many things supporting it, and pretty much every explanation I see that goes beyond that has a strong whiff of religion, which to me is just wishful thinking.


My view of "non-local" consciousness is derived from evidence (including evidence published by institutional scientists), not from religion. I've repeatedly invited you to look at the evidence, but for one reason or another you decline. On the one occasion I recall you responding to some data, you waved it off without addressing or properly disputing it. Therefore on this question I claim the rigor. :yay
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Re: Questioning Consciousness

Postby BenDhyan » Sun Nov 11, 2018 8:07 am

JackRiddler » Sun Nov 11, 2018 10:17 am wrote:I mean maybe it is those 7 chakras that receive all from everywhere, and Mr. BenD has "seen" it.


To clarify any misunderstanding, Mr BenD has not "seen" it...but...the human mind is capable of experiencing a state beyond duality, Hence the question....who am I when my mind is not identifying with Mr BenD?

To the materialistically inclined, the question is rhetorical as such persons naturally cannot imagine a state of mind they have not yet realized. I know this could sound awfully condescending, but let me make it clear that we each have our own goals in life, who is to say which is superior to another. My point is that our beliefs shape our destiny, and each realizing their own destiny is more important than wasting time debating which is correct.....they are all true.
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Re: Questioning Consciousness

Postby Sounder » Sun Nov 11, 2018 8:10 am

DrEvil wrote:
I'm still in the strictly materialist camp of consciousness. There's just so many things supporting it, and pretty much every explanation I see that goes beyond that has a strong whiff of religion, which to me is just wishful thinking.


I have always liked the good doctor for his honesty and direct manners.

The word 'still' in the first sentence is indicative of a mental flexibility that Dr. Evil is sure to further develop. :wink:
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Re: Questioning Consciousness

Postby dada » Sun Nov 11, 2018 11:46 am

If I bump into a table and it leaves a black and blue mark, could we say that the memory of the event is stored in the bruise?

Sure we could use the computer metaphor there, but clearly it's only a metaphor.

The computer metaphor for the brain also ignores the problem of the lack of a monitor where the memories are displayed. And while the eye sees things outside, there's no material organ to see the things inside. These are obvious questions about basic hardware, I would suggest answering those first before puzzling over software.
Both his words and manner of speech seemed at first totally unfamiliar to me, and yet somehow they stirred memories - as an actor might be stirred by the forgotten lines of some role he had played far away and long ago.
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Re: Questioning Consciousness

Postby chump » Sun Nov 11, 2018 1:24 pm

. _ .
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