Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Many Thanks to Conscious Entities

Many thanks to Peter, at Conscious Entities (one of my favorite philosophy and science blogs), for linking to my "T=0 Complexity Theory of Consciousness" paper here at the Hermeneutics Blog. His open-handedness may even have convinced me to return to blogging -- if just a little bit now and then.

I intend to compose an "About" page soon for the Hermeneutics Blog that will explain its aims and origins. I will also hope to post links from time to time to interesting material on the web. I hope those interested in philosophy will stop in from time to time in order to see what's new.

I'd be delighted to receive comments -- good, bad or indifferent -- on the "T=0 Complexity Theory of Consciousness" paper. Comments are enabled only on page 12 (the final page) in order to keep them gathered together.

Salute omni amans philosophiae!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The T=0 Complexity Theory of Consciousness (p. 12)

lifetime of the individual and of the collective. I suspect — and certain readings of history and pre-history strongly support the idea — that widely varying manifestations of Consciousness emerged and dissipated in pre-historical humans until stability could be progressively enhanced by the transmission of stabilizing arrangements of language and built world: that this is the solution the Consciousness designed to the problem of its own inherent instability. This is how Consciousness became continuous and stable individually from person to person and collectively from generation to generation as we generally and erroneously assume it has always been.

Beggs, John M. and Plenz, Dietmar (2003). Neuronal Avalanches in Neocortical Circuits. J. Neurosci, 23(35), 11167-11177.

Kitzbichler MG, Smith ML, Christensen SR, Bullmore E. (2009). Broadband Criticality of Human Brain Network Synchronization. PLoS Comput Biol 5(3): e1000314. doi:10.1371/journal.pcbi.1000314

Libet, B., Wright, E. W., & Gleason, C. A. (1983). Preparation- or intention-to-act, in relation to pre-event potentials recorded at the vertex. Electroencephalography and clinical neurophysiology, 56(4), 367-72.

Maclean, Paul D. The Triune Brain in Evolution: Role in Paleocerebral Functions. Springer Publishing, 1990.

Maclean, Paul D. A triune concept of the brain and behaviour. University of Toronto, 1970.

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The T=0 Complexity Theory of Consciousness (p. 11)

alternately, the neo-cortex, to a non-physical boundary shared with an epiphenomenon (emergent property). This seems to me a far more elegant explanation of the nature of the mind, and solution to the persistent problem of mind-body duality, than any presented to this point, and one which accounts for all observed phenomena.

Our definition of Consciousness, accordingly, amounts to the first step of a Complexity Theory of Consciousness. Consciousness is an emergent property of the brain which manifests at a threshold complexity-level provided to the brain by the addition of the neo-cortex.

So now, let us state our final definition in the clearest and most succinct terms possible. Consciousness is an emergent property of the grey matter of the neo-cortex where the neuronal processes per unit volume are vastly denser and better organized. It contains no inherent emotions, volition, senses or unified sense of self (all of which are local to the subconscious —paleo-mammalian — portion of the brain) the which are only modified or mediated by the Consciousness. The Consciousness is entirely reactive to the processes of the subconscious, modifying those processes through the medium of complex neuronal algorithms. It is an area of neuronal processes particularly and solely fitted for problem solving. It has no inherent biological biases except to solve problems and no emotional biases at all. It is evolutionarily selected for because of the sensory and behavioral problems it succeeds in solving, through mediation, thus enhancing the survival of its host population.

Epilogue: The Consciousness at t=t’

At a time long before t=t’, the frontal lobes began extending their problem solving beyond the host organism in itself to the enhanced survival of the group. This required that Consciousness expand into the shared physical world of a group, small at first, but growing as the external component of Consciousness could accommodate the greater numbers and accomplish the concomitant survival enhancements for the host organisms of the collective and individual components of Consciousness. Rather than communication and coordination via intra-cranial neurotransmitters alone, Consciousness utilized a new style of transmission across its external regions: we call that transmitter “language”.

If we skip past all the myriad developments between the inception of language and the present, we find an entire built world and further enhanced external transmission via radio waves and a Consciousness profoundly altered by them. The implications are enormous and beyond the scope of this paper. For the present, it must suffice to say that from the inception of language to t=t’ the Consciousness has left behind every sign that it continues to develop, that it has jumped outside of the neo-cortex in order to expand its modification of the subconscious mind and to pass along that expanded capability to the individual Consciousnesses that its built world patterns by the processes of internalization and that, in turn, pattern the built world by the processes of externalization.

This does suggest an answer to one of the larger questions which arises from the theory that the Consciousness is an emergent property. As those who are familiar with emergent properties are likely aware, the properties tend to be stable for more or less short periods of time. The Consciousness as we presently know it, however, tends to be remarkably stable throughout the

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The T=0 Complexity Theory of Consciousness (p. 10)

with all things in the Consciousness, the “I” is the manifestation of a solution to a problem, the solution successful inasmuch as it increases the likelihood of the survival of its host population.

As is the case for all processes of our Consciousness, the executive function is located entirely in the grey matter of the neo-cortex. As in all processes of our Consciousness, the executive function is laid over the more archaic white matter brain region that once far less successfully sought to fulfill the same function. The interconnections between the neo-cortex of the frontal lobes and other brain regions, conscious and subconscious, consist almost entirely of the white matter neurons that initially interconnected the more archaic versions of those regions. White matter neurons are better adapted to this function than grey because they are encased in bulky myelin sheaths which maintain signal integrity over the comparatively long distances between regions.

As is the case for all processes of our Consciousness, the neo-cortex of the frontal lobes receives no direct sensory inputs and has no will of its own. It’s only purpose is to solve problems such that the survival of its host organism is enhanced. It can only assess and modify the will of the subconscious such that archaic processes are thwarted or redirected based upon experience ― can only form complex neuronal algorithms which assess the brains greatly expanded and enhanced, distributed memory and modify actions based upon the most favorable previous outcomes for similar contexts.

The frontal lobes can also provide one or more levels of meta-consciousness. They can evaluate their own executive function, and evaluate their evaluation of their own executive function, as part of their problem solving, something impossible on any level in the archaic paleo-mammalian brain.

“How,” it has often been asked, even by neurologists and philosophers, “can any amount of circuitry, no matter how well organized, arrive at something as numinous as Consciousness?” The answer to this is: “How, in scientific or philosophical terms, can anything else be the case?” Postivist/Reductionist approaches to the study of the brain historically reply that the numinous quality of Consciousness is beyond our understanding only because we are, as of yet, no where near mapping the total functionality of the brain. When this is done, it is assumed, the total of the neurons involved in brain function will add up to all phenomena properly associated with the brain (including those numinous qualities some assign to “mind”).

It seems unlikely, however, at this juncture, that any additive sum of neurons or neuronal networks can arrive at a change-of-state such as that apparently inherent in the Consciousness unless it does so by having exceeded a threshold population that invokes the special dynamics observed upon entering the realm of Complexity Theory. Furthermore, the Consciousness exhibits many of the qualities associated with Complex Systems. It is ordered and founded upon distributed independent localized processing. It is accomplished by a combination of local and system wide networks. It incorporates strong feedback loops. It exhibits self-organized criticality (i.e. operates at the edge of a chaos state) [Kitzbichler, 2009][Beggs, 2003] and accommodates system disequilibrium within overall stable states.

To put the matter in other terms which might highlight how this alters the nature of a philosophical question central to the understanding of Consciousness, this shifts the locus of mind-body duality from some impossible physical boundary near the human brain stem, or,

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The T=0 Complexity Theory of Consciousness (p. 9)

other words, the conscious decision to perform an act comes after the brain has already registered the beginning of the act.

As shocking as this is to someone who wishes to think of his or her conscious actions as actually being conscious, we submit that the result merely verifies a fact about Consciousness already stated here. As we have said, above, all unmediated sensory input and emotion resides entirely in the subconscious. The Consciousness can do nothing but mediate those sensory data, modify those emotions and the primitive actions they provoke and otherwise solve abstract problems. The source of all will is in the emotions. That is to say, the subconscious does, in fact, decide to initiate all action. The modification of will (of primitive action), in order to prevent adverse consequences, is, at base, a complex problem to be solved in order to enhance survival. That is to say, the function resides in the Consciousness. The Consciousness is entirely reactive. It only decides whether to allow an action proposed by the subconscious or whether to oppose or modify the action.

As for sensory mediation, there is only space available here for a few key words. The Consciousness mediates sensory input on various levels. Among the more important to our sense of consciousness is vastly improved pattern matching which also provides us with the wondrous variety of sights, sounds, tactile sensations, etc., available to our inner world. Those with blindsight can not see only in the sense that this pattern matching is no longer available to their visual processes. The subconscious can still see, but it is revealed to us that its seeing is impoverished of an the inner world. The deficit can only be described as a loss of our greatest gift: that inner world, the experience of Consciousness.

So then, let us state our definition, at this juncture, in the clearest and most succinct terms possible. Consciousness is located in all or part of the grey matter of the neo-cortex where the neuronal processes per unit volume are vastly denser and better organized. It contains no inherent emotions, volition, senses or unified sense of self. It is entirely reactive to the processes of the subconscious. It is an area of neuronal processes particularly and solely fitted for problem solving. It has no inherent biological biases except to solve problems and no emotional biases at all. It is evolutionarily selected for because of the sensory and behavioral problems it succeeds in solving, through mediation, thus greatly enhancing the survival of its host population.

For all the wonder and complexity of sensory mediation, however, our experience informs us that it is at the service of far higher conscious activities. We do not feel like we are the sum of our mediated sensory inputs, but, rather, feel like those inputs are merely information provided to our Consciousness. This is due to the fact that we almost entirely identify our Consciousness with the processes resident in our frontal lobes, with thinking, with abstract reasoning, with the symphonic whole of our subconscious desires and their mediation.

The frontal lobes solve the single most vital problem: how to transform the senses of self of all our myriad parts, and the archaic pre-conscious sense of a unified self, into a single conscious “I”. How to coordinate successfully the vast amounts of sensory input, emotion and memory such that all the disparate parts of us feel like, and, therefore, work together as, one single organism capable of bringing all of its vast resources to bear on the problems that life presents. That “I,” is called our “executive function”. We necessarily locate all of our emotions, senses, repressions, etc., in our executive function, not because they are actually located in the frontal lobes, but because the only way we can act as a single unitary being is to feel like they are. As

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The T=0 Complexity Theory of Consciousness (p. 8)

The paleo-mammalian brain still intact, and the conscious brain having been removed from the equation, the mammal, as it were, takes over the function un-mediated. But there is absolutely no corresponding conscious feeling of sight because there is no Consciousness in the paleo-mammalian brain. The Consciousness has been rendered blind while the subconscious brain has not. Seeing is registered in the Lateral geniculate nuclei, of the thalamus, the superior colliculus, pulvinar area, etc. Mental pictures (which are what we would call “seeing”) reside in the machinery of the Consciousness and are mediated visual representation.

This is a similar mechanism, with some modifications, which creates the widely known effect of a ball-player rapidly performing highly complex feats of coordination “without having to think about them”. The Consciousness steps aside in favor of the sub-conscious mind which, freed of the relatively time consuming step of handing off sensory input for conscious mediation, is much better at performing such tasks at such speeds. Precisely the same mechanism allows trained drivers to drive a car. For, in both cases, a solution designed by the Consciousness is brought to bear: first, repetition is used during a training period to pattern the sub-conscious mind (memory areas, basal ganglia and cerebellum) to be able to perform the task, and, then, the Consciousness retires into the background during actual performance of the task in order to remove the time-costly step of mediation.

As every ball-player and driver is aware, there is a third step to this solution developed by the Consciousness, for the Consciousness does not perfectly retire. If a sensory input is experienced that is unexpected, above a sensory threshold value also established by the Consciousness, the source of the experience is avoided (one ducks, screeches on the brakes, etc.) and mediation of the Consciousness is invoked until the source of the experience is evaluated and the situation considered safe enough again to return to unmediated processing. The Consciousness can also put in a wake-up call which will be invoked if the subconscious mind notes levels of traffic that require more “thoughtful” driving or certain landmarks that precede a tricky stretch of road or a turn-off, etc.

These states of greatly reduced participation of the Consciousness, recall to us something of the feeling of what might be called “earlier forms of consciousness”. Experiences are more immediate, capable of less complexity. The less conscious intervention is involved in decision making, the more subjects see without seeing, hear without hearing, feel without feeling. The less conscious their processing the less fine-grained the sensory and emotional processing and the memory of their experience.

But it would be inappropriate to consider such experiences to be precisely the same as those experienced during the evolutionary stages that the subconscious represents at some distance. Evolution has moved on. The Consciousness has modified the subconscious mind as part of its problem solving. Still, these experiences are highly informative about what some might refer to as “earlier forms of consciousness” and just how much a life limited to them would hardly seem conscious at all.

The second example is the phenomenon arising out of the relationship, discovered by Benjamin Libet [Libet et al, 1983], of readiness potentials to Consciousness. In a now famous experiment, the results of which have since been verified many times, although with widely varying interpretations, Libet discovered that the electrical potential in the brain that always precedes a conscious act begins almost half a second before the conscious decision to perform the act. In

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The T=0 Complexity Theory of Consciousness (p. 7)

subject or subjects. We sought to determine what was Consciousness by observing how it manifest itself in a person or in people.

The most famous of the researchers who proceeded in this fashion can only be Sigmund Freud and it is to Freud’s model of Consciousness that we will turn in order to unwind our term “not-conscious” such that we arrive at a far more expansive and properly descriptive one. In particular, we will henceforth refer to the paleo-mammalian brain as “subconscious” rather than the transitional “not-conscious”. As for the proto-consciousness of the reptilian brain (or r-complex), it clearly equates with Freud’s description of the Id.

The seat of unmediated emotion, volition, senses, qualia, etc., can only be the paleo-mammalian and reptilian brains, both of which compose Freud’s subconscious mind and the latter which is more specifically referred to as the Id. The localization of the unmediated senses, in the physical brain, is entirely in the deep brain at or near the juncture of the paleo-mammalian and reptilian brains. This is also the locus of the unmediated emotions (fight or flight response, mating drives, hunger). Only the most archaic levels of mediation exist within the r-complex the which are enhanced in the white matter of the paleo-mammalian brain. As for emotions, they would hardly be called emotions at all, but instinctual reactions, drives or proto-emotions, until the advent of the paleo-mammalian brain.

To be clear, then, the emotions and the senses express themselves immediately only and entirely in the subconscious. At the t=0 we have posited, the Consciousness exists but all emotion and sensation remain entirely in the subconscious as the Consciousness is only a biological structure. At t=t’ (we will designate “the present” as t’), as we all feel, Consciousness expresses itself as far more than “only a biological structure”.

By t=t’, the Consciousness has long formed stable areas of specialization. These areas are generally located in the neo-cortical area immediately adjacent to the white matter areas assigned the archaic expression of the same function because they depend upon the same long white matter nerve processes to interconnect various brain regions for coordinated function.

Nevertheless, even at t=t’ the Consciousness is the locus of no inherent emotion or sensation. All immediate emotion and sensation are physically localized in the subconscious mind. Many of the profoundly surprising experimental results relating to the brain and Consciousness make these facts clear.

Two examples are widely known and can help us begin to grasp the nature of the relationship of the senses and emotions to the Consciousness and the subconscious mind. The first is the phenomenon of “blindsight”. When the visual center of the neo-cortex (the locus, that is to say, of the mediation of sight by the Consciousness) is damaged in certain areas, the associated field of vision upon which the damage was afflicted becomes blind. Or so it would seem, for it has been discovered that, if the associated visual center, in the subconscious, is intact, the sub-conscious continues to see! Throw a ball at a person thus afflicted, from his or her blind side, and he or she may react to avoid being hit, or to otherwise reduce the impact of it, even though they can not consciously see it. Shown an object in the blinded visual field and they can correctly “guess” details of shape or color.

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The T=0 Complexity Theory of Consciousness (p. 6)

For transitional purposes, it may be recalled, we have labeled this t=0, paleo-mammalian brain as “not-conscious”. Moreover, by the time of the advent of the earliest primates, our ancestors, nature had tried out various approaches to neo-cortical grey matter with various results and levels of success, as indicated by the brain structures of various living mammals and primates representing various evolutionary strata. By all indications, and as is consonant with evolutionary progress, the development of the neo-cortex reaches farther back than we can effectively put a date to, and t=0 exists only as a useful abstraction allowing us to collect together evolutionary advances actually accomplished fitfully over many millions of years and describe them as a series of discrete events.

If we will remember our seventh axiom ― “Some or all of Consciousness resides in the brain” ― then, we have run out of brain in which to locate it unless we will find it in the neo-cortex. And that is precisely where we find it: in some portion or all of the neo-cortex. At t=0 it is, from one perspective, most purely itself: undifferentiated within itself, a structure with tremendous potential which will be put to use in favor of the survival of its host, but which has no qualities whatsoever except for the qualities describing and inhering in its physical structure.

At t=0, that is to say, the neo-cortex, the locus of the Consciousness has no emotion (and thus no volition), no senses (and thus no qualia), no “programmed” structures by which to reflect upon or affect behavior. As a result of all of this, the Consciousness at t=0 can have no unified sense of self. Even the host organism’s not-conscious unified sense of self, such as it is, resides unmodified and un-enhanced in the white matter cerebrum. It is purely a brain structure with the ability to solve problems at a much more complex level than white matter can achieve and the potential to use that ability to mediate or modify behavior in directions that will improve the brain’s capability to enhance the survival of its host. It is also absolutely inherent in Consciousness that it has the capability to modify itself, to solve the enormously complex problem of evaluating and altering itself, short, medium and long terms.

Having finally arrived at these points, it is now time to return to our transitional assignment of “not-consciousness” to the paleo-mammalian brain and to give it its final term. As previously stated, the mammalian consciousness could just as easily have been considered an expression along the spectrum of consciousness rather than mere “not-consciousness”. We chose the latter because we were seeking a definition of Consciousness, and, for that purpose, needed to discriminate between terms as completely and clearly as possible. After accomplishing our definition we would presumably put the matter right and the moment for this has arrived

But first, let us repeat our definition, to this point, in the clearest and most succinct terms possible. Consciousness is located in all or part of the grey matter of the neo-cortex where the neuronal processes per unit volume are vastly denser and better organized. It contains no inherent emotions, volition, senses or unified sense of self. It is an area of neuronal processes particularly and solely fitted for problem solving. It has no inherent biological biases except to solve problems and no emotional biases at all.

Our definition stated, it will behoove us to consider another perspective on consciousness. Whereas Mclean presented a theory in the matter of consciousness from the field of neurology, the technologies necessary in order to develop the kinds of data necessary in order to forward theories based in that science have only recently come available. Prior to the emergence of contemporary neurology Consciousness was studied in the outward or express behavior of the

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The T=0 Complexity Theory of Consciousness (p. 5)

forms of life by virtue of a sense of self. Therefore, a sense of self is not discriminative of Consciousness.
2. Consciousness exhibits processing levels more complex than instinct.
3. The presence of memory (short, medium or long term) is not discriminative of Consciousness.
4. Consciousness-qua-Consciousness receives no direct, unmediated sensory input.

Surely it bears asking: What then are the actual positive traits of the Consciousness?

The transition between reptiles and mammals is represented, in the brain, by the development of the cerebrum and the neo-cortex. The neo-cortex is an evolutionarily new layer of grey matter which begins to appear at about the same time as the advent of mammals. As the term “cortex” would imply, the neo-cortex is a new “covering” — a new external layer — of the brain. The old covering, as it were, was grey matter largely associated with the limbic system the descendant of which can still be found in that area in the modern human brain.

In less evolved mammals, by all available evidence, advances are represented by expansion of the white matter of the cerebrum while the neo-cortex remains minimal, incomplete and relatively poorly organized. This expansion of white matter is especially notable in the area called the frontal lobe, an area dedicated to problem solving. With the advent of primates, the neo-cortex thickens and expands to cover the entire brain.

It is not difficult to determine what was the evolutionary advantage of the neo-cortex. The cerebrum being white matter is made up of much longer, heavier nerve processes generally covered in bulky myelin sheaths. It needs considerable space in order process at optimum. It could be compared to an old mainframe computer occupying an entire building with tubes and wires. It can do complex processing but the complexity is limited by the space it requires. In order for the human brain to match its present computing power with only white matter, a fetus’s head would have to be far too large to fit through the birth canal.

The neo-cortex being grey matter, on the other hand, is made up of much shorter, lighter nerve processes protected by a packing of glial cells. The grey matter in the primate neo-cortex is highly organized and closely interconnected. Processing of enormous complexity is possible within a head that, during the fetal stage, will fit through the birth canal.

So then, by virtue of the neo-cortex, vastly more complex processing is possible. It is specialized processing throughout, however. The fact is all to the point.

If we were to imagine the neo-cortex at t=0 (if we may invoke this abstract state to clarify some points), the cerebrum processes precisely as it did before the advent of the neo-cortex. Previously complex processing remains and is un-enhanced. The full set of emotions is installed, as it were. The traditional five senses are functional. The brain can distinguish qualia. The frontal lobe is capable of (to that point) evolutionarily high levels of problem solving. All of this exists and remains in the cerebrum prior to the first neuronal discharge of the neo-cortex. Yet, for all of these capabilities, the brain at t=0 can only be a not-conscious paleo-mammalian brain.

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The T=0 Complexity Theory of Consciousness (p. 4)

brain made since Dr. Maclean posited his model we have learned that some reptiles in fact have and/or had proto-limbic brain structures. While the subsequent disappearance of a perfectly discrete boundary between the reptilian and the paleo-mammalian brains has far reaching implications none reaches as far as the definition of Consciousness.

By our reformed-Macleanian model, then, the r-complex will be understood additionally to be allowed to include proto-limbic structures. The r-complex, including those additional structures, will continue to be understood to be the physical seat of the instincts such as they manifest in the human brain. It will continue to be understood that, the human brain’s r-complex, removed of all later evolutionary brain layers, would revert to all of the behavioral traits of an instinct-only brain on a par with the reptile behavior.

Immediately beyond the r-complex, in the evolutionary layering of the human brain, we find the paleo-mammalian brain. This layer begins with the limbic system (versus a proto-limbic system). The limbic system modifies desire from the level of instinct to the level of emotion. As it develops it also progressively transfers sensory dominance from the olfactory to the visual sense. The olfactory sense, in the human brain, remains almost entirely wired into the r-complex. The more developed the paleo-mammalian brain, the more dominant becomes the input of the visual sense into brain processing.

The same may be said, to a lesser degree, about the aural sense. The more developed the paleo-mammalian brain, the more dominant becomes the input of the aural sense into brain processing.

These facts are exhibited in the structure of the paleo-mammalian portion of the human brain and are in general paralleled in the evolutionary tree of mammals themselves as we understand it via the study of living mammals representative of various evolutionary stages. They reveal to us an absolutely certain fact of Consciousness. Sensory data of a high degree of discrimination and acuity precedes the development of Consciousness. The seat of all sensory reception resides, regardless of the degree of evolutionary progress or Consciousness, in not-conscious portions of the human brain. Consciousness-qua-Consciousness receives no direct, and, therefore, no un-mediated, sensory input. The Consciousness can only be profoundly bereft of sensation in all immediate senses.

Even as early as the instinct-only brain, immediate sensory input must be mediated in a wide variety of ways in order for the brain to accomplish its functions. Certain scents must betoken a female in heat, must promise associated neurological reward. Certain sights must betoken that a competitor for the female is much larger, and, therefore, the female must be foregone. Certain sounds must betoken that a challenge to or for territory is at hand. These may properly be described as “proto-meanings”. Such proto-meanings can only be arrived at by mediation of the sensory inputs as they are passed along to the primitive processing areas of the instinct-only brain.

We begin now to be able to list some features of Consciousness, although these features are largely negative:

1. All forms of life may have a sense of self corresponding to their composition and circumstances. Therefore, conscious forms of life can not be discriminated from other

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The T=0 Complexity Theory of Consciousness (p. 3)

This founds a distinction only of terminology. Whereas the difference between proto-brain function and Consciousness is one of “orders of magnitude,” thus allowing us to posit a difference of kind, the difference between the instinct-only brain and Consciousness is not so easily discerned. We are at liberty to choose to use a terminology indicating a difference of degree (more or less conscious, higher-order or lower-order Consciousness, etc.) or of type (not-conscious or conscious), so long as we are consistent in our application.

This may seem highly counterintuitive. Surely, the difference between degree and type is an essential one, not a mere matter of semantics. More surely still, differences of degree are involved in the development of Consciousness. But it is important to remember that, for present purposes, we are not trying to give a complete account of Consciousness but to define it as a term. For the latter, we are better served by positing a clear distinction of type. The rest will follow in due time.

Transitionally, then, I adopt a terminology of types. The instinct-only brain will transitionally be referred to as “not-conscious” and only brains exhibiting more complex behaviors than instinct will be considered candidates for Consciousness.

If we consider instinct a series of (often quite complex) hardwired responses to (often quite complex) stimuli, all brains have instinct. By “hardwired” I refer to responses that can not be retrained. Instinct-only brains change their responses to stimuli only over generations by virtue of the selective pressures of evolution.

Insects, for example, by all validly controlled observation and experimental results, have, in the most evolved instances, instinct-only brains. Some birds and reptiles are seemingly able make minute adjustments. But, upon close observation, and careful discrimination, such apparent adjustments continue to be merely unchangeable hardwired instinctual actions. The myna bird and mockingbird, for example, add to their repertoire of sounds by way of a single unalterable hardwired behavior not as a change of behavior. Other apparent changes in individual bird and reptile behavior uniformly prove to be no more than unexpected expressions of rigorously fixed behaviors

What the myna bird and mockingbird also represent is the fact that instinct-only brains can exhibit short and long-term memory. They are not alone in this regard. The instinct-only brains of many creatures exhibit long and short-term memory. This to say that the presence of memory is not discriminative of Consciousness.

The workings of instinct-only brain reveal a great deal more to us about what the brain does that is not discriminative of Consciousness. Many instinct-only brains receive and process sensory input on quite a complex level for all of the senses that the conscious mind possesses. Instinct-only brains facilitate satisfaction of thirst and hunger, they enhance the success of mating, they evaluate risk, etc. None of these functions, this is to say, is discriminative of Consciousness while each is discriminative of the presence of a brain.

Returning for a moment to the Macleanian model of the human brain, the evolutionary remnants of the instinct-only brain are understood to resided in the r-complex otherwise known as the reptilian brain. The r-complex is understood to terminate at the limbic system which is the core of what is referred to as the paleo-mammalian brain. Among the many discoveries about the

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The T=0 Complexity Theory of Consciousness (p. 2)

If proto-brains and/or neuronal networks (both of which will henceforth be referred to as “proto-brains”) are hypothesized to be conscious then one of the following must be true:

1. brains exhibiting processing levels enormously more complex than reflex are orders of magnitude more conscious than proto-brains, or
2. per neuron, the consciousness of complex brains resides enormously more in their most primitive neural structures rather than their most evolved, or
3. individual neurons become enormously less conscious when combined in enormously more complex structures.

By this hypothesis, Consciousness, which we observe as a highly complex function, is achievable by simple neuronal networks that can not begin to have the requisite processing power. Per neuron, as it were, proto-brains would somehow have to be orders of magnitude more imbued with Consciousness than enormously more intricate brains, or enormously more intricate brains, by virtue of having vastly more neurons, in demonstratively functional structures, orders of magnitude more conscious than proto-brains.

If this hypothesis that proto-brains are conscious is held valid, Consciousness ceases to be available as a discriminative category of brain function. The term becomes vague and scientifically and philosophically meaningless and this alone disqualifies it entirely as term-qua-term. By this fact, predicative nominal definition is not possible. The whole idea of a Theory of Consciousness is subsumed, as a result, under the aegis of a mystical concept.

The common riposte to this part of my argument is that proto-brains may have a “sense of self” thus making them conscious. In response to this, I can only ask: “Upon what evidence does a ‘sense of self’ establish the fact of Consciousness?” Is it not probable that all forms of life have a sense of self corresponding to their composition and circumstances? Again, if the consequence of this is that they are all conscious then the term Consciousness is redundant with “living” and is free to be put to some other properly discriminative use. In either case, it is quite a convenient situation as we need to put the term Consciousness to altogether another use for our present purposes and can only be pleased to find that it is available.

The “orders of magnitude,” referred to above, together with the requirement that a nominal definition of a term must establish a clear discriminative category, leave us at liberty to posit a difference of kind rather than degree. Therefore, proto-brains may have a sense of self but they do not have Consciousness. Brains exhibiting Consciousness may also exhibit a sense of self in all instances but that sense is not definitive of Consciousness. It only indicates that beings exhibiting Consciousness are a subset of the set of “all living things”.

If brains exhibiting only instinct are hypothesized to be conscious then brains exhibiting behaviors more complex than instinct are “more” conscious. If brains exhibiting only instinct are hypothesized to be “not-conscious,” then:

1. brains exhibiting processing levels more complex than instinct are potentially conscious; and,
2. Consciousness is a state of brain development more advanced than instinct.

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The T=0 Complexity Theory of Consciousness

Gilbert Wesley Purdy, May 19, 2010

I intend here to forward a Theory of Consciousness. The first step in developing this theory will invert the approach generally used to this point. Attempts to this point have generally begun with intuitions of limited scope checked against the brain’s processing of sensory data, or against widely acknowledged qualia (what we collectively acknowledge is felt by us as conscious beings, such as a “sense of self”), and have tried to piece together, in this way, some preliminary picture of consciousness. I submit that this approach makes unacknowledged assumptions about consciousness, assumptions which, being incorrect, have led to misinterpretation of data.

It is true that, while the aforementioned attempts have gone under the banner of Theory of Consciousness, they have clearly been attempts to comprehend only certain aspects of consciousness. Nevertheless, lacking a nominal definition of “Consciousness” to provide a touchstone against which to compare experimental results and/or deductions inevitably a provides great deal of data and very little effective interpretation. I submit that, without a definition of Consciousness this situation promises to continue for a very long time.

The following, then, is an attempt to recount the process I have followed in order to arrive at a predicative nominal definition of Consciousness which will allow one to discriminate what is and is not specifically in the realm of Consciousness with a considerable and increasing degree of precision. I have since had many occasions to test this definition against the results of formal experiments undertaken by others, and less formal observations by myself and others, and the results seem almost uniformly to support the definition.

I intend, then, to provide a predicative nominal definition of Consciousness-qua-Consciousness in order to provide a viable touchstone against which to interpret data. I intend to do this beginning with seven simple axiomatic truths:

1. Reflexive neural action exists
2. Reflexive neural action resides entirely in proto-brains and/or in neural networks
3. Instinct exists
4. All brains exhibit instinct
5. Some or all of instinct resides in the brain
6. Consciousness exists
7. Some or all of consciousness resides in the brain

I will combine these axioms with a reformed-Macleanian overview of the evolution of the brain [Maclean, 1990], and, in particular, the morphologically normal human brain. By “normal,” I refer to a human brain with all brain areas and interconnections intact, of appropriate weight, orientation, and neuronal density, orientation and function, as determined by valid statistical methods.

While Maclean’s theory of human brain evolution has been shown to be too simplistic to satisfy the data since generated by experiments and observations in the field of neurology, the base concept remains intact. It is widely acknowledged that the layers of the human brain, upward and outward from the brain stem, represent a temporal evolutionary progress arriving at the brain’s present state in human beings.

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