Wednesday, May 19, 2010

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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