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Consciousness and Integrated Information Theory

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Nathanial.Dread

Rising Star
By George, I think he's got it!


Abstract:
Tononi said:
The integrated information theory (IIT) starts from phenomenology and makes use of thought experiments to claim that consciousness is integrated information. Specifically: (i) the quantity of consciousness corresponds to the amount of integrated information generated by a complex of elements; (ii) the quality of experience is specified by the set of informational relationships generated within that complex. Integrated information (Φ) is defined as the amount of information generated by a complex of elements, above and beyond the information generated by its parts. Qualia space (Q) is a space where each axis represents a possible state of the complex, each point is a probability distribution of its states, and arrows between points represent the informational relationships among its elements generated by causal mechanisms (connections). Together, the set of informational relationships within a complex constitute a shape in Q that completely and univocally specifies a particular experience. Several observations concerning the neural substrate of consciousness fall naturally into place within the IIT framework. Among them are the association of consciousness with certain neural systems rather than with others; the fact that neural processes underlying consciousness can influence or be influenced by neural processes that remain unconscious; the reduction of consciousness during dreamless sleep and generalized seizures; and the distinct role of different cortical architectures in affecting the quality of experience. Equating consciousness with integrated information carries several implications for our view of nature.
 
This thing is devilishly simple. I look forward to seeing what the really big simulations of multiple 'complexes' interacting with each other looks like :)
 
Qualia space (Q) is a space where each axis represents a possible state of the complex, each point is a probability distribution of its states, and arrows between points represent the informational relationships among its elements generated by causal mechanisms (connections).
What are these "causal mechanisms"? If you have to draw arrows between points, then they aren't actually connected at all. Without some calculus which predicts how a point moves through qualia space, all we have is a record of what happened without any understanding of why it happened. In other words, how is this theory different from other fields such as physics, which not only record but also predict (i.e. provide causal mechanims for) sequences of observations?

Together, the set of informational relationships within a complex constitute a shape in Q...
Wait, what does he mean by "relationship within a complex"? He just said that relationships are inter-complex structures, not intra-complex structures!

neural processes underlying consciousness can influence or be influenced by neural processes that remain unconscious
Here he is assuming that some matter is conscious while other matter is not. I'm pretty sure that consciousness is not well-defined in any field yet. Humans are still struggling to understand how consciousness works, so I don't think we can rule out yet that things like trees don't have the propensity for some form of consciousness.

So anyways, I suspect that this theory is impractical if not ill-defined.
 
Give the full-text a read, I think it will clear up a lot of questions raised by the abstract.

To put it simply, IIT runs something like this:

Anywhere there is integration of information, there is consciousness - it's fundamental property of the universe, just like gravity or electromagnetism. The amount of consciousness is a function of the amount of integrated information processed by a given system (this is the value Phi), and systems can be composed of smaller systems, and play parts in larger systems, depending on how you break them down (think of a tree as both a system in-and-of-itself, as well as being just a node in a much larger system, the forest). As in any information processing system, information flows in accordance with certain algorithmic rules that dictate how the system works.

In the case of the human being, it's not so that some matter is conscious while other isn't: all matter has a certain, very low, phi value associated with it, but that matter can arrange itself in systems that have consciousness as an emergent property of their interactions. Some complexes, or parts, of the system are very high phi value, and those complexes have a high degree of consciousness, while others might not reach the requisite level of complexity to be part of 'our' subjective consciousness. Remember that the experience of consciousness is a function of how the system can be described in qualia space - consciousness doesn't not imply any one particular cognitive capability, such as language, or self-awareness.

Blessings
~ND
 
You know, someone once posted a comment on one of Terence's videos on youtube, saying:
"It seems as though this man has lived lifetimes".
I would say the same for Alan Watts, and many others.
I agree with that commenter. I think Terence, and anyone who allies themselves with particularly the mushroom (I say mushroom, because we are wed), has necessarily gone through a reorganization of mind, and this reorganization of mind occurs through the consolidation (right word?) of information that has been stored from the past (memory). Terence once stated that he was born with a prodigious memory. But the fact is no one is born with any memory at all. Well, I think this theory of consciousness as integrated information explains people with brilliant memory perfectly. Successive defragmentation events, aka trips, or some kind of disillusioning event, (or even cannabis I believe) actually are helpful means whereby memory can be disassembled, sorted through, and all past "saved" information that is unnecessary or not useful or not serving to one's self is dispensed with. This, in a way, "frees" the space of the mind to include new information, information it might not have even considered before the defragmentation process, because the
construct of the previous operating system prevented clear seeing, or simply making a certain connection. We all know the instances when we suddenly make a connection, and then a whole new vista of understanding opens up before us - which actually enables even further penetration into the mystery. Reintegration is as important as defragmentation, however.

It is as if the mind can be thought of a growing system. The system grows to a limit at which point it cannot move past, until a clearing of the RAM of mind happens. Memory is released, old information is dispensed with, forgotten, and the mind is now like a bowl that is most useful when empty - because "only the hand that erases can write the true thing".
We might say that the mind has a certain size, like that empty bowl. It is the density of the information inside the bowl that is relevant. And that can only happen through learning, dispensing with what isn't useful, and restarting the process.
You're as smart as you want to be, really.

"The amount of consciousness is a function of the amount of integrated information processed by a given system "
I don't think the truth of the matter could be stated any more clearly!
The speed of an individuals evolution depends entirely on that individuals ability to defragment and reorganize his mind.
Obviously, psilocybin catalyzes this process immensely!

Psilocybin has been shown to cause this kind of reorganization of neural architecture, if I'm not mistaken. It's called latent inhibition and semantic priming. Everyone knows psilocybin has a very weird effect on language. Maybe this has something to do with the reorganization process.
The mushroom really is a kind of food of the gods.

I hope I didn't go off topic too much; I really like this idea you've pointed out.
By joel, I think he's got it too!

N.D.
I'd add that language and self-awareness go-together.
Where there is language there will always be self-reflecting consciousness.
However, as you pointed out, to be conscious at all doesn't necessarily mean the creature has language.
 
Nathanial.Dread said:
As in any information processing system, information flows in accordance with certain algorithmic rules that dictate how the system works.
~ND
Resistance to equilibrium, while vague and likely impossible to emulate algorithmically might offer an interesting direction when one ponders the genesis of life and preceding emergence of observable consciousness.
 
Nathanial.Dread said:
As in any information processing system, information flows in accordance with certain algorithmic rules that dictate how the system works.
~ND
This is assuming that the "information" and the "processing system" are in fact separate, distinguishable entities.
 
Nathanial.Dread said:
Give the full-text a read, I think it will clear up a lot of questions raised by the abstract.
Okay, I'm going to do it. I'm ready to either be blown away or disappointed. I've printed it off. I'm reading the first line:
"Everybody knows what consciousness is..."

facepalm.jpg~c200


But seriously, I'll give the full text a read. I just expect it to raise more questions than it answers. We'll see...
 
in relation to qualia space and the hard problem of consciousness we might find a physical correlate for the information in the form of neural connections or connections between cells. now this would get quite permutated suffice to say and you'd be dealing with feverishly large numbers but perhaps we could examine the neural connections and find a physical presence of the abstract concept of say, redness as it were. imagine the implications, of quantifying qualia. i mean given a certain entropy state you only do have a finite set of configurations. and within that, must then lie every aspect of our experience to the completion of detail. could it be any other way?
 
The problem with neural networks is that, even though they are relatively easy to apply, it is hard to deconstruct what exactly is going on even for fairly simple networks. I think it will prove too difficult to understand how individual concepts are represented in the brain, much less how they are affected by things like psychedelic experience. I think a constructivist definition of consciousness is the best we will be able to achieve. By that I mean consciousness will be defined by the conditions under which it arises (e.g. in neural networks of a specific size).
 
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