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Can information theory help us understand consciousness?

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Gregory Chaitin From Gregory Chaitin at UFRJ:

In Chapter 8 of his 1996 Oxford University Press masterpiece The Conscious Mind, David Chalmers speculates on using information theory as the basis for a fundamental theory of consciousness. Building on his work, we attempt to flesh out an updated version of the Chalmers proposal by taking into account more recent developments including algorithmic information theory, quantum information theory, the holographic principle and the Bekenstein bound, and digital philosophy as sketched in two little-known monographs in Italian: Introduzione alla filosofia digitale and Bit Bang: La nascita della filosofia digitale

In the two decades since Chalmers published his panpsychism thesis that any physical system that processes information is conscious, it has become possible to put more meat on the bones of the Chalmers proposal. Unfortunately, it is possible to argue that as a consequence, the simplicity which was the principal argument in Chalmers’ favor has become somewhat diluted. Nevertheless, it remains straight-forward, at least in comparison with what is perhaps becoming its chief contender, the increasingly elaborate Tononi integrated information theory of consciousness [17, 18]. Note especially how much easier it is to measure consciousness according to Chalmers as opposed to the extreme computational difficulties of the Tononi proposal, which requires considering all possible partitions of a physical system. In conclusion, I believe that Chalmers panpsychism remains vigorous and stimulating, especially if taken in the context of digital philosophy, which attempts to build the world out of information and computation rather than matter and energy. More.

If we can “build the world out of information and computation rather than matter and energy,” will we not still face the question of how exactly they are integrated?

See also: Post-modern science: The illusion of consciousness sees through itself

Consciousness researcher: Objectivity is “cultural discrimination”

Human self-awareness without cerebral cortex

Are newborn babies really not conscious?

What great physicists have said about immateriality and consciousness

Roger Penrose: Somehow, our consciousness is the reason the universe is here. One can’t help wondering if this is suckerbait. Challenged, will Penrose retreat back to the safe little warren of nonsense theories about consciousness? A few are offered below, just to get you started, but we don’t especially recommend it. On the other hand, just for fun, start with, Claim: Science is afraid of animal consciousness. Why? Won’t crackpot theories work as well as they do for human consciousness? What’s different?

Aired on BBC: Consciousness no different than our ability to digest

Thomas Nagel: Daniel Dennett “maintaining a thesis at all costs” in Bacteria to Bach and Back

Physicist: Regrettably, materialism can’t explain mind

Split brain does NOT lead to split consciousness? What? After all the naturalist pop psych lectures we paid good money for at the U? Well, suckers r’ us.

Does the ability to “split” our brains help us understand consciousness? (Apparently not.)

What great physicists have said about immateriality and consciousness

Or else: Consciousness as a state of matter

Rocks have minds?

Researcher: Never mind the “hard problem of consciousness”: The real one is… “Our experiences of being and having a body are ‘controlled hallucinations’ of a very distinctive kind”

Searle on Consciousness “Emerging” from a Computer: “Miracles are always possible.”

Psychology Today: Latest new theory of consciousness A different one from the above.

Evolution bred a sense of reality out of us

Claim: Science is afraid of animal consciousness. Why? Won’t crackpot theories work as well as they do for human consciousness?

So then: Question: Would we give up naturalism to solve the hard problem of consciousness?

Neuroscience tried wholly embracing naturalism, but then the brain got away

Science fictions series 4: Naturalism and the human mind

3 Replies to “Can information theory help us understand consciousness?

  1. 1
    polistra says:

    In real science, theories and formulas grow out of a long history of observations and measurements. We can’t observe or measure consciousness in anything except ourselves, so the only permissible theories and formulas relate to sleeping and anesthesia.

    There’s still room for formulas about REM sleep, interrupted sleep, etc. Anesthetists seem to have a pretty good handle on necessary doses. Aside from those specialized areas, there’s no way to create theories on this subject.

  2. 2
    J-Mac says:

    Can information theory help us understand consciousness?

    It depends… life is definitely “dependent on information”… it is what makes us who we are…alive beings able to process information..

    Without information we wouldn’t be able to read this post and respond to it…

    The “hard” question still remains; what makes us perceive or interpret information the way we do? Wrong or right? Pleasure or displeasure? Alive or dead? Happy or unhappy?

  3. 3
    Dionisio says:

    Laughable debates between distinguished academic personalities. Poor things. Spiritually dead creatures discussing such an important subject that they don’t understand because it hasn’t been revealed to them.
    It ain’t the way they want to believe it is.
    Truth is completely different. The source of the Ultimate Reality has been revealed:

    In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him was not any thing made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of humans. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

    The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, yet the world did not know Him. He came to His own, and His own people did not receive Him. But to all who did receive Him, who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.
    And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen His glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.

    For from His fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, He has made Him known.

    John 1:1-5,9-14,16-18

    The term “Word” (Greek logos) designates God the Son with respect to His deity; “Jesus” and “Christ” refer to His incarnation and saving work. During the first three centuries, doctrines of the Person of Christ focused intensely on His position as the Logos. In Greek philosophy, the Logos was “reason” or “logic” as an abstract force that brought order and harmony to the universe. But in John’s writings such qualities of the Logos are gathered in the Person of Christ. In Neo-Platonic philosophy and the Gnostic heresy (second and third centuries a.d.), the Logos was seen as one of many intermediate powers between God and the world. Such notions are far removed from the simplicity of John’s Gospel.

    In this verse the Word is expressly affirmed to be God. The Word existed already “in the beginning” (a clear reference to the opening words of the Bible), which is a way of denoting the eternity that is unique to God. John states clearly, “the Word was God.” Some have observed that the word translated “God” here has no definite article, and argued on this basis that it means “a god” rather than “God.” This is a misunderstanding; the article is omitted because of the word order in the Greek sentence (the predicate “God” has been placed first for emphasis). The New Testament never endorses the idea of “a god,” an expression that implies polytheism and is in sharp conflict with the consistent monotheism of the Bible. In the New Testament, the Greek word for “God” occurs often without the definite article, depending on the requirements of Greek grammar.

    That “the Word was with God,” indicates a distinction of Persons within the unity of the Godhead. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are not successive forms of appearance of one Person, but are eternal Persons present from “the beginning” (v. 2). “With” suggests a relationship of close personal intimacy.

    The plot of this Gospel could be seen in terms of a struggle between the forces of faith and unbelief.

    The universal relevance of the gospel is asserted as well as the enlightening activity of God’s common grace. God’s saving activity is not restricted to any particular people.

    In this Gospel, “truth” and “true” are often employed to signify what is everlasting or heavenly, as opposed to the merely temporal or earthly.

    Jesus’ public ministry was one of rejection by “his own people”

    Fallen human beings are not children of God by nature; this is the privilege only of those who have faith, a faith generated in them by the sovereign action of God (v. 13).

    who were born. Early Latin versions understood this to describe the virgin birth of Christ. However, the plural verb “were born” shows that this verse is about the new birth of Christian believers (cf. 3:3, 5, 7, 8). This new birth takes place by the action of the Spirit giving life to those who were “dead in . . . trespasses and sins” (Eph. 2:1). The new birth, often called “regeneration,” is explained more fully in 3:1–21. Paul uses the metaphor of a resurrection from death in sin rather than the image of rebirth (Rom. 6:4–6; Eph. 2:5, 6; Col. 2:13; 3:1; cf. John 5:24). God’s work of salvation is wholly sovereign and gracious, but the reality of the human response in believing and receiving is never cancelled.

    the Word became flesh. This is the climactic assertion of the Prologue. To some of John’s contemporaries, spirit and the divine were utterly opposed to matter and flesh. To others, the gods were thought to visit the earth disguised as human beings (Acts 14:11). But here a chasm is bridged: the eternal Word of God did not merely appear to be a human being, but actually became flesh. He took to Himself a full and genuine human nature. See theological note “Jesus Christ, God and Man” on next page.

    dwelt among us. “Dwelt” means “pitched His tent.” This not only indicates the temporary nature of Jesus’ earthly existence, but does so in a way that recalls ancient Israel’s tabernacle, where God could be found (Ex. 40:34, 35).

    we have seen his glory. His “glory” is beheld, even as God’s was in the wilderness (Ex. 16:1–10; 33:18–23), in the tabernacle (Ex. 40:34–35), and later in the temple (1 Kin. 8:1–11). There may also be a reference to the Transfiguration, since John witnessed it (Matt. 17:1–5). “Glory” applies supremely to God, who is the Creator and Ruler of the universe, and before whom all knees must bow. The Son has the divine glory by right (17:5). The Reformers declared their faith with the motto, Soli Deo Gloria (“To God alone the glory”).

    the only Son. This phrase translates a single Greek word and explicitly points to the eternal generation of the Son in the Trinity.

    full of grace and truth. These words correspond to Old Testament terms describing God’s covenant mercy that are often translated “steadfast love and faithfulness” (Gen. 24:27; Ps. 25:10; Prov. 16:6; cf. Ex. 34:6; Ps. 26:3). The Word made flesh fully manifests the gracious covenant-making and covenant-keeping character of God.

    grace. This word, frequent in Paul’s epistles, appears in John’s writings only in this passage and as a customary greeting in Rev. 1:4; 22:21. It emphasizes that salvation is a gift. The Reformation expressed this with the motto Sola Gratia (“by grace alone”).

    Moses . . . Jesus Christ. There is both contrast and comparison. Grace and truth truly existed in Moses’ day, but they were fully revealed in the coming of Christ.

    No one has ever seen God. It is fundamental that God is invisible and without form (1 Tim. 6:16). Yet Christ reveals God. He brings the invisible and the visible together in a way that has no parallel or analogy.

    Reformation Study Bible provided by Ligonier Ministries

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