Currently CIP is reading and posting about Christof Koch's confessions and the phee of 'integrated information theory'.

I think the 'dynamic' aspect of consciousness is missing from this proposal and perhaps something like
phee * dphee/dt
would be a better measure.
Of course, this reminds one of dS/dt and the 2nd law, which may be an important feature, considering the proposal of Scott A. that matter has to participate in the arrow of time to be conscious.

Meanwhile, Lubos also wrote about phee, which he understands as a measure of entanglement entropy, and I find his point "mechanisms of the Heisenberg choice" quite remarkable. Here is the connection with the "interpretation problem" again.

Of course, so far this is all idle speculation and it is unclear how one could ever check or falsify these proposals. But, as Einstein remarked, one needs to have a theory first before one knows what to look for ...
It seems to me that this topic is currently in an early stage with many ideas brewing, nothing firm yet - but a big improvement over the situation just a few years ago.
I credit Daniel Dennett for the progress made so far; when he wrote his book Consciousness Explained, it became clear to many (including me) that actually we have no explanation whatsoever.


Lee said...

Somewhere in our development we acquire what we call consciousness. I don't think I was conscious when I was born, but even if I was, I wasn't at some point previous to that. My consciousness required a host of environmental inputs acting on a specific machine to develop. So do you think we in some sense learn consciousness or do you think its acquisition is something different from learning, or maybe it's a completely irrelevant issue?

wolfgang said...

I think it is possible that we were already conscious inside the womb, perhaps after the 20th week, but it is also possible that we were effectively sedated and sound asleep until birth.
There is more about this on wikipedia.

Some people think that consciousness is equivalent to "talking to yourself" and in this case it would make sense to contemplate that consciousness was learned at some point.
However, I think Helen Keller was conscious already before she learned to communicate and I think that e.g. dogs are conscious to some extent.

Lee said...

>> dogs are conscious to some extent.

Yeah maybe. It's tricky to talk about though because even though "I" is the thing we feel most certain about in ourselves, I think we are still far from having a useful explanation of what it is. If we ever get one maybe we'll be able to differentiate between what I feel as consciousness and what you feel as consciousness and what any other living entity does or does not feel as consciousness. Or maybe there is some law of nature that will prevent us from doing that.

wolfgang said...

>> It's tricky to talk about though
Yes, because we don't really know much about it.

I am only absolutely certain that I am conscious (solipsism), however it is probably true that people similar to me have similar conscious experience; I am assuming here that consciousness is somehow associated with the physics of people's brains (if we live e.g. in The Matrix this would not be true and my conclusion would be wrong).

A child is still similar enough (and I have memories about that), but Helen Keller, babies, a fetus or a dog is already problematic. But still we share enough physiology that I would assign a good probability for consciousness.

A snail, a fly or a tree is already too different to make any reasonable statement imho.

But the real problem is with computers and some robots in the future, in
particular because we would like to know what kind of program would make them conscious.

Lee said...

>> I think Helen Keller was conscious already before she learned to communicate

Keller said, "Before my teacher came to me, I did not know that I am. I lived in a world that was a no-world. I cannot hope to describe adequately that unconscious, yet conscious time of nothingness."

She evidently didn't have much of a sense of self before she learned to communicate.

Below is a link with some additional quotes from her.

wolfgang said...

Very interesting. Thank you for the link!

Of course "that unconscious, yet conscious time" is not easy to interpret.
Consciousness but without language and very little information to process is difficult
to imagine.

Lee said...

>> is not easy to interpret.

No, but based on what she said, she must have acquired abstractions for objects in the real world based on her teacher touching her hand in specific ways. I assume the spelling of the word on her hand was interpreted by the programing in her brain as the abstraction that should be associated with the object. Somehow the manipulation of these abstractions in her brain must have been important to the development of her sense of 'I'. Maybe the most accurate part of what she said was, "I cannot hope to describe adequately..."