Physics of Consciousness
Understanding Brain and Physics of Consciousness
Is Physics of Consciousness entirely the product of brain function? That’s the assumption of many brain scientists who take minds to be a mystical name for natural brain output. Understanding the brain, the most complex form of matter we know in the universe; could provide clues of meaning and purpose. Mental activity is one thing, and consciousness quite another. Consciousness is what mental activity feels like inside. The private inner experience of sensation, thought, and emotion.
Confronting consciousness means facing the self-evident, but wildly bizarre fact that what we experience is an inner show. There is nothing anywhere – as far as we know – that is even remotely like our subjective awareness. What is this inner show? This subjective awareness. What happens in the brain when we experience in our minds?
What is it about consciousness that provokes such radically different ideas about what it really is? What’s different in consciousness than anything else? It has a subjective aspect that nothing else in the universe seems to have. So, scientists are very good at studying these objective properties, like we can study black holes, we can study a virus, we can study the brain. We have math, we have energy, you can poke them, you can analyze the wiring screen. But, what the brain has? It also has these subjective feelings. pain, pleasure, seeing red, smelling mom’s apple pie, and it’s not at all clear,
Physics of Consciousness vis-à-vis Human Body
My brain is subject to the same laws of physics as my liver is or my heart is or my leg, but none of those things seem to generate consciousness. Well, the argument is that we’re so early in the process. How can you say that we won’t eventually figure out how some circuitry lends itself to these properties?
Well, some philosophers take this defeatist point of view, and they argue that we will never know because conceptually, they don’t see any way how the world of physics can be linked with the world of conscious sensation. It seems to be worlds apart, there’s this chasm – this explanatory gap – between them, and they don’t see how those can be bridged.
Ultimately, science will be able to explain consciousness; it might take a reformulation of certain aspects of science, but science is up to the challenge. So, that’s a reductionist position, where a reductionist means that you’ll be able to explain the subjective feeling of consciousness in terms of the basic physics laws that we know. We might need to enhance those laws of physics. There might be something new that we need to deduce, in order to have a fully formulated view that includes consciousness.
So, would that mean that consciousness is an ultimate factor, it would be irreducible without that new formulation that you need? but that’s not universally held. Other people who study consciousness think of it as an emergent phenomenon.
You take one neuron, you don’t get consciousness, you take 2 and 3 and 4, you don’t get consciousness. You take 100 billion, roughly; that’s the number we have in our brain, and you get consciousness. And this is really the standard view of most neuroscientists. Consciousness is an emergent property, we don’t understand it yet, but we will and we don’t need anything more.
Well, today, scientists would take this more refine point of view. In other words, if we do need to introduce something into the universe; let’s call it experience, or integrated information, that’s fundamental to the universe. But, would you need something beyond the traditional four forces of physics. Well, it’s not a force of physics, you need some additional assumption. Yes, ultimately, the right idiom to talk about consciousness is information theory, because ultimately, it’s not the stuff that brains are made out of that is important for consciousness, it is the relationship of the stuff inside our head.
It’s not the fact that it’s a membrane and squishy nerves; this could also be silicon and titanium in a computer. But ultimately, what matters is that this is an enormously complex network, and it’s heavily interlaced and heavily interconnected. And, this complexity – this is what consciousness amounts to. So, this theory asserts that anything that’s sufficiently complex has some conscious sensation.
Sounds very radical; well, you can go back, you can think of it as ancient precursor for this. For example, one of these theories would imply that consciousness can be found everywhere where you have complexity. You have a little complexity in a tiny worm, and then there could be a tiny atom of consciousness there, and you have these networks in our brain, there’s vast amount of consciousness. Maybe in some future point when all the planet gets interlaced in some hyper internet, then that might also have a consciousness of its own.
Physics of Consciousness an Emergent Property
Consciousness is an emergent property of brains and of brains alone. Now he tells me that to explain consciousness, we need to introduce something new into the cosmos, which scientists’ calls experience or integrated information. This can be a big news – a departure from the radical materialism that characterizes many brain scientists. Consciousness, the thing that flickers to life when you wake up in the morning, that’s the smallest bit of what’s happening in the brain.
It’s something that rides on top of a massive amount of machinery. It’s successive levels of abstraction, of all that machinery running underneath, so, you’ve got very basic things, like when one lift a coffee to his/ her mouth, you know, there’s a whole lightning storm of neural activity that underpins that act. I’m not aware of any of that in my consciousness, because we don’t want to be. All we want is a very high-level, abstract representation, which is, am i succeeding or am i spilling it on myself; that’s all we want to know.
Understanding Brain Function
Exactly the same with consciousness – if all my motor actions, if everything’s going as expected, i don’t even have to be very conscious. If I’m driving home from work, and it’s a drive I’ve made every day, I’m almost a zombie. It’s only when something surprising happens; that the CEO has to sit up and say, okay, what’s going on and start searching through the system to figure out how to steer things.
When you look at the CEO of a company, he or she gets credit for sort of making the decisions of the company, but there’s a very real sense in which he or she is tied into the company. The CEO can’t make some completely radical departure from the core competency of the company. Right, the CEO feels like, okay, i’ve got free will, but he doesn’t actually.
What is it that steers our behavior? It’s what we think of as the conscious mind, and all the unconscious machinery, they’re tied in as one big system with all sorts of loopy feedback. Giving you that, they’re really two separate issues though. ONE is behavior, the other is what it feels like inside.
Because we can easily imagine a behavioral system to work, that is purely mechanical, purely robotic, nothing inside; the so-called philosophical zombie. In fact, most of our behaviors are exactly that; and not only what you do, but also what you believe, what you think, how you act – all this stuff is generated by parts of the machinery we don’t even have access to. Now, your other question is, why does it feel like something? that we don’t know, and not only do we not have a theory of that, but we don’t know what such a theory would even look like because nothing in our modern mathematics says, okay, well, do a triple interval and then carry the two and then here’s the taste of feta cheese.