Preface, summary and context

The Main article pages of this site are by now due for an update. Generally the ideas presented in the main articles are valid, but until a revised edition is published I recommend to the interested reader to first read through my TSC 2016 and TSC 2017 presentations, which outline two compatible perspectives of my thoughts regarding the phenomenon of consciousness, then read through the blog posts (starting from the earliest, at the bottom of the blog page).

Preface

This site brings yet another approach aiming to gain some understanding  of the phenomenon of consciousness (cheesy wordplay noted and pushed aside). Philosophically the standpoint presented here is firmly planted in monism, yet the treatment is descriptive scientific-theoretic rather than formally philosophical. The position is essentially physicalist in the sense that I believe physical sciences will evolve to accommodate the principles giving rise to consciousness. Argumentation supporting the speculative position derives from simplified naive modelling and common logic. Although there is but little appeal to science fringe ideas, this work does dive into deep waters to explore the currently inexplicable, and lays some conjecture upon fantastical grounds. It also includes a few allusions to philosophical schools of thought pertaining to the binding problem, intentionality and phenomenology.

For a more wordy account of how and why it came to be, and the bio of the person peddling it, see the About this work and the author page.

The theory is presented in three parts, addressing Pattern processing, Formation of the ‘I’ and Notes on computation and phenomenology. Additional sections discussing Attention effects and Motivation are planned. As of May 2016, an up to date and abridged version of the ideas presented in this site can be found in the TSC2016 Presentation.

Some care has been taken to improve clarity, which comes at the expense of brevity. Apologies for an excess of long winded expositions of the trivial, in places, and for the repetition of some arguments or statements with minor variations.

What begins with a series of almost banal grounding observations and assertions, soon strays into left-field territory (which being schematic in design and based on just a few principles of interest, may perhaps seem to be landscaped like a simplistic minecraft terrain).

Please bear with me as you wade through the banal or find yourself catapulted by the audacious; what follows seems to be fairly self and contextually consistent, and constitutes a pretty parsimonious account. So perhaps worthy of consideration.

Due to the nature of this exposition the terminology in use is not formally developed, nor does it fully comply with one or another paradigmatic formal definition. This is not a philosophers’ dissertation, it is not comprehensive nor is it phrased defensively. I appeal to the reader to apply common sense, in context, where meaning may be in question.

Summary

In a nutshell, I present a theory that is structured upon a notion of an abstract sensory-phenomenal perimeter, combined with a primary role for synchronicity that brings about equivalence.

The so-called perimeter is a conceptualization that reflects a primary assumption of this work, which holds that phenomenal (autopoietic, reflexive) manifestation is a not yet elucidated natural physical occurrence that is rooted in low order-of-scale interactions (eschewing ‘micro-physical’ property laden connotations) that are locally and temporally bounded. The notional perimeter segregates locus bound proto-phenomenal expression from systemic neural-like pattern-related computation. It contains by definition that which needs to be explained in respect of what is known as the explanatory gap. This partitioning notion turns out to be of some utility.

This work shares some characteristics in common with predictive brain theories. The conscious agent is always in the now. It’s computational functions are tasked with navigating the evolution of patterns in the on-going transition from future to past. But here I emphasize in-time isomorphic iconic representation in neural-like computation, and the possibility of a state of equivalence mediated by isotropic population-activity configurations, that may produce a functional focal point enabling the formation of a raw ‘I’. These characteristics make this a resonant model rather than a generative one.

In another sense this work can be read as a proposal elaborating the integration process that is required by Integrated Information Theory (Tononi) – Aspects of the implemented processing of segregated pattern factors and the relations between them, by neural-like systems, that account for phi. Such a view is contingent upon a the acceptability of an informal, relaxed definition of information, only indirectly related to Shannon information, and of ‘integration’ being but half of the story, one that preserves patterns, yet needing functions that apply both embedding and realization (the latter would be generating dynamics i.e. effecting differentiation).

Sensory projections upon the perimeter are subjected to an in-time isomorphic transformation, through interference with either reference frequencies or noise. The isomorphic transform effects pattern embedding as spatial relations. The implementation of the transformation generates either point activity or an isotropic configuration of activity: Embedded information is represented statically and is extracted from the ‘being processed’ stream’, yielding an isotropic residual. Reciprocally, point activity or isotropic population activity positively biases or brings about the inverse reconstitution of the encoded patterns – of iconic world model components. The reciprocal mapping is symmetric and synchronous. Encoding is also recognition.

Synchronous isotropic activity within morphing configurations is conceived to be a surrogate for physical point equivalence applied over a surface or a volume. A degree of coherence over orders-of-scale is sustained by large enough active-unit populations exhibiting “dense activity”, that is characterized by some low order of scale continuous ‘flux’ of (stochastic) activity. It is suggested that configurations of dense activity are the product of ‘computational binding’ and mediate phenomenal binding. Isotropic equivalence effects a continuous dynamic “virtual focal point” involving relations with a relatively stable core of activity that anchors a conscious agent’s ‘I’. In the biological realm this may involve signals originating in regular somatic activity, recurrent brain-soma streams and quiescent sensory apparatus noise.

Essentially the theory shows how, bearing the assumption of low order-of-scale proto-phenomenal manifestation, (proto-) phenomenality could be ‘bound’ by neural-like processing. Such processing contextualizes (proto-) phenomenal manifestation in an implemented spatiotemporal construct. The proposed implementation at once brings about and relates a universal pattern approximator function to an agent’s relatively and momentarily isotropic ‘I’. Thus consciousness may concurrently exhibit acutely spatiotemporally-localized and dimension-free aspects.

It is plausible that low order ‘dense activity’ nesting in patterns of computational function contributes to phenomenal manifestation, but that such manifestation may not necessarily be exclusively confined to a ‘brain’. If one accepts a notion of (proto-) phenomenality then the idea that (proto-) phenomenality may manifest in sensory apparatus merits consideration.

Finally, it is suggested that a physical theory of the un-observable may be developed to address the aspect of (proto-) phenomenal manifestation, even if such a theory may not be directly verifiable. A conjectured idea is put forth, which is surely very naive yet serves to demonstrate the potential of the approach.

Background and context

Behaving agents use information arising from sensory interfaces in a way that facilitates (biological) real-time interaction between the agent and it’s environment. Agents need to posses some pattern predictive capacity to be able to interact in-time. Agents are able to model internally cohesive and contextually related spatiotemporal patterns that seem to be aligned with objective reality.

A conscious agent encodes information arising from it’s sensory interface, in some way that that enables it to differentially and qualitatively experience patterns. Phenomenal experience comes to be located within the spatiotemporal patterning of the world; Phenomenal experience (having various qualities) is presumed to be a fundamental attribute of conscious content.

Let a conscious agent possess a sensory perimeter, defined, at least, by it’s sensory organ interfaces. This definition will be revisited and abstracted further in following sections.

A feeling of continuity is an inextricable subjective aspect of consciousness, with or without explicit content. In the absence of specific content, ambient consciousness itself is sensed. It seems unified, permeating and dimension-less – The entity’s sensory capabilities include some own-state sensing, the conscious expression of which is conventionally referred to as it’s ‘what it is like-ness’ and which seems to possess only vague features.
Explicit content in consciousness seems to exhibit both spatial and temporal experiential binding. Only some encoded information is likely to be related to, and thus expressed in, consciously experienced world models at any particular time. Other encoded information is stably stored (possibly sustaining unconscious activity), to be consciously recalled/expressed if the entity is subjected to related contextual stimuli, i.e. appropriate trigger patterns (i.e. association or recognition). Nevertheless Patterns of activity in the encoding/decoding system can be and usually are reinstate-able following activity disruption (e.g. an epileptic seizure). Thus encoding involves the transformation of spatiotemporal information projected upon the sensory perimeter into spatially embedded representations, or a combination of representational cues and intrinsic functions, that constrain potential activity.

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