Problems of Consciousness

Current models of conciseness are incorrectly top-down treating a human as a monolithic unit with clearly defined subsystems and putting brain as the source of consciousness. Most theories of consciousness are based on philosophy and place consciousness outside of the structure of the universe as if mind is made of something else, call it ‘dark stuff‘. These theories are not far from religion. They do not take into account knowledge from many other scientific disciplines.

We humans are made of the same stuff as this universe and the fact that we can think and interact with the universe already indicates that the universe can create intelligent life. That only means that consciousness is part of the structure of the universe. Not only we do not understand what consciousness is, we also do not understand what mass of a body is. We observe both around us but have no idea how they are created. That must hint us at something, at least that both mass and consciousness are created by similar processes within the structure of the universe.

The curious of us spend our lives learning how our own bodies work, the physical laws, and how we can manipulate what the universe offers to us by creating tools.

At the high level, we are made of huge number of cells that define our needs and behavior. It’s not just the nerve cells that make us conscious, it’s all these millions of cells that make us and communicate to the brain what they need (water, rest, food, etc.) that manifest in unconscious which sometimes becomes available to conscious mind.

Yes, mind is in the brain. The brain coordinates communication between all these individual cells. Brain is not a computer that processes information – that is why location of the information has not been found yet and why brains are so elastic and can recover from some injuries.

Unconscious is hidden in individual cells in the body. Brain is just a conductor of the information between the cells – that’s why communication protocols in the body are in part chemical. I saw one scientist questioning whether ameba, a single cell creature, has emotions. Yes, absolutely! Emotions are allostasis meaning they are not conscious but sometimes are made available to consciousness, they are intended to force the body and its many cells to achieve homeostasis, or stable state. They can also tip the imbalance.

Conscious is an extension of subconscious to achieve what these myriads of cells desire.

Further, if we believe in entanglement, there is nothing that should contradict what Nikola Tesla called the Universal Mind. Have you ever thought where your ideas come from? Quantum sensing works in this way, you sprinkle photons where a stealth aircraft will fly and you detect that aircraft when the photons are measured without transfer of any information to the detector. We are discussing quantum internet already – that’s its principle. So why then cannot mind work using entanglement?

Have you ever thought why words can hurt? Because words are energy. Language is a subconscious construct generated by the cells in the body, it is made available to some conscious processes and then transmitted as energy. In another body it is received and transmitted to the cells in the form of energy. Observe yourself when you think without using words to create a plan of action – if you know your body very well and have great control over it you have such ability. Next time your talk to someone or get upset by someone, consider that you are just passing energy to a myriad of individual cells from which that someone is made, each of them having its own interest and knowing nothing about the person they make.

If you think about it, abilities of mind should be only limited by what is allowed by the universe, if it is exercised and evolved. There’s so much that is hidden from us due to the limitations of our sensory inputs and cell-based architecture of the body.

Now, the question is how does it all work? The design of the body/mind system is intricate. The design of the entire universe is purposeful, for us it is indistinguishable from magic.

The argument of what or who designed the universe is pointless for the Creator had to be designed by someone else. If the Creator is not designed then the Creator is the universe – there is a recursive problem of creation.

The universe must have a mechanism to allow to understand its inner workings. It may not be available to biological forms like us but there is nothing to prevent higher-intelligence structures since the energy from which we are made and which is held by some forces can be composed in other ways.

Here’s an example of an incorrect idea by Crick however pointing in the right direction:

You, your joys and your sorrows, your memories and your ambitions, your sense of personal identity and free will are in fact no more than the behavior of a vast assembly of nerve cells and their associated molecules. As Lewis Carroll’s Alice might have phrased it, “you’re nothing but a pack of neurons.

‒ Francis Crick, “The Astonishing Hypothesis”

There is nothing astonishing in it. It is incorrect exactly for the reasons I explained, it takes brain in isolation from the universe and only assumes that consciousness is in neurons. It is not, neurons in the brain are communication channels although they do processing like all other cells in the body.

Below there are some thoughts and references discussing neuroscience and consciousness. The last lecture, by Emery Brown, is the most (neuroscience) technical one and arguably the most interesting and informative.

Hard questions of consciousness:

  1. Consciousness depends on activity of some structures of the brain more than on other. Why?
  2. Activity of neurons of many sensory structures determines subjective interpretation, but that activity itself is not available to consciousness. Why?
  3. Activity of many areas of the brain directly connected with cortex such as basal ganglia are required for ensuring successive actions, thoughts, speech. However these processes and structures do not directly contribute to subjective experiences. Why?
  4. Many processes in the structures responsible for subjective experiences, for example in the cortex, influence these experiences but are not themselves available to consciousness. Why?
  5. Execution of the same task by the brain could be done consciously when it is new, but once it becomes old and routine, it’s no more available to consciousness. Why?
  6. Activity of one group of neurons in the structures responsible for creating subjective experiences is connected with consciousness, but of another group of neurons in the same structures is not. Why?
  7. Activity of the same neuron at one time is connected with subjective experience but at another time it is not. Why?

What are the features of consciousness?

Despite the lack of any agreed upon theory of consciousness, there is a widespread, if less than universal, consensus that an adequate account of mind requires a clear understanding of it and its place in nature. We need to understand both what consciousness is and how it relates to other, nonconscious, aspects of reality.

Descartes on Innate Knowledge

Where do our ideas come from? According to René Descartes at least some of them are innate, acquired independently of experience. In this episode of the Philosophy Bites podcast Colin McGinn explains why he thinks that Descartes’ view of the mind has something to be said for it, particularly when combined with Leibniz’s insight that innate ideas must be initially unconscious.

The seventeenth Century French philosopher René Descartes who’s often referred to as the father of modern philosophy, was primarily concerned with questions around epistemology: What can we know and how can we know it? There are some things Descartes believed that we can know independent of experience. That is we don’t get knowledge of them through our experience of the world, through interacting with the world.

Intuitively, that sounds a bit odd but Colin McGinn believes Descartes position is very plausible, though, for reasons Descartes himself didn’t fully grasped.

The topic we’re going to focus on today is Descartes and innate knowledge.

Innate knowledge is simply knowledge which isn’t acquired and more specifically not acquired by experience. Usually when people say that they mean it is not acquired through sense experience. So it doesn’t derive from seeing things, hearing things in any way from the environment, it entirely comes from within the subject or the organism and not from outside the organism.

What most people have thought to be innate is usually things like knowledge of mathematics and logic. In those cases, it’s hard to see what sense experiences could even produce that kind of knowledge. And so, ever since Plato going up to Leibnitz people have thought that the best candidates for innate knowledge would be so called a priori knowledge, knowledge which you have independent from experience. So, it’s knowledge which concerns the abstract world and not the world of sensory objects. In the case of knowledge of the empirical world that knowledge must be entirely empirical, that is, it is derived from the senses and is not innate. So on one view, there’s one kind of knowledge that is innate, and that’s the knowledge of the abstract roughly. It can be morality, some people think, as well as logic and mathematics and other areas too. And then many people think that co-existing with that you have knowledge of the empirical world which is derived from the senses.

The unconscious mind is actually deeply mysterious.

Building a baby: The first two weeks

The first few weeks of an embryo’s development are vital. Now, new techniques are allowing scientists to learn more about this crucial time than ever before.

Key Discoveries in Understanding How the Brain Works

Our mission at Numenta is to reverse-engineer the neocortex to solve a grand scientific challenge: how the brain works. Through our focus on cortical theory, we have made some important discoveries that lay the foundation for a new framework for intelligence. Watch the video to see two of those discoveries, both documented in peer-reviewed papers.

Biological Mind by Alan Jasanoff

MIT’s Alan Jasanoff looked at the influence of the environment, from chemicals and bacteria to the weather, sights, and sounds on the brain.

Functional Connectomics: Mapping Brain Activity, by Prof Michael Roukes

Part 1
Part 2

The brain has around a hundred-billion neurons, with a hundred trillion connections between them. Until now, researchers studying how the brain works have had two ways to investigate all those connections: they can probe one or a few cells to map their connections directly, or they can do a scan that shows how millions of neurons behave on average in a part of the brain. Michael Roukes takes us on a tour of the next generation of brain mapping techniques, using nanosensors to map thousands — or even tens or hundreds of thousands — of cells at once. This could identify computational systems in the brain, much like individual chips in a computer, and maybe even help us to learn the brain’s programming language!

Molecular Mechanisms of Neurotransmitter Release, by Axel Brunger

During this BSA Distinguished Lecture, Axel Brunger discusses his lab team’s work to decipher the molecular mechanisms of neurotransmitters as they are released, including recent structural and biophysical studies.

How Emotions are Made: The Secret Life of the Brain, by Lisa Feldman Barrett

How the brain creates emotions
YouTube channel of Lisa Feldman Barrett
Book: How Emotions are Made
You aren’t at the mercy of your emotions ‒ your brain creates them
Emotion inside out

A new theory of how the brain constructs emotions — one that could revolutionize our understanding of the human mind.

Why do emotions feel automatic and uncontrollable? Does rational thought really control emotion? How does emotion affect disease? How can you make your children more emotionally intelligent? How Emotions Are Made answers these questions and many more, revealing the latest research and intriguing practical applications of the new science of emotion, mind, and brain.

Today, the science of emotion is in the midst of a revolution on par with the discovery of relativity in physics and natural selection in biology — and this paradigm shift has immense implications for us all. Leading the charge is psychologist and neuroscientist Lisa Feldman Barrett, whose theory of emotion is driving a deeper understanding of the mind and brain, and shedding new light on what it means to be human. Her research overturns the widely held belief that emotions live in distinct parts of the brain and are universally expressed and recognized. Instead, she has shown that emotion is constructed in the moment, by core systems that interact across the whole brain, aided by a lifetime of learning.

This new theory means that you play a much greater role in your emotional life than you ever thought. Its repercussions are already shaking the foundations not only of psychology but also of medicine, the legal system, child-rearing, meditation, and even airport security.

“The human brain is a master of deception. It creates experiences and directs actions with a magician’s skill, never revealing how it does so, all the while giving us a false sense of confidence that its products — our day-to-day experiences — reveal its inner workings. Joy, sadness, surprise, fear, and other emotions seem so distinct and feel so built-in that we assume they have separate causes inside us. [So] it’s easy to come up with a wrong theory of the mind. We are, after all, a bunch of brains trying to figure out how brains work.”

Dynamics of the Unconscious Brain under General Anesthesia by Emery Brown

Emery Brown, Professor of Brain and Cognitive Sciences at MIT and Professor of Anesthesia at Harvard, describes how general anesthesia induced by drugs such as Propofol alters neural oscillations in the brain, as measured with EEG. He presents a model of the neural circuitry underlying the impact of anesthesia on neural signals, and shows how these changes vary with age. Understanding this process may lead to clinical methods for actively restoring brain function after anesthesia that may speed recovery and reduce cognitive dysfunction.

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  1. […] wrote about unsolved puzzles of consciousness. The great news is that we can ask these […]

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