Loosening The Gordian Knot of Consciousness


To formalize a logical structure for any theory of ‘consciousness’, or any theory of everything (TOE) for that matter, one must reckon with three primary mathematical requirements: closure, consistency (a logical necessity for an abstract theory of mind based on preceding empirical objective perceptions), and comprehensiveness [a term associated with an universal quantifier (or portion thereof) defining the scope we are interested operationally in examining]. The resulting abstraction of the mathematical structure will have, in our opinion, definite implications in the way we will henceforth conceptually structure (pre-conceive?) our observable reality.

Closure. When we relate the set ‘b’ (human brains) to the set ‘m’ (human minds) closure requires a demonstration that for every operation or relation ‘R’ any object or property ‘x’ of ‘b’ is related to any other property ‘y’ of ‘m’ and vice-verse. If so related, minds would also be indistinguishable members of the set brains. This way any proposition ‘p’ about the brain would entail any proposition ‘q’ about the mind, i.e., the latter is deducible from the former and the set of propositions is closed under deduction. The key words are in bold. How close must the relationship be to conclude that when we talk about the mind we are also necessarily talking about the brain exclusively? This brings in the subject of ‘identities’ and reminds us of Leibnitz who always stressed that identity is the relation each thing bears only to itself and should be distinguished from ‘similarity’. The identity of brain and mind not only require their reciprocal sharing of all properties but both the identity of indiscernibles and the indiscernibility of identicals (not in the metalinguistic sense). Strictly speaking, even in the pure case where there may exist identical objects ‘b’ and ‘m’, they still wouldn’t be logically identical for identity proper is numerical identity not qualitative similarity. So much for a rebuttal of the arguments on consciousness coming from some die hard physicalists arguing in behalf of an identity (see below).

Consistency. If not identical, how ‘similar’ are human brains and minds? Before we focus on our statements about the ‘relation’ between mind and brain we have to distinguish briefly between  the ‘consistency’ and ‘completeness’ of their relations. Consistency excludes the possibility that any relation may be decided both affirmatively and negatively because there will then arise a contradiction. However, if the issue can be decided based on either one of the opposing versions, we can say the relation is ‘complete’. It is almost impossible to frame a theory that is both consistent and complete, e.g., elementary geometry.

Comprehensiveness. Brains may be considered as belonging to the same first order ‘class’ or ‘set’ of identical or similar individuals bearing common property(ies) that define(s) the set. Minds may constitute another first order class or set. Since there may be various types of relations between the two sets, we have to define how ‘comprehensive’ we intend to be in our reach or scope, i.e., are we going to talk about ‘any' or 'all’ member(s) of the set, ‘some' or 'subsets’ or ‘a’ particular member of the set. We express the scope intended by assigning these or  more specific ‘quantifiers’.

Having clarified that, we can now bring into focus the closeness of that relation we wish to examine, how do the premises or true statements about one set (or part thereof) entails or implicates the conclusions or truth of the other set (or equivalent part thereof)? We generally refer to the dependence relation between facts or properties of one class and the facts and properties of another class as ‘supervenience’. We can immediately distinguish between ‘intrinsic’ and ‘extrinsic’ properties. Two different objects may not satisfy Leibnitz strict identity requirement but if their relation (supervenience) is consequential then the intrinsic property ‘a’ of the brain must always, under all circumstances and to the same degree be present as property ‘b’ of the mind. To distinguish between intrinsic and extrinsic properties take for instance identical twins separated and growing up in different environments, they may be similar in intrinsic properties (genotype) but not in extrinsic properties (phenotype), e.g., size / shape; even here we have to assume no significant environmental-induced changes in neuronal plasticity, a big assumption! While it is clear that one may not  expect identical physical events (e.g., lesion in x part of the brain) producing different mental effects  or two identical behaviors corresponding to different lesions, we can NOT say that such supervenience or correlation is logical or reducible by physical laws.  At best we can only talk about a broad ‘natural supervenience’, i.e., any two possible human brains differing in some measurable physical respect will also differ in their measurable  expected behavior. At this point we are also reminded of the subtle differences between contingent ‘a priori’ truths and necessary ‘a posteriori’ truths (see Chapter 1) and of Kripke’s doctrine of ‘essentialism’ where essential properties of things are those that things must have to continue to exist as that thing. This is essentially a different re-statement of Leibnitz law. What is important, in our opinion, is that besides the failed attempts at demonstrating logical or even invariant natural supervenience of the physical brain on the non-physical mind we can still develop a ‘metaphysical supervenience’ anchored in necessary ‘a posteriori’ truths. We hope this abridged introduction will be useful in understanding the various attempts at simplifying the mind-brain relationship from experimental data below.


        It is possible that a metaphysical supervenience model may require an elaboration of the reciprocal modifications between our theoretical concepts (based originally on perceptual data) and the cognition of perceptual image itself. This means that a substantive modification in our theoretical construct of an object or event may eventually also modify our sensory perception of the SAME object or event. This reciprocity supposes a reversible dynamic interactivity with repercussions at all inductive information processing levels as we discussed in the chapter on “Concatenation of Different Levels of Cognitive Processing”.

        At each of these processing levels we can develop guiding physical relations and logical principles.  Using the resulting principles as axioms, and adopting an underlying binary logic at the transducer interface of each level, we can construct an acceptable theory of reality of sufficiently high level to govern the interpretation of a logic structure, a metalogic.  In fashioning this theory we must take cues from quantum mechanics, relativity and metaphysics as well.

        When we take a broad view of the metaphysics of the ‘easy’ and the ‘hard’ problem (Levine’s ‘explanatory gap’ of consciousness), what follows is the landscape as seen by a fish eye lens. One of the first things you notice is the position taken by the ‘physicalist’ scientists or philosophers; you can’t help but feeling they are all in denial, though in varying degrees. Their main question becomes whether there is a hard problem of mind or consciousness at all, i.e., distinct from the easier problem of explaining their observable and measurable functions. This position smacks of an escapist neo-Skinnerian behaviorism. After having witnessed that some of the best incisive minds are forced to the conclusion that no reductive explanation of consciousness is forthcoming the physicalists have thrown the towel and adopted such counterintuitive conclusion, abandoning in the process the self-evident psychological fact that consciousness is a ‘further fact phenomenon’ that just won’t go away and needs explaining and the required primitive bridging principles to the domain of the empirical physical world also need to be identified. Not that we will find anything tangible at the end of the tunnel, but dig we must for a growing western culture. But, considering their well ingrained belief that the physical domain is a closed causal network, an extra-physical mind conception is out of the question. For the experience of consciousness to be placed outside the brain we would have to consider the experience as epiphenomenal with no real possibilities of science methodology ever bridging the gap between a physical brain and a non-physical mind domain. Epiphenomenalism views consciousness as an ‘emerging’ feature of brain activity where that consciousness has no possible causal effect on the physical world.

        Another sophisticated neo-Skinnerian version has been the explanatory argument that, whilst an experience of consciousness may be a psychological fact, brain and mind are identical in that they are inseparably linked in a causal relation, thus invoking an un-paralelled  and baseless form of necessity. This posture may give the impression of a ‘dualist’ non-interactive (epiphenomenal?) theory except for the fact that its defenders are committed to the view of causal closure of the physical. Physicalism identifies conscious properties with physical (or functional) properties, this is an argument from realization and claims that our concepts of conscious states are associated ‘a priori’ with certain functional descriptions. But, an ‘a priori’ conceptual analysis of functional isomorphisms begs the question as to what  kinds of relations in fact exist between our concepts of conscious states and any functional description? Causality considerations sustain the edifice of the natural sciences, only ‘a posteriori’ argumentation controls empirical facts. The fact that conscious states and physical states always seem to appear at the same place in the causal scheme of things need not necessarily argue for an ‘a priori’ relationship concluding that they must therefore be identical, they may only ‘correlate’ and we must search for such bridging concepts or objective entities that form the correlation. An ‘a priori’ connection between mental states and functional descriptions of overt (or measured) behavior may require a description of the mental state as one of the fundamental forces in nature, in our opinion inseparable from life itself.

        The latter is an attractive possibility to the undersigned who now agonizes to articulate a marketable direct causal relation between the physical and the ‘non-physical’ domains. After all, the physical states themselves within their domain are NOT causally closed and remain traditional fertile grounds for the functionalists to accommodate several explanatory layers between physical state transitions. In the real world one should at least be able to derive the correlation between the ‘fundamental force’ and the observable results, Maxwell did it with his electro-dynamic equations and so did Newton with his gravitational theory, both of which defied physical closure. The methodology of science had little to do with their conceptual breakthrough, this is more of a problem for the metaphysician / logician to handle. To illustrate, in Ch. 1 we suggested that all particles capable of autogenous motion constitute 'proto life', the aggregation of which generates an equivalent mental states (proto-conscience) until a critical structure / functional complexity makes its essence to be measured. By implication 'proto-life' bears the seeds of consciousness (a 'protoconsciousness').

        Sandwiched in the middle of the causal link, is the mental state, always preceded by a perception (whether sense-phenomenal or memory induced), a cortical alert (pre-awareness) and an effect (adaptive or not, delayed or not, articulated or not). In our opinion, the sequence perception > mental state > behavior as described is more consistent with a state of  ‘awareness’ than a qualic self-conscious state and simply describes a complex reflex arc that any AI program can reproduce, that’s the ‘easy problem’.. A self-conscious state does not require in its generation the effector arm of a reflex arc. Even a dream may qualify, albeit its arguable logic content within the survival economy of the dreamer as we have briefly discussed earlier.

        An interactive version of dualism as such (as opposed to epi-phenomenalism) denies closure, and we will see some interesting examples of this view when we briefly discuss  how the possibility of a wave function collapse in quantum mechanics may relate to consciousness.

        Both preceding physicalist arguments are sustained on the intuition that if we were to duplicate a sentient entity, particle for particle, molecule for molecule, the resulting structural isomorphic zombie will have experiences identical to the original. If all particles capable of autogenous motion can produce, in principle, organize into 'life', what is the difference between the biological and the inert subsets of the living. What happened when 'proto-life' particles in the 'primeval soup' dissociated and followed a different path in their evolution? Most of the adepts to artificial intelligence adopt the physicalist view but take it one step further into functional isomorphism. This view would demonstrate that the mental states in humans or its functional isomorph are somehow inevitably 'determined' by the organizational invariance common to both, and not just 'correlated' with it as the epiphenomenalist would lead you to believe. It is important at this point to consider that any argument about a zombie who could conceivably be built physically (or functionally) identical to sentient beings but without feelings, whether in my lab or in a parallel world, is irrelevant because the discussion will then be about ‘awareness’, a first order level of consciousness, not the ‘experience’ of consciousness or higher order consciousness (self-consciousness) whose profiles we are trying to elaborate. A zombie may be infinitely aware of micro environmental changes internally and externally (the ‘easy problem’ to study) and even be able to make adaptive adjustments at the speed of light and still be unable to experience the qualia that accompanies states of self-consciousness.

        Could a cognitive approach solve the ‘explanatory gap’? A multi-disciplinary combination of neuro-chemical studies, phenomenological investigations of perception, and metaphysical analysis perhaps will lead us to systematic principles bridging the domains, and eventually we hope to be on the right track to discover the underlying fundamental laws. In this way we may eventually arrive at a truly satisfactory (operational) understanding  of conscious experience.

       All things considered, a cognitive approach to bridge the physical to the non-physical becomes most attractive, the communications engineering lingo being entirely at its disposal. One "knows" the world from sensory data (external / body-internal) and our most abstractly generalized notion of such a world must be based on inductive reasoning from that original data. Once a generalized notion or theory has been developed therefrom we can attempt such specific deductions as are warranted operationally, i.e., to the extent that these deductions map to actualities.

       But this may not be enough for the metaphysician who hungers for ontological and epistemological explanations of the heideggerian duality of essence and existence. This is especially the case when we suspect (with Kant) that our cognition of the perceptual input is predicated upon the previous conformation of our mental structures, as we hinted above. As Chris Langan’s CTMU argues, who knows, it may turn out be that the coherence of the real universe can only be “guaranteed” at the perceptual and cognitive syntactic level? As counterintuitive as it may sound at first sight, it describes a syntactic structure superimposed on our sensorium by inverse mapping. Once again the wittgenstenian shadow is cast upon any absolute reliance on the fidelity of language structures to describe the kantian ‘reality in itself’, a ‘sine qua non’ for a successful TOE. This reminds us now of a late Bertrand Russel’s attempt to bridge the gap between essence and existence when he suggested that the intrinsic properties of matter are proto-experiential, i.e., we can not experience waves, particles, fields (and we add now, life and consciousness) except when their structural / functional complexity comes within the macro limits of resolution of our technology to detect.

        Furthermore, we suspect that any cognitive based theory would have power computers as their most important tool, yet all computer solutions have an un-surmountable hurdle to clear, system ‘noise’. This we normally would expect to find in non-linear systems like the brain (especially from the archilayers of visceral brain, Module I), an anathema destined to corrupt a computational process. As we said before, we have unsuccessfully looked into the possibility of defining a dynamic equilibrium algorithm to harmonize a quantum stochastic kinetic input originating from a visceral brain Module I, parallel processor kinetics from paleolayers of non-dominant rt. brain Module II and serial processor ‘talking brain’ kinetics from neolayers of Module III. In the past we were able to handle important data buried inside electronic noise by accumulation of signals using a Computer of Average Transients (CAT), this way we were able to monitor ion channel ‘talk’ in voltage-clamped membranes, etc. We may be able to do something similar by using a ‘stochastic ratchet’ to accumulate signals above computer noise levels like Feynman glimpsed some time ago (Scientific American of July 2001 on Chaos & Molecular Motors). These considerations are important if one is to consider consciousness not only as a mini global scale brain phenomenom  but also related to a global scale cosmology in a TOE scope.

        As we examine closer the ‘easy problem’ dynamics, not just on a mini global brain scale but focusing on their descending orders of organization, from the receptor cell membrane encoding, to synaptic idiosyncrasies, to ion channel selectivities, to vesicle or microtubular protein sub-assemblies particulars (Hameroff, 1994; Penrose, 1994), or neurotransmitter molecule peculiarities, we find one thing in common: they all share, non-linear, chaos or fractal architecture and dynamics (King, 1991). This ‘chaotic structure’ in network theory would explain the predictable interactions in which fluctuations at one level can be linked to instabilities at a higher one, if the system happens to be at an unstable bifurcation or in chaos (rapid state changes are caged phase transitions for the physicist and bifurcations for the mathematicians). The system can arguably ignore any micro-instabilities only when evolving toward a stable configuration, otherwise generating noise when unstable. One can argue that the physical domain may not be causally closed at all, thus leaving a potential causal role for consciousness a distinct possibility. Can consciousness "collapse" the wave function as Stapp suggests? Can it at least  determine certain apparent quantum indeterminacies as Hogson would have it?

        All this leads to the novel hypothesis that the brains of metazoans may have evolved as the direct result of the selective advantage of properties emerging from fractally-organized chaos. From the point of view of instability, le Chatelier’s law of mass action notwithstanding, such a fractal architecture provides unique possibilities for a brain structure to become uniquely responsive ‘in toto’ to fluctuations at the level of a single quantum, an attractive explanation for the so called ‘binding problem’. What particular advantages could accrue from such an apparently noisy process? Noisy computation processing can now distinguish chaos from randomness, an important distinction. For example, the random motion response we witnessed immediately after the second airplane hit the twin towers of WTC in New York City is intrinsically different from the chaotic rush we see at the end of every end of a working day at Grand Central Station when the PA system announces the arrival of the last train to Long Island or Connecticut. At first sight the extrinsic differences control the picture and we can not tell the difference and would have to wait for an analysis of the very different strategies controlling seemingly identical events. The same thing happens before the oscilloscope screen if we wait long enough.

        Yet we still may ask, how could any subjective experience possibly emerge from such chaotic mess?, call it a quantum mechanical physical processing or anything else. One’s first intuition is to regard physical science tools as suitable only to explain systems having a given measurable structure or function, not an entity as elusive as ‘consciousness’ or ‘life’, the two main discontinuities in an organic evolution theory. In Chapter 1 we wrestled with a metaphysical definition of life to overcome the difficulty of the infinite regression argument (see also “Vida Insensible”, Perfection, Pi Society 2002), we may have to use the same approach in defining consciousness. It is not easy but meanwhile, with the guidance of careful reasoning and a minimum of educated inferences we may have to approach the problem from the stand point of information theory. As we did in our analysis of the ‘living’, we have to remember that all entities in science must be explained in terms of more basic entities until you reach a practical or theoretical limit where they can not be reduced to anything simpler. We regarded the generation of “autogenous motion” as the theoretical limit in the characterization of the “living”. In physics, the choice is bigger, e.g., space-time, mass and charge are regarded as fundamental features of the physical world.

        Regardless of our organized religious convictions, all of which understandably argue in behalf of irreducibility, we are committed, as members of a western culture, to continue our search for detailed and useful theories correlating these entities to one another in terms of fundamental laws. Once integrated, the resulting features and laws will be very helpful in explaining a great variety of complex and subtle phenomena. We may never be able to reduce consciousness to tangible physical parameters but we owe it to our society to at least identify the objective (neural) correlates of consciousness as a ‘sine qua non’ for the elaboration / implementation of appropriate therapies for the mentally ill, to mention one. As David Chalmers aptly sentenced: “If the existence of consciousness cannot be derived from physical laws, a theory of physics is not a true theory of everything..”  Once, life and consciousness (in our opinion theoretically irreducible to anything more basic), are  categorized as fundamental properties of matter, a new path is opened for the search of fundamental laws in nature governing those fundamental properties.

      What kinds of fundamental laws?, we may ask. Inevitably the effort to deliver must start with measurable sensory experience data, whether originating externally or inside the body proper and then relate that experience to elements of physical theory. This start would correspond to the sensory arm of the ‘awareness’ reflex arc (parallel processors of Module II). At this stage of the ‘easy solution’, the task of neuroscientists and information specialists would be lead by the guiding principles of structural coherence / organizational invariance. The latter hopes that either physical systems whether organized as neuronal (brain) or silicon (zombie) networks, if they are similarly structured they will execute the same quality of adaptive awareness display. The former  requires that the resulting silicon brain network theory be able to explain (not define) the different mental states, ‘consciousness sans qualia’. These are asymptotic reductionist goals to be approached but perhaps never reached because of metaphysical considerations. The sensory arm of this awareness complex arc has further complications in that it incorporates the physiological homeostasis sensory data originating in the body proper and which seems to be organized as the first line of defense against variations (normally internal/external environment) compromising species survival (Module I, visceral brain) and reproduction. As we have elsewhere noted, this module’s homeostatic adjustments seem to display quantum stochastic rules of processing. The intimate association of this module to the amygdaloidal body and entorhinal cortex gives these structures a central role in the generation of the ‘binding’ response and the subsequent generation of the emotion laden experience of consciousness or qualia.

     The effector or motor end of the ‘awareness’ reflex is represented by both the ‘talking brain’ and the motor cortex areas 4, 4s. The guiding principles in the elaboration of the fundamental laws should take into consideration the fact that, following the completion of the sensory arm of the ‘awareness’ reflex, we are generally in a position to act out our adaptive motor response by articulating it in the form of speech or muscular or secretory activity, ie., it defines the process by which information in all brain modules is made globally available to effector (motor) processes such as speech formation (not articulation / vocalization necessarily!) and bodily adaptive action. This is a necessary but NOT sufficient requirement for a self conscious state to be achieved,  no effector (motor) component is necessarily present and when present it may be abnormal, as in a dream state. Other fundamental differences should be noted, in the ‘awareness’ state the motor arm activity can NOT re-generate the identical sensory activity that caused it, if any. In the conscious state, on the other hand, when some sensory information is directing a motor response the subject may be conscious of the adaptive response or it may be entirely guided by subconscious or even unconscious algorithms as we have discussed in amygdaloidal responses to survival threatening perceptions (See chapter on “The Emotional Variable in the Logic Equation.” and Noesis 2001). The case for speech, audible or not, is not so clear, it seems that articulating an adaptive narrative response may require the experience of consciousness ‘behind curtains’ (See chapter on the Emergence of Consciousness...and Noesis 2002.)

        The reader may have noticed that we have left out an explanation of the ‘hard problem’ because we are precisely trying to outline the requirements to be met for a credible, marketable explanation of the gap between a brain based, physics-articulated state of awareness and the elusive, non-physically apprehensible state of consciousness preceding the adapting response. The satisfactory explanation, never complete, may emerge from further consideration of the ‘easy problem’, this time within the context of cognitive and quantum mechanical theory profiles.

        In our opinion there are 3 different relevant environments to dynamically equilibrate, the external, the internal body proper and the conscious thought, all converging on a central brain processing unit & each with its peculiarities and idiosyncrasies pertaining to their information content and mode of transmission. We are terribly lacking in data about the all-important maintenance of body proper homeostatic equilibrium and how it generates and / or influences emotional states, the back-drop behind the experience of consciousness; thoughts are not neutral!  So we have to rely more on   information states  embodied in the physical world, their information content and transmission from the external environment to the observer and then use the results as guidelines in the study of the other more complex environments. Whenever the information content can be made to correspond to measurable physical states (e.g., voltages, currents, etc.); their gradients can be transmitted to and through the central processing unit (brain or computer) along some pathway, such as a wire or axon. The big assumption here is that we will be able to measure the information content embodied in a conscious experience and its form of transmission. While we are unable to characterize its essence we can at least intuit its existence and its ability to be transmitted to an effector muscle, gland or brain proper to produce measurable effects in the subject including contractions, secretions or electro-encephalograms (EEG).

        The first step is to aim at the description of the most fundamental unit of information content and transmission we can think of. Nature has been very generous in giving us an intriguing similarity of both the content and mode of transmission variables in two of the three environments just described. We find thus that the input to output (I-O) bit binary code can measurably represent the same information states in telephone communications as we find embedded in ‘awareness’ states (and modular sub-states) and their underlying physical processes in the brain. We owe much of these correlations to MIT’s Shannon. If we could somehow cast all laws of physics in informational symbolisms we may have stumbled upon the most fundamental causal relationship between the observable (measurable) physical features of reality (information state of the object or event) and the corresponding brain information states thereby elicited, two DIFFERENT stages of the SAME information state simultaneously present in DIFFERENT objects linked cognitively. Now the information state of the object (color, shape, smell, sound, etc.) becomes a sensory perception tag encoded by our special receptors which may correspond with high fidelity to a measurable brain state. Under some circumstances we can corroborate the fidelity, as when Penfield was able to elicit  a narration of a past sensory experience by stimulating the corresponding brain ‘engram’ wherein its memory resides.

     Can we now extrapolate further to conclude that a conscious experience exists as yet another aspect of an information state? Maybe, but how do we go about the measurement without collapsing the quantum mechanical wave function? (we will expand on this quantum mechanical approach later on). How do we go about quantifying the conscious experience or the qualia?

     But there are serious problems remaining even with an information-based theory. So far only ‘information’ can conceivably meaningfully bridge these two basic aspects of reality: a physical one and an experiential one. They may be causally correlated but NOT identical. Even at a lower processing stage like the state of ‘awareness’, the ontological fidelity between the object of our perception and our corresponding cognitive representation is severely limited to only those features of the object’s constitutive reality we could successfully encode, e.g., any characteristic form, color or sound outside the audio-visual spectrum range of the observer will be  absent. Consider for instance, what is it like for both a dog and his master walking outside to feel a loved one is approaching, say pipe-whistling a tune emitted at frequencies below 20 hertz?, above 20 hertz? In the first case only the dog will become ‘aware’ of the approach until the threshold value of his master is reached above 20 hertz, at which time awareness becomes a conscious experience with its associated qualia. Suppose now that the master is blind and deaf; can words and ideas describing the perception of pitch, timbre, frequencies, etc. generate the same qualia? Functional MRI’s of both situations have shown that sensory-based representations of objects presented to sense receptors to a normal person or described to sensory deprived subjects, activate blood circulation in different areas of the brain. So much for the fidelity between the sensory perceived objects (or events) and our cognitive understanding in situations where a sensory-deprived subject never had an explicit neural representation of a sound, sight, etc. in her brain! The same original information content processed differently or at different brain locations gives rise to different qualia although the motor response may be identical, e.g., withdrawal response of perceived or described danger. It seems like only when sensory information is transmitted from cortical sensory brain (Module 2) areas to the ‘talking brain’ (Module 3) via arcuate fibers does conscious experience happens. This is one of various hints that language (vocalized or not) is related to the experience of consciousness. Any other neural route is limited to an ‘awareness response’ sans qualia.

What is the behavioral significance of different brain locations of activity giving rise to different qualia? It means that, for the same original object or event, a re-routing of neural transmission channels due to lesions, congenital malformations or disease may cause modifications on the previous 'meaning' or associated ‘affect’ even when the original object  is unchanged. In other words, there may not be an immediate change in observable behavior even though the same situation has a different meaning to the subject. How this new meaning intercalates with the rest of the information will depend on what it means in terms of the biological survival economy and reproductive potential of the subject.

We have discussed certain aspects of neural processing at different levels (Telicom 2002) trying to ascertain the features describing the bridge leading to the experience of consciousness. The latter seems always associated with an ‘affect’ and a ‘semantic’ component, both of which are modifiable as explained in the previous paragraph. Trying to discern further this possibility we find, from our previous example of the blind / deaf subject walking his dog, that the various neuronal networks (and their projective field pattern of synaptic connections) coding for auditory signals seem to fashion their own semantic attributes as they progress along ‘awareness’ pathways to the conscious levels. Can all brain locations elicit a recruiting response (‘binding’) and access consciousness? This would mean that for example, networks responding to a certain sound pattern might project to others coding for the name of the person, her face profiles, her voice, and so on. If meaning in the normal person derives from the integrated linkages among these neuronal representations then short cuts produced by lesions, accidents or congenital malformations will project to consciousness a meaningfully modified version of the same reality. The demonstrable fact that the sensory pathway is modified by the defect and yet the behavioral response may have not changed suggests either neuronal pathway redundancy or the rationalization of the new situation by the intervention of the dominant logical brain (Module 3), always trying to preserve the basic survival status quo imperatives. This means that similar behavioral responses to same event may have different meanings for the actor. An open alternative to a normal subject when her perception of an event does not conform the pre-programmed expectations is to physically change the object (or event) until they harmonize. Upon perceiving an object  / event either you go in denial, give a different meaning or change the event until everything harmonizes.

This view of consciousness in the 'bps' model views a subject  going through an endless recursive process of scanning for ongoing on-line sensory perceptions and associated motor adaptive responses, re-scanning for any changes in the environment, making appropriate new adjustments, etc., to enable the brain to plan and prepare for each subsequent action on the basis of past events, ongoing sensory input and perceptual synthesis. As if all possible adaptive response alternatives are simultaneously available (Edelman's coalitions), the final choice depending on the unfolding particularities of the situation which will then select the best fitting and appropriate neuronal configuration.  The experimental data that follows supports this view.

We have stressed above the difference between chaos and randomness at the social behavioral level. We can also see differences in the oscilloscope screen. A skilled observer can pick up in a ‘chaotic system’, an EEG trace or a silicon network discharge, the presence of two consistent signatures in the form of a characteristic a-periodic carrier wave associated with bursts of activity (formed when system input / output ratio is increased) and a dramatic global change in trace pattern in response to very weak inputs.  These complicated tracings can be subjected to Fourier analysis and their behavior be simulated by solving sets of ordinary and partial differential equations that describes network (neuronal or silicon based) dynamics. Llinas has used these principles in his description of the oculo-vestibular motor response displayed by a robot in visual tracking of a moving target, all AI simulated (see Chapter 1).

To illustrate, recently the olfactory system in experimental animals was subjected to familiar odorants and the brain's bioelectric responses recorded. Investigators looked for the presence of  characteristic ‘attractors’, i.e., that behavior trace the network system under scrutiny settles into when its sensory receptors in the roof of the nasal cavity are being stimulated chemically from outside or by the network from inside. Silicon networks with a predictable output trace ‘attractors’ with simple circular shapes. As a result of this new technology approach there is now some evidence that the brain is constantly & actively involved in seeking information about its immediate environment, alerting its sensory systems to prepare to respond to possible new information. According to these results the limbic system initiates a simultaneous facilitation of effector systems and sensory systems in some neuron pools (re-afferentiation input). Their resulting synchronous burst of activity is fed back to the limbic system which now integrates similar feed-backs loops from other sensory systems thereby generating an ever-changing gestalt of the changing features of the environment. Fig.1 below shows a plot of sigmoidal curves relating input (I) from olfactory bulb (x axis) and output (O) from neuron pools (y axis) in olfactory cortex when  the external stimulus is absent (small circles) or present.


The rising points of the inflection in the sigmoid curves (evidencing increasing levels of arousal) indicates a corresponding I / O or gain. As we discussed before the input-dependent increase in gain is essential to the formation of bursts in ‘chaotic’ systems.

      In our humble opinion this very elegant experiment says absolutely nothing about the generation of the feeling of what it is like to be sniffing a whole assortment of odorants, but it elaborates further our understanding of the state of unconscious ‘awareness’ by bringing in the participation of  new technology.


It seems clear to us that the Gordian knot of consciousness may not be untied any time soon and may sooner yield to a frustrated chop by a physicalist Alexander after so many of their elegant saber swash buckling activity. We have to get used to the idea that with the methodology of the natural sciences alone we can NOT reductively resolve the ‘explanatory gap’ of consciousness because to do so we would be required to explain the how and why the intrinsic entities underlying the experience of consciousness can be derived directly from physical processes going on in the brain substratum. Lets face it, a self-conscious state has never been demonstrated to be logically dependent of physics or any causal dynamic. In reality a non-believer does not even need to feel frustrated because, after all, even the physical sciences categorizes the fundamental properties of its basic entities only extrinsically, in terms of their measurable causes and effects leaving their intrinsic nature unspecified. Why not consider life and consciousness as fundamental properties of matter with no need of further explanation in the physical domain, in the same category as mass, charge or gravity, which as fundamental laws of nature are not further explained, quantum gravity notwithstanding? We can instead continue our search for causal explanations of correlative links like, as we pointed out earlier, the fact that certain conscious states link systematically to specific physical events. Unfortunately, we will be dealing only with first order consciousness, something we prefer to call a state of ‘awareness’, perfectly able to be eventually explained in terms of a "collapse of the wave function” or interpreted as specifying certain quantum indeterminacies. No doubt that a cognitive, "it from bit" information theory view continues to be very attractive.

End of Chapter 15