In Raymond Tallis' book, Aping Mankind – about which he was talking this week at the British Academy – he describes the cultural disease that afflicts us when we assume that we are nothing but a bunch of neurons.
Neuromania arises from the doctrine that consciousness is the same as brain activity or, to be slightly more sophisticated, that consciousness is just the way that we experience brain activity.
If you think the brain is a machine then you are committed to saying that composing a sublime poem is as involuntary an activity as having an epileptic fit. You will issue press releases announcing “the discovery of love” or “the seat of creativity”, stapled to images of the brain with blobs helpfully highlighted in red or blue, that journalists reproduce like medieval acolytes parroting the missives of popes. You will start to assume that the humanities are really branches of biology in an immature form.
Tallis doesn’t claim to know. He described himself as an “ontological agnostic”, the nature of consciousness being a tremendous mystery. “We just don’t know how we should think about being and how mind fits into nature. But we’ll never learn if we start out taking all the wrong paths.”
"Consciousness is information integration across sensory modalities. The information is transferred by waves riding waves...riding waves. If you think of a wave as a cyclical event then you can start with your biological waves(cycles) like your circadian rhythm and work your way up to other waves like light and sound. Radio, for example is a sound wave hitch hiking on a light wave to get that information to your device.
The brain works on a set of activation and inhibition waves riding on a set of noise waves for amplification. When your attention tunes to a specific wave you become aware of the information in that particular wave by the adjustment of your sensory apparatus." -- +Mani Scienide
Through conscious awareness human beings have created a field of shared symbols. We call this field of shared symbols a ‘language’. Most of us take language for granted. We use language to express our desires, feelings, thoughts. We use it to navigate our world and get what we want, focusing only on what we know and can name and speak. Few of us ever think about what is unsayable or unrepresentable. But the unsayable is at the very heart of creation.
UCLA psychologists have used brain-imaging techniques to study what happens to the human brain when it slips into unconsciousness. Their research, published Oct. 17 in the online journal PLOS Computational Biology, is an initial step toward developing a scientific definition of consciousness.
The psychologists analyzed the “network properties” of the subjects’ brains using a branch of mathematics known as graph theory, which is often used to study air-traffic patterns, information on the Internet and social groups, among other topics.
“It turns out that when we lose consciousness, the communication among areas of the brain becomes extremely inefficient, as if suddenly each area of the brain became very distant from every other, making it difficult for information to travel from one place to another,” Monti said.
The finding shows that consciousness does not “live” in a particular place in our brain but rather “arises from the mode in which billions of neurons communicate with one another,” he said.
Consciousness emerges from communication between brain areas (194 regions of interest were studied) and is mainly tied to cortico-cortical (left and center)
UCLA psychologists have used brain-imaging techniques to study what happens to the human brain when it slips into unconsciousness.
Their research, published in the online open-access journal PLOS Computational Biology, is an initial step toward developing a scientific definition of consciousness, the researchers say.
“In terms of brain function, the difference between being conscious and unconscious is a bit like the difference between driving from Los Angeles to New York in a straight line versus having to cover the same route hopping on and off several buses that force you to take a ‘zig-zag’ route and stop in several places,” said
A new study by Dr. Keisuke Suzuki, Professor Anil Seth, and colleagues at the Sackler Centre – published in the journalNeuropsychologia - now shows that external visualization of one’s heartbeat can influence what we experience as our own body.
The team used a unique combination of heartbeat monitoring and augmented reality to implement a ‘cardio-visual’ version of the rubber hand illusion. Participants wore a ‘head mounted display’ through which they saw a virtual-reality version of their own hand projected in front of them, while their real hand remained hidden out of view. The virtual hand was made to pulse to red and back either in-time or out-of-time with their heartbeat.
The researchers found that the virtual hand was more likely to be experienced as part of a person’s body when the ‘cardio-visual’ feedback was aligned with the actual heartbeat, than when it was misaligned. This shows that the brain integrates its perception of the body from the outside with its perception from the inside, in determining what is experienced as its body.
This article examines the primacy of real-world bodily experience for understanding the human mind. I defend the idea that the peculiarities of the living human brain and body, and the bodily experiences they sustain, are essential ingredients of human sense-making and conceptual systems. Conceptual systems are created, brought forth, understood and sustained, through very specific cognitive mechanisms ultimately grounded in bodily experience. They don't have a transcendental abstract logic independent of the species-specific bodily features. To defend this position, I focus on a case study: the fundamental concept of time flow. Using tools of cognitive linguistics, I analyse the foundations of this concept, as it is manifested naturally in everyday language. I show that there is a precise conceptual metaphor (mapping) whose inferential structure gives an account of a huge variety of linguistic expressions, semantic contents, and unconscious spontaneous gestures: Time Events Are Things In Space. I discuss various special cases of this conceptual metaphor. This mapping grounds its source domain (space) in specific spatial bodily experiences and projects its inferential structure onto a target domain (time) making inferences in that domain possible. This mechanism allows us to unconsciously, effortlessly, and precisely understand (and make inferences with) expressions such as ‘the year 2000 is approaching’ or ‘the days ahead of us’. The general form of the mapping seems to be universal. The analysis raises important issues which demand a deeper and richer understanding of cognition and the mind: a view that sees the mind as fully embodied. In order to avoid misunderstandings with a general (and somewhat vague) notion of ‘embodiment’ which has become fashionable in contemporary cognitive science, I describe what I mean by ‘full embodiment’: an embodied-oriented approach that has an explicit commitment to all of cognition, not just to low-level aspects of cognition such as sensory-motor activity or locomotion (lower levels of commitment). I take embodiment to be a living phenomenon in which the primacy of bodily grounded experience (e.g., motion, intention, emotion) is inherently part of the very subject matter of the study of the mind.
I think that metaphor really is a key to explaining thought and language. The human mind comes equipped with an ability to penetrate the cladding of sensory appearance and discern the abstract construction underneath - not always on demand, and not infallibly, but often enough and insightfully enough to shape the human condition.
Our powers of analogy allow us to apply ancient neural structures to newfound subject matter, to discover hidden laws and systems in nature, and not least, to amplify the expressive power of language itself.
The Internet now already has a couple of billion nodes. Each node is a computer. Each one of these computers contains a couple of billion transistors, so it is in principle possible that the complexity of the Internet is such that it feels like something to be conscious. I mean, that’s what it would be if the Internet as a whole has consciousness. Depending on the exact state of the transistors in the Internet, it might feel sad one day and happy another day, or whatever the equivalent is in Internet space.
Embodied cognition, the idea that the mind is not only connected to the body but that the body influences the mind, is one of the more counter-intuitive ideas in cognitive science. In sharp contrast is dualism, a theory of mind famously put forth by Rene Descartes in the 17th century when he claimed that “there is a great difference between mind and body, inasmuch as body is by nature always divisible, and the mind is entirely indivisible… the mind or soul of man is entirely different from the body.” In the proceeding centuries, the notion of the disembodied mind flourished. From it, western thought developed two basic ideas: reason is disembodied because the mind is disembodied and reason is transcendent and universal. However, as George Lakoff and Rafeal Núñez explain:
Cognitive science calls this entire philosophical worldview into serious question on empirical grounds… [the mind] arises from the nature of our brains, bodies, and bodily experiences. This is not just the innocuous and obvious claim that we need a body to reason; rather, it is the striking claim that the very structure of reason itself comes from the details of our embodiment… Thus, to understand reason we must understand the details of our visual system, our motor system, and the general mechanism of neural binding.
What exactly does this mean? It means that our cognition isn’t confined to our cortices. That is, our cognition is influenced, perhaps determined by, our experiences in the physical world. This is why we say that something is “over our heads” to express the idea that we do not understand; we are drawing upon the physical inability to not see something over our heads and the mental feeling of uncertainty. Or why we understand warmth with affection; as infants and children the subjective judgment of affection almost always corresponded with the sensation of warmth, thus giving way to metaphors such as “I’m warming up to her.”
We are in charge of our bodies, we run the show, we decide which ideas to believe in and which to reject. But do we really? If you begin to think about selfish memes it becomes clear that our ideas are in our heads because they are successful memes. American philosopher Dan Dennett (1995) concludes that a "person" is a particular sort of animal infested with memes. In other words you and I and all our friends are the products of two blind replicators, the genes and the memes.
This simple logic explains why it is so hard for us to sit down and "not think"; why the battle to subdue "our" thoughts is doomed. In a very real sense they are not "our" thoughts at all. They are simply the memes that happen to be successfully exploiting our brain-ware at the moment.
We might think of alternative cognition or complementary cognition as just another perceptual resource to go along with our other five senses of sight, hearing, touch, taste and smell as well as our emotions, feelings, dreams and thinking brain.
In fact, maybe we will discover that there are more than these modes of perception. Maybe we have the ability to perceive in ways that can be further identified and specified. (...)
There are also joint perceptions that involve using more than one sense or perceptual resource simultaneously. Integrating our sixth sense with the other five and other inner experiences may also be helpful, as well as very natural and normal. (...)
For example, remote viewing refers to some specific methods developed by the U.S. military and intelligence communities in Project STARGATE during the 1970s, ‘80s and ‘90s. People were selected to be remote viewers in these efforts because they were believed to have better than average or quite good abilities in this area.
Neuroscience tells us the thing we take as our unified mind is an illusion, that our mind is not unified and can barely be said to “exist” at all. Our feeling of unity and control is a post-hoc confabulation and is easily fractured into separate parts. As revealed by scientific inquiry, what we call a mind (or a self, or a soul) is actually something that changes so much and is so uncertain that our pre-scientific language struggles to find meaning.
Buddhists say pretty much the same thing. They believe in an impermanent and illusory self made of shifting parts. They’ve even come up with language to address the problem between perception and belief. Their word for self is anatta, which is usually translated as ‘non self.’ One might try to refer to the self, but the word cleverly reminds one’s self that there is no such thing.
David Weisman SEEDMAGAZINE.COM
The anatta is in a state of impermanence, called anicca. Consciousness is envisioned as a wave of momentary mental states.
Weisman asks, "Why have the dominant Western religious traditions gotten their permanent, independent souls so wrong?"
Scientists have long used mathematics to describe the physical properties of the universe. But what if the universe itself is math? That's what cosmologist Max Tegmark believes.
In Tegmark's view, everything in the universe — humans included — is part of a mathematical structure. All matter is made up of particles, which have properties such as charge and spin, but these properties are purely mathematical, he says. And space itself has properties such as dimensions, but is still ultimately a mathematical structure.
"Consciousness is probably the way information feels when it's being processed in certain, very complicated ways," Tegmark said. He pointed out that many great breakthroughs in physics have involved unifying two things once thought to be separate: energy and matter, space and time, electricity and magnetism. He said he suspects the mind, which is the feeling of a conscious self, will ultimately be unified with the body, which is a collection of moving particles.
Graziano has developed a new theory of consciousness he calls the "attention schema theory" that suggests that specialized systems in the human brain compute information about the things of which a person is aware, and project the property of consciousness onto ourselves and others. In that sense, the puppet's consciousness is every bit as real as that of anyone wincingly laughing at his jokes about living atop Graziano's hand.
"Every past theory of consciousness has a gap. Even the most modern theories at some point just point to a circuit and say, 'And then awareness appears.' But understanding where the magic comes from is pointless," Graziano continued. "The phenomenon that scientists can say with certainty happens is that the brain attributes the 'magic' to itself. We can understand how that happens and the computations behind it. And that's what this theory attempts to do."
Augmented cognition is about making tools for thinking. It is not about designing tools that humans can use, but about extending humanity's abilities through software, hardware or conceptual tools. We focus mainly on software here, curating a collection of links and resources. Email Sam Gerstenzang with any suggestions.
Sri Bhagavan - The Real is ever-present, like the screen on which all the cinematographic pictures move. While the pictures appear on it, it remains invisible. Stop the pictures, and the screen, which has all along been present, in fact the only object that has existed throughout, will become clear. All these universes, humans, objects, thoughts and events are merely pictures moving on the screen of Pure Consciousness, which alone is real. Shapes and phenomena pass away, but Consciousness remains ever.
A few days later Sri Bhagavan gave a different answer to a similar question asked by Dr. Godel, a French Medical Officer of the Suez Canal. He told the doctor: “You must distinguish between the ‘I’, pure in itself, and the ‘I’- thought. The latter, being merely a thought, sees subject and object, sleeps, wakes up, eats and thinks, dies and is reborn. But the pure ‘I’ is the pure Being, eternal existence, free from ignorance and thought-illusion. If you stay as the ‘I’, your being alone, without thought, the I-thought will disappear and the delusion will vanish forever. In a cinema-show you can see pictures only in a very dim light or in darkness. But when all lights are switched on, all pictures disappear. So also in the floodlight of the Supreme Atman all objects disappear.”
Researchers continue to probe the limits of the brain's plasticity
To the brain, electronic hardware is no different from flesh and blood, suggests a study at the University of California, Berkeley. In the experiment, monkeys learned to control a computer cursor—a stand-in for a bionic limb—through microelectrodes wiretapping their motor cortex. Although this feat is nothing new, the researchers showed for the first time that a stable memory of the new accessory had formed in the brain.
During normal development, a baby learns to control its limbs by creating a mental map of the movable parts of its body—a motor homunculus of sorts. The new finding parallels that process, says neuroscientist Jose Carmena, who led the study, “but it’s about a prosthetic device, and that’s what is profound about it. We’re talking about an extension of your body’s schema.” In other words, once the brain-machine interface gets up to speed, our gray matter might already be set up to achieve effortless, plug-and-play-like control of electronic add-ons.
A key point was the fact that bodily experiences always exists in the present moment. The experience of the body, the balance, and stability of the physical self were basic experiences that were connected to the conception of well-being and control. To understand one's emotions and needs through the awareness of the body were understood as the base for self-confidence, trust in one-self, and the ability to take care of oneself and one's needs physically and mentally. The subcategory "living in relation to others and in society" was conceived as an important aspect for the embodied self to interact with others and for societal participation. Working with the body in physiotherapy practice should include an understanding that body awareness is inseparable from the identity and may have an impact on the health of the individual.
full-text content from PubMed Central and publisher web sites.
Description: Deepak Chopra and Stuart Hameroff take an in-depth dive into the science of consciousness.*
Stuart Hameroff, MD is a physician, Professor of Anesthesiology and Psychology, and Director of the Center for Consciousness Studies at the University of Arizona in Tucson. In medical school, Hameroff became interested in intelligent behavior of microtubules, protein lattices within brain neurons and other living cells. Hameroff developed theories of microtubules as self-organizing molecular computers, and teamed with Sir Roger Penrose on the controversial Penrose-Hameroff "Orch OR" model of consciousness. Based on quantum computing in brain microtubules, Orch OR connects brain activities to the most basic level of the universe -- fundamental spacetime geometry at the Planck scale. At that level, Penrose has proposed Platonic information guiding or influencing conscious choices and perceptions. Orch OR could be seen as providing a plausibility argument for non-locality and spirituality. Hameroff is also involved with clinical trials of transcranial ultrasound (TUS) for mood and cognitive dysfunction, and co-organizes the biennial interdisciplinary conference 'Toward a Science of Consciousness.'
In this new view, cognition involves the entire process of life - including perception, emotion, and behaviour - and does not necessarily require a brain and a nervous system. At the human level, however, cognition includes language, conceptual thought, and all the other attributes of human consciousness.
The Santiago theory of cognition, in my view, is the first scientific theory that really overcomes the Cartesian division of mind and matter, and will thus have the most far-reaching implications. Mind and matter no longer appear to belong to two separate categories but are seen as representing two complementary aspects of the phenomenon of life - the process aspect and the structure aspect. At all levels of life, beginning with the simplest cell, mind and matter, process and structure are inseparably connected. Thus, for the first time, we have a scientific theory that unifies mind, matter and life.
According to extended cognitivists, the mind’s location is only partly in the head. In addition, extended cognitivists have argued, the mind is located in parts of the world outside the body.
Moreover, the possibility of extended cognition suggests new lines of research within the domain of social cognition. If minds extend, the boundaries that define the units of social interaction become less certain. Perhaps minds overlap. If, as some extended cognitivists believe, features of the environment comprise parts of a cognitive system, then a single piece of the world might constitute a piece of distinct cognitive systems. More dramatically, perhaps parts of a mind of one individual may be located within the mind of another. Insofar as extended cognition can make such possibilities plausible, social psychologists will need to re-interpret the nature of social interaction, will need to re-examine how the motivations and emotions of a single agent can influence an extended cognitive system, and so on.
Featureteaser: The evolution of consciousness isn't something that "happens to us," or at least it needn't be. Simply becoming aware of the creative power of our own minds can achieve remarkable results.
As consciousness is immaterial -- it doesn’t weigh anything, nor does it occupy space, and so on -- it is through human artefacts that the history of consciousness can be traced.
... Owen Barfield traced the history of consciousness through language [History in English Words].
It is only through a consciousness -- yours, mine, a bird’s, possibly a sunflower’s -- that what is “really there” begins to take on features.
Consciousness shapes what is “really there,” but we, I think, can never see what is “really there” when we are not looking at it.
I think we need to focus on how we can “surf” these changes and not be swamped by them, and through this we will, I believe, be intimately and immediately involved in helping the next shift in the secret history of consciousness take placein a positive way.
... the next shift in consciousness will involve a radical alteration in our experience of time.
The cello/brainwave duet explored the relationship a performer has to the music she's playing.
Cellist Katinka Kleijn performed both halves of a duet Sunday night. Her hands played the cello, and her brain, hooked up to a headset that detects cerebral electrical signals, played itself. Kleijn has been playing the cello for 35 years. Her brain was a little less experienced.
“Intelligence in the Human Machine,” the cello/brain duet, explored the relationship a performer has to the music she’s playing. During the performance, at Chicago’s Cultural Center, Kleijn wore an Emotiv EPOC, a neuroheadset with 14 sensors that attach to the scalp and detect brainwaves. In front of her, a laptop flashed a word and a few measures of music. She then played the music on her cello, interpreting the word onscreen. At the same time, her brainwaves, translated to audio, changed sounds as she reacted to the word.
In Pagel’s view, we do not have culture because we are human or conscious or have language or labour; it is the other way round. What gives meaning to being human is culture, ‘something akin to a software “operating system” installed without our consent by our parents and others in our societies. It defines who we are and is our internal voice.’ We are ‘imprinted’ with culture like ducklings, which explains our ‘surprising and sometimes alarming devotion’ to the culture in which we are accidentally born. And with it, he sees in us a propensity for racism, xenophobia and violence driven by natural self-interest: survival at the expense of others.
He warns us to be careful about our illusion of free will. Because what we want is always locked into a ‘chain leading all the way back to our birth’ and because ‘to an evolutionist, free will isn’t even all it’s cracked up to be anyway’. For him, those who survived in the past are not those who merely did what they wanted, capriciously, but those who survived. For Pagel, survival is too important to be left up to us. Rather than us creating culture as testament and witness to our existence we are in fact just passengers in ‘cultural survival vehicles’ that exist for the benefit of culture and not for us. Forget about beauty and truth. As he charmingly puts it, culture is just ‘the most successful way there has ever been of making more people’.