Conjectures on Consciousness F. Eugene Yates M.D. Scientific Advisor The John Douglas French Alzheimer’s Foundation February 26, 2010
The Phenomenon of Emergence Does it make technical sense to say that: The mind emerges from the brain and Consciousness emerges from the mind? NO!
Three Kinds of Emergence 1. A material thing “emerging” from a material thing ( Bénard cells –not yet fully analyzed!) 2. An immaterial quality associated with a material thing (qualia , e.g., the perceived color RED ) 3. An immaterial illusion emerging from another immaterial illusion (conscious awareness “emerging” from a mind state)
A Criterion for Consciousness Animals - with brains having highly connected networks allowing a large repertoire of goal-directed behaviors under their normal conditions. (i.e., A minimal complexity threshold is reached .) No Invertebrates pass. ( Social bees and ants use non-conscious, limited – repertoire instincts. Instincts ≠ consciousness.)
Norelco Reporter (cover) Vol 27 Dec. 1980 Photo by Jack Leonard
<ul><li>Three tests for “advanced” consciousness </li></ul><ul><li>Mirror test : patch on head (self- recognition in mirror – human babies, elephants, chimps, d olphins , magpies ) </li></ul><ul><li>2. Tools and use of abstract symbols ( humans, some other primates, dolphins , a few birds ) </li></ul><ul><li>3. Following a pointer (i.e., Reading another’s mind – human babies and domestic dogs ! ) </li></ul>
All mammals (Terrestrial consciousness first appeared here 200 million years ago) with increasing complexity -> Primates: chimpanzees, gorillas (60 mya), Hominids ( 7 mya), Hominins (Genus Homo 3 mya) Some birds (parrots, corvids) (54 mya) (feathered dinosaurs 150 mya –not conscious) Who is conscious and when did it appear?
Trends in Brain Sizes <ul><li>Hominids (10 to 7 mya) </li></ul><ul><li>Ardipithecus ramidus (“Ardi”) 4.6 mya, 420 cc ( slightly larger than a chimp’s brain then and now 400 cc ) </li></ul><ul><li>Australopithecus afarenses (“Lucy”) 3.2 mya, 450-550 cc (now ahead of chimp’s brains – unchanged for last 6 million years) </li></ul><ul><li>Starting 2.5 mya, brain size slowly doubled next million years: transition Au -> H </li></ul><ul><li>(Continued) </li></ul>
Brain trends: Hominins ( 2.3 mya ) ( Diet (?) :brain size nearly doubles again!) <ul><li>Homo habilis 2.3 mya 800 cc ( Tools! ) </li></ul><ul><li>H. erectus (Turkana Boy) 1.8 mya 900 cc </li></ul><ul><li>H. heidelbergensis 0.5 mya years ago </li></ul><ul><li>(Common ancestor to Neanderthals and us; controlled use of fire; brains ↑ ↑) </li></ul><ul><li>H. neanderthalensis 0.25 mya </li></ul><ul><li>1400 cc (larger than ours!) No inbreeding </li></ul><ul><li>H. sapiens 0.2 mya 1300 cc ( decrease!) </li></ul>
Power consumption is ~ 20 Watts It’s a dim bulb!
What drove the trend to bigger Hominid/ Hominin brains? Answer : ( Diet and mutations -> Bipedalism - walking upright - not to see farther, but to save calories. Upright walking is much more energetically efficient than climbing and swinging in trees, or knuckle-walking. We are uniquely designed to RUN!! And, as brains enlarged, so did the scope of consciousness : migration ranges, tools, ornaments, symbols, hearths, speech .
Who had speech? Possibly all hominins since H. habilis (2.3 mya). Definitely H. neanderthalensis as well as H. sapiens - for the last 200,000 years. All animals seem to have the FOXP2 gene - necessary (but not sufficient) for speech . The protein product of that gene in us, who have speech, differs from that in chimps, who don’t, by only two amino acids out of 740!
Mystery about Hominin Survivors About 100,000 years ago- maybe just 50,000 five hominins were simultaneously alive : Homo: habilis, erectus,heidelbergensis, neanderthalensis and sapiens. Question : Since 25,000 years ago, we are the only survivors! WHY?? Answer: Because we have a special brain supporting the widest range of diets and adaptations to severe climate changes.
Varieties of the Special Human Consciousness <ul><li>Awake and alert awareness of “now ” (Wm James “The specious present”.) It has constancy of perception . ( Hand-eye test). </li></ul><ul><li>REM sleep dreaming (if “lucid” -“Avatars”) </li></ul><ul><li>Daydreaming; reveries (default” brain state , potentially creative) </li></ul><ul><li>NOTE : “States” in physics can be either static or dynamic – (“states of motion…”) </li></ul>
Elements of Alert Consciousness Alert consciousness has three components : 1. Awareness of “now” ( sensory inputs from body + environment-> RAS, pons, mesen. tegmentum, subthal, hypothal, int cap.->neocortex -> consciousness) 2. Attention (focused awareness) 3. Memories
Two Essesntial Sources <ul><li>Christof Koch (with Francis Crick) (2004) The Quest for Consciousness: a Neurobiological Approach </li></ul><ul><li>(Outstanding documentation) </li></ul><ul><li>Gerald Edelman (2004) Wider than the Sky: the Phenomenal Gift of Consciousness </li></ul><ul><li>(Detailed ideas based on particular, recurrent networks – especially thalamocortical with re-entry.) </li></ul>
PROBLEM <ul><li>Consciousness seems as mysterious as ever. Why? </li></ul><ul><li>Three “missing” perspectives? </li></ul><ul><li>A quantum physical model? ( Caution! ) </li></ul><ul><li>The arts? ( the qualia problem) </li></ul><ul><li>A compelling metaphor ? (Metaphors are powerfully evocative: e.g., Highwayman poem.) </li></ul>
Metaphors and Science <ul><li>When great scientists encounter the ineffable they often resort to metaphor: </li></ul><ul><li>Einstein : moving trains (relativity) </li></ul><ul><li>Maxwell: vortices (magnetic fields) </li></ul><ul><li>Eddington: expanding balloons (cosmos) </li></ul><ul><li>Schrödinger: live- and-dead cat (QM states) </li></ul><ul><li>Gamov: cosmic firecracker (Big Bang) </li></ul>
DESPERATELY SEEKING CONSCIOUSNESS OUT OF QUANTUM PHYSICS
Who has tried a QM approach? <ul><li>SAMPLES </li></ul><ul><li>Max Delbrück (1986) Mind from Matter </li></ul><ul><li>Roger Penrose (1994) Shadows of the Mind </li></ul><ul><li>Rick Grush and Patricia Churchland have written a superb criticism of Penrose and QM approaches: http://mind.ucsd.edu/papers/penrose/penrosehtml/ penrose-text.html </li></ul><ul><li>Giuseppe Vitiello (2001) My Double Unveiled </li></ul>
► Symmetry-breaking -> ordering -> information ► QFT resolves conflict between reductionism and holism! 2001 The dissipative quantum model of brain
(Search in Classical QM , QFT or QED?) Six Profound Quantum Physical Principles Superposition of (quantum) states Bohr Complementarity ( views not states ) ----------------------------------------------- Heisenberg Indeterminancy (uncertainty) Correspondence (Bohr) Quantum Coherence Entanglement (strange entailments)
A Metaphor: The Omega “entailer” Fact : Brain state α ↔ Brain state β ↔ Brain state γ (Brain states in red are special.) Brain states are material ;mental states are not. ----------------------------------------------------------- Hypothesis : Brain state β Ω Mental state β Ω asserts the influence of a “ quantum-like conjugate ” -a non-causa l, immaterial companion ( an entailment ).
What is Omega Ω ? An entailment, indicating a non-causal association involving a complementary pair (a “brain state” and a “mind state”) that require a different descriptive language for each. Both are there together, superimposed as if quantum states. Awareness occurs when the brain measures itself . One set of neurons checks on the state of another set, and in doing so “collapses” the probabilities of the observed state to a perceived image.
<ul><li>The immaterial mind becomes (in visual metaphor) an “ image” of a material brain state – a very close “ reflection ” of the ongoing processing of material neurons and neural networks. It is a “picture” the brain takes of itself. </li></ul><ul><li>“ Mind” has no actions of its own in the material world. Visually, it is like your reflection in a mirror - that doesn’t emerge from you, can’t interact with you, or move your material chair . </li></ul>First Consequence of Ω
Second Consequence of Ω There are no efficacious interactions between “mind” and “brain” states! The mind is an impotent image- in visual terms a reflection - of an efficacious brain state. (All other senses, besides vision, also have Ω entailments). SUMMARY ->
SUMMARY-1 <ul><li>Only living animals can be conscious . </li></ul><ul><li>Not all living animals are conscious - </li></ul><ul><li>some are “ instinctive ”. </li></ul><ul><li>Goal-directed (teleonomic) behavior is a common feature of both conscious and instinctive behaviors. </li></ul>
SUMMARY- 2 Only mammals and a few birds have known consciousness potential. ( They are all warm-blooded !) Question: Should my proposed “consciousness detector” measure body temperature”?
SUMMARY 3 Everything that happens in mind or body arises from dynamics of brain states. All “interactions” are among brain states, not between brain & “mind”.
<ul><li>As brains have evolved and enlarged , so has the range of their possible states. </li></ul><ul><li>Brain states with Ω - entailed mental states have supported an increasingly rich repertoire and content of behavior and consciousness. A manifestation of that richness is enhanced creativity . </li></ul>SUMMARY 4
The big problem always has been to describe mechanistically the associations between objective physical situations and our subjective (conscious) experiences of them. It can be done without invoking the concepts of “emergence” or of physical, mechanistic “causalities”. SUMMARY 5
Summary 6. (final) Qualia , Arts, and the Limitations of Normal Science -------------------------------------------- <ul><li>Newton and Galileo launched science on a causal, mechanistic course that, even when updated, utterly fails to account for our conscious experience. It is too incomplete. </li></ul><ul><li>To illuminate consciousness we require the arts . Science alone can’t do it. Example: Proust’s joy from his madeleine and tea . </li></ul>
A Thoughtful Opinion “ It is quite possible – overwhelmingly probable, one might guess – that we will always learn more about human life and personality from novels than from scientific psychology.” ( Noam Chomsky ) Now, let the poet speak ->
We dance round in a ring and suppose, But the Secret sits in the middle and knows. Robert Frost The Secret