Scientists don’t actually talk much about consciousness. You cannot see it or touch it. Even though several researcher tried it, you can’t quantify it. And if you can’t gauge, it just means you’re going to have a tough time explanation it. But all we know is that it exists. And not just exists but it is the majority fundamental aspects of what actually make us human. In arrange to fill some holes in our understanding of universe and substance itself, researchers introduced dark matter and power and now it’s possible to think of consciousness as a latest state of matter.
his particular theory was at first put forward in 2014 by cosmologist and theoretical physicist Max Tegmark from MIT, who suggested that there’s a unique state of matter, in which atoms are planned to process information and give increase to subjectivity, and finally, consciousness. They name this proposed state of matter as Perceptronium.
As Tegmark explains in his pre-print paper:
“Generations of physicists and chemists have studied what happens when you group jointly vast numbers of atoms, finding that their collective behaviour depends on the pattern in which they are arranged: the key disparity between a solid, a liquid, and a gas lies not in the types of atoms, but in their arrangement.
In this paper, I conjecture that consciousness can be understood as yet one more state of matter. Just as there are many types of liquids, there are a lot of types of consciousness.
However, this should not preclude us from identifying, quantifying, modelling, and in the end understanding the characteristic properties that all liquid forms of substance (or all conscious forms of matter) share.”
Here, Tegmark isn’t signifying that there are physical masses of perceptronium residing anywhere in your brain and flowing through your veins to inform a sense of self-awareness. He is annoying to say that consciousness can be understood as a mathematical arrangement – the outcome of a specific set of mathematical conditions.
Presently as there are certain conditions under which various states of matter – such as steam, water, and ice – can arise, so too can various forms of consciousness, he argues.
Figuring out what it takes to produce these various states of consciousness according to clear and measurable conditions could help us get a grip on what it actually is, and what that means for a human, a monkey, a flea, or a supercomputer.
The idea was inspired by the work of neuroscientist Giulio Tononi from the University of Wisconsin in Madison, who proposed in 2008 that if you wanted to prove that something had consciousness, you had to show two specific traits.
According to his integrated information theory (IIT), the 1st of these traits is that a conscious being must be capable of storing, processing, and recalling huge amounts of information.
“And second,” explains the arXiv.org blog, “this information have to be integrated in a unified whole, so that it is not possible to divide into independent parts.”
This means that consciousness has to be taken as a whole, and cannot be broken down into part components. A conscious organism or system has to not only been able to store and process information, but it must do so in a way that forms a total, indivisible whole, Tononi argued.
If it occur to you that a supercomputer could potentially have these traits, that are sort of what Tononi was getting at.
As George Johnson writes for The New York Times, Tononi’s hypothesis predict – with a whole lot of maths – that “devices as simple as a thermostat or a photoelectric diode might have glimmers of consciousness – a subjective self”.
In Tononi’s calculations, those “glimmers of consciousness” do not necessarily equal a conscious system, and he even come up with a unit, called phi or Φ, which he said could be used to measure how conscious a particular entity is.
Six years later, Tegmark proposed that there are 2- types of matter that could be careful according to the integrated information theory.
The first is ‘computronium’, which meets the requirements of the 1st trait of being able to store, process, and recall huge amounts of information. And the second is ‘perceptronium’, which does all of the above, but in a method that forms the indivisible whole Tononi described.
In his 2014 paper, Tegmark explore what he identifies as the 5- basic principles that could be used to distinguish conscious matter from other physical systems such as solids, liquids, and gases – “the information, integration, sovereignty, dynamics, and utility principles”.
He then spends 30 pages or so trying to give details how his new way of thinking about consciousness could details the unique human perspective on the Universe.
As the arXiv.org blog explains, “When we look at a glass of iced water, we recognize the liquid and the solid ice cubes as independent things even though they are intimately linked as part of the equal system. How does this happen? Out of all possible outcomes, why do we perceive this solution?”
It’s an incomplete thought, because Tegmark doesn’t have a solution. And as you might have guessed, it’s not something that his peers have been eager to take up and run with. But you can read his thoughts as they place in his paper published in the journal Chaos, Solitons & Fractals.
That’s the problem with something like consciousness – if you can’t measure your attempts to gauge it, how can you be sure you’ve measured it at all?
More recently, scientists have attempted to explain how human awareness could be transferred into an artificial body – acutely, there’s a start-up that wants to do this – and one group of Swiss physicists have suggested consciousness occurs in ‘time slices’ that are hundreds of milliseconds apart.
As Matthew Davidson, who studies the neuroscience of consciousness at Monash University in Australia, explain over at The Conversation, we still don’t know much about what consciousness really is, but it’s looking more and more likely that it’s something we require to consider outside the realm of humans.
“If consciousness is really an emergent feature of a highly integrated network, as IIT suggests, then probably all complex systems – certainly all creature with brains – have some minimal form of consciousness,” he says.
“By extension, if consciousness is defined by the amount of included information in a system, then we may also need to shift away from any form of human exceptionalism that says consciousness is exclusive to us.”