Integrated Information Theory

I’m exploring available theories of consciousness that tie themselves in open-minded ways to fundamental physics, that is they don’t automatically exclude themselves from physical explanation by overly reductionist reliance on objects already (accepted as being) defined by physics.

Yesterday, I summarised what I heard from Robert Kuhn’s Physics of Consciousness / Closer to Truth resources. The things I liked the sound of is the general line that there must be something missing from current physics and physical explanations, so it is important that investigations include philosophical / metaphysical questions for physics itself. Dennett I’m already a fan of thanks to his warnings against greedy-reductionism and premature-definitions, and his plea for more repetitive, creative dialogue to allow new explanations to evolve instead of destructive criticism of incomplete explanations of consciousness on the fatal terms already set by objective physical discourse.

Information has always been core to my own developing theses. That is, information pretty obviously seems fundamental to knowledge and epistemology, but increasingly also seems fundamental to physics itself. Those objects we know as particles and fields would seem to be manifestations of more fundamental information, in the limit any “significant difference”. Most recently Rovelli seemed to be arriving at similar views through his Quantum Loop Gravity work – everything and anything being identified as integrals of differences over closed-loops in space-time. Earlier works influencing Einstein involving Mach and before him the likes of Poincaré and Boscovich also suggested this limit of significant difference as fundamental to all the real world physical concepts we deal with.

Also with the cybernetics angle of my work, a systems view of identity suggests that higher level evolved or derived objects, whilst clearly derived from, supervenient on, their more fundamental parts, nevertheless have definitive identity that is more than the sum of their parts.

I feel I’ve been at this position for decades now.

I was naturally intrigued when I came across the words Integrated Information Theory in the field of the science of consciousness. Information and Integration, creative synthesis of information, not simply critical analysis.

Now from my (so far) very brief investigation of IIT I’m finding their choice of terms for axioms and postulates (and subsequent logical maths notation) very tough going, but I am seeing things I find promising:

Firstly, starting on their own terms for conscious experience without any constraint of existing physical models, it does indeed seem to be a new open-minded metaphysics. Secondly, Mach is the source of the fundamental units of experience – and experience is the fundamental “substance” of their model. In my own words ….

Axioms 1, 2 and 5 – Existence, Structure and  Exclusion – say that conscious experience exists with an ontology and each individual experience has distinct identity in space-time.

Axiom 4 – Integration – says that the ontological composition involves integration, that higher “system” objects are not reducible to their component parts.

Axiom 3 – Information – says that consciousness comprises information arising from differentiation, represented by distinct individual differences

When it gets onto its postulates, explanations, graphical examples, cause-and-effect repertoires and the logical relations derived, I’m afraid it loses me, except for the Identity postulate. That is there is an Identity relationship between our subjective experience or qualia and and the axiomatic IIT construct of consciousness. That is this IIT construct IS our experience, not simply the causal explanation of some other subjective mental level.

How’ma doin’?

[Aside – Quality and Irreversible Incorporation in there again?]

[And – the other corollary here is that whist these guys are developing IIT in a science and philosophy of consciousness sense, it is quite clearly at a fundamental level. Something that consciousness shares with physics.]


Also published on Medium.

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