Monday, January 19, 2015

On Consciousness Physics


Originally a response to an article at MEDIUM.COM, titled: “Why Physicists Are Saying Consciousness Is A State Of Matter, Like a Solid, A Liquid Or A Gas” from The Physics ArXiv Blog.

One approach is to treat consciousness as a kind of abstract form of matter, a kind of virtual semantics. This has the advantage of explaining how some brains are dysfunctional, whereas others (e.g. through correct sensory information), are not dysfunctional. This method also has the advantage that it could ‘take’ variables like a computer program. These could be factors as various as the perceived environment, the person’s mode of learning, and conceptual tools which have been developed in the context of the individual and/ or society. Criteria could be developed for the properties of consciousness vis. a desert, or vis. dessert. A simple way to determine this would be to treat sensory input as either an expressed characteristic, or an unexpressed characteristic. With the senses in an unexpressed form, consciousness is likely to depend on global concepts, concepts which become stressed when the senses are deprived for a long time. Alertness can also be used as a factor to determine at what point consciousness becomes stressed —- in today’s society, caffeine may be a major factor in consciousness, even involving its own type. An obvious route in a chemical model is that chemistry exists in an expected form, and also in a controlling form. These forms depend on other factors for their exact expression, but may often involve common characteristics that are shared between multiple people (how to determine that is another question, that has plagued philosophy). One option is to adopt a concretist view of consciousness, in which visual input or other alternate models predominate, a view in which life is a concept of matter. Some people may have a spiritual view of matter, however. One factor to slot in is the importance placed on differing material objects. This may simply be selfish and metaphorical. For example, a philosopher may see objects as philosophical, or may borrow someone else’s theory. Another option is to adopt a functionalist or utilitarian view which places the functions of consciousness above its concept of materialism. Still other models would have to embrace other exceptions, however many there were. Some of these exceptions may be chemical, whereas others may be environmental, or about the modality of the person. Perhaps the question of whether consciousness is virtual or abstract need not be resolved. The more defined the system is, the more likely that the boundary between the abstract and material is meaningless. Seriously, questions can be asked, such as: does a person think they have a meaningful brain? (I suspect many people would lie about this). The result is to assess how far from the optimal path of the continuum people have strayed, and thus, how far from paradigmatic consciousness observed consciousness is. This becomes important for developing a difference between taken-for-granted forms of consciousness, and consciousness which parses itself as a problem. Perhaps the biggest feature may be the division between problematic and non-problematic consciousness, which may be expressed in terms of time and stress. When stress does not weigh in, one may begin to assume that there is a valuable intangible which is compensating for the stress. In some cases, as often happens, the intangible may in fact be material. That is, certain stress conditions have not ever been met (talking absoluteness). In other cases, a sophisticated preference has been met which ameliorates the negative value of the damage. In still other cases, say, ambiguous cases or arbitrary cases, the cause of stress goes un-assessed, and the person begins to respond negatively, critically, or in some more evolved way (say, an interpretation of negativity or crticism) to sensory input. A third tactic besides virtual abstractions and embracing the connection between the abstract and material is adopting a specific interpretation. Perhaps a schema could even be developed to show how interpretation is primary for consciousness. In that mode, consciousness would become a kind of ‘evolved contingency’, which either satisfies itself, or attempts to test or impose rules. Theories of psychology could weigh in by assessing at what point people cease to learn, or cease to develop (if ever?). Roles could then be developed for the role of sensory information, global concepts, and tools, as mentioned above (vis. environment). Overall, one solution is that each person is expressing a conscious specialization (a contingency or function of stress), whereas another is that people are basically satisfied. Clearly, the role of the difference between stress and non-stress is something that must be clarified for the overall theory to develop. However, at that point, there is a risk of over-emphasizing an anthropocentric model. Nor is it preferable to become overly bogged down in variables. Scientists shouldn’t want to reject a simple view in favor of a complex model which doesn’t explain the interesting parts. There is a potential for conjunction with phenomenological research, in that consciousness may depend on an understanding of the best and worst situations for people. But if not, if it is something universal that does not fluctuate, then the clear answer may be that it concerns a ‘pure essence’ like love or reason. Understanding that in scientific terms may involve dealing with concepts of potentiality in a way that is directed towards the kinetics of motivation. Ultimately, it may be simpler simply to express the rules in terms of observables (of the subject person), global conditions, and tools. One of the major factors may be the idea of contradiction as a function of stress.

Also available as an academic paper HERE, and situated within a context of other major news stories, HERE.

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