Is Consciousness Universal?: Scientific American

Consciousness Awakening on Vimeo by Ralph Buckley
Consciousness Awakening on Vimeo by Ralph Buckley (Photo credit: Ralph Buckley)

These century-old arguments bring me to the conceptual framework of the integrated information theory (IIT) of psychiatrist and neuroscientist Giulio Tononi of the University of Wisconsin–Madison. It postulates that conscious experience is a fundamental aspect of reality and is identical to a particular type of information—integrated information. Consciousness depends on a physical substrate but is not reducible to it. That is, my experience of seeing an aquamarine blue is inexorably linked to my brain but is different from my brain.

via Is Consciousness Universal?: Scientific American.

An interesting piece by Christof Koch on the integrated information theory of consciousness and the resulting possibilities for panpyschism.

Peter Hankins also has an interesting post reviewing Koch’s piece, which is very much worth reading.

While I once found the information integration theory of consciousness interesting, after reading about Michael Graziano’s attention schema theory, that consciousness is the brain modeling its own attentional state,  I have to say that the flaws of of IIT and similar theories now seem profoundly glaring to me.

If your theory requires ascribing consciousness to things like the internet, which demonstrate zero evidence of it, it seems like that theory is incomplete.  When that theory can be used to justify panpsychism, you’ve redefined consciousness into something different than what most people mean when they use that word.

8 thoughts on “Is Consciousness Universal?: Scientific American

  1. We often try to apply an explanation for something into places it does not belong or does not work. The article completely misses what consciousness is and simply asserts that it happens when information integrates. This does not work even in the human brain. At night when we are unconscious our brains are still very busy – consciousness is shut off but information is still integrated….


    1. Interesting. I didn’t know info was still integrated during sleep. It seems like I remember the IIT people talking about fMRI showing more isolated activity during sleep. With AST, integration can still be happening, just not integration with the awareness centers.


      1. How would you describe a dream?
        With your senses shut down or ignored, what information could be integrated?
        Loss of consciousness does mean loss of input data but not a halt to the subconscious mind. It continues to do what it does, even in sleep. We restart consciousness when we hear a sound or see a light in the morning… Integration continues to happen with strongly limited inputs.


          1. Activity as measured currently is not a coherent indicator of what is happening in the brain. We know that dreams happen in certain stages and we know that the brain remains active in some ways. IIT posits that stuff integrates and viola, consciousness. I’m not saying that. It is the analysis of the integrated data which is consciousness. There are many things your subconsciousness does which do not make it into the movie your consciousness watches, some of these require the same hardware that consciousness uses or need to be ‘off line’ to complete correctly, or simply work better if the simulator is off line.

            Consciousness can only happen with integrated information, but it is not the information itself.


Your thoughts?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.