Mind Matters Natural and Artificial Intelligence News and Analysis

TagChristof Koch

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dachsund dog portrait studio looking up.

Do Any Dogs Go To Heaven? If So, Why?

Neuroscientist Christof Koch was troubled as a child by the Catholic tradition that dogs like his beloved Purzel did not go to heaven

In recent articles, we’ve discussed well-known neuroscientist Christof Koch’s Integrated Information Theory (IIT) of consciousness which, as he acknowledges, takes a panpsychist (everything is conscious to some degree) approach to the mind. He has explained his reasoning at MIT Press Reader: Materialists must see human consciousness as an illusion — but then whose illusion is it? Panpsychism allows humans to have actual consciousness but, he says, “experience may not even be restricted to biological entities but might extend to non-evolved physical systems previously assumed to be mindless — a pleasing and parsimonious conclusion about the makeup of the universe.” His perspective is gaining popularity in science. One, perhaps unexpected, factor that he mentions as shaping his overall approach was youthful…

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shout abstrat illusion background. 3D Illustration

Panpsychism Is, in Angus Menuge’s View, a Desperate Move

But he thinks it is worth keeping an eye on as an understandable reaction to materialism

In Walter Bradley Center director Robert J. Marks’s second podcast with philosopher Angus Menuge, the big topic is the perennial “Hard Problem of consciousness and various proposed solutions. Last time, they talked about the surprisingly large philosophical problem created by a concept like “red.” This time, they talk about whether Integrated Information Theory (IIT) and panpsychism in general are a way out of the dead end of naturalism. That is, if our science hypothesis is that consciousness is just an illusion, then we don’t — and can’t — have a hypothesis. There must be a better solution than that: https://episodes.castos.com/mindmatters/Mind-Matters-134-Angus-Menuge.mp3 This portion begins at 10:35 min. A partial transcript, Show Notes, and Additional Resources follow. Robert J. Marks: Okay. Let’s…

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Illustration of spiral arrangement in nature.  Golden Ratio concept

Quick Facts on IIT (the Leading Theory of Consciousness)

IIT may be part of a trend in science in which emergence and panpsychist theories are slowly replacing materialist and physicalist ones

Consciousness, as a concept, is so easy to experience and so hard to define. Or explain. The most popular current theory of consciousness is Integrated Information Theory (IIT), pioneered by neuroscientist Giulio Tononi and championed by Allen Institute neuroscientist Christof Koch. For the purpose of discussing IIT, science writer Mike Hogan works with this definition: Consciousness for purposes of this theory is defined as ‘self-awareness’ or the Central-Identity; the inner-voice that allows your brain to talk to itself, an awareness that ‘you’ exist, the rationalization of your own relevance to that existence, and an awareness of the cause and effect of your actions in regard to yourself and your environment. Mike Hogan, “The Best Available Story of Human Consciousness” at…

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Looking through glasses to bleach nature landscape - tulips field. Color blindness. World perception during depression. Medical condition. Health and disease concept.

Dr. Angus Menuge: Models of Consciousness (Part II)

What is it like to see a red rose? To smell a red rose? To feel pain? In this week’s podcast, Dr. Robert J. Marks and Dr. Angus Menuge continue their discussion on philosophies of the mind, delving into competing definitions of consciousness. Show Notes 00:26 | Introducing Dr. Angus Menuge 01:01 | Phenomenal consciousness and qualia 07:25 | Experiencing…

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Thought Trails

Why Would a Neuroscientist Choose Panpsychism Over Materialism?

It seems to have come down to a choice between “nothing is conscious” and “everything is conscious”

A really significant change in brain science in recent years has been the gradual acceptance in mainstream science venues of sympathy for panpsychism — the position that everything is conscious to some degree. Leading neuroscientist Christof Koch, for example, explained last month in MIT Reader: But who else, besides myself, has experiences? Because you are so similar to me, I abduce that you do. The same logic applies to other people. Apart from the occasional solitary solipsist this is uncontroversial. But how widespread is consciousness in the cosmos at large? How far consciousness extends its dominion within the tree of life becomes more difficult to abduce as species become more alien to us. One line of argument takes the principles…

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Omega, the letter of a Greek alphabet. Greek numerals, mathematical eight hundred number concept. Abstract, digital, wireframe, low poly mesh, Raster blue neon 3d illustration. Triangle, line dot

The Chaitin Interview IV: Knowability and Unknowability

What does it mean for something to be unknowable? Is creativity non-computable? Do all things have a level of consciousness? Jump into today’s podcast, where Robert J. Marks continues his discussion with Gregory Chaitin about mathematical theory and philosophy. Show Notes 00:23 | Introducing Gregory Chaitin 00:40 | What is unknowability? 06:07 | Does non-computable mean unknowable? 09:43 | A…

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Near death experience

Physician Explains Why He Takes Near-Death Experiences Seriously

Near-death experiences don’t fit easily into traditional science categories because they occur — often with life-changing effects — when the brain is damaged or unconscious

Health and science writer Markham Heid recounts a story from psychiatrist Bruce Greyson’s book After (2021) that typifies the near-death experiences (NDEs) that have excited research interest: The truck driver’s story sounded far-fetched. The man claimed that in the middle of his quadruple bypass heart surgery — during which he was fully anesthetized and his eyes were taped shut — he had “come to” and found that he was looking down at his own body and the doctors preparing to operate on it. He described the scene in detail, and he recalled that his surgeon had waved his elbows in the air as if he were mimicking a bird flapping its wings. Later, when asked about his patient’s peculiar account,…

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open door to another world

Everyone Seems To Be Looking For the “Seat of Consciousness”

Does consciousness have a seat at the table? Wait a minute. Isn’t consciousness the TABLE?

Prominent neuroscientist Christof Koch, whose theory of consciousness is linked to panpsychism, has a new paper at Nature: Human Behaviour. Ideally, many science notables would like to “naturalize” human consciousness—to make it the same sort of phenomenon as the wind in the trees in a universe where nothing has any intrinsic meaning that sets it apart from anything else or points to a higher order of things. That would, of course, make calculation easier. But is it true? Here’s the abstract: Electrical stimulation of the human cortex, undertaken for brain surgery, triggers percepts and feelings. A new study documents an ordering principle to these effects: the farther removed from sensory input or motor output structures, the less likely it is…

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Paradigm of Quantum Wave

At Nautilus: Electrons DO have a “rudimentary mind”

Panpsychists in science believe that nature is all there is but, they say, it includes consciousness as a fundamental fact of nature

A leading theory of consciousness, Integrated Information Theory (IIT) proposed by University of Wisconsin neuroscientist Giulio Tononi and championed by by another leading neuroscientist, Christof Koch, has clear panpsychist affiliations. It is favored by proponents of the idea that electrons are conscious. Whoa!, you say. How can electrons be conscious? Wouldn’t they at least need a brain to be conscious? Let’s hear an explanation from proponent Tam Hunt (right) at Nautilus: You might see the rise of panpsychism as part of a Copernican trend—the idea that we’re not special. The Earth is not the center of the universe. Humans are not a treasured creation, or even the pinnacle of evolution. So why should we think that creatures with brains, like…

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Dream sequence in abstract tunnel to heaven or hell. possible out of body

Newfound Respect in Science Literature for Near-Death Experiences

For example, when people claim that they could see colors not normally available to humans, there is at least a possible science basis for that.

One really interesting change in science literature on near death experiences in recent years has been growing respect, possibly due to more information about them. For example, when people claim that they could see colors not normally available to humans, there is at least a possible science basis for that. In a recent edition of Scientific American neuroscientist Christof Koch, chief scientist of the Allen Institute for Brain Science, founded by a Microsoft billionaire, doesn’t discount them. He would like to find a fully naturalist explanation but that is quite different from past efforts to explain them as mere hallucinations, which failed to take into account their life-changing effects. He has said about them, I accept the reality of these…

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Bright light at the end of the dark spooky coridor. Concept of near death experience

Neuroscience Can’t Dismiss Near Death Experiences

It’s sobering to note that neuroscience has utterly failed to explain how the brain and mind relate

Despite claims, NDEs are radically different from any mental experience caused by brain impairment.

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eye

Why Is Science Growing Comfortable with Panpsychism (“Everything Is Conscious”)?

At one time, the idea that “everything is conscious” was the stuff of jokes. Not any more, it seems

A recent article at New Scientist treats panpsychism as a serious idea in science. That’s thanks to the growing popularity of neuroscientist Giulio Tonioni’s Integrated Information Theory (IIT), which offers the opportunity for mathematical modeling, along with the implication that inanimate matter and/or the universe may be conscious. If IIT continues to gain a sympathetic hearing, panpsychism could become, over time, a part of normal science.

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human head chakra powerful inspiration tree abstract thinking inside your mind watercolor painting illustration hand drawn
human head powerful inspiration tree abstract thinking inside your mind watercolor painting illustration hand drawn

Meet the Serious Panpsychists

These are not the "Rocks have minds!" people. They are getting a hearing about the serious problems materialism faces with understanding consciousness

No good theories of consciousness match up with current science beliefs. The panpsychists, who ask us to consider that perhaps consciousness pervades the universe, force the issue, as put by Philip Goff: “If a general theory of reality has no place for consciousness, then that theory cannot be true.”

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Futuristic Robot Arm Touches Human Hand in Humanity and Artificial Intelligence Unifying Gesture. Conscious Technology Meets Humanity. Concept Inspired by Michelangelo's Creation of Adam

Can Machines Be Given Consciousness?

A prominent researcher in consciousness studies offers reasons for doubt

Two theories of human consciousness are about to be tested in a historic contest. Integrated Information Theory (IIT) of consciousness and rival Global Workspace Theory (GWT) have sharply different implications for consciousness in machines.

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Businessman and his conscience

Consciousness: Three New Books, Same Dilemma, Still Fascinating

Consciousness studies are getting markedly crazier, if we go by the traditional standards of science

Rigorous naturalism, taken seriously, brought us to this place where illusion calls to illusion about things that can, by definition, have no meaning. There is no other place naturalism can bring us to.

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Why Some Scientists Believe the Universe Is Conscious

They’re not mystics. But materialism is not giving good answers so they are looking around

These prominent thinkers are driven to panpsychism because materialism about the mind doesn’t really work. So if panpsychism ends up seeming absurd, dualism—there really is an immaterial world—is also worth considering.

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