On cardinal distinction between third-person and first-person approaches to studying consciousness

Third-person approach:
1) a researcher uses his consciousness as a tool of studying the phenomena of the world he lives in; this means that a researcher is here, while the object of study is out-there (seen under the microscope, or through the telescope);
2) when selecting consciousness as an object of study, it is assumed that consciousness is out-there too (for example, in somebody’s brain);
3) to collect data means to collect neurophysiologic data and patient’s report about his/her internal mental states; in so doing, patient’s feelings have to be translated into words before reporting them;
4) a study of consciousness-related phenomena is conducted by analogy with a study of physical phenomena in Physics, using similar methods, models and system of proofs; for example, when the person reports about experiencing the phenomenon of premonition, but can suggest no proofs for experiencing this phenomenon, then the phenomenon of premonition is being treated as non-existent and is discarded;
5) when constructing a theory of consciousness, we start from looking for comprehensive definitions of consciousness, mind, awareness, mental states, and so on.; in so doing, we collectively and in a step-by-step manner are trying to construct a comprehensive (objective) theory of consciousness from the very beginning;
6) there is a difference between a theory and practice; we construct some theory and then see how to apply it.

First-person approach:
1) a researcher uses his consciousness simultaneously as a tool of studying and as an object of study;
2) a researcher can produce rational thoughts only while being in his normal state of consciousness; therefore, when studying the altered states of his consciousness, the researcher cannot any longer rely on verity of the results he obtains, and the problem of cognitive indeterminacy objectively emerges; the problem of cognitive indeterminacy has to be solved somehow;
3) to collect data means to collect the facts of own experiencing of the consciousness-related phenomena; in so doing, there is no need for a researcher to prove to others that he indeed was experiencing the given phenomenon;
4) the researcher constructs his personal (subjective) version of the theory of consciousness based on the privately experienced consciousness-related phenomena; in so doing, there is no need to translate into words what is experienced — there is no need to report something to oneself; a researcher has full understanding of the experienced phenomena;
5) when constructing his version of the theory of consciousness, the researcher is free to coin any terms he likes and to construct required theoretical apparatus (like a method of study, system of models, system of proofs, etc.); what matters here is that his theory must obey some universal criteria of formal correctness; afterwards, the full-blown private versions of the theory of consciousness constructed by different researchers become investigated for compatibility; in result, we may receive a comprehensive (objective) theory of consciousness;
6) there is no clear-cut distinction between a theory and practice; possession of some knowledge about consciousness may have direct impact upon the bearer of this knowledge and upon the world he lives in.

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The immediate task of consciousness

The immediate task of consciousness is to create a plus-minus adequate model of the world the given organism lives in. This model is being incessantly updated — from the moment of conception to the moment of death. The model includes the info about who we are, where we are, what we plan to do next minute or tomorrow. We feel uncomfortable when we do not know what we have to do next, what to say, where to go, or when we realize ourselves as if being lost (as a child in a supermarket who starts crying every time he loses sight of his mother).

There are two ways in which our consciousness creates/updates this model. First, consciousness deals with cumulative sensory input — it processes the physical electrical signals sent to our brain from our various sense organs, thereby receiving new data (new elements of subjective experience) for making the model more adequate.

Second, consciousness can examine the already available model and add some imaginative elements to it. For example, processing of sensory input gives us a model according to which we are a poor homeless man living under the bridge in Central City. Then, consciousness may add several elements — the pieces of imagination, and we receive a model according to which we are a millionaire living in our own mansion with beautiful wife and five children.

The work on updating the model of ourselves in the world is like the work on keeping the massive flywheel rotating. Once started, this rotation never stops, and most of the time rotation is by inertia — it is what can be called the routine of life. We stand up in the morning by inertia, we go to work by inertia, we eat by inertia, we communicate with others by inertia, we love and breed by inertia.

We live by inertia — we try to keep to a model that suits our needs best, and we want to change nothing. Conservatism is energy preserving. Consciousness thereby helps the organism to spare energy — the better the model, the easier the “flywheel of life” can be kept rotating, and the more energy is spared.

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A simple way of entering the consciousness-related problematic

Let me show how any person (even the one who has no education at all) can easily and naturally enter the consciousness-related problematic. Here are four stages.

Stage I. A real-life situation

Let us consider a real-life situation: to improve our life conditions we need to start some business, for example, to start producing pottery. The pottery production depends on the following factors simultaneously:
1) a factor which stands for knowledge of how to produce pottery and for workers’ experience and skills,
2) a factor which stands for availability of clay of required quality (viscosity, colour, and other parameters), and
3) a factor which stands for effectiveness with which the pottery is being produced; for example, it talks about how much muscle efforts and furnace fuel are being spent to produce the required quantity of pottery of required quality, having such knowledge/experience/skills and such kind and amount of clay.

In so doing, the better knowledge/experience/skills we have, the less furnace fuel and muscle efforts we will have to spend to produce that same amount of pottery from the available amount of clay. Also, the better kind of clay we will have (with better parameters) the less furnace fuel and muscle efforts we will spend to produce that same amount of pottery even having our knowledge/experience/skills unchanged. And so on.

The interplay of these three factors will affect our overall condition. I mean that if all these factors go together well, then our business will prosper (will be successfully developing), and everything in our life will be of high order, which means that everything will be OK or good from our subjective point of view.

But how to formalize this situation and turn it into the object of scrupulous study? So, we need to model it somehow.

Stage II. The problem of modeling

Let us first see where the idea of modeling comes from. If we postulate the existence of Noumenal Reality (there is something to which our cognitive abilities can be applied), then what we have in our mind is just a model of Noumenal Reality, or our personal version of Phenomenal Reality. It is because Noumenal Reality cannot be cognized directly — we cognize it through phenomena that it is a source of.

Imagining — it is constructing a model in our mind. We can easily imagine a tree — we can easily construct a model of a tree in our mind. But how to construct in our mind a model of how our consciousness functions? In this case we need to apply some specially constructed model.

Stage III. Constructing a special theoretical model

So, I have constructed a special theoretical model which I call the integrated information system (or IIS for short). It differs from the ordinary information system in that it cannot already be considered as a collection of discrete data about the object of study.

See what I mean in particular. When studying and describing some object of our interest we collect (amass) certain amount of data. This amount of data can be very big and obtained in all the possible ways such as through performing the exquisite laboratory experiments and computer simulations (as in case of information system). But how big it can be? And here I postulate that there is a limit to which our knowledge about the object of study tends — there is a limit to data we can ever collect about the object of study. We will call it the IIS{object of study}.

Very important at this stage is to understand that the ordinary information system turns into the integrated information system only after such a limit is reached. If I formalize, say, an atom as the IIS{atom}, it means that I apply the method of IIS. The IIS{atom} is knowledge/data about the atom that can ever be obtained.

Then I postulate that every IIS (either the IIS{atom}, the IIS{organism}, or the IIS{galaxy}, etc.):
1) is described by three systemic characteristics (let me call them the 1-st, the 2-nd, and the 3-rd), and by a characteristic of its overall state;
2) has several universal properties;
3) obeys some universal law of its development which considers all the possible ways of how to change the characteristic of the overall state of IIS, or how to change its order.

Stage IV. Applying special theoretical modeling to real-life situation

So, let us apply Stage III to Stage I, or let us apply the method of IIS to our real-life situation. In result we will have: the IIS{pottery production} is described by 1-st systemic characteristic (which stands for knowledge and skills), by 2-nd systemic characteristic (which stands for physical parameters), and by 3-rd systemic characteristic (which stands for effectiveness). The characteristic of the overall state of IIS{pottery production} is expressed in terms of high or low order the given IIS may have from the businessman’s point of view. So, the characteristic of order is subject-dependent.

Final notes

Please, note, that above I have not even mentioned such concepts as “informational”, “material”, “energetic”, or “entropic” so as not to confuse the people who, being based on their education, may have their own understanding of what these concepts could mean. The IIS is a theoretical model that works fine, and its functionality does not depend on how we will call its characteristics.

And finally, the main point. If we apply the method of IIS and will formalize an organism as the IIS{organism}, the change of its 1-st systemic characteristic will pertain to what can be termed as “consciousness”. Namely, by consciousness I mean a case when the IIS{organism} changes its overall state (its order from its own point of view) due to changing its 1-st systemic characteristic in result of dealing with physical sensory signals. Here, by “physical sensory signals” I mean, for example, the electromagnetic or acoustic waves which are transformed by correspondent sense organs into electrical signals which propagate along the neuronal paths.

Epilogue

For a period of 20 years in succession a big group of people meets together annually in different places of our planet and performs a very strange ritual. They erect a castle with a slogan “Consciousness” on its gates, and try to enter inside. They dance, jump, bump, and run around it, paint the doors on its walls and try to open them. They try to climb the walls by standing on shoulders of others whom they call authorities. They reinterpret the ideas of medieval thinkers in a hope that this could help somehow. They even have their King — he was the first who confessed that it was a hard problem for him to crack the mystery of consciousness. Everybody dance attendances on him, since he is the richest, i.e., the most cited Unknower.

It may be supposed that we deal here with new world religion, but as I see the problem, to enter the castle’s gates we just need a key — an appropriate method. But it seems that nobody wishes to listen to this simple idea.

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The role of consciousness in biological evolution

According to Darwinian hypothesis of evolution through natural selection, evolution happens due to random mutations, and is treated “blind” because of the absence of outer factors able to guide it.

I assume life to be inseparable from consciousness, which means that every alive organism, to be alive, must necessarily possess its (expediently evolved and equally potent) exemplar of consciousness. In other words, consciousness itself is not a result of evolution — it is a result of life as such. This makes it possible for me to hypothesize that natural selection is always a conscious selection, and that is why it cannot be called “blind”.

For example, for mating, a man looks for a long-legged, buxom, blond haired and blue eyed woman, whereas a woman, for mating, looks for a strong, healthy, handsome, self-confident, smart, and wealthy man. Something like that (in different variations) takes place in animal and plant kingdoms as well.

Mating always presumes there to be a free will and conscious choice in first place. Who mates at haste (or, on random) then repents at leisure.

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Whose rights are human rights?

Marriage is a relation between a man and a woman who aim to give birth and foster children. Human rights are the rights of both men and women as normal humans. The creatures who are neither men nor women must have their special rights. It is not a human right to be a non-human, or a homo-creature.

The basic right of any living creature is a right to live. The homo-creatures have a right to live too. But, from the fact that a tiger has a right to live does not follow that the humans must live together with tigers. Similarly, from the fact that the homo-creatures have a right to live does not follow that normal humans should be persuaded to live together with them. When I am persuaded to work in an office together with a homo-creature that demonstrates (to wit, propagandizes) its unnatural sexual predispositions, or when I am persuaded to watch such creatures on TV, or read about them in magazines, I treat this as a rude violation of my human rights.

Would anybody like to meet the tigers every day in the streets of our cities? I don’t think so. When found in the street, the tiger is compulsory moved to a zoo or savanna. Similarly, I do not want to see the homo-creatures in our streets. The homo-creatures have to be compulsory moved to some places too. Let it be some city, some enclosed territory, or even an island. Another basic right of all living creatures is a right for self-organization with formation of societies. Therefore, let the homo-creatures have their own government, own laws, police, courts, and army. Let them have their own television, own internet and other media.

Such segregation is vitally important because, by living among normal humans, homo-creatures endanger the whole of human society. Once upon a time, the towns of Sodom and Gomorrah were incinerated for debauchery. Therefore, I do not want the entire human society to become the victim of creators’ anger on one fine day (by “creators” I mean the ancient geneticists/selectionists for whom we should be grateful for not being ape-like anymore, and who told us to breed and multiply).

If the European Union wants my country, the Ukraine, to become its member someday, the homo-creatures have to be necessarily segregated from normal humans.

With due respect to all living creatures,
Serge Patlavskiy

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Do you believe in Life after Birth?

I would like to tell a parable. Two embryos (a believer and a non-believer) are residing in woman’s womb and arguing with each other.

Non-believer: “Do you believe in life after birth?”
Believer: “Of course! It is something standing to reason, and everybody knows that there is life after birth. And we stay here just to become stronger and to be prepared to live after birth.”

Non-believer: “It’s a rank nonsense! There is no life after birth at all. Are you able to imagine how the life after birth can look like?”
Believer: “Well. I cannot say to know all the details, but, as I believe, there will be more light, happiness, and we will be able to eat with our mouth.”

Non-believer: “But it’s ridiculous! We have a navel string and it feeds us. As to the life after birth, nobody has yet returned therefrom! The life just finishes at the moment of birth.”
Believer: “Yes, I do not know how the life after birth will look like, but at any rate we will be able to meet Mother, and she will take care of us”.

Non-believer: “Mother???!!! Do you believe in something like Mother? And where does it reside?”
Believer: “But She is everywhere! She is around us! Due to Her we live! We are nothing without Her!”

Non-believer: “Unmitigated nonsense! I have never seen any “Mother”, therefore it is obvious that she does not exist.”
Believer: “No, I do not agree. Sometimes, when it is quiet around, we can hear how She sings, and can feel how She strokes our World. I do believe that our true life will start only after birth!”

But what about you, my dear reader? Do you now believe in life after birth? If you do, then why not for you to believe in life after death as well?

Kindly,
Serge Patlavskiy

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What we are studying when studying consciousness?

To approach the central problem of consciousness from the position of natural science properly, we have first develop and apply proper methods of study and means of formalization. We should not forget that in case of consciousness, we simultaneously use our consciousness as a tool and as an object of study.

I hold that both “the nature of the world around us” and our consciousness obey the same fundamental natural law. This means that we can know about the outer world through studying our consciousness. This also explains why the very process of cognition is possible, or why we are able to perceive the elements of outer world. For instance, the notes C, C#(Db), D, D#(Eb), E, F, F#(Gb), G, G#(Ab), A, A#(Bb), and B form a 12-tone row, or a chain of sounds. On the other hand, the process of thinking also presumes formation of the chains of integrated information systems. That is why we are able to perceive not only the sounds (as physical signals), but music as such. And that is also why music can “play” in our head, so to say. And that is why we feel uncomfortable when we hear the gamut that misses any sound, or some sound is not the one that has to be there.

In fact, the formulated above is the Second basic idea of my meta-theory (http://generaltheory.webs.com/GeneralTheory.pdf  Section 2.6). The first one states that Reality can be explained in its all complexity (together with all phenomena and processes that belong to it) in case we will use the methods (laws) of Physics together with the methods (laws) based on the idea of integrated information system. The third basic idea addresses the question of relation between Phenomenal Reality and Noumenal Reality (see ibid., Section 4.2). In simple terms, it examines to which extent the model of Reality we form due to conducting the process of cognition corresponds with Reality as it exists objectively and independently of the process of cognition.

By the way, I am looking for a person(s) who is not able keeping long time the focus of attention on some performing action. Simply speaking, I mean the persons who (being absent-minded by their very nature) can quickly forget about what they are doing now, and start thinking involuntarily about something else. I want to suggest them to replicate an experiment on calculating the length of veritas chains (see ibid., p.46-47). To do science means doing experiments, doesn’t it?

Kindly,
Serge Patlavskiy

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