A&O – CONSCIOUSNESS

ART & ORGANISM

 

CONSCIOUSNESS

 


“consciousness is a graded global integration of multiple cognitive functions yielding a unified representation of the world, our bodies, and ourselves”

J. Allan Hobson 1999

The two monks paused on their walk in the garden to watch several goldfish 

swimming around each other in a pond.

One said, “look at how they enjoy playing!”

His companion replied,

“YOU are not a goldfish! How can YOU know that THEY are enjoying themselves?”

The first monk’s response: “And YOU are not ME! How can you know what I know?


There are many levels of consciousness … As the brain changes are continuous, so do all these consciousnesses melt into each other like dissolving views.  Properly they are but one protracted consciousness, one unbroken stream.   (Wm. James, The Principles of Psychology, Ch. 9, 1890).  

 


 

 CONSCIOUSNESS 

      Consciousness is the state or quality of awareness, or, of being aware of an external object or something within oneself.[1][2] It has been defined variously in terms of sentience, awareness, subjectivity, the ability to experience or to feelwakefulness, having a sense of selfhood or soul, the fact that there is something “that it is like” to “have” or “be” it, and the executive control system of the mind,[3] or the state or quality of awareness, or, of being aware of an external object or something within oneself.[1][2] In contemporary philosophy its definition is often hinted at via the logical possibility of its absence, the philosophical zombie, which is defined as a being whose behavior and function are identical to one’s own yet there is “no-one in there” experiencing it.”  (See Wikipedia on Consciousness)  

 


 

 


See PASCAL on HEART and MIND

 

DEEP ETHOLOGY of CONSCIOUSNESS 

a few first steps into a vast area

 


Amongst the multiple cognitive functions that are integrated in consciousness, a first organizational scheme would be that of INPUT–INTEGRATION–OUTPUT.

And within INTEGRATION, prominent is MEMORY … Read about REDINTERATION

DYSFUNCTION.  Consciousness may be the supreme example of an experience we have that depends on many active processes functioning in exquisite synchrony.  Of course slight variations in any one of them has a more-or-less detectable effect on our consciousness, but usually within a range of tolerance such that we may not be aware of them.   Beyond that range, however, various dysfunctions reveal processes that contribute to consciousness that we were likely utterly unaware of.  Of course we can change our usual, more-or-less routine contexts and experience consciousness altered in ways that range from recreational to destructive. From disease through physical or physiological accidents that affect braiun function such as a mini-stroke (transient ischemic attack, or TIA) or worse…    Read more about revealing dysfunctions of consciousness. 


REPRESENTATIONS OF CONSCIOUSNESS:  Images of the brain, particularly in its cellular detail, are often strikingly beautiful: poised between empirical accuracy and validity and abstraction.  WORDS sometimes seem to help us understand what they refer to (or perhaps they make us more comfortable by condensing complexity to a more easily managed form).  ART in all its forms is, after all, an abstraction (simplified representation) … in fact at all levels of transformations between levels of organization, information is transformed.  (In science fiction, transcendent entities often represent themselves to humans in a more “manageable” form).

 


 ARE ART and SCIENCE ACTS of CONSCIOUSNESS?

“To classify consciousness as the action of organic machinery is in no way to underestimate its power.  In Sir Charles Sherrington’s splendid metaphor, the brain is an ‘enchanted loom where millions of flashing shuttles weave a dissolving pattern.’  Since the mind recreates reality from the abstractions of sense impressions, it can equally well simulate reality by recall and fantasy.  The brain invents stories an runs imagined and remembered events back and forth through time.  (E.O. Wilson, 1978).  The issue is relevant in light of the frequent sense that creative insights come from outside us: see Artists speaking of their experiences. 

The poet, Paul Valéry, reminds us that “consciousness reigns but does not govern.” 


 

“QUESTION! a recent photoessay by Jessica Hamzelou in New Scientist introduced us to “…neuroscientist-turned-artist Greg Dunn [who] aided by artist and physicist Brian Edwards, [represented consciousness] largely by hand, and using a special etching technique. “The piece was designed to be an unprecedented image of the brain,” says Dunn of his project, titled “Self Reflected.”  View this as presented in the magazine (New Scientist, June 17, 2017, APERTURE,”).  The question asks us to consider if representations of complex phenomena (words, pictures, music) –which are themselves simplifications, abstractions — can give us insight into complexity of which they are fragments ?”  (remember “redintegration?”)

 


INTUITIVE KNOWLEDGE may not be accessible, but we may still “feel” that it is there:

  •   FEELING of KNOWING 
    • “… the sheer phenomenological experience of knowing (‘‘noetic feeling’’) occupies a unique role in  mediating between implicit-automatic processes, on the one hand, and explicit-controlled processes, on the other. Rather than reflecting direct access to memory traces, noetic feelings are based on inferential heuristics that operate implicitly and unintentionally.” (Asher Koriat 2000) [vi]
  • TIP of the TONGUE Monday, September 28, 2009   …   Just out of reach, on the tip of the tongue … presque vu … IS THERE (as Poet Franz Wright wrote in his pursuit of revelation) …  “some radiantly obvious thing I need to say, though quite what that might be escapes me at the moment, as it always has, and always will.” (2006). [vii]
    • The anterior cingulate and right middle frontal cortices are two neural areas implicated in the TOT phenomenon. One study showed that, relative to successful retrieval or unsuccessful retrieval not accompanied by a TOT, retrieval failures accompanied by TOTs elicited a selective response in anterior cingulate-prefrontal cortices. The study also found that while attempting to retrieve information, subjects rely heavily on visual spatial clues in correctly retrieving the information. For example, some subjects in the study that were trying to recall a name described looking at the person’s face in attempting to retrieve the name. Also, when trying to recall the name of an author, the subjects described attempting to read the name of the author from an imagined book. The authors of the study suggest that “the extent that the subjects in our fMRI study used a visual imagery strategy when in a TOT condition, the activation observed in right inferior PFC could constitute the neural correlates of these efforts to resolve these retrieval failures” (Maril et al., 2001, p. 657).
    • Actually presque vu has more of a sense of being on the verge of epiphany … [viii]

Bringing me to the SPIRITUAL.  Intuition is at the heart of Zen: The contradictions provided by koans “increase pressure in the trainee’s mind until the structures of ordinary reason collapse completely, clearing the way for sudden intuition” (Huston Smith 1986:199)


 INTUITION  |  Intuition presentation


  •  DIGITAL INTUITIONIn Janury 2016, “scientists announced … that they have created an intuitive computer. The machine acts according to its programming, but it also chooses what to do on the basis of something — knowledge, experience or a combination of the two — that its programmers cannot predict or fully explain.” (Editorial in Nature 2016)[v]

ENDNOTES:

[i] DIAGNOSIS: intuition & evidence based medicine,  Intuition and evidence–uneasy bedfellows?  Br J Gen Pract. 2002 May;52(478):395-400.   Greenhalgh T1

Abstract. Intuition is a decision-making method that is used unconsciously by experienced practitioners but is inaccessible to the novice. It is rapid, subtle, contextual, and does not follow simple, cause-and-effect logic. Evidence-based medicine offers exciting opportunities_for improving patient outcomes, but the ‘evidence-burdened’ approach of the inexperienced, protocol-driven clinician is well documented Intuition is not unscientific. It is a highly creative process, fundamental to hypothesis generation in science. The experienced practitioner should generate and follow clinical hunches as well as (not instead of applying the deductive principles of evidence-based medicine. The educational research literature suggests that we can improve our intuitive powers through systematic critical reflection about intuitive judgements–for example, through creative writing and dialogue with professional colleagues. It is time to revive and celebrate clinical storytelling as a method for professional education and development. The stage is surely set for a new, improved–and, indeed, evidence-based–‘Balint’group.

Comment in  Intuition, creativity, dialogue, tacit knowledge and … evidence? [Br J Gen Pract. 2002] & Intuition…or good mathematics? [Br J Gen Pract. 2002].  PMID:  12014539  [PubMed – indexed for MEDLINE]   PMCID:  PMC1314297   Free PMC Article

 

[ii] On Making the Right Choice: The Deliberation-Without-Attention Effect Science 17 February 2006: Vol. 311. no. 5763, pp. 1005 – 1007  DOI: 10.1126/science.1121629  Ap Dijksterhuis,* Maarten W. Bos, Loran F. Nordgren, Rick B. van Baaren

“Contrary to conventional wisdom, it is not always advantageous to engage in thorough conscious deliberation before choosing.  On the basis of recent insights into the characteristics of conscious and unconscious thought, we tested the hypothesis that simple choices (such as between different towels or different sets of oven mitts) indeed produce better results after conscious thought, but that choices in complex matters (such as between different houses or different cars) should be left to unconscious thought. Named the “deliberation-without-attention” hypothesis, it was confirmed in four studies on consumer choice, both in the laboratory as well as among actual shoppers, that purchases of complex products were viewed more favorably when decisions had been made in the absence of attentive deliberation.

Common knowledge holds that thorough conscious thought leads to good decisions and satisfactory choices. Whether purchasing a new car, a desktop computer, or a pair of shoes, people generally believe that serious conscious deliberation increases the probability that they will make the “right” choice. This idea applies especially to choices between products that are complex, multifaceted, and expensive. Whereas most people are willing to buy a new set of towels without much thought, they are unlikely to buy a new car or outfit a new kitchen without deliberation.

A second pervasive idea is that the quality of a choice benefits from “sleeping on it.” Rather than (or in addition to) thinking consciously, people usually feel that “unconscious thought” is useful for making sound decisions. Whereas conscious thought refers to thought or deliberation while conscious attention is directed at the problem at hand, unconscious thought can be defined as thought or deliberation in the absence of conscious attention directed at the problem (1). An example of unconscious thought is the following: One compares two holiday destinations (say the Costa Brava and Tuscany) and does not know what to decide. One puts the problem aside and after 48 hours of not thinking about it consciously, suddenly the thought “It’s going to be Tuscany!” pops into consciousness. This thought itself is conscious, but the transition from indecision to a preference 2 days later is the result of unconscious thought, or of deliberation without attention.

The scientific literature has emphasized the benefits of conscious deliberation in decision making for hundreds of years (2, 3). The idea that conscious deliberation is the ideal (if not always attainable) way to approach a decision forms the backbone of classic (4, 5) as well as contemporary perspectives on decision making (6, 7) and attitude formation (8, 9). In contrast, the notion that unconscious thought is fruitful hardly developed beyond the status of “folk wisdom.” It has been postulated or investigated by scientists infrequently [but see (1013)]. The question addressed here is whether this view is justified. We hypothesize that it is not.

First, conscious thought does not always lead to sound choices. For example, participants who chose their favorite poster among a set of five after thorough contemplation showed less postchoice satisfaction than participants who only looked at them briefly (14, 15). Furthermore, conscious deliberation can make multiple evaluations of the same object less consistent over time (16). Two reasons why conscious deliberation sometimes leads to poor judgments have been identified. First, consciousness has a low capacity (17, 18), causing choosers to take into account only a subset of the relevant information when they decide (13, 19). Second, conscious thought can lead to suboptimal weighting of the importance of attributes (1316): We tend to inflate the importance of some attributes at the expense of others, leading to worse choices.

Conversely, unconscious thought, or thought without attention, can lead to good choices (13, 14). In a recent experiment, participants read information about four apartments of different desirability (20). They were either asked to choose their favorite immediately, or given the opportunity to choose after a period of conscious thought, or distracted for some time before they chose. In the third of these conditions, participants could only engage in unconscious deliberation: They knew they would have to choose later, but the distraction task prevented them from devoting conscious attention to the choice. Interestingly, unconscious thinkers made better decisions than conscious thinkers or than immediate choosers (13, 14).

Recently, we formulated the Unconscious Thought Theory (UTT) (21) about the strengths and weaknesses of conscious thought and unconscious thought, that is, of deliberation with and without attention. Two characteristics of conscious and unconscious thought are important in the current context. First, conscious thought is rule-based and very precise (22, 23). Unconscious thought can conform to rules in that it detects recurring patterns, as the literature on implicit learning shows (24). However, in order to actively follow strict rules, conscious attention is necessary. For example, one cannot do arithmetic without conscious attention. This capacity to follow rules makes conscious thought more precise in decision making, because it can strictly follow self-generated rules such as not exceeding a maximum price. Second, as alluded to earlier, conscious thought suffers from the low capacity of consciousness, making it less suitable for very complex issues. Unconscious thought does not suffer from low capacity. Indeed, it has been shown that during unconscious thought, large amounts of information can be integrated into an evaluative summary judgment (13).

[iii] “How can you try to not try?” … “It makes no sense, but the paradox is essential to civilization, according to Edward Slingerland. He has developed, quite deliberately, a theory of spontaneity based on millenniums of Asian philosophy and decades of research by psychologists and neuroscientists.

He calls it the paradox of wu wei, the Chinese term for “effortless action.” Pronounced “ooo-way,” it has similarities to the concept of flow, that state of effortless performance sought by athletes, but it applies to a lot more than sports. Wu wei is integral to romance, religion, politics and commerce. It’s why some leaders have charisma and why business executives insist on a drunken dinner before sealing a deal.”  (complete essay, Tierny 2014)

 

[iv]  Blaise Pascal 1623B62, French mathematician, physicist, and moralist, in Pensées (1670, ed. L. Brunschvicg, 1909) sect. 4, no. 277). 

[v] “Napoleon had it and so did Charles Darwin. Tennis champion Roger Federer has it in spades. The dictionary defines intuition as knowledge obtained without conscious reasoning. It is decision-making based on apparently instinctual responses; thinking without thinking.

Go players react to computer defeat.  Intuition is a very human skill, or so we like to think. Or, more accurately, so we liked to think. In what could prove to be a landmark moment for artificial intelligence, scientists announce this week that they have created an intuitive computer. The machine acts according to its programming, but it also chooses what to do on the basis of something — knowledge, experience or a combination of the two — that its programmers cannot predict or fully explain. And, in the limited tests carried out so far, the computer has proved that it can make these intuitive decisions much more effectively than the most skilled humans can. The machines are not just on the rise, they have nudged ahead.

Experts in ethics, computer science and artificial intelligence routinely debate whether clever machines in the future will use their powers for good or evil. This latest example of digital discovery puts neural networks to work on a problem that is almost as old: how to win at the board game Go.

Outside business-management seminars, Go is not well known in the West, but it is older, more complex and harder to master than chess. Yet it is simpler to learn and play: two players take it in turns to place black or white counters on a grid. When a counter (called a stone) is surrounded by rivals, it is removed from the board. Winning — like so much in life and war — is about controlling the most territory. The game is wildly popular across countries in east Asia, and players from Japan, China and South Korea routinely compete in televised professional tournaments.

On this week’s issue of Nature, computer scientists at Google DeepMind in London unveil the successor to Deep Blue. It is a program called AlphaGo, and in October 2015 it beat the human Go champion of Europe by five games to zero. To put that into context, in Deep Blue’s time, a human beginner with just a week’s practice could easily defeat the best Go computer programs. A match between AlphaGo and the world’s most titled player of the decade is lined up for March.

AlphaGo cannot explain how it chooses its moves, but its programmers are more open than Deep Blue’s in publishing how it is built. Previous Go computer programs explore moves at random, but the new technology relies on a suite of deep neural networks. These were trained to mimic the moves of the best human players, to reward wins and, using a probability distribution, to limit the outcomes for any board position to a single verdict: win or lose. Working together, these machine-learning strategies can massively reduce the number of possible moves the program evaluates and chooses from — in a seemingly intuitive way….

When a conventional computer tells an engineer to place a rivet or a weld in a specific place on an aircraft wing, the engineer — if he or she wishes — can lift the machine’s lid and examine the assumptions and calculations inside. That is why the rest of us are happy to fly. Intuitive machines will need more than trust: they will demand faith” — “The machine becomes an oracle; its pronouncements have to be believed.”   from: Digital intuition.  (editorial) Nature  529,  437  (28 January 2016)  doi:10.1038/529437a     

[vi] Koriat Asher.  (2000)  The Feeling of Knowing: Some Metatheoretical Implications for  Consciousness and Control.  Consciousness and Cognition 9, 149–171 (2000)  doi:10.1006/ccog.2000.0433, available online at http://www.idealibrary.com on

And, Hart, J.T. (1965). Memory and the feeling-of-knowing experience. Journal of Educational Psychology, 56, 208-216.  : ABSTRACT:  To evaluate the accuracy of feeling-of-knowing experiences 2 investigations are reported. Both experiments (Ns of 22 and 16, respectively) show the phenomenon to be a relatively accurate indicator of memory storage, as measured by the ability of Ss to predict recognition failures and successes for items they cannot recall. The results are discussed in terms of the utility of a memory-monitoring process for the efficient functioning of a fallible storage and retrieval system. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved

[vii] Franz Wright (son of James Wright) quoted by Langdon Hammer in his review of “God’s Silence” in the NYTBR 2006)  Wright won the Pulitzer Prize, 2004 

[viii] The anterior cingulate and right middle frontal cortices are two neural areas implicated in the TOT phenomenon. One study showed that, relative to successful retrieval or unsuccessful retrieval not accompanied by a TOT, retrieval failures accompanied by TOTs elicited a selective response in anterior cingulate-prefrontal cortices. The study also found that while attempting to retrieve information, subjects rely heavily on visual spatial clues in correctly retrieving the information. For example, some subjects in the study that were trying to recall a name described looking at the person’s face in attempting to retrieve the name. Also, when trying to recall the name of an author, the subjects described attempting to read the name of the author from an imagined book. The authors of the study suggest that “the extent that the subjects in our fMRI study used a visual imagery strategy when in a TOT condition, the activation observed in right inferior PFC could constitute the neural correlates of these efforts to resolve these retrieval failures” (Maril et al., 2001, p. 657).

The tip-of-the-tongue experience (TOT) has intrigued psychologists for nearly a century. R. Brown and McNeil (1966) provided the first systematic exploration of the phenomenon, and the findings since their seminal study suggest that TOTs (a) are a nearly universal experience, (b) occur about once a week, (c) increase with age, (d) are frequently elicited by proper names, (e) often enable access to the target word’s first letter, (f) are often accompanied by words related to the target, and (g) are resolved during the experience about half of the time. Important questions remain concerning TOTs: (a) Are emotional reactions necessary, (b) do only low frequency targets elicit TOTs, (c) do TOTs reflect incomplete target word activation or interference from related words, and (d) do spontaneous retrievals really occur? A more precise definition of the TOT experience is needed, as well as greater uniformity in the information gathered during TOTs. (Brown AS. 1991.  A review of the tip-of-the-tongue experience. Psychol Bull. 1991 Mar;109(2):204-23

[ix] Harold Bloom’s essay, “Pilgrim to Eros” in September 24, 2009 NYRB reviewing Byron in Love: A Short Daring Life by Edna O’Brien.  Norton.  From section 5 of the essay:

“ … No scholar or writer of fiction has achieved a plausible account of their six-year friendship, during which they shared over 250 days, frequently alone together, corresponded extensively, and seem to have read and discussed nearly all of one another’s poetry. Only the Goethe–Schiller relationship is comparable, but those great poets led conventional existences compared to the revolutionary and erotic firebrands Byron and Shelley, who unlike Verlaine and Rimbaud were not lovers.

Byron, except for a few allusions, carefully kept any portrait of Shelley out of his poetry. Shelley did the reverse, particularly in the remarkable conversation-poem “Julian and Maddalo” (1819), where Shelley is the idealist Julian and Byron is Count Maddalo, who had weathered much of his own Prometheanism. Goethe, who admired Byron, condescendingly observed that when Byron thought, he became a child. Shelley knew better, and I doubt that criticism has caught up to Shelley in apprehending the brilliance, range, and power of Byron’s intellect.

“Julian and Maddalo” is a beautiful exemplification of Shelley’s middle style: urbane, conversational, somewhat understated. Partly written as an answer to Manfred ‘s quasi-Calvinistic sense of fatalism, it depicts an evening horseback ride the poets took near Venice in August 1818:

I rode one evening with Count Maddalo
Upon the bank of land which breaks the flow
Of Adria towards Venice. A bare strand
Of hillocks, heaped from ever-shifting sand,
Matted with thistles and amphibious weeds,

Such as from earth’s embrace the salt ooze breeds,
Is this; an uninhabited sea-side,
Which the lone fisher, when his nets are dried,
Abandons; and no other object breaks
The waste but one dwarf tree and some few stakes
Broken and unrepaired, and the tide makes
A narrow space of level sand thereon,
Where ‘t was our wont to ride while day went down.
This ride was my delight. I love all waste
And solitary places; where we taste
The pleasure of believing what we see
Is boundless, as we wish our souls to be.

 

[x] Clin EEG Neurosci. 2006 Oct;37(4):330-5.  Error detection, correction, and prevention in the brain: a brief review of data and theories.

van Veen V1Carter CS.   Author information.  

AbstractErrors during speeded response tasks are typically immediately followed by a large component in the event-related potential, the error-related negativity; various lines of research have suggested that this component is primarily generated by the anterior cingulate cortex. This error-related activity has generated a high level of interest and investigation by cognitive neuroscientists because of the importance of online action monitoring for theories of cognitive regulation. A subsequent component, the error positivity, has remained more elusive to date. In this review we will discuss some of the extensive research which has suggested that these components are related to performance monitoring, and, should performance be compromised, dynamically adjusting control processes. Furthermore, evidence from patients with mental illnesses, including schizophrenia and obsessive-compulsive disorder, suggests that such illnesses might be understood as resulting in part from disturbances in this action monitoring function.                 PMID: 17073172