« Making Sense with Sam Harris

#113 — Consciousness and the Self

2018-01-08 | 🔗

In this episode of the Making Sense podcast, Sam Harris speaks with Anil Seth about the scientific study of consciousness, where consciousness emerges in nature, levels of consciousness, perception as a “controlled hallucination,” emotion, the experience of “pure consciousness,” consciousness as “integrated information,” measures of “brain complexity,” psychedelics, different aspects of the “self,” conscious AI, and many other topics.

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This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
This book with an ill said he's a professor of. Never computational neuroscience at the University of Sussex and found in co, director of the sack or centre for consciousness, science and he's focused. The biological basis of consciousness and is studying it in a very multi disciplinary way, bringing neuroscience and mathematics and artificial intelligence and computer science. Psychology philosophy psychiatry all these disciplines together in his lab He is the editor in chief of the academic journals neuroscience of consciousness, published by Oxford University, press and
is publish more than a hundred research papers in a variety of fields. His background is in natural sciences and computer science, and I- and he also did posts doctoral search for five years at the Neurosciences Institute in Santiago under Gerald Edelman, Nobel laureate and We cover a lot of ground here. We really get into consciousness in all its aspects. We start with the hard problem than talk about where conch This might emerge in nature about levels of consciousness. Anesthesia, sleep dreams. The waking state we talk about perception is a controlled hallucination, different notions of the self conscious I many things here. I found her all fascinating and I hope you do as well and so with further delay. I bring you on nail, set
I'm here with a needle south and the old thanks for coming upon cast thanks for inviting me to pleasure. So I think I first discovered you, I believe, I've seen your name. Data with various papers. But I think I first covered you the way many people had after your TED talk. You gave a much loved TED talk. Perhaps you can briefly describe your scientific and intellect background. Quite a varied background. Exhuming. I think my intellectual interest has always been in understanding the physical and biological basis of consciousness and pray the clear indications that my having neurology and psychiatry but when I was an under grad student at Cambridge, hurry. Ninety consciousness was certainly has a say and then and then in a place. Cambridge and not a thing, you could studies
the victory. It was still very much should remain a philosophy, and I was still at that time. I still had this kind of idea that physics who is going to be the way to solve every every difficult problem in size and philosophy. So I started off studying physics, but then, through the undergrad years I got diverted towards psychology asthma a direct route cities is issues of great interest, and I graduating whether degree and expand psychology after class I moved thesis. University, where I am now actually again to do, and masters in a Phd in computer science, and I- and this was partly because of the the NEO felt the time to move beyond these bucks an hour Models of combination that were dominating psychology in and come to, science in the nineties towards thing that had more explanatory power and the rise of connection is in an all these, these new methods and
and tools in. I seem to provide that. So I stated Sussex in and did hasty. Actually, in an area which is now called artificial life- and I became quite diverse- I end up doing a lot of stuff in academic, equal modelling and thinking a lot more here about how brain these bodies and environments interact and co Construct commented prices, but I would have left consciousness behind Little bit then and say. When I finish my phd in two thousand, I went to Santiago to the narrow sites Institute to work with child element. Because, certainly then Santiago was one of the few places Sunday that I knew of the time that you could legitimately. Study consciousness and work on the neural basis of consciousness, Idleman was that Francis Crick who's across the road at the the Salk Institute, people really doing the stuff? That's why I stayed there for about six years and five,
started working on consciousness, but bringing together all these different in different traditions of mass physics, computer science, as well as the tools of continuity and then for the last ten years at in Baccarat, Sussex where I've been running a lab, and it says called the sacrosanct of consciousness sciences, one of the growing number of lives that are explicitly dedicated to solving was studying at least the brain and biological basis. Yeah. That's a wonderful pedigree. I've heard stories I never met settlement. I've read his books and I am familiar with his work unconsciousness, but he was famously a titanic ego. If I'm not mistaken, I don't want you to say anything you not comfortable with, but everyone who I've ever heard. Heaven counter with settlement was just amazed at how much space he personally took up. In the conversation, I've heard that too, and I think that's the sun trees to that.
What I can say from the other side is that when I worked for him in and with him, your first year is An incredible experienced. I felt very lucky to have that experience because he knew he had it and he gave it a youth and new a lot too, and he he really being around and had contributed to major revolution he's in biology in neuroscience, but he treated the people he worked with. I think often very kindly, and it one of the thing That was very clear in Santiago. The time he didn't go outside of the neuroscience it in situ that, much is very much his empire. But when you are within it, you got a lot of his time I remember many occasions just being in the office in in those days, I would be cool down discussion with parliament about this subject. Will that subjects will this new paper that new paper- and that was a very instructive experience For me. I know he was quite difficult in many interviews in conversations outside the annex I am, which is it
I think it would cause his legacy, really is pretty extraordinary. I'm sure we'll get onto this later, but one of the other, since I, when I was the main reasons I went there with his eye, read The early work on dynamic core theory, which has later become you go tonight, is very permanent integrated information theory, and I was under the impression that junior tonight, was still gonna be there when I got there in two thousand and one, but he hadn't he left and he wasn't ready speaking much with item at the time, and there was a shame they didn't continue their interaction and when we try to organise a faster a few of us for a some years ago now was was quite difficult to get there. The people together, the heads that had the is really been there and worked with him at various times of his career thing of the past
they have gone through DNS, I work with them and their extraordinary range of people who have contributed huge amounts, not just in confidence research but in neuroscience generally and, of course, in molecular biology for that say was a great yeah great experience may be, and I he could also be pretty difficult at times too, he had ever prefix skin. So we have a massive interest in common and no doubt we have many others, but consciousness is really thee entered the balls I as far as my interest go in and really as far as anyone's interest go. If they actually think about it. It really. Is the most important thing in the universe, because that is the basis all of our happiness and suffering, and everything we value is the space in which anything that matters can matter. So the fact that you are, daddy net and thinking about it as much as you are just makes you the perfect person to talk to. I think we should stop
with many the usual starting points here, because I think that the usual starting points for reason. Let's start with a definition of consciousness, how do you define it now? I think it's kind of a challenge to define consciousness. Deserts of easy fake definition, which is tat consciousness, is the presence of any kind of subjected. Experience whatsoever and for a conscious organism. There is phenomenal world as if subjective experience that has a character of being private, that's full of the sexual quartier or content colors shapes beliefs. Haitians are the kinds of feeling states, and there is a world of experience, can go away completely in states like Germany sees your dream sleep. It's very easy
did you find it that way to define it more technically is always going to be a bit of a challenge, and I think sometimes there's too much emphasis piss on having a consensus, technical definition of something like consciousness. Speakers now history, science has shown as many signs that definitions evolve along with scientific understanding of a phenomenon. We dance would have take the definition and then transcribed into scientific knowledge in a unique directional away. So long as we're not talking pass each other and we agreed it, but consciousness picks out a very significant phenomenon in nature, which is the presence of subjective experience than I think where we're on reasonably said if to many, these definitions of consciousness are circular were just substituting. Another word for consciousness in the definition like sent and sir awareness or subjectivity, or even some in Kuala, I think as parasitic on that undefined concept.
Justness guiding us? That's right, the then those who said Nora confusions people make to say I am always surprised by how often people confused consciousness with self consciousness Annie. I think contest experiences, southward part of conscious experiences as a whole, but but only a subset of those experiences and and their arguments about whether that such a thing is phenomenal consciousness is different from access consciousness, where phenomenal consciousness refers to this impression that we have a very rich conscious, seen perhaps envision before us. Now that might accede What we have copies of access to other people will say well know, there's no such thing as phenomenal consciousness beyond access consciousness. So there's a certain.
Can I see, I agree with you there, but there also these important distinction that can lead to a lot of confusion. When we discussing the relevance of certain experiments, I want to just revisit the point you just made about not transfer, I been a definition of a concept that we have into our side. And his way of capturing reality and then their at things about which we have eight folk, psychological sense which completely break apart once you start studying them at the level. The brains are something like memory. For instance, we have the sense that it's one thing intuitively in a pre, sir, the difficulty. We have the sense that to remember something whatever it is, is more or less the same operation, regardless of what it is remembering. What you did her dinner last night, remembering your name remembering who the first present United States was. Remember. And how do swing a tennis racket. These are things that we have this one word for
but we know neurologically that their quite distinct operations and you can disrupt one and have the other intact. The promise has been that justness, may be something like that that we could be similarly confused about it. Although I I don't think we can be, I think consciousness is unique as AY concept in this sense, and this is why I'm taken in more by the so called hard problem of consciousness. Then I think you are. I think we should talk about that, but before we do not think the definition but I want to put in place, which I know you're quite familiar with, is the one that the philosopher, Thomas Nagel, put forward, which is tat consciousness? Is the fact that its like something to be a system whenever that system is of a bat is conscious? Comes from his famous essay wars,
to be a bad. If a bad is conscious, whether or not we can understand what it's like to be a bad. If it is like something to be a bat that is consciousness in the case of a bat, however inscrutable it might be, however, impossible it might be. Map that experience onto our own. If we were to trade places with a bat. That would not be synonymous with the lights going out. There is something I like to be a bad about is conscious. That definition, though it's really not one. That is easy. Rationalize and it's not a technical definition, there's somethin sufficiently Rudy. Entry about that that it has always worked for me and when we begin to move away from that definition do something more technical, my experts, it has been in and out get to this as we go into the details that date
Danger is always that we want of changing the subject to something else. It seems more. Tractable were no longer talking about consciousness in Nagel. Since we're talking about attention, we're talking about report ability or mere access or something? So how do you feel about NATO's definition as a starting point? I, like it very much as a starting point. I think it it's pretty difficult to argue with with that. As a very basic fundamental expression of what we mean by consciousness in the round sweating, that's that's fine, I partly disagree with you. I partly disagree. I think, when we think about. The idea that consciousness might be more than one thing, and here I am much more sympathetic to the view that the clearest thickly at least the best way to scientifically study consciousness and philosophically, to think about it as well
is to recognise that we might be misled about the extent to which we experience consciousness as a unit fried phenomenon and there's a lot of mileage in. Recognizing? How just like the examples, the memory recognising how conscious experiences of the world and of the self can come apart in various different way Just to be clear. Actually I agree with you there we'll get into that, but I agree with you there that we could be misled about how unified consciousness is the thing. Irreducible to me is this difference between their being something that is like and not You know the lights are on or they're, not their men different ways in which the lights can be on in ways that would surprise us or, for instance, its wiper, abolish the lights are on in our brains in more than one spot, but we'll talk about split brain research, perhaps but their very countering
of ways the lights could be on, but the creatures the question is always. Is there something that is like to be that bit of information processing or that bit of matter and that is always the cash value of a claim for consciousness, yeah I don't agree that. I think that it is perfectly reasonable to put the question in this way. That for a contest organism is something like it is to be that organise it and there the thought is that there's going to be some, Physical biological, informational basis to that distinction. Now you ve written about Why we really do need to waste much time on the hard problem must remain. But what the hard problem is David Chalmers has been in the past and I have spoken about it with other people, but may perhaps you wanna introduces two the hard problem briefly, the hut
problem has been rightly say, one of the most influential philosophical contributions to the consciousness debate and for the last twenty years or so It goes right back to data, and I think it encapsulates this fundamental mystery that that we started talking about now that the Sun Physical systems, there is also this in a universe. There is the presence of conscious experience. There is something it is like to be that system, but for other systems, tables Chaz. Probably most computers problem Your computer's these days. There is nothing It is like to be that system an end. The hard problem. Does it pushes the intuition a bit further and distinguishes itself from the easy program in neuroscience and the easy problem two to China is to figure out how the brain works in all its functions. In all its so so to figure out how we d perception, how we oughta certain linguistic fry.
This is how we move around the world adaptively, how the brain supports perception, combination, behaviour, all its richness in a way that would be an indistinguishable from and hit the key ready in a way that would be indistinguishable from and equipment that had no phenomenal properties, it all that complete. You liked conscious experience The hard problem is understanding how and why any solution to the easy problem explanation of how the brain does what it does in terms of behaviour perception. So how why any of this should have anything to do with conscious experiences at all, and it rests this idea of of the conceive, ability Business is one reason I don't really like it very much hard problem. Has its has its conceptual power
right arise because it asks us to imagine systems, philosophical zombies that are completely equivalent in terms of their function and behaviour to you or to me, or to any or to a conscious bad, but that instantiated, no phenomenal properties at all the lights are completely off. For these philosophical zombies, and if we can imagine such a system, if we can imagine such a thing- a philosophical zombie, you owe me, then it does become this. This enormous challenge. Well, then, what is it? What could it be about? Right? oh me real. You real, conscious, bat that gives rise. That requires tales. There. Also these phenomenal properties that every something it s like to, be you or me all the bat and its debts, because is Chalmers would argue that such things are conceivable that the hard problems seems like a really huge problem. Now I
I think this is a little bit of. I think we ve lived on a little bit from these conceivable that the arguments. Firstly, I just think that that pretty weak. And the more you know about assistance, the more we know how about the easy problem, the less convincing it is to imagine a zombie alternative, think about Europe. Europe you're a kid. You look The sky and you see a seven four seven flying overhead, and somebody asked you to imagine a seventy seven flying I quit, while you can imagine a seventy seven frame backwards. But the more you learn about aerodynamics about engineering. The harder is to conceive of a seven percent, right back was you know, you simply cannot build one that way and that's my work. About this kind of conceive, ability, argument that to me I'd I'd, I'd really I think I can imagine in a serious way the existence of a philosophical zombie And if I can't imagine, a zombie then our problem losing some of its force. That's interesting!
I don't think it loses all of its forests, are least it doesnt for me for me, our promise never really rested. On the zombie argument, although I know Chalmers did a lot with a zombie argument. Mr Allister stipulate that This article zombies are impossible there at least it was called, in the jargon, normal logically impossible is just a fact that we live in a universe where, if you build something there, do what I can do that something would be conscious of their, No zombie, SAM, that's possible and lustrous also add what you just said that it really when you get to the details, you're not even conceiving of it being possible side, even conceptually possible you're, not thinking it through enough, and if you did, you notice it break apart.
For me, the harp promise really that, with consciousness, any explanation doesn't seem to promise the same sort of intuitive closure that other sites. Tific explanations do is analogous to him what it whatever it is, then we'll get to some of the possible explanations. But it's not like something like life, which is an analogy that you draw that many scientists have drawn to how we can make a breakthrough. Used to be that people thought life could now, four be explained in mechanistic terms. There was a philosophical point of view: vital ism here which suggested that you needed. Animating spirit. Some MILAN Vitali in the wheel works to make sense of the fact that living systems are different from dead ones, but the fact that they can reproduce in reply, themselves from injury and metabolism as in all the functions we see,
living system engage which define what it is to be alive. It was thought very difficult to stand any of that a mechanistic terms, and then lo and behold we manage to do that. The difference for me He is, and I am happy to have you prop up this analogy more than I have. But the difference for me is that, anything you want to say about life. With the exception of conscious life, we have to leave consciousness off the table here. Everything else you want to say about life can be defined in terms of extrinsic functional relationships among material parts, so your report suction and growth and healing and metabolism homeostasis. All of this is physics and need not be, described in any other way, and even something like perception did the trans of energy I only say revision light energy into electrical and chemical and
in the brain and then the mapping of the visual space onto a your cortex. All of that makes sense in mechanistic fist. We'll terms until you add this piece of all, but for some of these processes there's something that is alike to be that process. For me, that This strikes me as a false analogy, and whether with zombies. The hard problem still stays hard. I think it's. An open question, whether the analogy will turn out to be false or not. It's it's difficult for us now to put ourselves back in there. The mindset of somebody two years ago, a hundred years ago, invite a lesson was was quite prominent and whether the sense of mystery surrounding something that was alive, seem to be as inexplicable as consciousness seems to us today. So it is easy to say with hindsight. I think that life is something different, but now we we
encountered, or rather scientists and philosophers over centuries, have encountered things that have seen to be explicable that have turned out to be asked. Explicable, So I don't think we should rule out a priori that this time to be something really different. This time about consciousness, there is, I think, a more a heuristic aspect to this is that it We if we run with the analogy life, what that, what that leads us to do is to isolate the different phenomenal properties that co constitute what it is for us to be conscious, and we can think about and will come to this. I'm sure we think about conscious suffered as distinct from conscious perception of the outside world. We can think about conscious experiences of volition and of agency, but there are also very central to
Sidney our experience of self. These gives out these give us phenomenal logical, explanatory targets than that we can then try to account for in with particular kinds of mechanisms. May turn out at the end of doing. Is there some some resident? There is still something that is fundamental puzzling, which is this hard problem residue wise, Why is there any Why there any lights on for any of these kinds of things? I isn't it all just deception, but maybe it won't turn out like that and I think to give us the best chance of it not turning out like that does a positive and negative aspects. The positive aspect is that: need to retain a focus on phenomenology, and this is another reason why I think the the heart easy problem distinction, can be it it'll be unhelpful, because in a dream, I think the easy problem we are basically
structures do not worry about phenomenology. All we should worry about, is functioning behaviour and then our problem kind of gathers within its remit everything to do with phenomenology and in this in the central mystery of wise ass? An experience rather no experience the alternative approach. This is something I've kind of caricature is the real problem that you, David, Thomas himself, is called it. The mapping problem in and forever, and she gave a rather talks about similar set of ideas with his nearer phenomenology is to not trying to solve, The heart problems to court not try to explain how it is possible that confidence comes to be part of the universe, but rather individual rights, different kinds of phenomena, logical properties and draw some explanatory mapping between neurobiological physical mechanisms and these phenomena. Who properties now, what we ve done that and we can begin to explain why
is their experience at all. But why certain experiences the way they are and not otherwise, and we can predict when certain experiences will have particular phenomenal characters so on then we'll have done a lot more than we can. Not only do we may have to make use of novel kinds of conceptual framework may be framework Information processing will run their course, require other more sophisticated kinds of descriptions of dynamics and probability in order to build these explanatory bridges. So I think we can get a lot sir, and the negative aspects is. Why should I, he asked bore a theory of consciousness. Then we should ask about the kinds of scientific theories, and I know people have talked about this when you put cast before as well
but we do seem to want more of an explanation of consciousness down. We would do have an explanation in in biology or physics that it somehow should feel intuitively right to us, and I wonder why this is such a big deal when it comes to see to consciousness, because we're trying to explain something funding, about ourselves doesn't necessarily mean that we should apply different kinds of standards to an explanation that we would apply in other fields of science. Its it just may not be that we get this feeling that some things intuitively correct when it is, in fact only in fact, a very good scientific account of the origin of phenomenal property, certainly and uncertainty, scientific explanations and no installations is no sense in which a good theory of consciousness should be experts.
Did you suddenly realised a phenomenal properties that its explaining Bruce? I think we are we do. I worry that we asked you much of theories of consciousness. This way yellow or move forward into the details and I'll just flag moments where I feel like the hard problem should be causing problems for us I do think it's not a matter of asking too much of a theory of consciousness. Here I think it's. There are very few air in science, where the accepted explanation is totally a brute fact which just has to be accepted, because it is the only explanation. Works, but is not something that actually illuminates the transition. From you know, Adams some higher level phenomenon say again for the everything we could say about life, even the very strange sales of molecular biology, just how information in the genome gets out and creates the rest of a human body it
still runs through. When you look at the details, it's surprising is that parts difficult to visualize but the more we visualize at the more we describe it. The closer we get to something that is highly intuitive. Even something like you know: the flow of water. The fact that water molecules in its liquids they are loosely bound and move One another will. That seems exactly like what should be happening at the micro level, so as to explain them macro level, property of the witness of water and the fact that it has characteristics higher level characteristics. But you can't attributed Adam is, but you can attributed collections of atoms like turbulence say, whereas with eighteen of consciousness just happens to requires some minimum number of information setting units together in a certain configuration firing at a certain hurts
you change, any those parameters and the lights go out. That, for me, still seems like a mere brute fact that doesn't explain. Consciousness is just a correlation that we, decide is the crucial one and I've never heard of a description of consciousness, of the sort that we will get to like integral information that Tony's phrase that packs it any more than that, and we can react. It happened and I think we should get into the details and see how it all sounds sure I just I just ran very briefly, which is, which is that I think are also be terribly disappointed. If there now you look at the the answer in a book in nature and it turned out to be yes, you need six hundred and twelve thousand dirhams wide up in a small way. Networking, and yet that's that's it that the hope is that does. Of course we did.
There's an arbitration and unsatisfying. The hope is that, as we progress beyond she, like just brute correlates of conscious states towards accounts that provides More satisfying bridges between mechanism in phenomenology. That explain, for instance, why a visual experience has the phenomenal character that it has and not some other kind of phenomena. Like an emotion, that's it won't seem so arbitrary and that, as we follow this routes, which isn't imperfectly productive written? I think that's important that if we can actually do science with this rate, we can try to think about how to operation eyes for knowledge and very soon, was very difficult to think how to do science and just solve the hard problem head on At the end of that, I completely agree that might be still this.
Residue of mystery this Canada's, if of something fundamental left unexplained, but I dont think weakened, That is a given, because we cannot where I certainly cannot predict what I would feel as intuitively SAM. It's fine, when I don't know what the explanations that bridge mechanism in phenomenology are going to look like in ten or twenty years time, we ve already moved further from, saying. Is this area or that area too synchrony, which is still kind of unsatisfying, to now. I think some emerging frameworks like yeah predictive processing an integrated information which which are completely satisfying either, but they consider trajectory where we were beginning to draw closer connections between mechanism Hopefully they will at dive into those hands, but before we do I'm just wondering FILA genetically in terms of comparing ourselves too
new, so called lower animals. Where do you think consciousness emerges? Did you think there's something I'd like to be a fly say I have a really hard problem, its eye have to be agnostic about this and again it's just striking how people in general. Those views on these things seems to have changed over the last recent decades. It seems completely. On arguable to me that other mammals, all other mammals, half conscious experiences of one sort or another mean we share, so much in the way of the relevant near anatomy and nerve physiology exhibit so many of the same behaviour is that it would be remarkable to claim. Otherwise we will end was not long ago that you could still hear people say that consciousness was so. Pendant on language that day
wondered whether human infants were conscious and to say nothing of dogs and anything else, that's not human Yes, absolutely right me, that's that's terrific point, and and this idea that the consciousness was intimately in and stitches bound up with language, always highroad, executive prices of one sort or another, and I think just exemplifies this really pernicious anthropocentric in that that, we tend to bring to bear sometimes that realizing. I we think with super intelligent. We think we conscious with smart and we need to judge ever, by that benchmark and what's the what's, the most advanced thing about him, well if you, if you're gifted with, God you're going to say language, and I did not. Already with a bitter hindsight scenes be anyway, rather remarkable that people should make these. I can only think of the mistress just point naive, heiress to associate consciousness with it with language, not decided condition
language don't have any internet relation. I think they do. Language shapes a lot of our conscious experiences, but certainly is a very, very poor criterion with which to attribute subjective states too. The creatures, so mental, secure and mammals Fisher, and but that that's easy Cosette pretty similar to humans and primary products. Mouse, but then it gets more complicated and you think about birds. Diverse a reasonable amount of time ago, but still have brain structures that one can can establish. Analogies in some cases the with an brain structures and in some species, scrub, Jason Corvettes generally pretty sophisticated behaviour to. It seems very possible to me that that That's half conscious experiences and unaware underlying all the only basis to make these judgments isn't in. In light of what we
how about the new mechanisms underlying consciousness in the functional behavioral properties of consciousness in mammals has to be this kind of slow extrapolation, because we lack the mechanistically answer and we can't look for it in another species. But then you get beyond birds, and you get out to you. I then like to go way out on a fighter genetic brought to the octopus, which I think is an extraordinary sample of conversion evolution in their very smart. They have a lot of neurons, but they diverged from their human line. I think this is the only guy was sponges or something like that in a really very little in common and done, but I haven't got a big differences to three hearts: eight, Legs, arms and never sure whether at leghorn on that behave, semi, autonomously and. One is left here when you spend time with these creatures, have been lucky enough to spend a week with a minute in eleven in Naples. You certainly get the impression.
Never have another, conscious presence that, but of a very different one- and this is also instructive, because it it brings us a little back bit out of this assumption that we can fall into that very one way of being conscious in that's our way. Does there is a huge space if possible, minds out there, and the octopus is is a very definite example of a very different mind and very likely conscious mind too now, when we get down to the Be down, I don't like this idea of organisms being arranged on a single skylight. This, but certainly creatures like fish insects are simpler and also ways than than mammals and here is really very difficult to where to draw the line, if in
there is a line to be drawn if it's not just a gradual shading out of of consciousness, that with grey areas in between and no categorical divide, which I think is equally possible. A fish. Many fish display behaviour which seem suggestive of consciousness. They will self administer and which easier when their given painful stimulation, that would have void prices that have been associated with painful simulation and so on. It here. Things like the the precautionary principle come into play that, given that suffering, if it exists, conscious suffering as a very averse if the state in his ethically wrong see impose ass they on other creatures, we should tend to assume that creatures are conscious unless we have good good evidence that they're not so, we should put the bar that lower in most cases list-
Talk about some of the aspects of consciousness that you have identified as being distinct there. There are at least three you spoken about that level of consciousness, the contents of consciousness and the experience of having a conscious self that many people, as you said, conflate with consciousness as a mental property. This obviously a relationship between these things, but they're not the same a start with this notion of the level of consciousness. Which really isn't the same thing as wakefulness key break those apart for may I, how is being conscious not synonymous, for being away? Can the human sense sure? Let me just put it down to five what you said that in making these distinctions, I'm sitting in claiming pretending that these dimensions of level content in self pick out completely independent sb
conscious experiences there there are lots of into dependencies. I just think that he ristocrat useful ways to to address the issue which we can do different kinds of experiments and try to isolate distinct, phenomenal properties in their mechanistically basis by making these decisions. Now, when it comes to contest level, I think that the simplest way to think of this is is more or less as a scale, in this case its from Wendell it completely out when you dead, brain death or under general anaesthesia, or perhaps in very, very deep states of sleep, all the way up to an vague levels of awareness which a similar which correlate with white from the. So when you re drowsy to vivid awake alerts, full conscious experience at that absurdly, having now feel very awaken, alert and, and my conscience level is kind of other now in
cases the level of consciousness articulated this way will go along with with wakefulness or physiological arousal. When you fall asleep, you lose consciousness at least nerdy stages, but there are certain cases that there exist, which show that they're not completely the same thing on both sides, so you can be conscious when you were asleep. Of course, we noticed this is called dreaming, so you physiologically. But you having a vivid inner life there an and on the other side- and this is where consciousness, science, the rubber of consciousness It's the right of neurology. You have states where behaviorally. You have what looked like. What looks like arousal. This is used to be called the vegetative state, spin kind of renamed several times now. The wakeful unawareness state
Where the idea is that the body is still going through physiological cycles of of arousal from sleeps awake, but there is no consciousness happening at all the lights, a not same, these two things can be separated and it's very as a very productive and very important line of work to try to isolate? What's the mechanistically basis of conscious level independently from the mechanistic basis? A physiological arousal here and a few other distinctions make said, and also general Anastasia is quite distinct, from deep sleep and just as a matter of neurophysiologist, certainly Turn Caesar is, is not is nothing like sleep. It certainly deep levels, journalist easier. So whenever you go, for an operation and the anesthesiologist is trying to make you feel
more comfortable by saying something that you have just put you to sleep for a while and then you wake up and it will be done they are lying to you. Figured reason? It's kind of nice just to feel that you're going to sleep for bed, but the state of Caesar's very different. I have a very good reason. If you would just put into a state of sleep, you would wake up as soon as the operation started, that wouldn't be very pleasant and its surprising. Far down, you can take people in general. Anesthesia that they almost to allow The eyes of electric brain activity where there is pretty much and going on at all and still bring them back and then any and most many people now have had the the known experience anaesthesia and in some weird way. I now look forward to it the next time I get to have this, because it's a very through its most reassuring experience, because there is absolutely nothing is complete, oblivion. It's not here when you go to sleep as well,
You can sleep for a while and you wake up and you might be confused about what how much time has passed, especially heaved is flown across. Sometimes angel stayed up to light, something like that. You might not be sure what time it is, but you still have the sense of some time having passed except this problem, or some people have this problem of anesthesia awareness, which is every person's worst nightmare if they care to think about it, where people have the experience of the surgery we, because, for whatever reason the anesthesia hasn't taken them deep enough, and yet there immobilized mobilizing, can't signal that they're not deep enough. An absolutely bit me. That's, a failure of anesthesia is not a characteristic of the anesthetic state Do you know who had that experience? You ve mentioned him on the progress made at ready, Francisco Varela? I really I didn't know that it did not know that France has got worse.
Getting a liver transplant and experienced some part of it. That's that's! Pretty horrific could not have been fun yeah I mean, of course, because the thing there is the most serious operations you oh said menace. With a muscle paralytic said that she don't jerk around when you being operated on an that's. Why it's particularly nightmare scenario, But even I found a seat, is working properly set needed times I've had shown. Anaesthesia you it's dark. Having to ten, we start coming back was from ten, you get about eight and then instantly your back. Some were ass, very confused, very disoriented, but there is no sense of time having passed it's just Complete oblivion and that I found that really reassuring, because you we can think conceptually about not being bothered.
That all the times we are not conscious before we were born and therefore we shouldn't worry too much about all the times. We not gonna, be conscious after we die, but to experience these moments of complete abolition, during a lifetime, rather the edges it in. I think This is a very enlightening kind of experience. To have other there's a place here. Where the hard problem does emerge, because it's very difficult, perhaps impossible to distinguish between a failure of memory and oblivion. Has consciousness really been interrupted, take anesthesia and deep sleep as separate, but similar in the sense that most people think there was a hiatus in consciousness. I'm prepared to believe that That's not true of deep sleep, but we just don't remember what it's like to be deeply sleep, someone who often doesn't remember his dreams and I'm prepared to believe that I dream every night and we know even in the case,
general anesthesia. They give amnesiac drugs Oh, that you won't remember whatever they don't. I urge you to remember- and I recently had the experience of I'm going under a hundred full anesthesia by having aim was collar, twilight, sleep for a procedure and there was a whole period afterwards, where I was coming to about a half hour that I dont Amber and heroes clear my life- that I wasn't going to remember it, but she- and I were having a conversation- I was talking about something I was saying how you no purpose. They recovered, I was and how miraculous it was to be back and she said yeah, but you're not going to remember any of that. You're not going to be this conversation, and I said: okay well, let's test it say something now and what if I remember it, and she said that she said this is the test: damn it you're, not gonna. Remember this part of the conversation- and I have no memory of that part of the conversation has expressed,
no you're, right of course, that that an even incisive, deep sleep people underestimate the presence of conscious experiences, and this has been demonstrated by experiments, conceal awakening experiments where you just give you should wake somebody at various times during during sleep cycles and arson straightaway knew what was in your mind, and quite often people will report of Very simple thoughts of experiences, static images and so on in stages of non ran, known dreaming sweep, and I concede that it then maybe a contribution of amnesia to the post hoc impression of what Joanna seizure we like, but the same is all the difference in the world between the Twilight Zone and full on general anaesthesia, where its Just I don't remember anything, it's the real sense. If ever hiatus consciousness of a complete interruption and a complete instantaneous results
of that experience, yeah yeah neither I've had a general anesthetic as well, and there is something quite uncanny about this appearing and being brought back without a sense of any intervening time because you're not aware of the time signature of having been in deep sleep, but there clearly as one and there the fact that many people can go to sleep and set an intention to wake up at a certain time in their wake up at that time, off into the minute its clear there, some time keeping function happening in our brains, all the while, but there's something about a general anesthetic wish just seems like ok, the hard drive just got reboot, and who knows how long the computer was offer exactly. Ok, let's talk about these other features. We ve just dealt with a level of consciousness, talk to me about the contents of consciousness. How do you think about that? When we
our conscious, then we conduct of something- and I think this is what the a large majority of consciousness. Research empirically focuses on you. Take somebody who is conscious at a particular time in a new treaty can ask a few different questions. You can you can ask what aspects of their perception unconscious and not reflected in any phenomenon properties and what aspects of their perception are reflected in national and probably what's the difference, twin, conscious and unconscious processing? if you like, what's the difference between different modalities of conscious perception, so it any at any one time we may certainly in in outsiders lab are conscious. Seen anyone time will have a very multimodal care. I said I'll be sound science experiences of touch, maybe, if you're sitting down
holding something and then a whole range of more self related experiences, tee of body ownership of always signals coming from deep inside the body which is more relevant itself. But the basic idea of conscious content is to study what the mechanisms are that give rise to the particular content ever ever. Conscious seen at any one time- and here you the reason it useful to think of this ass, a separate from conscious level is partly that we can appeal to different kinds of there is different kinds of of the radical and an empirical frameworks. So the way I like to think about conscious perception is in terms of protection in terms of what's often been called the bathing brain all unconscious, inference from from Helmholtz and so on, and the idea that perception in general works
more from the top down or from the outside in than from the Surrey, Harrow perception and yet works more the top down we inside out, rather than from the bottom up or the outside in and this has a long history and enforces well back to countenance any done before that two ministries, man, the kind of the easily defeated idea about perception, is that century signals impinge upon receptors and they percolate deeper and deeper into the brain and at each stage of pricing, more complex operations are brought to bear and at some point, ignition happens or something happens, and
your conscious of the sensory signals at that point. I think this is kind of the wrong way to think about it that that, if you look at the problem of perception that brains facing that simplifying alot now just seem, the problem is something like the following: that the brain is locked inside a bony skull and that's assume psyche. This argument that perception is the problem of figuring out. What's out there in the world, that's giving rise to sensory signals that impinge on are on our sense, resurface his eyes and is now these turn signals are going to be noisy and ambiguous they're not going to have a one to one mapping with things out there in the world, whatever they might be so perception has to involve this process is inference of fast guessing in which the brain combines price.
Taxation or beliefs about the way the world is with sensory data to come up with its best guess about the causes of that century data, and in this view what we perceive is constituted by the multi level predictions that try to explain away or account for the sensory signals we perceive, what the brain and first to have caused a signals. Not the century signals themselves, and this view does nothing that it is for. That'd be rule sensory experience of any kind. All the sexual experience is an inference of one sort or another and Given that view one can then start to ask all sorts of interesting experiments with questions like what kinds of predictions. How do predictions are expectations effects? What we consciously perceive consciously report, what kind
Predictions may still go on under the herds and not instantiated any phenomenal properties, but it gives us a set of tools that we can use to build bridges between. Phenomenology mechanism again in this case the bridges are made up of the competition. Mechanisms of basing inference as they might be implemented, in the original circuitry, and so, instead of looking for asking questions like is V1 is early, visual, cortex associated with visual experience. We might ask questions like ah Bayesian, priors or post areas associated with conscious, phenomenology or protection areas associated with conscious phenomenon. We can start to a slightly, I think, more sophisticated, bridging questions like that. We are in your TED talk. You talk about consciousness, ass, a controlled hallucination. And Chris Perez has called it a fantasy that coincides with reality,
say a little more about that and how that relates to the role of top down prediction in perception. Ya think it said that both very nice phrases and- and I think the phrase control too loose nation actually is very difficult, a pin down where it came from, I heard it from Christmas as well originally, and an I've asked him and others were originally came from, we can trace it too. Seminar given by Rummish Jane. You see SD sometime in the nineties, but it was a verbal well down. The trail goes but anyway, I the idea so do the following that desert. We can bring to bear nice realism about perception where we assume that what we visually perceive. The way things actually are in the real world and that there is a table in front of me too, has a particular colored has piece of paper and so on, and that's ridicule per se,
as distinct from hallucination, where we have a perceptual experience that has no corresponding reference in the real world, and the idea of controlled hallucination or fantasy coincides with reality, is simply to say. The normal perception is always a balance of sensory signals coming from the world and the interpretations predictions that we bring to bear about the causes of these sensations. So we're always seeing what we expect to see in this provision we. We never just see the the sensory data now. Normally we can see the sorely all the time we is built into our visual systems. The light is expected to come from above, because our visual systems it evolved
in a situation where the sun is never below us, so that causes us to perceive shadows in a particular way rather will perceive curved surfaces, is being kept one way or another under the assumption. That light comes from up unaware of having that that constraint, dope deepens visual system, but it's there and the idea is that every perception that we have is constituted partly constituted by these predictions. These interpretive powers, the brain, brings to bear and onto the sexual content, and that what we call hallucinations is just a tipping. The balance slightly more towards the brains out internal predictions. The good everyday example of this is, if he you go out on a day with lots of white fluffy clouds, and you can see faces in clouds. If you choose, if you look for them, is Perrier Delia, you can see patter, you can see patent in noise.
Now, that's a kind of hallucination that you seeing something that states are, the people might not see and its not accompanied by delusion. You know it's a hallucination, but it still, it just shows how our perceptual content is always frames, Byron, reputation, another good everyday examples, dreams because of dreams, we know are a situation where our brain is doing something very soon. Or to what is doing in the waken state, except the frontal. Lobes have come offline enough, so that there is just not the same kind of reality? Testing! on end. Our perception in this case is not being strained by outer stimuli. It's just it's been generated from within, but would this be an analogous situation where are top down action mechanisms are roving unkind
drain by sensory data. I think you had dreams certainly show that you don't need sensory data, have vivid, conscious perception, because you don't have any sensory input at parliament. For example, when you dreaming, I think the phenomenon is your dreams. It is interesting that the different yet dream content is very much less constrained areas. This. Now you re, listen just goes not send dreams does not mean things can change, people can change identity locations. Can change weightings happen all the time you don't experiencing as being weird, that's the weirdest part of dreams. The fact That is not that there so weird is that the weirdness is not detect it. We don't care that they're so weird yet which is, I think, a great example of how we often overestimate the inside. We have about what our conscious experiences alike. We tend to assume that we know exactly what is happening in other contexts. Principle: the time whether it's weird or not, dreams showed that
not always the case, but I think the idea of controlled hallucination goes its ass present in the normal and laundering perception as it is in an dreaming, and it really is this idea that all our perception is constituted by our brains, predictions of the causes of sensory input- and most of the time walking around the world. We agree about the specific content. If I see it table and climate, this color you, your problem, agree with me: we don't have to go into the philosophical, inverted spectrum, uncharacteristic cases. We tend to report the same sort of things when faced with the same sort of sensory inputs, so we don't think there's anything particularly constructed about the way we see things, because we all agree.
But then, when something tip, the balance may be at Sunday set and pharmacological stimulus. Maybe it's in dreams. Maybe it's in certain states of psychosis and mental illness, then people's predictions about the causes of sensory information. We'll differ from one another and if you're an outlier, then people will say are now you hallucinating, because you, U reporting something that there isn't there and my my friendly musician, barber brakeman put it beautifully. He sent you. What we call reality is just when we all agree about hallucinations shillings. A really nice way put that this leaves open. The question what is happening when we experience something fundamentally new or have an experience where our expectations are violated, so you were using terms like predictions or expectation,
or models of the world, but because the scope for some confusion here be them is just imagine, for instance, that some militia zoo keeper put a fully grown tiger in your kitchen while you were sleeping tonight, I do that when you come down for your morning, coffee, you will see this tiger in the kid. And even though you have no reasonable expectation to be met by a tiger in the morning, I think it's safe to assume you'll see it before you ve, had your cup of coffee so given what do we mean by expectations at the level of the brain? That's a very, very important point. Its debts the language of the Beijing Brain and predictive processing. Bandied around turns light prediction, expectation, prediction, era, surprise and newly things, is very, very important to recognise that these terms, don't,
only mean oh dont really mean it all psychological, surprise or explicit police and expectations that that I might hold Certainly, if I go down mooning. I am not expecting to see a tiger, however. My visual system, when it encounters a particular kind of input, is still expecting. If it is it is there a sensory input, the pick out things like edges, it will fit best interpret those as an edge if it will pick out stripes it when separate those a stripes not unexpected to see something with an edge, and it may not be unexpected to see something with a strike. It may not even be unexpected, from my brains, point of view to see something that looks a bit like a face and those become low level. Best gases about the causes of sensory input with. Then give rise to high level predictions about those causes and ultimately, the best gases.
There's some kind of animal there, and indeed that it's a tiger. So I don't think, there's a conflict here we can, see new things, because new things are built up from simple elements for which we will have adequate predictions for built up. That evolution and EVA Development and I've a prior experience, and one thing you point out: police in one of your papers. Maybe did this in a TED talk that different contents of consciousness have different characters, so that visual perception is object based in a way that, in terms of perception, Is not these sensing of that experience acknowledge I say, or even of an emotion light sadness does not have all of the features of perceiving an object, invest or space you're looking an object and visual space. There is the sense of location there's the sense that anything that has a front also have back then he walked around it. You would be given different view.
Use of its new, none of which may ever repeat exactly look at him. Computer now you have probably never seen my computer from precise, this angle and if I walked around it, I would see thousands of different slices of this thing and you know the movie of my life and yet there's this unitary sense of an object in space that has a front and back and sides, and of course none of this applies when we're thinking about our inch. Colonel experience gathered anymore. You want to say about that. Big sets a very interesting distinction, which again is one of these places where they chairman How you use for being aware of things are being conscious of things or perceiving things doesn't really. It out. The phenomenon, as you very well know, if a rising that I think this is that it's a great point and something I feel quite a lot about. There's a cup of elements here so out I'll start by talking about this phenomenon give objected
Ebc describes the division that there and then get onto this case of into reception and perception of the internal state of the body. So indeed, for most of us most of the time. Did you like Sperience is characterized by their being a world of objects around? As I see coffee cups on the table, computers in front of me in and so on, I should have no always the case: a fine, for instance, trying to capture a cricket ball nor Softball Sundays. What strikes me, what my perceptual system is doing. That is not so much trying to figure out what's out there in the world, it's all geared towards the goal of catching a cricket, ball and there's a whole branches of psychology has roots and gives zoning ecological psychology and William powers. Perceptual control theory that that sort of invert things in it says that it has its whole tradition.
Thinking about perception and its interaction with behaviour, we we like to think that we save the world and then we behave so we have to step control of controlling behavior, but we what I think of it the other way round and think of behaviour controlling perception said it when we catch it. Cricket ball, what we really doing is maintaining a perceptual variable too. To be a constant in this case would be the acceleration of the angle of the ball to the horizon. If we keep that constant, we will catch critical, and if you reflects on the phenomenon of these things, a finding and act like that, I'm not so much perceiving the world is distinct objects, arranged in particular ways on perceiving how well my catching the cricket ball is happening My life is a cancer. Is it going well or not? That's a different kind of description of visual phenomenology, but most of them
to become important. A bit later, we talk about why our experience of the inside of our bodies of being a body has the character that it has. I think it's more like catching a critical, but we will get to that in a second, but if we think now just back to women not catching things we just looking around, and we see this, did you seen populated by objects and you're, absolutely right that one might think of that is that when I perceive and objects to be to have a voice, metric extension to be a three dimensional thing in the world occupying a particular location. What that means. Is that I'm perceiving how that object would behave if I were to interact with it in different ways. This has another tradition: words back to Gibson again in an ecological psychology, Bruce
since remoter, various of our knowing Kevin. I reckon that what I perceive is how I can interact with an object I perceive objects is having a back, not because I can see the back. But because my brain is encoding somehow how different actions would reveal that that surface? The back of that that object and that's a distinctive kind, I phenomenology in the language of predictive processing of the basing brain you one thing I've been trying to do is is cash out the accounts of the phenomenal of objective in terms of the car in this prediction. Is that my underlie it, and these turn out to be conditional, counterfactual predictions about the sensory consequences of action. So my in order to perceive something as having objects
The thought is that my brain is encoding, how sensory data would change if I were to move around it. If I were to pick it up and so on and so forth, and if we think bout, the mechanics that my underlie that they fall out quite naturally from this Bazin brain perspective, because to engage in predictive perception to bring perceptual interpretations to bear on on sensory data. A brain needs to encourage something like a generative model needs to be able to have a model of the map in from sensory data, to rather the mapping from something in the world to sensory data and be able to ensure that nothing, that's how you do
you Bazin inference in the brain and if you ve, gotta generative model that can invert that mapping, then that's capable of predicting what sensory signals would happen. Condition on different kinds of of actions decision it brings in an extension of predictive processing. This technical, active inference where we start to think about, reducing production areas, not only by updating ones, predictions, but also by making actions to sort of may contradictions come true, but it would in any case, you can make some interesting empirical predictions about how our experience of something as an object depends on what the brain learns about ways of interacting with these objects, and we started to test some of these ideas. In the lab, because you can now use clever things like virtual reality, no method reality to generate objects that will, the initially unfamiliar, but that behave in in
We did ways when you try to interact with it, so you can either support or confound these kinds of conditional expectations and then try to understand what they're the phenomena logical consequences of doing so. Ah- and you can also account for situations where this phenomenon is eve- objects, it seems to be lacking so, for instance, in sinnest easier, which is a very interesting phenomenon and consciousness researching and yeah. I'm sure you ve noticed sounded very canonical example, sinister yours when his grafting kind of carelessness, easier people may look at a black letter or number grafting and they will experience a color along with our experience, they will have a collar. Experts are concurrent color experience. This is very, very well established was often not focused on. Is that
pretty much across the board and in graphic callousness easier since cease, didn't make any confusion that the latter is actually read or actually green. They still experience the letter as black that just having an additional experiences of color along with it, didn't confused as property said. This is why we have you see a kind of illustration of cynicism with. Let us call it in its a very, very poor illustration, I'm guilty of using those kinds of poor illustrations in the past, but this color. Experience does not have the phenomenology of objects it lacks. It doesn't appear to be part of an object in the outside world. Why not? Well it doesnt exhibit the same kinds of sensory motor contingencies that an object that has a particular color does. So if I M looking, if I'm synthetic, unlocking the letter S and I change alighting condition somewhere and move around it, then
You are really read. F, will change luminous and reflections properties and subtle but significant ways, but for my sin, a static experience it still just enough, so my experience of red doesn't change. So I think we We can do suggested promising example of how concepts conditions from within products. Deception can start to unravel son pervasive and modality specific phenomena, Driscoll properties of conscience. I think it's worth emphasising action between perception action, because it is one thing to talk about it in the context of catching a cricket ball. But when you talk, out the evolutionary logic of having developed, perceptual capacities in the first place, the linked action becomes quite explicit. We have not evolve to
perceive the world as it is for some abstract epistemological reason we ve evolved to perceive, what's by, logically useful in what's biologically useful, is always connected, at least in a word but the outside world, to actions. If you can't move You can't act in any way. There has been very little reason to evolve a capacity for site, for instance, absolutely manoeuvres that beautiful story, I think of it. The sea slugs see style or something of that so some, some very simple marine creature that swims about during its juvenile face, looking for a place to settle and wants it settled and, and just start still too few. It digestive sign brain because it no longer has any need for perceptual competence.
Now that it's not gonna move any more, and this is often used as a slightly unkind analogy, forgetting tenure and academia, but you're, absolutely right that the perception is not about figuring out really. What's that we perceive the world as it useful for us to do so, and I think this is particularly potent when we think about perception of the internal state of the body which he mentioned earlier. This is how Demain of interception is everything. What now? What about? means for fundamentally right there not for perceiving the world as it is, certainly not for fur, didn't evolve for doing philosophy or complex language. They evolve to guide action but even more fundamental reason the vat brains evolved to keep themselves and bodies alive. They evolved to engage in homeostatic regulation,
of the body, so that it remains within viable to do magical bounds. That's fundamentally what what? What brands of four? That's the helping creatures stay alive and say the the most basic cycle of perception and action doesn't involve the outside world at all, involving exterior surfaces of the body at all. It's only about ready. Lighting, the international media, the internal physiology of the body and keeping it within the bounds that are compatible with survival, and I think this gives us a clear here about Why experiences is mood and emotion, and if you like the most basic essence, if southward have this non object like character, so that I think the way to approach it is the first realize that.
Just as we perceive the outside world on the basis of sensory signals, the met with a top down flow of sexual expectations in predictions. This very same applies to perception of the internal state of the at the brain has no. What the internal of the body is like. It doesn't have any direct access to it, just because its rats within a single layer skin in the brain is, is the brain. Oh, it gets annoying ambiguous electrical signals, so it still has to interpret and bring to bear predictions and expectations in order to make sense of the barrage of sensory signals coming from inside the body, and this is what's collectively called into reception perception of the body from within. Just as aside now is very
point to distinguish them from introspection which could hardly be more different introspection yet constantly reflecting on the content of our experience. This is not that this is interception perception of the body from within the same computational principles apply. We have to bring to bear a brain, has to bring to bear predictions and expectations. So. In this view, we can immediately think of emotional, conscious experiences, emotional feeling states in this same inferential framework. Can you have written about this for four years now that that we can think of interests active inference? Emotions become predictions about the causes of interests, active signals in just the same way that prince. The outside world constituted by predictions of the causes of sensory signals, and this, I think, gives a nice computational. Mechanistic gloss on pretty old theories of emotion.
Originate with William James and car longer that emotion has to do with perception of technological change in the body. These ideas have been repeatedly elaborated, so people ask about the relationship between cognitive interpretation and perception of physiological change. This predictive processing view just dissolves. Will those distinctions and says that emotion, experience is the joint content of predictions about the causes of intercepting signals at all levels at all low and high levels of of of abstraction, and the other aspect this that becomes important is the purpose of perceiving the body from within is really not at all to do with figuring out what they're my brain couldn't care less than mine Internal organs are objects and they have particular locations within my my body
can care less about the it's not important. Anything that's important about my internal physiology is that it works that that, if you imagine my the inside of my body is a crime, Bull every, don't care where the cricket ball. It is or that its above all, it causes that I'm gonna catch. The bull only cares about control and regulation of the internal state of the body tat predictions perceptual predictions for the interior of the body of a very different kind. There instrumental they control oriented than not epistemic they're, not to do with finding out
and I think that gets it it's it for me anyway. It's very suggestive of why our experiences, if just being a body have this very, should have known object based inchoate phenomenal logical character compared to our experiences the outside world, but it also suggests that not everything can be derived from that that if we, if we understand the original purpose of of predictable, Action was to control and regulate the internal state of the body and all the other kinds of perceptual protection are built upon that evolutionary imperative outside. It ultimately. The way we perceive the outside world is predicated, these mechanisms that have the fundamental objective in the regulation over internal bodily state- and I think this is
This is really important because it because it gets away from these pre sea associations is consciousness and perception with with companies. With language? Will these high road a things may be social interaction and grounds them much more in the basic mechanisms of law so here we have a nice thing that it might not just be that life provides a nice analogy with consciousness in terms of hard problems and mysteries and so on, but that there are actually very deep obligate connections between mechanisms of life and the way we perceive consciously or unconsciously ourselves and the world will sooner if interception is purpose toward what is sometimes called our static controls. Regulation of internal states on the basis of essentially homeostasis the egg as governed by behaviour in action. If that's the purpose,
an emotion is essentially parasitic on these processes and emotion, like discussed so or fear or anger, much of the same Ro machinery is giving rise to these kinds of emotions. How do you think about emotion by this logic? What precipitates an emotion is, most often I mean you can just be a thought right or a memory is, or something has happened, but it is referent is usually out in the world are likely in some social circumstance. What is the logic of emotion in terms of this picture of prediction and control in in our internal system to very interesting things, more research, programmes in question is easy to answer in the here and now, but I think that the idea would be that emotions, emotional content of any sort is ultimately
Marking out in our conscious experience, the ala, static relevance of something in the world and objects were social situation or or a course of action side it up. The brain needs to be able to predict the outer static consequences inherit Europe's you are out of state as a sort of the behavioral process of maintaining of homeostasis. So brain needs to be able to predict the outer static consequences. Everything that it every action that the body produces, whether it's an internal action of snow mat regulation, whether it's an external action of Speech ACT, will just a behavioral act. What's that what are the consequences of that for a physiological condition and the maintenance of Viability- and I think an emotional content is- is a way in which those consequences become represented.
Conscious experience and they can be quite simple. So if you think of you probably primordial, emotions like discussed have to do with the rejection of something that you try to put inside your body. That shouldn't be back as a consequence is gonna, be pretty bad. And that's a very non social kind of emotionally certain forms of disgust yet have do at eating bad things don't depend so much on social context that it can be invoked by social context. Later on then other more sophisticated or more ratifies. Emotions like regrets I do think about regret. It's it's not the same as disappointment. Disappointment as I was expecting acts, and I go why you know, like a lot of people, might have done Christmas last week. You can be disappointed but regret This has an essential counterfactual element that out
I could have done this instead and then I would have got an if I'd done this and, I think, Certainly, my own personal emotional life involves many experiences of regret and even anti Patria regret where I regret things I haven't even done yet, because I kind of assume that going to turn out badly and the relevance of that is that these sorts of emotion experiences depend on quite high level predictions about counterfactual situations, about social consequences, about what? people might think will believe about me. So we can. We can have an an ordering of the of the richness of emotional experience. I think that is defined by the kinds of predictions that brought about, but that all else and we reached it in their relevance for did you logical viability, was what we ve been talking. About the contents of consciousness and then how very they are in and how their shaped by top down predictive process
This is perhaps even more then bottom up processes. But what do you think about the experience of sovereign described as being of pure consciousness consciousness without content or without obvious content, as is something that you are sceptical exists or do you have a place on the shelf for it. I e, I think it probably does exist. I don't know I mean, unlike you, I I have not been a very disciplined meditated. I've tried it a little bit, but it's not something You probably gain very much from dabbling in I think it's it's there will be a dead. It seems to me conceivable that does a phenomenal state, which is characterized by the absence of specific contents I can imagine I am happy with the idea that state exists, I'm somehow skeptical of people's reports of these states on that
and this gets backs. What we're talking about earlier that we tend to somehow overestimate our ability to have insight into a phenomenal contents of any particular time, but yeah I mean what would that interesting question that which I haven't thought about alone is what would the computational vehicles if such a state be in terms of predictive deception? Is the absence of predictions or is it the prediction of that? Nothing is causing my sensory input at that particular time. I don't know I didn't. I have to think about that yeah. I'm is it's an experience that I believe I've had him again. I agree with you that were not subjectively incorrigible, which is today We can be wrong about how things seem to us certainly be wrong about. What's actually going on to explain the character of an expert but I would say we can be wrong about the character of our experience in important ways. She said if we become more sensitive to what an experiences lie.
We can notice things that we weren't first noticing about and it's not all, It is a matter of actually changing the experience. The odyssey there's conceptual she's here about whether or not being able to discriminate more is is actually find in a quality that were there all the time that you weren't, noticing or you're, actually just changing the expiring and when you learn how to taste wine. Are you having a fundamentally differ? Experience or you actually noticing things that you might have noticed before, or both processes operating simultaneous, I think probably both German. I think this whole predicts perceptions. Ye would condemn pretty family that, at least to some extent your experience is actually changing because you're developing a different set of predictions, Ewe, Ewe, Ewe, Ewe, Ewe predictions are better able to distinguish initially similar sets a century signal, so I think he has not just that. You noticing different things. You your experience is changing as well. So let's take the
experience of pure consciousness that many meditated believe had people have had it on cycle. Works as well and will perhaps what will touch the topic of psychedelic Selina. We know ve done some research there, but the question is what I'm calling pure consciousness was there is something there that I could have noticed. That was the contents of consciousness that I wasn't noticing there, but the importance of the experience and so much hinge for me on whether or not consciousness is really you're there really without any contents, it's more. That is clearly with out any of the usual gross content is quite possible to have an experience, Where you're no longer, obviously feeling your body there's no sensation that you are noticing, there's no sense of inappropriate reception, there's no sense of being located in space. In fact, they experience you have
in his consciousness, denuded of those usual reference points, and that's what so interesting about it. That's what so expansive about it. That's, why suddenly seemed so? unusual to be you in that moment, because all of the normal experiences have dropped away so scene during smelling tasting, touching and even thinking have dropped away. This is where, for me that the hard problem does kind of come screaming back into the conversation on many of these accounts of what consciousness is which prime move to to Nonis notion of integrated information on his account- and this is a very celebrated thesis in, neuroscience and philosophy on his account consciousness. Simply as a matter of integrated information and them
more information and the more integrated the more consciousness, presumably but an experience of the sort that I am describing of pure consciousness consciousness at whether pure, not consciousness, stripped of its usual informational reference points is not the experience of them. Finished consciousness. In fact, the people have. This experience tend to celebrated as more the quintessence of being cautious and is really some kind of height of consciousness, as opposed to its loss. And yet the information component is certainly I'll down by any normal sense in which we use the term information there, not things in discriminated from one another- and I guess you could say, is integrated. But there are other experiences that I could describe to you. Where.
Criteria of integration also seems to fall apart, and yet consciousness remains so again. This is one of those definitional problems before going to call consciousness a matter of integrated information. If we find an example of theirs in that, it's like to be you, and yet information and integration are not its hallmarks. Well then, this I'd like defining all ravens as being black and We find a white one. What are we call white, Raven or some other bird to have any intuitions on this front, Is this an awful lot and in what she said? Yes, there. I think if we just put aside for a second Trying to wiser light what we might call The minimal experience itself
their anything left after you, ve got rid of the experiences of body and a violation of internal narratives in it and sounds you haven't thought about that? Just for one point of clarification, I would distinguish this from the loss of self, which I hope we come to. You can lose your sense of self with all of the normal phenomenology preserved. So you
can be seen and hearing and taste in an even thinking just as vividly, and yet the sense of self, or at least one sense of self can drop away completely as the different experiences document. Yes me that sounds like flow state type experiences in some way, but maybe we can get onto that, but if we move indeed to the idea and think about how that might speak, cities these issues, if pure consciousness and whether these experiences serve as some kind of counter example, some fundamental counter example too- I see- I think, that's that's furnishing to think about And it gets it whether we consider I'd see integrated information theory to be primarily a theory of conscious level. How conscious a system is an aura of conscious content or of their interaction, perhaps his best
just by some arising in here in a couple of sentences. The claims of eighty because Rhapsody absolutely become come to occupy a very interesting position. In the academic landscape of consciousness. Research, a lot of people talk about it and, although, in the last couple of meetings of the association for the scientific study of consciousness, certainly the last one of surprisingly little about it- and I was so why that might be which weaken commodity. It's probably worth trying to explain just very briefly what integrate information theory I'd he tries to do and what it tries to it starts. With a bunch of phenomena. Logical axiom set, doesn't start by asking the question and what's in the brain and how does that go along with consciousness? It tries to identify axiomatic features of conscious experience, things that should be self evident, and then
tried, see from that derive what other necessary and sufficient and mechanisms are reports, a sufficient mechanistic basis. Given these axioms, eighty coolies pole can a current version. Current version of eighty five of these axioms that I think we should consider a couple of Indonesia that the fundamental one, information and integration, and these particular you can call them axioms We can call them just generalizations of we bought all conscious experiences seem to have in common information integration city action. If information is that every conscious experience is highly informative, forty organism and the specific sense of ruling out a vast repertoire,
alternative experiences. You having this experience right now, instead of all the other experiences you could have, you could have had you have had. You will have you having this particular experience in the occurrence of vat Experience is generating an enormous amount of information because its ruling out so many alternatives as Go through this. I think it will be useful for me to just flag a few points where that, where this phenomenon logically breaks down for me, again there there. The reference here is to not ordinary experiences in meditation Andy with Psychedelic, but the meditative experiences for me at least have become quite ordinary- can really talk about them in real time. So the uniqueness of each conscious experience as being highly informative, because it rules out so many other conscious experiences in meditation in many respects that begins to break down, because
What you're noticing is a core of sameness to every experience. What you're focusing on is the qualitative character of consciousness. That is unchanged by experience, and so the distinctness Evan experience isn't what is so salient what is selling it is the unchanging quality of consciousness in its openness. It centralists ness its vivid yes and one analogy of used here and if you ever been in a restaurant, which has headache Full length mirror across one of the walls, and you haven't noticed, that the mirror was a mirror, and you just assume that the restaurant was twice as big as it, in fact, is the moment. You notice it's a mirror. You notice that everything you thought It was the world is just a pane of glass, adjusted ray of light on a wall and all those people.
Aren't really people or their not extra people there that in the room just been reflected over there in one way to describe that shift is almost kind of loss of information raise just like there's no depth to what's happening in the glass nothing really happening in the glass and meditation does begin to converge on that kind of experience with everything the tibetan booty. Talk about one taste being. That is basically there's a single taste to every thing when you really pay attention, and it is because the these intrinsic properties of consciousness or what had become salient, not they differences between experiences. So I don't know if that to sounds like an explosion of gibberish, too it's a way in which, when I begin to hear this first criterion of Tony's stated, as you have it begins to not map on to what I
describing as some of the clearest moments of consciousness again, not aid diminishment of consciousness. That's that's very interesting. At an that day's dates of being aware of the unchanging nature of consciousness. I think that that's really very important, I'm not sure, its miss aligned with tonight is intuition here, because I think the idea of informative, MRS, if you think about what is one way to think about it, which is that a specific experienced your having in that meditative states. Coming aware of one taste or of the UN changing nature. That underlies all expenses. That itself is a specific experience, is a very specific experience. You have to have training meditation for a long time to have that experience and the halving of that experience is-
pretty distinctive its ruling out all the other experiences when you're not having that experience answer, it's not so much how informative it is feet. You at the psychological level, it submits a much more reductionist. Interpretation of information I get away to sit together is to think of it from the bottom up. Simple systems up was in tonight uses an analogy which I think has got. Some value wiser photo died, not conscious wealth. Finally died the whole world in the world, our world, it's either darker light is not the voted, I didn't have any experience of darkness and lightness. It's just now on or off one was zero generalizing vat that a particular state has the information content it has in virtue of all the things it isn't, rather than the specific thing that it is so we can think about this in terms of color. You know
It is read not because of any intrinsic readiness to bear a combination of waiver but because of all the other combinations of white likes that are excluded by that particular combination of wavelengths, and I think this is this is reducing. It ended in this point goes I she perseis integrated information. Siri goes right back to the dynamic cool ideas is turning item on, which was the thing. The first attracted me to go and work Santiago nearly twenty years ago, and even then the point was made it an experience of pure darkness or complete sensory deprivation, whereas no sensory input, neighbour sexual content, call this a hypothetical conscious state finance and I had to what extent yet approximated by any merited a state that has exactly the same information content, as does a very vivid busy, conscious, seen walking down high street
because it's rooting out the same number of alternatives and it may seem subjectively different, less informative cause, there's nothing going on, but in terms of the number of alternative states that its ruling out. It's the same, so I think that's it there's a sense in which we can interpret information this this axiom of informative informativeness, as applying to a whole range of differ kinds of conscious contents. Of course, this does get his onto tricky territory about whether we are talking about a theory of level or or a theory of content, but this idea, as is, I think it can account for you situation, though it does asked a question about. Can we really get it content specifically that so the number of states over which you can range as I can. His mind defines how Information is
encoded when you're in one of those states. That's right that that that would be decline and you can think of it in terms of one of the quantities associated with that this technical definition of information theories, entropy and entropy simply measures the z the range of possible options and the likelihood of being in any particular one of those options and so information. Low entropy is a measure of the kind of uncertainty associated with system state and so, a photo diet. Can he be in one or two possible sites, a single dyke, Indian, six, possible states, a combination of have to die can be in twelve possible states and This this does actually want to link a slightly longer because it's in these technical details about information theory that I see
I think, runs a ground because it's trying to address the hard problem. It's because of this identity relationship. That tenacity argues for between integrated information will get on to integration and a second. But if you think about information is because of this identity relationship and which he says consciousness simply is integrated information measured the right way that the whole fairy becomes empirically untouchable and laying because if we are to me the claim that the contents and level of consciousness that a system has is identical to the amount of integrated information that it has
That means, in order to assess this, I need to know not only what state the system is in and what state it was in previous times TAT lets say we measured over time, but I also need to know all the states the system could be in but hasn't been in. I need to know always possible combinations, and that's that that's just impossible for anything other than really simple toy systems. There's a metaphysical claim which goes wrong with his two, which is the information, has ontological logical status that this is goes back to John, we learn it from Britain so that the fact that a system could occupy a certain state but hasn't is still coarsely contributing to the conscious level and state of the system.
Now and that's a very strong claim, and it's very interesting claim and who knows what the ontological status of information in the universe will turn out to be. But you also have an added problem of how you bound this past. Abilities so, for instance, is so not only can you not know all the possible states, my conscious mind could be and so as to determine the information density of the current state. But what counts is possible if, in fact It is possible to augment my brain. Even now. I did happen- know how to do that. But it's possible to do that. It will be possible next week. Do we have to incorporate those positive? if you'd like to continue listening to the contents. You'll need to support Samharris DOT, Aristotle, you get access to
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Transcript generated on 2020-03-23.