Two Sub-Systems of Consciousness?

Two Sub-Systems of Consciousness?

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Two Sub-Systems of Consciousness?

These researchers are taking a somewhat provocative stance in trying to simplify consciousness into two components that could be simulated by machines.

To Dehaene and colleagues, consciousness is a multilayered construct with two “dimensions:” C1, the information readily in mind, and C2, the ability to obtain and monitor information about oneself. Both are essential to consciousness, but one can exist without the other.

It reminds me of the way meditation teachers like Culadasa describe consciousness as consisting of attention and awareness.


  1. It’s like trying to bifurcate the mind. LOL! Consciousness is a spectrum.

  2. In AI, this is called an Adversarial Neural Network. It’s how AlphaGo Zero works.

  3. Consciousness is “resolutely computational,” the authors say

    I see this mistake a lot. Consciousness can’t be computational because there can’t be computation without consciousness. For some process to be “computation”, some observer has to assign meaning to its results. E.g. if a rock rolls down a hill, the hill didn’t just compute “number of rocks minus one.” It was just a physical action. The same thing could be a computation if a person pushed the rock down in order to compute subtraction.

  4. Alex Kudlick If the human brain is just molecules then it’s just a bunch of rocks falling down a hill. How complicated does it have to get to become conscious?

  5. John Lewis But that’s a method, not consciousness.

  6. Alex Kudlick “.. there can’t be computation without consciousness..”

    Of course there can, computation is just a process, but then again so is consciousness – neither is dependent on the other.

  7. John Lewis complicated is not really required either. The problem with most of these discussions of consciousness is that people mean completely different things when they use the word consciousness. People need to back up and take care in defining and assuring they are discussing the same thing. 🙂

  8. John Lewis It’s no wonder you are so confused then. LOL!

  9. John Lewis That’s a good question. I don’t know the answer.

    There are two things that are fundamentally different about mental processes than ordinary matter: qualia and intentionality. The way I’m using these words is that: qualia is the experience of the thing, what it’s like to be aware, to see red, etc. intentionality is the ability of a thing to refer to another thing. So, if I have the thought that Donald Trump is president, there’s my thought, and then the state of affairs that it refers to.

    Those two things aren’t found in ordinary matter. Trees aren’t about anything, they don’t refer to anything, they’re just trees.

    How do qualia and intentionality arise? I don’t know. There are various attempts at answers floating around that I don’t really understand, some having to do with causal relationships to the world. But there’s a reason consciousness is called The Hard Problem. It’s a hard problem.

  10. Kenny Chaffin no, for a process to be “computation” it’s results have to have some meaning assigned to them. Otherwise it’s just a process. There’s no computation without intentionality – if we don’t look at our computer monitors and say “aha! my computer has computed a result,” if no one understands what’s going on, then it’s just electrons moving around the circuit board.

  11. Alex Kudlick For me the idea of self perception (and the depths of self perception, either factual or imagined) seem to comprise conscious thought. What do you think of that idea? (And then what did you think of thinking of that idea. 😉

  12. Alex Kudlick That’s YOUR DEFINITION of computation then. You are ATTACHING consciousness, meaning, assignment to it. Computation is nothing more than a process which can be repeated. It has no meaning.

    Consciousness itself is a process.

  13. John Lewis yea, I think this is where the problem of defining “consciousness” comes in. A lot of people use “consciousness” to mean “self-awareness”, but I think consciousness is actually prior to self-awareness. Consciousness is just awareness, period. It’s experience, qualia. Dogs are certainly conscious, they have experiences of hunger and pain and joy, there is something that it is like to be a dog, but they probably aren’t self aware. There probably isn’t an “I” or an internal narration in a dog’s consciousness.

  14. Kenny Chaffin your definition seems very odd if it doesn’t include meaning. If a rock rolls down a hill, is that computation?

  15. Consciousness in fact is based on the simplest laws and interactions of physics. It is a layer on top of many other layers. It is a fundamental process of life and has evolved as life has evolved into a competitive evolutionary advantage.

  16. Alex Kudlick You appear to be limiting the definition to Computer Computation and in addition requiring the result to have a meaning or symbolic meaning beyond just the process of computation itself. You are adding something else as they say in Zen. 🙂

  17. Kenny Chaffin it definitely stems from evolution, that much is true. “based on the … laws of physics” is vacuously true, if by “laws of physics” we mean “rules describing the world.”

    I’m arguing that people like the authors of the post are misunderstanding the nature of consciousness when they say something like “consciousness is computation”. computation cant’ be aware, and in fact, it requires something to assign meaning to it to exist. I’m conscious and aware whether you think I am or not, but a Neural Network is not “classifying” images unless someone interprets a vector in a certain way.

  18. Kenny Chaffin but I don’t understand what computation is if it doesn’t have a meaning. Meaning is fundamental to computing. Is the sun computing a function? Perhaps it’s running a complex differential equation? No, it’s just the sun.

  19. Alex Kudlick It’s that ‘assigning of meaning’ that IS the problem. Computation is a process (an algorithm if you like). Meaning is something added to it by another process.

    I’m not saying that all processes are computations, but all computations are processes, repeatable processes. The meaning, the result, the output of that process is a completely different matter and dependent of interpretation, assignment, symbolic association by a separate process (consciousness/human consciousness in the case of what you are saying).

    anyway, enough…. I think we agree on the error in lumping/categorizing of consciousness in the manner the authors of the referenced papers do.

  20. Computation is any process which is a state-change occurring in a recordable medium. The state-change itself is the record that computation occurred.

    Consciousness, in the context that’s important to these kinds of discussions (qualia, experience, first person perspective, subjectivity) ought to be called proto-consciousness, as this designation captures the raw awareness of things before higher levels of abstraction like self-awareness, sentience, sapience, reflection or intelligence.

    Awareness of, and awareness of awareness of, is the thing that we’re still trying to locate, the hard problem of consciousness.

    To date, I haven’t come across any better theory than Integrated Information or CEMI theories of consciousness.

    Proto-consciousness is likely some kind of property of spacetime that occurs whenever there is any kind of event or energetic action – as fundamental as vacuum energy, for example.

    Yes, I am a panpsychist, and no, I am not a substance dualist.

    Articles such as the above can tell us how brains process information, but can’t give us insight into the fundamental nature of proto-consciousness.

  21. Gideon Rosenblatt I better read that one, but from what I gather he’s very much on target…

  22. consciousness is an act of perceptionsAlex Kudlick

  23. Gideon Rosenblatt side comment on “Incomplete Nature” I was tempted to just buy it, ($9.99 Kindle) – the TOC looks very thorough – but decided to read the sample (first couple of chapters) and man does he stretch it out and writes a bit densely. I certainly agree with his direction, but he did seem to get off to a strange start with his ‘zero’ chapter….so I’ll probably put the book back on the TBR list for now….will get it from library is it happens to show up there…

  24. One of the complaints about the book, Kenny Chaffin​, is that it is written in an overly dense style, with lots of neologisms that make it hard to follow. Still, it is worthwhile. It’s just a very hard slog.

  25. I await a robot Zen Master!

  26. Matter COUNTS🐥🗡🔫

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