Introducing the brain: different consciousness research (Introduction)

by David Turell @, Thursday, September 12, 2019, 21:16 (305 days ago) @ David Turell

Studying it from a brain harmonics viewpoint:

"... as philosopher Galen Strawson insightfully pointed out in a New York Times opinion piece, consciousness is “the only thing in the universe whose ultimate intrinsic nature we can claim to know.”

"This is a crucial point. We don’t have direct access to the outer world. Instead we experience it through the filter of our consciousness. We have no idea what the color blue really looks like “out there,” only how it appears to us “in here.” Furthermore, as some cognitive scientists like Donald Hoffman have argued in recent years, external reality is likely to be far different from our perceptions of it. The human brain has been optimized, through the process of evolution, to model reality in the way that’s most conducive to its survival, not in the way that most faithfully represents the world.


" It seems that my consciousness of, say, the color of the chair is categorically different from the electrical impulses fired by the neurons in my brain that detect color. Similarly, it is very difficult, if not impossible, to explain how the feeling of pain reduces to the stimulation of certain fibers in my nervous system. Bridging this explanatory gap is known as the “hard problem of consciousness.”


"I had the privilege of interning at the Qualia Research Institute (QRI), a San Francisco–based research nonprofit that is dedicated to discovering the science of consciousness (qualia are subjective experiences). Its approach rests on two core philosophical assumptions: The first is “qualia formalism,” which claims that our subjective experience has a mathematical structure. The second is “valence realism,” the view that we can objectively measure the so-called valence of conscious experience—that is, how pleasant an experience feels.


"QRI claims that emotional valence corresponds to the weighted sum of the consonance, dissonance and noise in the harmonics of a given brain state. We calculate the dissonance between CSHWs in a way that’s similar to computing the dissonance of a combination of musical notes. Like sound, brain harmonics with alike frequencies (i.e. frequencies falling within a "critical bandwidth") and high amplitudes will cause mutual dissonance, and the total dissonance is equivalent to the sum of the dissonance between all possible pairs of harmonics.

"We can calculate the dissonance between CSHWs by determining their spatiotemporal proximity. In particular, harmonics that overlap with each other in a short interval of time would be highly unpleasant. By subtracting the dissonance and noise from the brain state, we obtain the amount of consonance.


QRI is still in the very early stages of testing the symmetry theory of valence, and it needs funding to run scientific trials on human subjects. If the theory proves to be correct, it will have groundbreaking implications for mental well-being and our understanding of consciousness. With an objective framework for determining the brain states that are associated with high and low emotional valence, we can design therapeutics and interventions that dramatically improve the quality of subjective experience. Hence we could treat mental disorders such as depression more effectively than status quo antidepressants while also enhancing the baseline mood for healthy people.

"You may notice that the symmetry theory of valence doesn’t directly solve the hard problem of consciousness. It is meant to explain the valence of experience, not the nature of experience and how, if at all, it emerges from the brain. Valence, however, is arguably the defining feature of consciousness. Indeed, it seems that there is nothing more fundamental to consciousness than the felt-sense of whether the experience is good or bad.

"Without this, the experience wouldn't matter, at least not intrinsically.Indeed, it seems that there is nothing more fundamental to consciousness than the subjective feeling of an experience. QRI has one of the few theories that makes empirical claims about the mathematical structure that corresponds to valence. Consequently, it has a much more tractable approach to consciousness than past philosophical speculation. With this perspective, QRI may carry the keys to unlocking the answer to a profound enigma—that we’ve known all along."

Comment: They are certainly not going to solve the hard problem. I frankly don't know what they are really doing, but it may be worth the trouble to uncover something that helps. It is certainly clear that what the brain gives us is second-hand information compared to absolute reality.

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