The Integrated Information Theory of Consciousness | Issue 121 | Philosophy Now

The Integrated Information Theory of Consciousness | Issue 121 | Philosophy Now

This is an interesting article by Hedda Hassel Mørch on The Integrated Information Theory of Consciousness asking what is IIT all about?

“According to IIT, consciousness is linked to integrated information, which can be represented by a precise mathematical quantity called Φ (‘phi’). The human brain (or the part of it that supports our consciousness) has very high Φ, and is therefore highly conscious: it has highly complex and meaningful experiences. Systems with a low Φ, the theory goes, have a small amount of consciousness – they only have very simple and rudimentary experiences. Systems with zero Φ are not conscious at all.”

Her essay is based on definitions by neuroscientist Giulio Tononi, the originator of the Integrated Information Theory of consciousness, or IIT for short. IIT is now one of the leading theories of consciousness in neuroscience.

“The argument starts from a list of five axioms – claims about consciousness that Tononi holds to be self-evidently true upon reflection on one’s own consciousness. His first axiom holds that consciousness exists ‘for itself’, independently of external observers: it exists entirely for its own subject. The second axiom claims that consciousness is structured: it contains a variety of qualities at once; a mix of colors, sounds, emotions, thoughts, and so on (one might object that there are experiences of complete darkness that contain no qualities – but such an experience would still contain structure such as the left and right side of the empty visual field). The third axiom claims that consciousness is informative: like a painting, each experience specifies a ‘scene’ which is different from other possible ‘scenes’. The fourth axiom holds that consciousness is integrated: the qualities within consciousness are unified under a single point of view, or we might say, by belonging to one and the same ‘canvas’. Finally, the fifth axiom claims that consciousness is exclusive: the ‘canvas’ has an exact border, and any individual quality, such as a color or emotion, is either part of that canvas or not, never in between. Tononi holds that these axioms can be translated into a set of postulates that specify the physical counterparts of the properties they describe. These postulates are then given a mathematical interpretation, yielding the full version of IIT.”

Read it on Philosophy Now. Fascinating! 


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