Research: consciousness is to predict what follows action

I normally don’t care for consciousness, but this is an interesting perspective:

“In a nutshell, our theory is that consciousness developed as a memory system that is used by our unconscious brain to help us flexibly and creatively imagine the future and plan accordingly,

We knew that conscious processes were simply too slow to be actively involved in music, sports, and other activities where split-second reflexes are required. But if consciousness is not involved in such processes, then a better explanation of what consciousness does was needed,”

explained corresponding author Andrew Budson, MD, professor of neurology.


I can’t help but notice how coy they are about placing the subconscious functions in the subcortex.
I have some papers that measure the origin of the conscious precursors squarely in subcortical structures.

You know, the boss!

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Almost everything in the brain is subconscious, especially in the cortex.

I think the author either didn’t read the paper, or didn’t understand it. That summary statement is what Benjamin Libet published in 1983.

That may speculate why consciousness developed, but not how, and even less how it works.

I appreciate your fairness. Thanks for the links.


My opinion on that is covered here:

A new theory of consciousness suggests decisions are made unconsciously, then about half a second later, they become conscious.

I thought I already knew that. When did it become new?

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The idea here is that consciousness exist to focus on predicting consequences of decisions, rather than to make these decisions. I think it’s a novel perspective.

Not a thing new here, just repackaging. That said, get with consciousness any way that you can, it is the spice that separates us from animals and machines.

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but should we assume animals aren’t conscious?, I’d say with confidence my dog is as conscious as me even if I cant prove it.


In my view perceived internal consciousness is inescapably linked with introspection and the inner voice, which itself is a manifestation of language. I don’t think dogs have that.

Conscious in the sense of aware of and reacting to the environment, yes your dog is that (unless it’s asleep or anaesthetised).

I agree with that definition. But I also agree that sometimes there’s a need to talk about the individual sub-types. The paper here looks at consciousness as the broad phenomenon.

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You can’t even prove you are conscious, people forget there is no formal proof of it

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Anyway I can delete this post? To most people, consciousness is like intellectual porn: the reason shuts off.

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discussing about consciousness is sometimes pointless but is not gonna hurt anybody.

I have nothing against porn, lets just flag this post nsfw.

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if by inner voice you mean the inner monologue, just want to note that some people dont have it, there’s just silence in their heads and they are still conscious.

my definition of consciousness is more of the qualia type, I view it as having an internal subjective experience, simply perception of existence / feeling of any kind.


So many consciousnesses, so little time.

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I suspect that much of the confusion about consciousness is a lack of agreement on what is being described when you use the word.

Reading up the thread, I see:

  • the subjective experience (qualia) conflated with the underlying processes that make something to experience such as the inner voice,
  • the laundry list of properties (many clearly category errors),
  • external diagnostic markers that are the result of system performance,
  • attention,
  • configuration of cortical function such as the global workspace “Almost everything in the brain is subconscious, especially in the cortex”,
  • volition (Does being aware really have to tie to reacting?),
  • the access and the experience (qualia again) of - memory,
  • the very human human chauvinistic view that speech is somehow necessary to be conscious,
  • predicting,
  • the contribution of the cerebellum to rapid stereotyped/learned actions

I’m sure I missed something but the list is clearly long.

I liken this the problems that arise when you mix weight, mass, and force. A pound of mass is not the same thing as a pound force but they use the same pound descriptive term.

Or the common confusion between accuracy, resolution, and precision. They really are different things.

A first step is to agree on what is being described.

No so much a prejudiced view as a level of consciousness. C is a spectrum and it starts with perception. Jaynes rejected this and did not include perception in C and went so far as to argue:

Perception is sensing a stimulus and responding appropriately. And this can happen on a nonconscious level, as I have tried to describe in driving a car. Another way to look at the problem is to remember the behavior of white blood cells, which certainly perceive bacteria and respond appropriately by devouring them. To equate consciousness with perception is thus tantamount to saying that we have six thousand conscious entities per cubic millimeter of blood whirling around in our circulatory system — which I think is a reductio ad absurdum.

One of the best approaches to C, IMO, is Tononi’s ‘Phi’ system, a part of his information integration theory (IIT) of consciousness. To wit…

According to the theory, consciousness corresponds to the capacity of a system to integrate information. This claim is motivated by two key phenomenological properties of consciousness: differentiation – the availability of a very large number of conscious experiences; and integration – the unity of each such experience. The theory states that the quantity of consciousness available to a system can be measured as the Φ value of a complex of elements. Φ is the amount of causally effective information that can be integrated across the informational weakest link of a subset of elements. A complex is a subset of elements with Φ>0 that is not part of a subset of higher Φ. The theory also claims that the quality of consciousness is determined by the informational relationships among the elements of a complex, which are specified by the values of effective information among them. Finally, each particular conscious experience is specified by the value, at any given time, of the variables mediating informational interactions among the elements of a complex.

When we get to the highest levels of C, language is required and we (so far) are the only ones who have it. It isn’t enough to be able to respond to speech with a spoken answer, this is where we get into inner speech, timelines and personal narratives, which our machines don’t quite have, as yet.

So, putting words in your mouth, dogs can be conscious, just not as conscious as fluently speaking critters.

And at the risk of enabling panpsychism, this continuum can be extended to a very low level, such as the offered white blood cell example.

Tbh, I’m kinda on the panpsychist side.

The only way I can think there can be a distinction between conscious and non-conscious entities is if there’s some kind of phase transition keeps both classes separate, either by a threshold or by enforcing a supercritical state.

But no matter how I look at it, if there’s a continuum, then everything on the continuum is conscious to some degree.

[Speculation warning]

But I’d bet that consiousness is an “illusion”, I suspect what we call “Qualia” is just the underlying data being represented by the SDRs, in the sensory buffer. in this sense the unconscious processes are also being experienced in some way but they don’t have direct access to the same buffer “we” live in so we don’t perceive it.

And my panpsychist take is that if a conscious state is just data, then whats to say one piece of data is better than another, data is just information and all information is a potential experience.

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