For centuries people have been trying to explain consciousness (Chalmers,2004). The main problem
in explaining consciousness is accounting for its subjectivity, ie.consciousness is an internal
perspective or point of view, an internal context built from external input and previous experience
or memory (McCrone,2001). Subjective systems may be adaptive-able to utilize their viewpoints
to respond to change, ie.self-organize to control their own behavior (McCrone,2001). In this paper,
I show how such subjectivity might arise and be utilized.
Voluntary New Or Novel Intentional (Adaptive) Action
Our production of new or novel adaptive action is essential for our survival. We voluntarily (by
choice, free will) produce such action and it is always directed towards some goal (intentional).
The creation of this action allows us to respond to our continuously changing environment in a
rapid, versatile, and purposeful manner. We are not bound by stereotyped inflexible reflexive
or programmed-type responses typical of lower animals and machines; but have a high capacity to
create new or different responses as the situation demands.
Our production of voluntary new or novel intentional actions or action sequences has reached its
highest development in speech and reasoning (thinking). In communicating with others, we are
continually composing new or novel word sequences. In thinking, we are continually modifying and
arranging and rearranging thoughts (these may be considered reactivated memories of perceived
sensory input) in new or novel sequences. The creation of voluntary new or novel intentional
actions and action sequences may be seen in our muscular motor action (skeletal and ocular):going
to a store, handling a cup, playing a game, fixing something, scanning a crime scene, etc. Such
action may also include emotional reactions. Various degrees and composition of emotional
reaction are composed depending on the situation. We may be very angry in one situation (shouting,
red face, violent gestures, aggressive facial features, etc.), but not so angry in another (firm
speech, no red face or gestures, fixed facial features). We may be petrified and cringing with fear
in one situation, able to flee in another. We may show love to one person, anger to another. All
these actions or action sequences are similar in that they are voluntary new or novel intentional
responses. This ability to produce voluntary new or novel intentional action may also be seen
to a much more limited extent in lower animals. The production of such responses is very important
for survival and may have evolved for such a purpose.
Our ability to produce voluntary new or novel intentional actions and action sequences may have
evolved first in the skeletal motor system. This ability may have led to the success of early man
and the emergence of Homo sapiens as the dominant species (McCrone,1999). This system is
intimately related to perception, as elements of perception are closely tied to specific skeletal motor
responses (Allott,1994). Much of this relationship may be prewired (genetic-Allott,1994). Speech
and thought might have evolved from the basic structure of the muscular motor system (Allott,1994;
McCrone,1999). Emotional responses are produced by what is often referred to as the third motor
system (Holstege et al,1996). This also might have evolved from the basic skeletal motor system.
The evolution of the ability to produce a variety of voluntary new or novel intentional actions
would give increased reproductive and survival success.
Point Of View Or Perspective
Voluntary new or novel intentional action is always produced from the subject's own particular
point of view or perspective. This point of view or perspective arises from perception. It is unique
to that individual at that time. It cannot be known (experienced) by another. It is subjectivity-
having or adopting a particular perspective or point of view (Alter,2001;McClamrock,1994;
The formation of a particular point of view or perspective is essential for the production of
voluntary new or novel intentional (adaptive) action. A point of view or perspective is a
particular way of looking at particular information. Perception would directly produce only
stereotyped reflexive-type action. In order to produce new or novel action, perception must be
reorganized and rerepresented in a new or novel manner (Gershenson & Heyligher,2004). This
rerepresentation represents formation of a new particular point of view or perspective. This
new point of view or perspective is not entirely predictable and probably emerges in a
nonlinear fashion, typical of complex systems (consisting of interacting elements) like the brain
(Gershenson & Heyligher,2004).
Voluntary New Or Novel Intentional Action And Consciousness
One interesting thing about our production of voluntary new or novel intentional action is that it
is always accompanied by consciousness. Our production of reflex and learned (programmed)
action occurs without awareness or consciousness and is said to be automatic. Consciousness
is subjective-it is a particular personal perspective or point of view that is somehow created
in our brains (Alter,2001;Byrne,2001;McClamrock,1994; Mandik,2001). Our voluntary new or
novel intentional action is created from our particular point of view or perspective at the
moment, ie.our consciousness. Hence consciousness may be responsible for the composition of
voluntary new or novel intentional action and may always be present when such action is composed.
If an animal or machine can produce voluntary new or novel intentional action, then such action
may be said to arise from the animal's or machine's own particular point of view or perspective
and consciousness may be deemed to be present. If a physical mechanism can be found for the
production of voluntary new or novel intentional action, perhaps it also explains how the particular
point of view or perspective (consciousness) is produced.
Production Of Voluntary New Or Novel Intentional Action And Consciousness
Current research indicates that the prefrontal cortex mediates (plans) our ongoing production
of voluntary new or novel intentional action through the integration of three cognitive processes:
active short-term memory (working memory), motor set (a selection, preparation, and readiness
for action), and the inhibition of excess activity (Fuster,1997,2000). These three processes may
create and implement a particular point of view or perspective for a subject. Active short-term
memory is the provisional retention of perceptual information for prospective action, a type of
focal attention whereby perception is reorganized and rerepresented, becoming explicit, functional,
and conscious (Luck & Vogel,1997;Todd & Marois,2004;Vogel & Machizawa,2004). Specific
perceptual activity is selected, rerepresented, and maintained over some interval (delay) so as
to produce future action. Such action is thus mediated, deliberated, new or novel, voluntary, and
intentional. Active short-term memory may be formed and maintained by positive feedback, a
type of reentry (Fuster,1997). Reentry refers to reciprocal interaction (feedback) between elements
and occurs throughout the brain (Tonelli & Edelman,1998). Positive feedback occurs when this
reciprocal feedback is excitatory. Positive feedback leads to exponential growth of activity
(Scott,1996,1998,2000). Hence positive feedback between the dissipation and release of
perceptual activity (dissipation leads to more release, leading to more dissipation, leading to
more release, and so on) may lead to the exponential growth of perceptual activation. However,
inhibition is also activated by these dissipation and release events (decay, depletion, change in
input, refractory periods, etc.), limiting the growth, producing a balanced (stable) state (Scott,1996,
1998,2000). This stable state is a nonlinear emergent, ie.it depends on, but is entirely different
from (is not defined by nor reducible to), its initiating events (Newman,1997;Scott,1996,1998,
2000). It is a rerepresentation of perception. Such nonlinear emergence is responsible for a vast
number of natural phenomena (candle flames, waves, nerve impulses, cells, nations, family groups,
businesses, stock market, etc.)-Scott,1996,1998,2000;Sieb,2004. The emergent state is said to be
explicit, ie.it is fully established physically and can be directly utilized to produce other states or
effects (intentional character)-O'Brien & Opie,1999. Since this explicit state is a new internal
context built from perception, it may be considered a particular point of view or perspective for
that system (subjective or phenomenal character). According to this reasoning, active short-term
memory is a particular point of view or perspective for that subject arising from perception.
This nonlinear explicit state (point of view) is utilized in the production of action (motor set).
Since this state is created anew each time, it is always new or novel, and always produces
voluntary new or novel intentional action.
This new or novel internal nonlinear explicit state (active short-term memory) has all the same
properties that have been attributed to consciousness (Baars,1988;Clifton,2003,2004a,2004b;
Koch, 1998;Tonelli & Edelman,1998). It is self generated. It forms rapidly, but does take time to
form. It persists. It requires reentry. It requires attention. It has effects on other systems. It has
intentional character-is representational, directed. It has subjective character-is a particular
first person point of view or perspective. It has content. It is complex, bounded, and has
limited capacity. It is variable, flexible, and seamless. It is hard to describe (ineffable). It is
transparent (unseen). It is serial in production and prone to interference. It is unified and coherent
(bound, oneness). It is difficult to formally describe (hard to describe scientifically). It is projected outwards. It has intrinsic positive or negative value. It is a tenet of consciousness studies that
when two things have all the same properties, they are identical (Velmans,2002). Hence if the
internal explicit states produced in the above manner have all the same properties as consciousness,
then they must be identical to consciousness. Thus consciousness arises whenever voluntary new or
novel intentional action is produced. Consciousness is essentially part of the mechanism producing
voluntary new or novel intentional action. Consciousness is a natural property of such nonlinear
explicit states. Subjective consciousness produces physical action because it is a physical state.
Consciousness is impaired if reentry mechanisms in the brain are disrupted (Tonelli & Edelman,
1998). Positive feedback is a basic physical mechanism responsible for the production of a
large number of natural phenomena. The formation of states via this mechanism shows how
information can be bound together in a cohesive and unified whole. Perception and focal attention
are essential for consciousness (Rowlands,2002;Velmans,1999). Perception is thought to occur
in the inferior temporal and inferior parietal cortex (Mattingley,1999). Pathology of this
cortex produces most of the cases of neglect-impaired perception and consciousness
(Mattingley,1999). Active short-term memory has been shown to operate in the posterior parietal
cortex (Todd & Marois,2004;Vogel & Machizawa,2004). Damage to the prefrontal cortex and/or
its connections leads to an impaired general ability to produce voluntary new or novel
intentional action (of skeletal movements, oculomotor movements, speech, thought, emotion-
psychomotor poverty), but preserves consciousness (Joseph,1990). Damage to the supplementary
motor cortex, frontal eye fields, Broca's Area, temporal cortex, or orbitofrontal cortex impairs
the ability to produce voluntary new or novel intentional action in that domain (since the
prefrontal cortex generates action via these areas-Fuster,1997; Pandya & Yeterian,1990).
Standardized intelligence tests depend on how well the subject can integrate information
consciously and create voluntary new or novel intentional action.
Consciousness can be explained as a physical state of the brain. The "gap" between the subjective
and the physical (how can the subjective arise from the physical and how can the subjective
affect the physical-Velmans,2002) is removed because the subjective (particular point of view
or perspective) is a natural property of nonlinear internal explicit states (Carruthers,2002;Clark,
1997;Lazarov,2003;Nicholson,2003). Consciousness is natural, material, and functional; not
some mysterious, nonmaterial epiphenomenon. It may be studied scientifically. It may occur in
animals, machines, and natural systems; any system that has the ability to produce voluntary
new or novel intentional action or effects. The production of voluntary new or novel intentional
action may be an objective indicator for the presence of consciousness. This is important for the
composition, synthesis, and verification of consciousness research.
Future research might include the study of various animal species to determine their ability to
compose voluntary new or novel intentional action. If they can, then they may possess some
degree of consciousness and may allow study of the neural mechanisms involved in its
production. Human studies of consciousness must involve the production of voluntary new or
novel intentional action. Machines may be built that can create true voluntary new or novel
intentional action, which could also allow study and manipulation of the physical mechanisms
involved. The nonlinear emergence of internal explicit states might be studied in natural systems
to gain insight into the physical principles involved in the production of consciousness.
Since intelligence is the ability to consciously create voluntary new or novel intentional
action, standardized tests might provide an index of intelligence, as well as the degree of
consciousness present, ie.IQ might also be a measure of degree of consciousness. Hence many
of the intelligence tests that exist today may also provide a measure of the degree of
consciousness. However, to provide a more accurate measure, they must be broadened to include all
types of action. Since consciousness depends on the selection and maintenance of perceptual
activity over a delay (of active short-term memory), studies of delayed response tasks might
be key to its understanding.
Consciousness will be found to be natural, material, and functional. It will be found to be
explained by scientific principles. It will be found to function in the creation of voluntary new
or novel intentional action and have an evolutionary history. Certain other animals will be
found to have a degree of consciousness. Conscious machines will be built. A degree of
consciousness will be found in many nonlinear emergent natural systems. It will be possible to
construct standardized tests to measure the degree of consciousness (IQ). It will be possible
to manipulate and extend our consciousness, perhaps into what is now the paranormal. Our
consciousness may persist after death, if we possess an energy that continues to interact with
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