Measuring Consciousness One Bit at a Time

Illustration for article titled Measuring Consciousness One Bit at a Time

We all know what it is to be conscious, just as much as we don't know exactly what that means, or how to measure it. But one researcher thinks the first step is to view our brains as computers.

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The NY Times takes a long look at Dr. Giulio Tononi, who's chosen a seemingly impossible task for himself: producing a scientifically valid theory of consciousness. To quantify thought as we do any other bodily function:

He and his colleagues are translating the poetry of our conscious experiences into the precise language of mathematics. To do so, they are adapting information theory, a branch of science originally applied to computers and telecommunications. If Dr. Tononi is right, he and his colleagues may be able to build a "consciousness meter" that doctors can use to measure consciousness as easily as they measure blood pressure and body temperature.

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Tononi sees consciousness as nothing more than the sum of information firing through our neurons. In which case, he argues, we could measure it in the same bits we do mobile downloads.

It's a fascinating—and incredibly challenging to prove—theory, one that would suggest a serious examination of what it means to be human. More practically, though, a "consciousness index" of the sort Tononi seeks out would have major implications when dealing with vegetative or otherwise unresponsive patients. [NY Times]

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DISCUSSION

MAKE2 Mifune

Some form of quantum computing will become a reality within most of our lifetimes...an interesting thing about that is that there are many studies being done to prove that neural processing involves quantum states...or in other words, we have a quantum mind, and our consciousness is a result of that.

We might not see interstellar space travel or living on the moon or mars in our lifetimes, but at least AI/The Machine Uprising is within the realm of possibility.