Consciousness and its Physical Substrate
Consciousness & Reality Colloquium Series—Inaugural Lecture
Chief Scientist, Allen Institute and Tiny Blue Dot Foundation
Humans not only act in the world but consciously experience it, such as the delectable taste of Nutella, the sharp sting of an infected tooth, or the terror and ecstasy of a near-death experience. I will discuss progress achieved in locating the footprints of such conscious experiences to the posterior part of the cerebral cortex, the outermost layer of the brain. I shall introduce the Integrated Information Theory (IT). It explains in a principled manner which systems, based on their structure, are conscious and has been used to build devices to detect consciousness in patients with disorders of consciousness.
The theory, formulated in purely operational terms, asserts the existence of free will in a true sense, and predicts that consciousness is much more widespread than commonly assumed. On the other hand, digital computers. though they may behave as intelligent as humans, will not be conscious.
Consciousness is ultimately about being, not about doing.