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Consciousness & Reality Colloquium Series: Inaugural Lecture

Wednesday, November 2, 2022
11:00am to 12:00pm
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Consciousness & Reality Colloquium Series: Inaugural Lecture

Consciousness and its Physical Substrate

Wednesday, November 2, 11 a.m.
Online-only event. Zoom link:

Christof Koch
Chief Scientist, Allen Institute
Chief Scientist, 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 (IIT). 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.

This lecture will be accessible to an interdisciplinary audience, and Caltech members from all divisions are welcome to join. Select questions from the Q&A window will be answered after the lecture.

The Consciousness & Reality colloquium series promotes interdisciplinary investigations on mind, cognition, consciousness, and the nature of reality. The colloquia will be held once a month. The next colloquium will be delivered by Sean Carroll (Homewood Professor of Natural Philosophy at the John Hopkins University) on Dec 7.