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Through hostile cooperation, scientists race to define the concept of consciousness

There is a new kind of experience that will take us a step further towards understanding the concept of human consciousness. In his report, published by the American site “Bloomberg”, the American writer Andreas Kloth said that he was fascinated by a set of experiments capable of raising human consciousness.

The experiments aim to understand what “consciousness” is and how it works, to identify animals that have consciousness, why do people sometimes lose consciousness, and whether artificial intelligence can make our systems self-aware?

Hostile cooperation

The author stated that the method used in these studies may lead us to a better approach to conducting research in science and other fields. In a world beyond the truth, this approach reveals some ways to settle some other conflicts with intellectual integrity.

This methodology is known as “hostile cooperation”. In scientific fields as well as in life, there are many theories on various topics, but logic says that they cannot be all correct at the same time. Nevertheless, many theories hold up indefinitely.

In this case, the solution lies in inviting supporters of conflicting narratives to identify a point of contradiction that can be tested, and this allows false theories to be exposed and good progress to be made.

The writer pointed out that this idea is not recent. In 1919, British astronomer Arthur Eddington used a solar eclipse to test two opposing theories, the first was Isaac Newton’s law of gravitation, and the second theory of general relativity by Albert Einstein, and Einstein’s theory prevailed. But there was no large-scale research of this kind with the active participation of competing scientists.

The Templeton World Charity Foundation seeks to change that. This non-profit organization funds research on some of the most important human questions, especially those that combine science and spirituality, among them consciousness. Humans have always been fascinated by this concept. And they are confused about it.

Humans have long been fascinated and puzzled about the concept of consciousness (Shutterstock)

The relentless pursuit of understanding consciousness

The author wonders why humans have consciousness, and what happens when we lose it, as is the case in coma or sleeping without dreams or anesthesia, and why does injury to the cerebellum, which contains 69 out of 86 billion neurons present in our brains, cause loss of consciousness, while Causing damage to other areas?

These questions have an ethical dimension .. Do newborns, premature babies, or fetuses have awareness? And if monkeys and other primates have consciousness, is the same true for other creatures such as octopus and bees? Perhaps the most disturbing question for some is whether our machines and algorithms, which can actually defeat humans at chess, are conscious someday?

The writer quoted David Pottgaiter, a South African scientist who runs the Templeton Project, that his team identified about 12 plausible theories of consciousness, and then split them into pairs so that one of the experiments in each group could be refuted. Today, the first experiment is underway in 6 laboratories spread across the United States, Europe and China, where researchers scan the participants and wired them.

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The author pointed out that these experiments test the so-called “global workspace theory” supported by Stanislas DeHaan, as opposed to the “integrated information theory” by Julio Tononi.

Given that both theories are difficult to understand because they are so complex, he sought help from Lucia Meloni of the Max Planck Institute in Frankfurt to explain these concepts to him through some mental shortcuts.

To understand “global workspace theory”, Meloni mentioned that the nervous system should be imagined as a gigantic theater, where all neurons sit in the dark and whisper and stimulate each other, that is, release and exchange information, but are not yet aware of anything. But as soon as someone gets onto the stage (the workspace) and gets all the lights on, it gets all the attention of all the neurons, sending a message to rule out other chats. It simply means that awareness is what we feel upon grasping the concept of this message.

The experiment tests two opposing theories about consciousness (Shutterstock)

In contrast, in “Integrated Information Theory”, consciousness is not a message but rather a complex causal structure. The metaphor, chosen by Giulio Tononi of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, is based on a network of neurons that form like a two-dimensional map of Manhattan that supports the three-dimensional city from which it rises.

But all neurons must be integrated into the structure to determine where the city begins and ends, so all of these cells must be able to influence one another.

Searching for the truth

These theories take off from different frameworks, but as both DeHaan and Tononi agree, each paper makes specific predictions that contradict one another.

In “global workspace theory”, the prefrontal cortex must show the most activity, while in “integrated information theory” the back of the brain must be lit in the same experiences, so one of them must be wrong.

Undoubtedly, no one wants to know that their research career is in vain, but even worse is staying wrong, so hostile cooperation is a great way to help the mind focus.

According to Meloni, it is inspiring to see both groups trying to understand the opposing theory in an attempt to identify points of overlap, because “you cannot stay in your own bubble, but you must try to listen carefully to what is happening.”

So you have to find and accept the truth, and this exercise deserves to be employed in any area of ​​life, including politics.

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