A multidisciplinary approach to mind and consciousness


Journal Article

In the last 400 years physics has achieved great success, in theory and experimentation, determining the structure of matter and energy. The next great step in the evolution of science will be exploring the role of mind and consciousness in the universe, employing mathematics and fundamental theoretical constructs to yield specific predictions. Based on recent findings in biological autonomy, we propose to approach consciousness from the key aspect of decision-making. This approach allows us to develop a quantitative theory of consciousness as manifested in information processing. Since decision-making occurs at a certain level of organization, natural relations are obtained between consciousness at one level of organization and unconsciousness at another. By following this chain of argument, we also consider the possibility that levels of consciousness and unconsciousness form a self-closing hierarchy. This line of reasoning has led us to theoretically formulate the possible relationships between mind, cellular activity (both neuronal and non-neuronal), and the universe, working with the categories of consciousness, selfconsciousness, and unconsciousness. What we propose in the present paper is a natural and straightforward extension of information theory to quantitative measures of consciousness at different levels and scales. A framework that integrates data from multiple disciplines can help us develop a broader theory of consciousness than what is possible from any single field alone. We present quantitative estimations for the rates of information processing at the global and cellular levels of the human organism and suggest values at the level of the universe. Our picture yields a new, quantitative picture of the mental capabilities of Homo sapiens and a reformulation of our place in the universe.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Grandpierre, A; Chopra, D; Doraiswamy, PM; Tanzi, R; Kafatos, MC

Published Date

  • January 1, 2013

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 11 / 4

Start / End Page

  • 607 - 617

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 1303-5150

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.14704/nq.2013.11.4.703

Citation Source

  • Scopus