[Fis] "the mother of information"

Krassimir Markov markov at foibg.com
Mon Jan 21 21:58:02 CET 2019

Dear Pedro, Jose Luis and FIS colleagues,
Now in Sofia we finish the students’ exams and I have a little time to analyze the posts.  

First of all, I agree with Pedro that “consciousness may well be considered as "the mother of information" “!

At the second place, I want to comment the case with open and closed eyes:
“ ... the entropy associated with subjects closing their eyes is lower than that calculated with eyes open. 
Obviously, one is equally conscious with eyes open or closed (unless one is sleeping!). 
Thus, what does this mean? “

There are several hypothesizes about this phenomenon.

I prefer the hypothesis about combination of the incoming sensors’ signals with signals coming from the long and short term memory.
Schematically, Jeff Hawkins  in his book “On Intelligence” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/On_Intelligence)

presented this by following scheme:  

In other words, by closing eyes, one eliminates the need of combination and comparison of incoming signals with ones that are coming from the memory.

If the incoming signals are ignored anyway, the process continue with combination  and comparison of sequences of sets (gestalts) of signals from memory which are more organized than incoming ones.

So,  in sensor areas, as result from comparison of both kinds of signals one assumes that given set (gestalt) of signals is information or not.

In General Information Theory (GIT) ( http://www.foibg.com/ijita/vol14/ijita14-1-p01.pdf),  the incoming set (gestalt) of signals from the sensors is called “reflection” and the set of signals (gestalt) coming from the memory is called “information expectation”.

Friendly greetings

Krassimir Markov, PhD
Honorary professor
University of Telecommunications and Post
Sofia, Bulgaria
president at ithea.org 

From: Pedro C. Marijuan 
Sent: Monday, January 21, 2019 7:43 PM
To: fis at listas.unizar.es 
Subject: Re: [Fis] Fwd: Further comments

Dear All,

Thanks to Xueshan for his preview of the next discussion session he will lead. I would ask him and the other parties who have just responded to wait a little. Our "tradition" of the New Year Lecture is that it lasts until the end of January. During the rest of the current Lecture we can do something that can be of interest: to air the way each one's views on information relate to consciousness. For instance, in my own case I left that crucial aspect in complete obscurity, in the underground, when I referred to the ten principles of information science.

More related to the present discussion, I have always following the ideas drafted by Kenneth Paul Collins (1989) in his unpublished manuscript: "On the Automation of Knowledge within Central Nervous Systems". In my comment on Jose Luis' stuff, I made a mix with the ideas of both sides (but I had misunderstood the Figure on the entropy variation). Collins' key idea was the definition of a neurodynamic entropy based on the summation of excitation/inhibition ratios in the topographically distributed areas of the CNS. Then, variations of entropy corresponded with the development of adaptive behavior (and synaptic encoding), with very nice insights by Kenneth to map basic behaviors such as aggression, sadness, curiosity, high-level thought, etc. Reformulating these topodynamic insights in terms of the new achievement on connectomics, network science, criticality, and ideas such as those of Jose Luis and Ramon --couldn't it be a timely enterprise? Naturalizing the study of consciousness so that we see reflected our most important behavioral drives has general importance beyond the neurosciences themselves. 

But the above refers somehow to a few basic dynamics of correlates, and lacks a series of "engines" that keep the conscious going on according to the inside and the outside, the sensory and the motor, the low level and the high level, the emotional and the rational. As a result the enigmatic consciousness is carrying the possibility to alter in a fluid way the focus of contemplation of the world. So it provides "de gratis" properties that we assign or share with the most general notions of information, in particular those associated to "meaning". It may reduce the complexity of the surroundings in an astonishing way, so that we may see tiniest details together with highly integrative drives of other agents. It provides space, time, and a myriad of different adaptive percepts/acts or "cognits" for Joaquin Fuster (2009), and all the intricacies around our social lives (narratives)... In my view, consciousness may well be considered as "the mother of information." But before descending into this underground, a lot of work has to be done in the surface, co-ordinating the different approaches, as I have postulated around the life cycle. 

Anyhow, let us risk some exercising around the conscious, even only for ten days...

It is true that the current discussion  El 10/01/2019 a las 13:07, jose luis perez velazquez escribió:

  ---------- Forwarded message ---------
  From: jose luis perez velazquez <jlpvjlpv at gmail.com>
  Date: Wed, Jan 9, 2019 at 12:51 PM
  Subject: Further comments
  To: <fis-request at listas.unizar.es>

        Colleagues, thank you all for your comments to our New Year's digital seminar. I will try to answer some things in those comments  received so far in a more or less compact manner.

        Francesco R. points out different notions of consciousness, and also of entropy. Let us clarify some things that, perhaps because of the word limitations, were not made apparent in the “talk” and of course more details can be found in the two PRE papers listed in the references.  Nonetheless, let me say for now that we deal with conscious awareness, we prefer not to delve into the diverse connotations of consciousness (Edelman’s primary consciousness, higher-order etc.), rather our study deals in fact more with optimality of sensory awareness than with consciousness itself (even though these two are absolutely related, of course). Let me explain why because that was something we could not describe in the text due to the space limit. 


       Briefly, as can be seen in our PRE 2016 paper, the entropy associated with subjects closing their eyes is lower than that calculated with eyes open. Obviously, one is equally conscious with eyes open or closed (unless one is sleeping!). Thus, what does this mean? In animals like us that depend almost totally in visual input, stopping visual stimuli to the brain causes remarkable changes in brain dynamics. To wit, the appearance of very rhythmic oscillation, the alpha rhythm, in parieto-occipital cortex (but it can be recorded as well in frontal and temporal areas). Some studies have found that brain complexity is lower and its structure more organised with eyes closed (I don’t exactly remember but I think they used graph theory or similar), not too surprising after we see the very periodic and beautiful alpha; hence, not surprising either that this “more organised brain” is manifested in our study showing lower entropy. For these reasons, we tend to think that our entropy reflects more optimality of sensory manipulations rather than “pure” consciousness (for visual animals like us, being blind is not optimal at all!).


       And this brings us to Francesco’s comment on the diverse entropies (which I will call from now on S for short… my fingers are getting tired of typing). There are indeed different notions of S and this is why it is important to specify what S is being computed. In our case it is the S associated with the number of configurations of connected signals/networks. Pedro C.M., in two of his points, refers to entropy, for instance: “ if the inner processes ring some alarm, that entropy would escalate enormously”. This in fact cannot occur in our case, because the S has a maximum value for certain number of configurations of connections, namely, when the number of connected signals are the same as the not connected. This is why the S graphs in the papers (and in my cartoon in the talk) are inverted Us, a Gaussian basically – the maximum S is at the top of the curve, it cannot increase any further. Many of the S values we see in awake-eyes open are close to this top, hence almost maximal.  It is important to emphasise again that we are evaluating the number of configurations of connections, the fact we go one step further and obtain an S adds very little in terms of concept but makes the wording and data presentation easier. That is, in awake-eyes open we have near maximal number of possible configurations (our microstates), and the macrostate is represented by all those configurations. For those into chemistry, this is akin to chemical equilibrium: equilibrium is found at the top of the Gaussian where the quantity of the two molecules of a chemical reaction (for the sake of simplicity let’s assume it is a reaction involving 2 molecules) is the same, and far from equilibrium we have lots of one molecule and little of the other. Sorry for this digression into chemistry, but I am a biochemist after all. 

          So this is our S, but if we were to consider the S applied to other aspects, say, ions/molecules, it would be different. Just extract the brain of a mouse and homogeneize it (a common biochemical technique to make neuronal milk shake). The S of molecules has increased vastly, complete disorder of ions and molecules. But this is not the S we are talking about here. That molecular mess cannot process any information/sensory input because there is no organization of cell networks, connections and all that.  Can our S capture brain dynamics, as Pedro asks? To some extent, but only in its global character, this is then reason for the second PRE paper, “Consciousness as a global property of brain dynamic activity”, where we used LZC which allowed us to capture the “microscopic” dynamics, the fluctuations in the configurations of connections that our S cannot capture. By the way, Pedro, when you say “All the brain areas relatively silent in the left side of your figure, when transiently connected with some portion of the central cluster of the conscious space”  I am not sure you understood the figure, the x-axis does not represent “silence”, or activity, in brain areas, it is number of synchronous channels:  in the left the number of synchronised networks is lower, but those nets may be very active, just not synchronised. Higher activity does not always lead to more synchrony, to wit, right at the start of epileptic seizures, when the cellular activity begins to grow, there is normally a decrease in synchrony (which then increases during the ictal event).

        Loet L., Joseph B., and Francesco have related points mentioning Prigiogine’s order through fluctuations and emergence. My opinion is that S is a concept humans created to characterise/understand phenomena, but I would not claim it is the cause of processes (like H. Haken thought as well, in his “Information and self-organization” book). It is for this reason we normally use the terms “S associated with…” in our papers. It is hard, in open, complex systems, to talk about cause and effect. As Joseph B. mentions, the emergent entity being actualized is not totally separate from states from which it emerged. Remember Haken’s enslaving principle.  The “control mechanisms” (Loet’s words) that may exist operating in neural feedback loops are hard to disentangle, because, due to the enslaving, one microscopic aspect may become a macroscopic “force” at some level. Alexander F. mentions their theory about the nested hierarchy of brain processes and talks about causal relations. But as for our study,  we don’t know. All we can say is that awareness is associated with larger number of possible configurations of connections among brain areas that may be needed for the integration and segregation of sensory-motor activities. We are now, as an extension of our work, trying to come up with an evolution law, something that will allow us to make some predictions about what can be found in certain brain states. This evolution equation may be related to the probability of connections, but we are not sure yet… this is something for another talk.

         Let me mention too that fluctuations are fundamental for pattern formation, and in the nervous system we talk about fluctuations in synchrony that, perhaps via dynamical bifurcations (the existence of bifurcations in brain activity, at least in epilepsy, has been obtained in vivo: ‘Dynamical regimes underlying epileptiform events: role of instabilities and bifurcations in brain activity’  Perez Velazquez et al.,  Physica D, 186, 205-220, 2003), create patterns of organised neuronal activity. It is this organised activity pattern that is the fundamental for a proper, healthy brain information processing. In seizures you find lot of synchrony with not enough variability in the configurations of connections, hence not good for sensorimotor processing, thus loss of awareness is common during seizures. There is an extensive literature suggesting that variability in brain activity is associated with good health -- not only in neurophysiology, but also in cardiac activity, hormonal concentrations etc… Variability makes you healthy!).

       Sorry we missed, in our papers, to mention some parallels of our results with Alexander F’s Operational Architectonics, above all that phenomenal consciousness refers to a higher level of organization in the brain. We will take note of this for future publications. 


     And finally, let me mention that I tend to agree with Pierre Gloor in his view of consciousness that he expounded in ‘Consciousness as a neurological concept in epileptology: a critical review' (Epilepsia 27 (Suppl. 2): S14-S26, 1986): “Consciousness cannot therefore be external to itself; it cannot be an “object, out there”; it thus cannot be observed. If I may be allowed to use the metaphor of describing consciousness as the only window through which we can look at the world, then it follows that when looking through this window we cannot see the window itself, even though it, too, is part of the world. Consciousness thus conceived is not an objectively verifiable datum; it therefore cannot be defined, and its very nature is not accessible to any form of objective analysis”.  

  Like Gloor, I do not want to search for strict definitions of consciousness, rather for properties of it, which can be investigated, e.g. memory, self-awareness, motor actions etc.  To me, consciousness, like life, can be best defined by enumerating properties rather than by a strict sentence.

     This is all for now. My colleague Ramon, I am sure, will have more things to add and comment.

       Virus-free. www.avast.com  


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Pedro C. Marijuán
Grupo de Bioinformación / Bioinformation Group

pcmarijuan.iacs at aragon.es

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