[Fis] "the mother of information"--MINI-BRAINS

Pedro C. Marijuan pcmarijuan.iacs at aragon.es
Thu Jan 31 13:24:01 CET 2019

Dear Bill and FIS colleagues,

Nice comments. Although agreeing with the basic orientation, I would 
change a few words. For instance, that "every cell has self-referential 
consciousness" would make more sense, in my opinion, with the term 
"intelligence." I remember that Lynn Margulis also used the C- term 
applied to living cells, but it conduces to a form of panpsychism that 
extends the problem and by doing so pretends to solve it, but does not 
advance it a iota. Consciousness has a special cellular-molecular 
underpinning that continues defying the scientific efforts to decipher it.

In response to Malcolm (offline), brain organoid research is a new field 
that opens new possibilities--in brain development, medically for some 
tumors, disorders such as epilepsy or autism, etc. The most serious 
inconvenient (in words of Christof Koch) is ethical: "The closest they 
get to preterm infant, the more they should worry." The leading 
researcher A. Muotri, plans to connect them to other brain/body parts 
organoids. Then, my speculation is that if sensory inputs are provided, 
and some "action" external connection is established (eg, via EEG 
sensors connected to outside actuators), then a sui generis form of 
sensory-motor loop could be closed, and... I really don't know.


El 29/01/2019 a las 22:13, Bill escribió:
> Dear Pedro,
> I have not previously contributed to this thread, but thought that you 
> and your terrific readership might be interested in this article.
> Miller Jr, W.B., Torday, J.S. and Baluška, F., 2018. Biological 
> evolution as defense of'self'. /Progress in biophysics and molecular 
> biology/.
> Based within the conclusions defended in that article, there should be 
> no surprise about the experimental findings you mention below. Every 
> cell has self-referential consciousness, within its basal limits, and 
> assesses and deploys information as communication to problem-solve. 
> Hence, the researchers are not close to a pre-emergence of 
> consciousness, since it exists as the definition of life and they are 
> experimenting with living cells. In my opinion, the researchers nicely 
> substantiate the arguments within the above paper.  The pre-emergence 
> you mention below would then be prior to its instantiation in the 
> living cell, which would be somewhere along the trajectory of the 
> molecular attachment to information space-time that changes physical 
> data to biological information.
> Best regards,
> Bill
> On 1/29/2019 11:28 AM, Pedro C. Marijuan wrote:
>> Dear FIS Colleagues,
>> An interesting twist on what could be the minimal requirements for 
>> consciousness has recently arisen (Nature News, 15 Nov. 2018). 
>> Lab-grown mini-brains, or better, brain organoids obtained from stem 
>> cells and coaxed to form cortical tissue, show amazing properties of 
>> structure, connectivity, and synchronicity of their neural 
>> discharges. Up to the point that ethical questions have been raised. 
>> The neural types, the genes expressed, and the "EEG records" are 
>> surprisingly similar to those seen in real human brains of preterm 
>> babies. The organoids themselves have been in culture for 10 months. 
>> How close could they be to a primary form or say to a pre-emergence 
>> of consciousness? Although grown for medical purposes, if these 
>> organoids, or more complex ones, are hooked to organoid forms of 
>> sensory organs (eye, hear) what would happen? Would these sensory 
>> organoids open real windows to these mini-brains towards the external 
>> world? Could they be sort of an instantiation of Putnam's  "brain in 
>> a bat"? Too many questions one can formulate...
>> Best--Pedro
>> El 22/01/2019 a las 13:25, GUEVARA ERRA RAMON MARIANO escribió:
>>> Dear colleagues,
>>> I have some comments on the question by Krassimir. In our paper we 
>>> talked about consciousness but I think the results can also be 
>>> interpreted in a wider sense.
>>> Indeed, with open or closed eyes, a person is not more or less 
>>> conscious than with closed eyes, also seems to me. There is simply 
>>> more sensory input with eyes opened, and presumably more information 
>>> processing.
>>> So, going back to our paper, we measured the information content in 
>>> the brain network, and see that in some states there is more 
>>> information content than in others. Now, if you are unconscious, in 
>>> a medical sense, say you fainted or you are in coma, the information 
>>> content is very low. But also if you switch off part of the sensory 
>>> input. In both cases what you measure is information processing.
>>> In other words, our measure is good at revealing the amount of 
>>> information processing in large scale brain networks. Incidentally, 
>>> it serves to contrast conscious and unconscious states as 
>>> consciousness is related to information processing. But not only, it 
>>> also serves to contrast states with different sensory input, as in 
>>> the eyes opened/ eyes closed case, even when both seem to be 
>>> conscious states.
>>> It would be interesting to see results from an experiment where 
>>> subjects have sensory deprivation.
>>> Regarding consciousness, I don't know of a method to quantify it 
>>> behaviorally. Actually, even the definition is elusive. Without a 
>>> behavioral quantification, all we can do is to rely on an empirical, 
>>> medical use of the concept and say "this state is more conscious 
>>> than that state".
>>> I agree with Karl , this question is very important, weather 
>>> something is alive or not, and is perhaps related to the question of 
>>> begin conscious or not.  They may be examples of "major evolutionary 
>>> transitions" (Maynard Smith and Szathmary). In this sense I have a 
>>> comment. There seems to be a believe in certain communities that 
>>> intelligence and /or consciousness would appear as a result of the 
>>> accumulation of processing units, with networks of sufficient 
>>> complexity. So, an artificial intelligence could appear if we have a 
>>> very complex and large set of artificial neurons (it could even be a 
>>> simulation, it doesn't have to be physical). I disagree with this 
>>> optimism on historical grounds. There was a similar  wave of 
>>> optimism after the Miller - Urey experiment on the origin of life, 
>>> long time ago, and look where we are now. As long as I know, a 
>>> self-replicating artificial cell cannot be created from inorganic 
>>> molecules.  I think this is the case because, of the large amount of 
>>> possibilities that gives molecular combinations, chemical reactions, 
>>> etc, only a few can be qualified as "alive". And the more the system 
>>> is complex, the more there are combinations. Is the selection of the 
>>> correct combinations that is difficult. One could say the same about 
>>> the brain, where in this case the units are neurons. There is a nice 
>>> argument in one of Penrose's books about this. The cerebellum and 
>>> the cerebral cortex have the same order of magnitude neurons. 
>>> However, we don't tend to believe that the cerebellum is the 
>>> material basis of consciousness.
>>> Best,
>>> Ramon
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>> -- 
>> -------------------------------------------------
>> Pedro C. Marijuán
>> Grupo de Bioinformación / Bioinformation Group
>> pcmarijuan.iacs at aragon.es
>> http://sites.google.com/site/pedrocmarijuan/
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Pedro C. Marijuán
Grupo de Bioinformación / Bioinformation Group

pcmarijuan.iacs at aragon.es

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