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The Hard Problem Of Consciousness

Is Consciousness Your Spirit?
The lack of an explainable connection between bundles of nerve fibers and intangible philosophical insights is called the “hard problem of consciousness.” When its concrete (measurable) properties are evaluated, Benjamin Libet has shown that consciousness is NOT the entity that makes the decisions in your mind.  If it does not make decisions, is the actual decision-maker a spirit?  Reactions to these possibilities range from an outright denial of the whole topic to naturalistic reduction to panpsychism (the claim that everything is conscious to some extent) to full-blown mind-body dualism.

What Is A Quale?
Personal experiences are called qualia.  They are not measurable. A quale is a conscious feeling – an individual experience that is clearly identifiable from another experience. Qualia include the intangible feelings, tastes, and opinions, which are subjective and unique to a person. The perception of assembled qualia add up to consciousness. Specific qualia are triggered (measurable) by specific organs in the brain.  If a quale is repeatedly triggered by a specific neural organ, should it be described as a paranormal event?  With its very measurable triggers, is consciousness a spirit, or a mystical life form that "emerges" from the nervous system? Does your spirit exist separate from the composite triggering mechanism?

Pattern Recognition Changes The Context
With the arrival of AI, the powers of pattern recognition have been widely conceded. Pattern recognition by the somesthetic association regions enables a person to blindly identify a pair of scissors by touch. This skill is a quale. If this region of the brain is damaged, this ability will disappear. In 2004, a Nobel Prize acknowledged the discovery of the mechanism of odor perception. Different combinations of receptors in the olfactory system were firing to identify distinct odors. Even slight changes in chemical structure were activating altered combinations of receptors. Odor perception is also a quale. Are these spiritual events?

Is Consciousness The Actor?
Benjamin Libet discovered that consciousness is not the actor in the brain.  It is slower to act than the motor neurons in the brain. In his experiments, his subjects recorded the instant of their conscious decision when they voluntarily pressed a button. They observed a dot on a computer clock, that moved every 43 milliseconds. The observed position of the dot recorded the conscious decision moment. Libet discovered that motor neurons in the brain had begun activity 350 milliseconds before the "decision moment." He had discovered that consciousness did not make the decision. It was just the observer, which took 350 milliseconds to detect the effects of the decision of the motor system and report it back to conscious awareness. The motor system itself was triggered by the will of the brain.

How Does The Brain Act?
Who was the actor in the brain? Machines do act. Many production lines make choices and act. Machines identify and pick up a component from a conveyor and drop it into its proper bin. The machine is designed to make such choices and act if it is switched on. Human actions obey the decisions of competing intelligences in the brain to trigger the next highest priority of the mind while it is awake. The brain recognizes a tiger in the bush, identifies the fear strategy and triggers flight. It is not a ghost, but an organism that recognizes situations, identifies strategies, and acts decisively. From the findings of Libet, consciousness is not this actor, but its observer.

What Is The Claustrum?
Francis Crick suggested that the claustrum could be enabling consciousness.  A PET study by Hadjikhani revealed the involvement of the claustrum in cross-model matching, in tasks that require the simultaneous evaluation of information from multiple sensory domains. Without this structure, the subject may still be able to respond to simple, isolated or to highly familiar stimuli, but not to complex or unfamiliar ones. When high frequency electrical impulses deactivate the claustrum, the patient loses consciousness.  The claustrum appears to enable the conscious experience, where these objects and events are perceived in an integrated manner and not as isolated attributes.

What Is Attention?
Attention empowers consciousness by amplifying nerve signals in the areas of focus. Maunsell studied neural signals in the visual area of the cortex of monkeys, when viewing a swarm of dots on a screen. The animals were rewarded when they focused attention on specific dots. Attention caused the neurons that signaled the motion of those dots to be responding more strongly. Paying attention to your toes can make you feel them. Normally, pressure on the skin cause touch sensory receptors in the skin to fire, reporting touch to the cortex. Attention to your toes can cause their nerve cells to fire making you conscious of them.

Consciousness Is Not The Will
The brain has an executive attention center associated to a neural network involving the anterior cingulate cortex and prefrontal structures. This region is involved in the regulation of thoughts, emotions and physical responses. In Libet’s experiment, it was this region that made the decision of the subject to press the button. The executive center, competed and coordinated with many reflex mechanisms to initiate the action to press the button. Consciousness observed the results 350 milliseconds later.

The Will Competes With Other Intelligences
A simple thought experiment will prove that your brain often overrules your will. Your will can raise your arm. As soon as you consciously will it, your arm goes up. But imagine that you are in an elevator with other passengers. Then, it is inappropriate to raise your arm. If you will this action in that situation, nothing will happen. Conscious will is only one actor among a multitude of intelligences, which make the decisions of the mind. The brain overrules actions by any of its intelligences, which are not worthwhile, appropriate, safe, or practical.

Is There A Spirit Within The Brain?
Philosophers ponder the hard problem of consciousness.  But consciousness does not make the decisions of the mind.  Then how does the mind decide? Intuition explains the wisdom of the mind.  The mind is capable of global messaging in just 20 milliseconds.  An intuition algorithm enables it to instantly extract logical answers from its massive neural memories. Inhibition eliminates alternatives for every decision of the nervous system. This clue to intuition solving the hard problem was published in 1989.  Yet, the massive significance of the idea in has not percolated into the scientific community. 

Could An Amazing Algorithm Have Stunning Control Over Your Mind?
This is what happens when an engineer researches the mind. Way back in 1989, the writer, an engineer, catalogued how the ELIMINATION approach of an AI Expert System could reveal a way by which the nervous system could store and retrieve astronomically large memories.  That historic insight is central to the six irresistible premises presented in this website. 

Behind the scenes, these premises conceal an eye-opening revelation.  About the incredible speed of intuition.  A physician is aware of thousands of diseases and their related symptoms.  How does he note a symptom and focus on a single disease in less than half a second?  How could he identify Disease X out of 8000 diseases with just a glance?  

First, the total born and learned knowledge available to the doctor could not exist anywhere other than as the stored/retrieved data within the 100 billion neurons in his brain.  The perceptions, sensations, feelings and physical activities of the doctor could only be enabled by the electrical impulses flowing through the axons of those neurons.  The data enabling that process could be stored as digital combinations.

Second, combinatorial decisions of neurons cannot be made by any entity other than the axon hillock, which decides the axonal output of each neuron.  The hillock receives hundreds of inputs from other neurons.  Each hillock makes the pivotal neuronal decision about received inputs within 5 milliseconds.  A
xon hillocks could be storing digital combinations.  It could be adding each new incoming digital combination to its memory store.  The hillock could fire impulses, if it matched a stored combination. If not, it could inhibit further impulses.  Using stored digital data to make decisions about incoming messages could make the axon hillocks intelligent.

Third, combinations are reported to enable a powerful coding mode for axon hillocks.  Olfactory combinatorial data is known (Nobel Prize 2004) to store memories for millions of smells.  Each one of 100 billion axon hillocks have around a 1000 links  to other neurons.  The hillocks can mathematically store more combinations than there are stars in the sky. Each new digital combination could be adding a new relationship link.  In this infinite store, specific axon hillocks could be storing all the symptom = disease (S=D) links known to the doctor as digital combinations.

Fourth, instant communication is possible in the nervous system.  Within five steps, information in one hillock can reach all other relevant neurons.  Just 20 Ms for global awareness.  Within the instant the doctor observes a symptom, 
feedback and feed forward links could inform every S=D link of the presence of the symptom. Only the S=D link of Disease X could be recalling the combination and recognizing the symptom.

Fifth, on not recognizing the symptom, all other S=D hillocks could be instantly inhibiting their impulses. The S=D links of Disease X could be continuing to fire. Those firing S=D link would be recalling past complaints, treatments and signs of Disease X, confirming the diagnosis.  This could be enabling axon hillocks to identify Disease X out of 8000 in milliseconds.  Eliminating improbable (unrecognized) prospects to arrive at a possible (recognized in the past) solution powers the powerful inductive logic of the mind!

Worldwide interest in this website acknowledges its rationale. Not metaphysical theories, but processing of digital memories in axon hillocks could be explaining innumerable mysteries of the mind.  Over three decades, this website has been assembling more and more evidence of the manipulation of emotional and physical behaviors by narrowly focused digital pattern recognition.  It has also received over 2 million page views from over 150 countries.

An Astonishing Link Between AI And The Fascinating Nature Of Your Mind
This hypothesis
is unique
in accounting for the striking speed of human intuition; 
in offering simple new routines to control the mind; in revealing insights into the future of AI.  Where does the mind store its treasure trove of knowledge?  How does it retrieve solutions to topical problems from this almost infinite store?  These proposed explanations have been gathering millions of page views from around the world.  The 1989 beginning of this exciting mission was a revealing insight from a Prolog AI Expert System.  The Expert System could diagnose one out of 8 diseases hinged on the user entering answers to a long string of questions.  In contrast, a doctor could identify a disease out of 8000, without questions, with just a glance.  This is an unconventional hypothesis.  The idea stems from a single "Aha!" moment. That happened when the Expert System flashed its light on a single brilliant algorithm, which could be the secret behind the ability of the mind to recognize and act on a perceived pattern in milliseconds.

The Prolog Expert System could diagnose 8 diseases, which shared 13 symptoms. It used an algorithm, a step by step procedure, for the diagnosis. Out of curiosity, I began testing an alternate algorithm in a spreadsheet.  Its first step was to SELECT all diseases WITH a particular symptom. Contrary to my plan, the algorithm would DELETE all diseases WITHOUT the symptom. That reverse was caused by a chance double twist in its "if/then" logic.

So, when I clicked "Yes" for one particular symptom to test the first step, the spreadsheet DELETED 7 out of the 8 diseases, leaving behind just one disease.  Surprise!  That disease was indicated by that symptom.  In just one leap, it had proffered the correct diagnosis. As with the doctor, it was a split second verdict!  The algorithm had ELIMINATED all diseases without the symptom.  Was selective elimination from a known list the trick used by nature for its intuitions?

Could elimination provide a faster search strategy?  Since elimination shortened the steps, a programmer coded for me a new, more ambitious Expert System.  Instead of 8 diseases, it dealt with 225 eye diseases.  Its algorithm eliminated both irrelevant diseases and their connected questions, for each answer.  The Expert System was presented to a panel of doctors. "It identified Angular Conjunctivitis, without asking a single stupid question," said a doctor. The Expert System was satisfactorily diagnosing all the eye diseases in the textbook!  The algorithm was an impressive AI tool!  The year 1989 catalogued the premises, set out in these pages, explaining how the algorithm could be enabling the mind of a doctor to achieve split second diagnosis.