“an organism must have a comparatively gross structure in order to enjoy the benefit of fairly accurate laws” Erwin Schrödinger
"The laws of physics and physical chemistry are inaccurate within a probable relative error of the order of 1/ √ n, where n is the number of molecules that co-operate to bring about that law –to produce its validity within such regions of space or time (or both) that matter, for some considerations or for some particular experiment. You see from this again that an organism must have a comparatively gross structure in order to enjoy the benefit of fairly accurate laws, both for its internal life and for its interplay with the external world. For otherwise the number of co-operating particles would be too small, the ‘law’ too inaccurate. The particularly exigent demand is the square root. For though a million is a reasonably large number, an accuracy of just 1 in 1,000 is not overwhelmingly good, if a thing claims the dignity of being a ‘Law of Nature’." What is Life? Erwin Schrödinger 1944
The cognitive task of all biological organisms is the maintenance of internal homeostasis within a physical environment of increasing entropy evolving in time that is a mixture of predicted, unpredicted and unpredictable random processes. As elements of a species organisms also have the cognitive task of adaptation to social homeostasis and the facilitation of reproduction within a social environment evolving in time that is a mixture of predicted, unpredicted and unpredictable processes.
A. Interoceptive cognition is the expression of the organism’s processing of predicted percepts in the body. It is the parallel processing of expected visceral processes acting with implicit memory. Interoceptive cognition is unconscious although it is experienced by interoceptive consciousness proprioceptively.
B. Interoceptive consciousness is adaptation to unpredicted percepts in the body. It is awareness of unexpected homeodynamically evaluated visceral percepts, inferential factoring of the percepts in the Baysian networks between working memory and dynamic implicit memory, prediction, action and learning from reaction. Interoceptive consciousness is active when a physiological imbalance determines that a change in cognitive attention is required in order to maintain homeostasis.
C. Exteroceptive cognition is the expression of an organism’s processing of predicted percepts in the environment. It is the parallel processing of sensory and motor reactions with an embodied syntax of learned procedural memories within implicit memory. Exteroceptive cognition is unconscious although it is experienced by exteroceptive consciousness proprioceptively.
D. Exteroceptive consciousness is the adaptation to uncertainty and increasing entropy in the environment. It is awareness of unexpected homeodynamically evaluated percepts, inferential factoring of the percepts in the Bayesian memory networks, prediction, action and learning from reaction. Exteroceptive consciousness is active when a homeodynamic evaluation of percepts determines that a change in cognitive attention is required in order to maintain homeostasis.
D. Social consciousness is individual adaptation to the species adaptations to increasing entropy. It is the cognition of socially modified adaptive behavior that requires communication or cooperation between individuals at any level. It is awareness of unexpected homeodynamically evaluated social percepts, inferential factoring of the percepts in the Baysian memory networks, prediction, action and learning from reaction. It is driven by the emotional response to immediate or potential social disruption of homeostasis or a hormonally induced homeodynamic imbalance in the organism naturally selected to provoke and reward instinctual procreative, parental and subsistence co-behavior. Social consciousness is active when emotion determines that a change in cognitive attention is required in order to maintain social homeostasis.
Ontogeny of cognition
The precursor of working memory and implicit memory develop in utero in the inferential relationship that is the origin of both sleep and cognition. The fetal working memory factors unpredicted percepts of interoception with fixed implicit memory, the instantiated regularities of genetic information that guides natal development. This creates new dynamic implicit memories of the physiological processes of the homeostatic self.
As the organism grows and is exposed to exteroceptive percepts the accumulated prediction errors of sensory and motor inferential process in working memory are used in slow wave and REM sleep networks to inferentially consolidate associations and instantiate updated patterns of regularities of an embodied syntax of adaptive procedural memories into dynamic implicit memory. In organisms with extended consciousness this is subjectively experienced as dreaming; a self disoriented in place and time (because there is no external sensory input) within a virtual reality of re-consolidating memories.
Primary consciousness is initiated upon waking by synchronizing exteroceptive sensory and motor inferential process with the Bayesian networks between working memory and dynamic implicit memory. That facilitates the potential to simultaneously react to predicted percepts with unconscious embodied syntax and unpredicted percepts with working memory factored with dynamic implicit memory before initiating predictions and actions in the environment. Immediate feedback from actions in the environment effectively enables real time learning and adaptation within working memory. In organisms with extended consciousness that synthesis is subjectively experienced as a self acting within a virtual reality of memory but oriented to place and time with the serial ability remember past scenarios or to attend and act on sensory input.
Learning occurs at two levels; in conscious working memory from ongoing predictive inference with the environment and in unconscious implicit memory from inferential consolidation of prediction errors in sleep.
Consciousness is memory (priors) factored with awareness (likelihoods) within homeodynamically evaluated self processes. Memory disengaged from awareness does not integrate self processes with the body or environment and offers no adaptive advantage by itself. Awareness disengaged from memory isolates self processes in the eternal present and denies it the advantage of learned responses.
Animal primary consciousness is awareness of unpredicted interoceptive, exteroceptive and social percepts factored with implicit memories of predicted interoceptive, exteroceptive and social experience. Primary consciousness serves to promote and maintain homeostasis within the individual and the species by channeling evaluated unpredicted percepts with possible threats to homeostasis into the Bayesian networks of memory to be factored with learned responses from prior experiences. That forms predictions of optimal actions. Predictions are enacted and feedback from actions is cycled through evaluation to learn from feedback. All of those processes require the transmission of information over time. Primary consciousness mediates uncertainty by using an internal virtual reality of learned adaptive memories to improve responses to unpredicted threats.
Human social consciousness is animal consciousness integrated and extended into a narrative self process created with socially constructed language. Extended consciousness improves the individual's adaptation by channeling an individual’s awareness of unpredicted percepts into a 100,000 year old shared virtual linguistic reality of constantly updating adaptive memories. Shared cultural narratives of trusted predictions become instantiated and embodied in the manufacture and use of tools so parallel processing of predicted percepts for the individual is offloaded within technology. This frees up the individual’s cognitive resources to be in a constant cooperative and corrective cycle with their culture and that enables the chain of reciprocal learning that improves individual adaptation and reduces entropy within the species.
Schrödinger, E. (1944). What Is Life. Cambridge University Press.
Smolin, L. (2014). Time Reborn: from the crisis of physics to the future of the universe. Penguin Books.
Wiener, N. (1950). The Human Use of Human Beings. Houghton Mifflin.
Also influenced by the theories of Terrence Deacon, Daniel Dennett, Gerald Edelman, J. Allan Hobson, Stuart Kauffman, Lynn Margulis, Nicholas Schiff, Michael Tomasello, Zoltan Torey and E. O. Wilson.
If homeostasis is the distributed organizing principle of organic bodies and entropy is reduced in an environment of increasing entropy by a process that can be modeled by Bayesian statistical inference then how is Bayesian information communicated and homeostasis coordinated across the whole body? Is that done by the synchronized oscillations of electromagnetic fields?
If the properties of quantum fields are the causal locus of non-organic macro-states do thermodynamic organic macro-states create their own emergent causal locus?
Is time just our subjective experience of the second law of thermodynamics, the non-equilibrium probabilistic evolution of free energy to a generally higher entropy state from the perspective of a relatively low entropy open system in contravention of that evolution?