Consciousness is an area of wide interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary research.

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2 Consciousness is an area of wide interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary research. It involves art, philosophy, psychology, computation, biology, and physics.


4 Note on the use of language Today, we will use the words consciousness and mind interchangeably.

5 What does consciousness mean? What sorts of things can be said to be conscious or to be capable of having conscious states (etc.)? Try to think of some examples of things that can have conscious states and things that do not.

6 Thomas Nagel Philosopher Thomas Nagel established a criterion for having consciousness. A thing of type X has consciousness if it makes sense to ask the question What is it like to be an X? or What does it feel like to be an X? It makes sense to ask What is it like to be a pig? but not What is it like to be a chair? The pig has consciousness but the chair does not.

7 Nagel developed this point in his essay What is it like to be a Bat? available in his book Mortal Questions

8 Qualia QUALIA (singular form: QUALE) comes from Latin, meaning What sort. Qualia are the subjective, qualitative or experiential aspects of consciousness. They are the ways things appear or feel like to us. For instance, when I eat a meal, there are the colors, the smells, the flavors, the textures, etc.

9 Interdisciplinary artists have explored how the material world affects human consciousness.

10 Artist Helen Calder s Qualia series explores what color feels like to human observers.

11 Calder used commercial pigment in colours translating roughly into the wavelength range nanometers, the lowest frequency of visible red to red/orange which gives the impression time is passing faster than it is. The physical world somehow affects our consciousness (our qualia) of color and time.


13 Different organisms need not experience the same qualia Many insects and birds can see ultraviolet radiation that is not visible to humans. Many flowers that those animals pollinate have ultraviolet colors that serve as nectar guides.


15 CONCLUSION Let us agree to say: Any X has consciousness if it makes sense to ask what it is like to be an X. What it is like to be an X involves the qualia that any X can experience. Let us now look at consciousness from another angle.

16 Consciousness has contents Another important feature of consciousness is that it involves acts and each act has contents. Fearing, hating, loving, imagining, seeing, hearing, desiring, believing, are acts of consciousness. An act of consciousness is about something. If we are afraid, for instance, we are often afraid of something, such as a lion or a snake. If we hate or miss, for instance, we normally hate or miss something, perhaps a relative. Our conscious states are normally about certain objects, such as lions, snakes, people, etc.

17 Something has a certain conscious state or act if it makes sense to ask what this state or act is about. If you are afraid, it makes sense to ask what you are afraid of. A table is not conscious. It has no conscious contents. It has no acts or states that are about anything. We now consider how artists have explored how consciousness relates to its contents.


19 A RESEARCH PROGRAM Many scientists and artists have researched the relationship between the physical world and our conscious experience.

20 Example: EXPERIMENTING WITH LUMINANCE Luminance (Value): Perceived lightness (how bright an average person takes a surface area to be).

21 COLOR AND LUMINANCE Monet, Impression: Sunrise (1872)

22 Grayscale rendering shows that the sun is the same luminance as the clouds that surround it.

23 ..the sun should be brighter than the sky, by a huge factor By making it exactly the same luminance as the sky, Monet achieves an eerie effect Margaret Livingstone, Vision and Art: The Biology of Seeing, p. 121.

24 ABSTRACT ART Modern abstract artists study not so much what we see but how we see. They choose not to represent real-world objects to focus instead on how the physical artwork interacts with consciousness. Consciousness is one of the main topics of modern art.

25 INTERACTION OF COLOR Josef Albers systematically studied the Interaction of Color.



28 Interaction of color Our perception of every color is affected by our perception of adjacent colors. Interaction effects can also be called contrast or surround effects. Our concern is the interaction of color; that is, seeing what happens between colors. Josef Albers


30 No color is conceived as what it actually is physically We never see a color singly, or by itself.. but only in relationship Josef Albers


32 This kind of artwork explores the relationship between physical stimuli and conscious experience. It resembles scientific research.

33 ALTERED STATES Many artists are interested in how physical equipment can produce altered (changed, special, not ordinary) states of consciousness. We now consider one example: the Dreamachine. We will first discuss the background research that inspired this art project.

34 In 1929, psychiatrist Hans Berger invented the electroencephalograph (EEG) machine, for measuring electrical activity in the brain motivated research on the brain s response to external stimuli. He wrote: it was possible to record the feeble electric currents generated on the brain, without opening the skull, and to depict them graphically onto a strip of paper

35 Neurophysiologist William Gray Walter used many very small electrodes attached to the scalp to identify abnormal electrical activity in regions of the brain around a tumor. He also studied the electrical brain activity associated with mental acts like perception.

36 W. Gray Walter invented the toposcope in 1957.

37 It had 22 cathode ray tubes (similar to a TV tube), each of them connected to a pair of electrodes attached to the skull. The electrodes (and their corresponding tubes) were arranged in a bidimensional geometrical array, such as that each tube was able to depict the intensity of the several rhythms which compose the EEG in a particular area of the brain (the frontal, parietal and occipital lobes, etc.). This array of CRT tubes, were photographed face up, so that a kind of phosphorescent spiral display showed simultaneously which kind of rhythm was present in a particular part of the brain.

38 Gray Welter popularized his research through his book The Living Brain Influenced by Gray s work, artists and researchers became interested in studying stroboscope effects on the human brain.

39 STROBOSCOPE EFFECTS A stroboscope or strobe is an instrument designed to make objects that move periodically (cyclically) appear to move slowly, or to remain stationary. The instrument can be controlled so that light flashes are emitted with a specific frequency

40 Gray Walter realized that stroboscopes could produce visual hallucinations, and wrote about them in The Living Brain. People sometimes experienced non-existing, changing colors and geometric designs. Walter quoted one poet s experiences: Lights like comets dangled before me, slow at first and then gaining a fury of speed and change, whirling colour into colour, angle into angle. They were all pure ultra unearthly colours, mental colours, not deep visual ones. There was no glow in them but only activity and revolution

41 A piece of physical equipment (a stroboscope) can produce altered (changed, special, not ordinary) states of consciousness. Visual sensations that do not match the external stimulus: colors, patterns, motions. Non-visual sensations: kinesthetic (spinning, jumping, vertigo, lightness); cutaneous (tingling, pricking); etc. Emotional experiences: confusion, fear, disgust, fatigue, pleasure, changing sense of time. Hallucinations, including complex narratives (an elderly woman dressed in rags, smelling badly, cooking some unsavory dish in the kitchen, etc.) Psychopathic states and epileptic seizures.

42 Literary writers can use their expertise to produce very precise descriptions of those special states of consciousness. Aldous Huxley described such hallucinations in The Doors of Perception, Heaven and Hell

43 William Grey Walter s work inspired many artists. The dreamachine (or dream machine) is a stroboscopic flicker device created by artists Brion Gysin and William Burroughs. It was influenced by Grey Walter s book The Living Brain.

44 The dreamachine is shaped as a cylinder. It has slits (holes) along the sides. It has an internal light source. It is placed on a rotating turntable. Light comes out of the holes at a constant frequency.


46 The device is mean to be experienced with one s eyes closed.

47 Light is emitted at a rate of between 8 and 13 pulses per second. This frequency range corresponds to alpha waves. These are normally present in the human brain during a relaxed state.

48 Brion Gysin was inspired by the experience of flickering light as he passed through a row of trees, which caused him to hallucinate: an overwhelming flood of intensely bright patterns in supernatural colours exploded behind my eyelids: a multi-dimensional kaleidoscope whirling out through space. The vision stopped abruptly when we left the trees.

49 Tonry Conrad, Paul Sharits, and other filmmakers interested in these effects created so-called Flicker films.


51 Clip from Tony Conrad s Flicker: Another artist who used flicker effects was Paul Sharits: O0

52 Peter Kubelka made the flicker film Arnulf Rainer (1960) using only white and black frames, organized according to a precise visual score.

53 Inspired by the Dreamachine, Hong Kong artist Kenny Wong developed his interactive installation 10 Hz.

54 Many artists have used abstract forms to explore different possibilities for conscious experience. Ulf Langheinrich 22&list=PL89A88EA3EE177BF2 ex=31&list=pl89a88ea3ee177bf2

55 Hong Kong artist Samson Young used brainwave sensors to generate sound through the act of listening. I am thinking in a room different from the one you are hearing in now (homage to Alvin Lucier) (2011)

56 For further study This very informative article contains more information about the dreammachine and other related projects:

57 These artistic activities can lead to theoretical research about consciousness. The systematical philosophical study of the different kinds of conscious acts is called phenomenology. For instance, phenomenology might ask about the difference between two different conscious acts, such as seeing and imagining.

58 Artistic work can make a contribution to the study of consciousness. For example, Kate Genevieve s No Place (2011). nessexpo/art

59 Some artists try to create new kinds of conscious acts by means of technology. Hong Kong artist Eric Siu is a key example.

60 Genevieve explores the question How does our consciousness feel that a place is real? The question concerns the nature of presence, the consciousness of being present at a place and of the relation between body and place.


62 CONCLUSION There is an important research program in both art and science that studies the interaction between the conscious mind and the philosophical world. This kind of work suggests some philosophical questions. We now consider the same topic from a philosophical perspective.


64 The main question An important feature of the modern world is the success of the physical sciences (especially physics, biology, and chemistry). The question arises: What is the place of consciousness in the physical world? Why is this a question?

65 Consciousness is (or seems to be) different from anything that exists in the material world. Modern philosophers like Rene Descartes argued that there is a distinction between matter an mind.

66 1. Material things Material things are extended (they occupy space). They have (e.g.) size and shape. Descartes believed that the material world is like a mechanical clock, composed of interacting, moving parts.

67 2. Mental things Mental things do not occupy space. Mind cannot be a part of the physical world. Anything in the material world must occupy space. The mind is not extended. It does not occupy space. Minds have non-physical properties like beliefs, desires, sensations, and emotions.

68 For instance, if we zoom into or enlarge a human brain, we cannot see any mind in it. It is just a physical or material object. There is no consciousness in there.

69 If it is true that mind and matter are essentially different, then we face two questions? 1. Is it possible to study the mind (consciousness) using the tools or methods of physical science? Do we need special methods for the study of mind?

70 Some philosophers and artists like Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoevsky deny that the mind can be studied by scientific means. From this standpoint, consciousness cannot be reduced to anything physical.

71 The great physicist Erwin Schrödinger ( ) denied that science could ever account for qualia (he did not use that word, though): The sensation of color cannot be accounted for by the physicist's objective picture of light-waves.

72 Philosopher David Chalmers believes that physical sciences cannot explain qualia.

73 Roger Penrose believes that to explain consciousness we need to use ideas from quantum physics.

74 Philosopher Daniel Dennett believes that a science of consciousness is possible.

75 Biologist Gerald Edelman argued that consciousness is a biological phenomenon, which can be understood with the tools of biological science. In particular, he used the theory of evolution proposed by Charles Darwin.

76 Edelman rejected dualism completely. only conventional physical processes are required for a satisfactory explanation of consciousness no dualism is allowed.

77 Recommended Edelman sources for independent study

78 2. Does the mind really interact with the material world, especially the body, and if so, how?

79 We can roughly say that the interaction of mind and body is two-way: (A) Consciousness receives inputs from the body (e.g., sense perception).

80 (B) The mind also sends instructions to the body so that (e.g.) it moves a piece of chess on a board. It seems, then, that there is two-way causal interaction between mind and body.

81 THE MIND IN A MATERIAL WORLD How can mind and matter interact if the mind is not a material thing in the physical world?

82 There are different philosophical theories about the place of mind in a physical world. 1. Mind and body interact but we do not yet know how it happens (dualist interactionism). 2. Mind and body do not interact at all but run in parallel (parallelism). 3. There is only one-way action (usually the body acts on the mind -- epiphenomenalism). 4. There is no material world (no matter: idealism). 5. There is no mental world (never mind: physicalism or materialism).

83 INTERACTIONISM Interactionism: The view that there is interaction (two-way causal action) between material and mental things. The material world affects the mind, and vice versa. The mind is different from the material world but interacts with it somehow.

84 Philosopher Rene Descartes believed in interactionism.

85 A problem with interactionism is that it is very difficult to explain how the mind interacts with the body if the mind is not part of the material world. How can something non-material (the mind) affect something material (the body)?

86 PARALLELISM This theory argues that mind and matter do not interact with one another. Many human beings believe that mind and body interact, but this belief is an illusion. Mind and the material world are, or have been, synchronized by God: Pre-established harmony Occasionalism (Malebranche)

87 According to philosopher Nicolas Malebranche, whenever there is a need for mind and body to interact, God intervenes. For instance, if our body suffers an injury, God makes us feel pain. Without God s intervention, there could be no possible mindbody interaction.

88 Ideas of parallelism were defended in the philosophy of the Islamic world, for instance: Abū Ḥāmid Muḥammad ibn Muḥammad al- ابو حامد محمد Ghazālī ابو حامد محمد ابن محمد غزالی (c )

89 Epiphenomenalism This theory claims that there is only one-way interaction between body and mind. Physical states cause mental states. But mental states have no impact on our bodies (e.g., our behavior). The freedom of the mind is an illusion. The mind has no effect on the world. Conscious states are only a by-product of body processes (e.g., neural events).

90 Some evidence for epiphenomenalism is from neuroscience. Conscious experience is caused by nonconscious brain processing. This data has sometimes been taken to suggest that people are ready for action before they consciously decide to take action. Our consciousness perhaps is determined by our physical bodies.

91 Reference: Daniel Wegner, The Illusion of Conscious Will.

92 Idealism (idealist monism) According to this kind of theory, everything is mental. There are only ideas. Matter itself is a mental idea. Berkeley s idealism: Only what is perceived exists. There is nothing apart from perception. Mental and material things are all perceptions in the mind of God.

93 Berkeley: Esse est percipi ( To be is to be perceived ) This idea inspired the movie Film, written by Samuel Beckett.

94 Physicalism or materialism According to this kind of theory, there is only the material or physical world. Some versions argue that there is no mind, only matter. In some versions, there is mind, but it can be explained in material terms (Epiphenomenalism could perhaps go here). All of these views affirm that consciousness can be studied with the methods of physical or natural science. There are several physicalisms: Behaviorism Functionalism Eliminativism And others

95 Recommended book of short essays and stories about consciousness

96 We will now view a section of episode one of this BBC series, presented by neuroscientist Dr. Susan Greenfield. This program defends a materialist approach to consciousness. Class screening

97 Other scientists reject this point of view. They believe that the mind cannot be reduced to the brain.

98 Biologist Francisco Varela believed that the best approach to the study of consciousness combines modern science with philosophy (phenomenology) and Buddhism. He believes in the combination of Western science and philosophy with Asian philosopy. Pictur:

99 The question of the place of consciousness in the physical world is a difficult question that requires a strong interdisciplinary approach combining sciences, philosophy, and perhaps also art.

100 Many artists are interested in the question of the relationship between consciousness and the material world. One example is Australian performance artist STELARC.

101 STELARC endorses materialism. In his view, there is no consciousness over and above the material body. The mind does not control the body like the captain of a ship. We often move our bodies without thinking, like a mindless zombie.

102 Combination of voluntary and involuntary motions. Involuntary motions are those not controlled or planned by the mind. In live performance, the arms are moved by several channels of muscle stimulation.

103 External Agency Stelarc s internet performances explore the idea of the body not controlled by the person s mind. The body is taken over by an external agents (internet users can control his body remotely).


105 Networked body Dense connectivity of multiple bodies and technologies. Responsibility for action is distributed among different people, not one single individual mind.

106 Stelarc was inspired by philosophical debates about the relationship between consciousness and the physical world. Consciousness no longer controls the body. We now turn to another question, whether or not machines can think.


108 The question of whether machines can think or not is often raised in science-fiction films.




112 Mathematician and computer scientist Alan Turing addressed the question of machine intelligence.

113 The question whether machines can think is difficult to answer. The word thinking has no precise definition. There are too many emotional and religious biases that cloud the issue. Many people think only humans can think.

114 Turing published an essay in 1950 in the philosophical journal Mind. Turing does not attempt to answer this question can machines think? directly. Replaces it with a more precise question. The new question takes the form of a game, called The Imitation Game.

115 I propose to investigate the question as to whether it is possible for machines to show intelligent behavior. Alan Turing

116 The original imitation game Played with three people, a man, a woman, and an examiner (of either sex) who stays in a different room. The examiner must determine which of the other two players is a man and which is a woman. The examiner may put questions to either one without seeing or hearing them. The woman has the objective of helping the examiner. The other player (male) must fool the examiner into thinking that he is a woman.

117 Turing s version of the game (The Turing Test) The examiner is connected to one person and one machine via some terminal. The examiner cannot see/hear either player. The examiner must ask them questions to find out which of the two candidates is a machine.

118 Instead of asking Can a machine think? We now ask, Can a machine beat a human examiner in the imitation game? Turing suggested that if a machine can pass the test about 70% of the time after a conversation of five minutes, we may say that the machine can think.

119 Can we design a Turing machine capable of performing well in the imitation game?

120 Turing NEVER attempts to define thinking. He simply gives a practical criterion to decide whether or not something can be said to think.

121 Eliza is a computer simulation of a psychotherapist. 1/Eliza.htm

122 Emily Short s classic interactive fiction game Galatea (2000) features a conversation with a fictional Non Player Character (NPC). The game is not meant to pass the Turing test, but it suggests the kind of art project that might perhaps pass the test. a.zblorb

123 In 1991 Hugh Loebner started the Loebner Prize competition, offering a $100,000 prize to the author of the first computer program to pass an unrestricted Turing test.

124 Stanley Kubrick s film 2001: A Space Odyssey depicts a computer that could clearly pass the Turing test.


126 Ridley Scott s film Blade Runner included a different interview-based test for androids.

127 Turing believed that the possibility of a thinking machine should not be ruled out.

128 One objection A machine can only do what we command it to do. Therefore it cannot create anything new and unforeseen. This objection was expressed by Ada Lovelace in the 19 th century.

129 Turing s response: It is true that we currently use computers only to achieve the tasks that we have set for them: E.g., to compute a number. But things might change in the future. It is possible that the humans themselves can write a program without knowing the consequences of the program. The computing machine might then produce something new and unforeseen, even suggest new thoughts to us. How?

130 One possibility is to include randomness in the program. Another possibility is to design a program so complex that, even if we understand each step, we cannot predict its consequences. We are now also able to write programs that can in some ways learn.

131 Programming a computing device might perhaps resemble the process of teaching a child.

132 Turing could not describe what such programs would be like, though. He believed that future research is needed in this area (Artificial Intelligence). The effort to produce thinking machines will teach us a great deal about how we humans think. I believe that the attempt to make a thinking machine will help us greatly in finding out how we think ourselves.

133 A challenge to the Turing Test was the Chinese Room thought experiment proposed by philosopher John Searle.

134 Imagine someone inside a room. The person has never learnt Chinese. The person has a rulebook to detect and produce Chinese symbols.

135 The room can perform well in the imitation game even though the person does not understand the content. Can we say that the person in the Chinese room, or the Chinese room itself, is conscious or that it has a mind? Searle s answer is NO.

136 Being able to read and write symbols is not enough for intelligence. We also need to understand the content of those symbols.

137 Computational models of consciousness are not sufficient by themselves for consciousness... Nobody supposes that the computational model of rainstorms in London will leave us all wet. But they make the mistake of supposing that the computational model of consciousness is somehow conscious. John Searle

138 The debate around this topic is ongoing. This could be a good subject for a research paper. Whether we agree with Searle s criticism or not, there is still value in thinking about Turing s challenge: Can we program computers to do something new and unexpected, which might resemble human thinking?

139 Conclusion The study of the interaction between the physical world (especially the body) and consciousness is an important area of research for artists and scientists. It also raises difficult philosophical questions that are still being debated. A related question concerns whether or not a machine is capable of thinking. It is one of the major current areas for interdisciplinary work in art and science.