New Paradigms of Information Age New Age (Integral) Philosophy Foundation Integrity Paradigm


The Conscious Continuum
Replacing the Turing Test
by James N. Rose

Original paper at
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Consciousness in the context of "evolution theory".

The concept "evolving consciousness" carries with it a very specific interpretation of the extancy of consciousness and its temporal progression. We could assume that our reference is restricted to human conscious experience alone and its mechanisms. But in that instance the word "evolving" would be moot. A better term in that case would be: "maturing"; as in: changes and improved capacities occurring during the development from nascent fetus to immature infant to mature adult.

"Evolving" however clearly indicates the presence of self-ordered consciousness in limited and then more complex forms - enacted via the changing neuro-biology of arising species. The premise not only allows us to focus on the mechanisms of consciousness within given specie-lifeforms, but to also examine relationships and dynamics indicative of the presence of consciousness as shared among diverse and distinctive species. To do this in turn means we must have a very clear understanding of how evolution occurs - the conditions and criteria that produce the somatic changes. The traditional simplistic version is insufficient.


What these considerations of holistic interacting hierarchic behavioral mechanisms are unswervingly herding us toward is a type of rational pan-psychism, because we can eventually delineate all ordered activities as behaviors. We are not just limited to the presence of differential consciousness in different species of hominid, because we can reasonably extend "consciously coherent behavior" to other life forms and systems as well[2]. We are permitted this latitude in part because it is the criteria currently relied upon in the Turing Test[3] for Artificial Intelligence systems. That being, a system's ability to "simulate" natural responses to encounters, without displaying a rigidly limited response repertoire, which would be indicative of artificially fixed "programming".

Consciousness thus takes on the category characteristics of a general process, comparable with the process "transportation". We do not start with airplane flight and describe it as valid transportation, then exclude walking because it doesn't include the mechanisms involved with flight. Instead we recognize that several different mechanisms enact "transport", beginning with simpler forms and culminating with state-of-the-art forms (while acknowledging future evolution to come).

Two kinds of emergence: Fractal and Environmental

Another consideration involved here is the idea of emergence, a concept developed from fractal mathematics which has recently been applied to explain the arising of human consciousness. Patterns and relationships which were not present or apparent or expressed (because of lack of sufficient prior components of interaction) are said to emerge unpredictably out of a prior set of phenomena. In this context, all that we experience as human consciousness might well fit into this category as something totally new, that was previously unknown on the face of the earth prior to the evolution of our somatic biology and metabolism.

The idea is intriguing and possible, but not quite accurate, since the undercurrent relationships are much more intricate. Biological adaptive evolutionary "emergence" is quite different from "emergence" as defined by the new science of Complexity. Complexity suggests that totally new relationships and dynamics arise that are unknown and unpredictable from any given originating base-level of organization. For example, examining and detailing electro-magnetism, did not spontaneously enable us to predict the social implications of micro-wave ovens on family values or personal life-styles, let alone that such things even "emerge" from enacted electromagnetism. Biological "emergence" - in the evolutionary sense - is otherwise driven by and conditional with specific external parameters, and even in the minimal sense, by random mutations which must blend with external conditions in order to remain viably pro-productive. Mathematical 'emergence' is driven solely by internal parameters, biological 'emergence' is not.

Collaterally, Science's current criteria of "prediction" for proving the "validity" of a theory or hypothesis may have to be altered slightly, since we must find a way of melding adaptive-emergence with complex-emergence. We may even have to switch labels and re-think what's really involved in both. Biological "emergence" involves several hierarchic of organization in a complex milieu. Complexity "emergence", on the other hand, results from intricate re-organizations within a single assembly level or mathematical space. Biological environmental emergence is complex, whereas Complexity's emergence is comparatively simple.

I make this comparison to help make clear the underlying relationships involved when we discuss "evolving consciousness", or the more dualistic phrasing: "consciousness in the context of evolution". Some of us perceive human sentience as a totally-new quality of existence, emerging unpredictably from anything previously extant -- supported philosophically by the mathematics of Complexity. Others sense (and seek to prove by other mathematical/empirical examples/relationships) that consciousness is more than the result of an assemblage of self-relevant structures; that it is part of the innateness of existence; that it is expressed in many different forms by various organizations and hierarchic assemblies where a given organization will express a capacity or not based upon internal potential and the environment it is in, which impacts the innate organization. One such schemata is the Integrity Paradigm[2].

According to standard Complexity, "emergence" is driven solely by internal organization - even though the internal organization cannot predict what it will produce, while according to Integrity, "emergence" depends upon contiguous interactions with forces external to a system; adaptation being a correlation of all relevant factors and potentials - internal to and external to an Integral system, where results can be potentially inferred, whether or not they get enacted.

But importantly, in both cases, there is connection. That which precedes generates what proceeds. There is temporal evolution if nothing else. So, in the most absolute sense, whether previously nascent or totally new, consciousness is a behavior that has a foundational history from which it evolved. Comparing the weight of information included by both schemas, the scale is rationally tipped in favor of conscious being an integrated type of emergence. This is not meant to infer that only biological systems are conscious. Quite the contrary. Darwinian Fitness didn't suddenly emerge, it blossomed. What does that denote to us? It tells us that the ability to survive and endure in an environment requires that a coherent system or organism be integrated enough with its surroundings to encounter and interact and endure and be able to continue its "behaviors" - no matter what those may be. Now, there is no restriction in this description which limits it to only complex systems, to only biological systems, to only living systems, or only "spiritually endowed conscious" systems. We now must consider that inorganic and organic systems have more functional similarities than differences.    Holistic organization and behavior being the innate characteristic of all dynamic systems in the universe. All systems to one degree or another exhibit qualia.


Integrity Paradigm & Evolving Consciousness

The Integrity Paradigm poses the thesis that a Theory of Everything and a Theory of Consciousness can be combined under the umbrella appellation, Theory of Behaviors ... how extant systems carry out their integral existences in relationship with the rest of the universe. Whether with a large capacity to retain and process information relative to self, or a small capacity.

All systems that are in any way coherent, must have self-referencing capacities and else-referencing capacities. To be totally buffered from existential interaction is quite another type of existence that for all practical purposes has no meaning or presence in our dynamic temporal universe. {There are ramifications which make such states of being compatible with our own, but that aspect is for another venue of discussion.} The essence is that continuation over any temporal duration (including multiple or singular quantum moments) requires that internal parameters enact presence because of, and through, a coordination of those parameters. This is internal integration...the production/expression of stable processes of temporally continuity.[2,5]

Externally, environmental parameters also present positive, negative and neutral pressures on the Integrity of systems and affect continuance. All coherent systems are thus susceptible to internal and to external, to self and to else. Under this paradigm, enacting coherence is consciousness.... regardless of form. Even Orchestrated Objective Reduction[6].

Human self-sentience can thereby be philosophically considered as an evolutionarily developed form of consciousness, "emerging" via adaptive somatic progressions across millennia the same way that a full floral blossom "emerges" from its budform. We can thus explore all the nuances of consciousness in whatever ways we wish, or know to explore: its electromagnetic components, its quantum behavioral components, its transduction components, rates, locations, degree of interconnection requisite to qualify an assembly as capable of enacting a new level of coherence, etc. We can evaluate consciousness-events from the integral-extant's point of view, or from an internal sub-hierarchy of structure, or from an external related-hierarchy, or from an external independent platform. In any ways, the players will remain the same. Only the examining perceptual platform will change. But we will no longer be hampered by the Unicorn called "the hard problem". Presence will be synonymous with enaction, form with function, being with process. Plural aspects of singular extancies.

Can the Turing Test be used for Evolving Consciousness

The Turing Test is a nominal approximation for evaluating human consciousness, not consciousness in general; and, it only works within specific language restrictions....a case which is biased and pre-ordained to champion old AI conjectures. If you as a speaker of the English language sat at a console, communicating with a "sentience" and only got back graphic combinations of Cyrillic and Cantonese and Arabic symbols, could you gauge that the sentience was an articulate poly-lingual person making wonderful cross cultural humor, or, responding to your "scientific" questions with poetic imagery? Or would you conclude that neither machine nor human consciousness were present here other than your own, because it was all gibberish to you?

The Turing Test does not evaluate "consciousness".   It only tests how low or high, how simple or involved, our standards are for our current incomplete perception of what human consciousness is. If we see ourselves as stimulus-response entities with a certain level of competence and access to or capacity to retain some certain amount of information about our world, then that's the level of behavior we will say is sufficient for our machines to be "humanly sentient" and qualify as "conscious.

Another problem is that the Turing Test only deals with reaction and fails to include enaction as an evaluative standard. One of the over-looked but more crucial aspects of biological "consciousness" is that sentient systems tend to seek out information; place themselves in (or at minimum, "thrive in") situations where energy and/or information is constantly being, oxygenation, stimulation ... in order to maintain functionality and to constantly assess self in relation to environment, and vice versa. Fueled by solar radiation and energy, life forms become more complex not just because the solar energy driven entropy gradient forces energy to park or become stored in available molecular configurations, but because those potential configurations are available as information/energy sinks. Increasing complexity improves and enlarges eigenstate potential. As Shannon[7] indicated, the more intricate a system the less vulnerable it is to disruptive perturbation. Stability is improved by increasing information capacity (reduced entropic disorder), which is a dynamic quite in opposition to the conventional view that stability improves with increasing entropy. These new differential considerations lead us to re-posing the test for consciousness and qualia.

The Rose Test for Qualia

With all due respect to Alan Turing and his "test" which has become the conventional criteria for explorations into consciousness and machine intelligence, I think it is time to replace it. The ability to respond and report conversantly in a random "un-machine like" way is not the behavior which will signify the presence or absence of "consciousness".   "Consciousness" is a self-reflective process.  It is intimately connected with information accepted from the environment (such as being asked a question or encountering an instruction code or interacting in an event), but, the primary quality is the "self" referencing, and only afterwards, residual functioning towards the environment. (For the moment, I am holding considerations of internal QM processes aside; as present, but not grossly affecting the hierarchy in question.) As representative "conscious" systems we are constantly taking in and evaluating information even as we are engaged in processing and producing others. The feedback is continuous and pervasive, not linear and alternating. Therefore, the Rose Test for Consciousness or Qualia is:

Can a system be constantly open to information input and adjust its own behaviors and activities to conform with changing conditions ... internal and external to itself?
This embraces the Turing Test, and goes beyond. It is the most basic criteria for all forms of consciousness and qualia no matter how evolved or intricate. It includes "reporting", if reporting is your standard. It includes adaptiveness, if adaptation is your criteria. It includes mechanism, if presence of process is your criteria. It includes pan-psychism, if holism is your perception. It includes hierarchies, since complexity is neither a limitation or requirement. It was devised to include all conditional, behavioral and relational criteria - known and potential.

Now, having put forward the framing concept, it is important to set forth specific new evaluative criteria which address the broad spectrum of considered qualities. They systematically embrace any extant's "self functionalism" as well as exteriorly placed observations of emanating activities which might indicate the potential presence of "consciousness".

The Empirical Questions.

1) What information/energy ranges are the structures of a system capable of interacting with? What information/energy is it sensitive to?

2) What and how many hierarchic levels does a system contain? What are the capabilities or limitations of each level? Does one level (even an internal one) dominate the overall behavior of the group (possibly taking precedence over a higher "emergent" level)?

3) Is a system in its "best" environment? (including sub-assemblies)

4) What are a system's overall capabilities or limitations vis a vis information transduction and coding? .. relative to internal and external environments?

5) Are there time constraints which frame behaviors and activities? (I.e., are 'reaction times' a criteria? especially for a system in situ?)

6) Is the information being processed and/or stored salient to the survival of the structure and functioning of the system itself? That is, can a system handle standard extraneous "irrelevant-to-self" data storage, as well as process (in real time) self-relevant information such as component statuses and functioning, and, can the system effectively respond to both information groups?

6.1) what percentage of a system's operations are for structure maintenance versus the portion used to interact with external dynamics? For example, what portion of a microchip's energy goes to maintaining its form, versus the energy involved storing extraneous "data"?
7) Does the system generate new agendas?
i) physical
ii) relational
7.2) questions
...Does it ongoingly reorganize data and then test those reorganizations by initiating new encounters with its environment (to gather new data for future evaluation and comparation)?
(7.2) is an excellent criteria for developing definition distinctions between AI and natural organic consciousness. Several other factors will probably be needed to make an acceptable delineation. Yet, this will be an important step towards surmounting the problem of whether thisis consciousness, or that is consciousness, and for mapping out distinct types and forms of consciousness.
7.3) Does the system seek energy/information?
Does it act as a heat-sink for information? That is, does it contain enough empty internal eigenstates capable of holding relational information, and therefore accumulate information by enacting a neg-entropy gradient vis a vis the external environment?
And now, what I think might be the most salient interrogative, because I think it captures the essence of what we perceive as the most important quality of our own "consciousness" (no matter how we exactify or define that consciousness).
8) Given standardized circumstances, problems or information to encounter, do "identical" representatives of a system behave significantly differently from other representatives?

....Do outputs and/or responses display statistical variability among the membership of a system (while hovering in the region of some "norm"), or are reactions rigidly fixed and identical? Or, are they so extreme as to qualify for novelty or difference (that might distinguish a new species, family, class, etc.)?

(8) is free-will, non-computable behavior, QM probability, creativity, adaptability, function-range with the capacity to reach (let alone establish) new stability nodes "far from equilibrium", innate capacity to display "emergence" (as conditions develop or warrant, etc).

Trans-evolutionary Consciousness.

The Integrity of a system is enactment of its integrated consciousness. It is intimately dependent on a constructive ability to elastically accommodate circumstances and then restore some maximum possible state-interaction potential (original or new) .

Mechanisms for this include (but are not limited to):
1) quantum superposition
2) metabolic loop cycles
3) Boolean Gate states (e.g.: stereo-configurations of given molecules)
4) Zadeh Logic weighting within and across hierarchies
It all comes down to: Available eigenstates which a system can enact and use vis a vis self-maintenance within an environment of continuous interactions.

Dynamic stability - Integrity - is not maximized solely at an original stasis nor fixedly attained at some new stasis plateau far from the original. It is a range which allows for maximum interaction potential within environments. Preparative poise. It is "potentiality", improved via evolutionary advancements. Consciousness has indeed evolved. But with the connotation that it blossomed from nascent forms of expression. Enacted across all durational spans: momentary events, life-spans, generations, millennia, geological eons, cosmological existence.