Can mathematics describe consciousness?

5개월 전

The Mind - Source: Pexels

The mathematician Eugene Wigner introduced the idea of the unreasonable effectiveness of mathematics which says mathematics can be effective at modelling things that should be difficult. For example, maths can be used for monitoring planetary movements and collisions billions of miles away or sub-atomic particle interactions. Wigner said that Newtonian physics was so mathematically simple yet it has proven to be a very accurate estimation of reality to the extent that only in recent times have physicists started to challenge it and introduce more complex models.

The New Scientist reports how mathematicians are now making progress in mapping that which has eluded many for centuries. For example, Johannes Kleiner's podcast explains his approach for attempting to map consciousness using mathematical models.

Philosophers have tried to describe consciousness for thousands of years but more recently biologists started getting involved as we were able to understand the brain better. The biologists discovered a correlation between signals in certain groups of brain cells and with our experiences. These are known as qualia. However, biologists haven't got any further than this and there is no explanation about how these experiences translated into consciousness.

Mathematicians at the University of Oxford have started mapping consciousness using Integrated Information Theory (IIT) which was a theory of consciousness described by Giulio Tonomi in 2004. The model explains how information moves between islands of neurons. In mathematical terms, these islands can be explained at subsystems.

The IIT model has a measure of Phi where High Phi should a high degree of interconnectedness and the model shows that this would the case in biological structures such as the cerebral cortex that. This, therefore, seems to hold up as damage to the cerebral cortex is going to damage our consciousness.

However, there are some really interesting repercussions of the mathematical models of IIT that have been created so far. One of the consequences is that inanimate objects may have a degree of consciousnesses. In fact, particles may have a very small amount of consciousnesses and the universe as a whole would too.

Philosophers call this viewpoint Panpsychism and it has been debated for years. This viewpoint does not mean particles have consciousness in a similar way to ourselves but it does mean that they would have some very minor form of it.

These mathematical models may challenge the beliefs of those who have metaphysical and theological viewpoints. So what do you think? Can we every describe consciousnesses in mathematical terms? Or is consciousness beyond the grasp of human understanding?

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Some believe the subconcious mind control us more than our concious. Conciousness is a surface of subconcious mind. Math is in the area of concious mind. To describe everything with Math term? I am not sure about it.


It does seem far fetched in many ways but perhaps a simple model can approximate well enough.

That reminds me of the Foundation series of Asimov:

in the waning days of a future Galactic Empire, the mathematician Hari Seldon spends his life developing a theory of psychohistory, a new and effective mathematical sociology. Using statistical laws of mass action, it can predict the future of large populations.

Fiction often becomes reality...


Hi @deathcross

It does sound like that. Fiction becomes the guide for the future reality.


Foundation series
The Foundation series is a science fiction book series written by American author Isaac Asimov. First collected in 1951, for thirty years the series was a trilogy: Foundation, Foundation and Empire, and Second Foundation. It won the one-time Hugo Award for "Best All-Time Series" in 1966. Asimov began adding new volumes in 1981, with two sequels: Foundation's Edge and Foundation and Earth, and two prequels: Prelude to Foundation and Forward the Foundation.

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Consciousness in mathematical terms sounds funny, but until we get an outcome we cannot really say if it is true or not.


It does say strange. I expect they may come with a model that makes sense but is not the full picture. That would be similar to Newton's models. They worked for centries before we learnt that they weren't fully accurate but just very good approximations.

@awah nobody can predict the future. Our mind is very powerful if we can control our mind then it is possible.

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