Here’s something you don’t hear every day: two theories of consciousness are about to face off in the scientific fight of the century.
Backed by top neuroscientist theorists of today, including Christof Koch, head of the formidable Allen Institute for Brain Research in Seattle, Washington, the fight hopes to put two rival ideas of consciousness to the test in a $20 million project. Briefly, volunteers will have their brain activity scanned while performing a series of cleverly-designed tasks targeted to suss out the brain’s physical origin of conscious thought.
The [Global Workspace Theory] describes an almost algorithmic view. Conscious behavior arises when we can integrate and segregate information from multiple input sources—for example, eyes, ears, or internal ruminations—and combine it into a piece of data in a global workspace within the brain.
[The Integrated Information Theory], in contrast, takes a more globalist view. Consciousness arises from the measurable, intrinsic interconnectedness of brain networks. Under the right architecture and connective features, consciousness emerges. Unlike the GWT, which begins with understanding what the brain does to create consciousness, IIT begins with the awareness of experience—even if it’s just an experience of self rather than something external.
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