The goal of this project is to collaboratively develop concise descriptions of the viable theories of consciousness, and to quantitatively measure the acceptance of these theories by experts in the field of consciousness studies.
Could we be on the precipice of a scientific revolution? Before Einstein, the scientific consensus was for Newton's theory that F = M * A. Einstein was the first in a camp that argued that F was more than M * A, especially at high speeds. A few leading thinkers joined Einstein's camp, arguing for this revolutionary theory. Ultimately, the rest of the herd was forced to convert to this camp with the sheepdogs of scientific evidence nipping at their heels. This is the way science works. Science is not about flashes of insight, but rather, about consensus-building, with fringe ideas either working their way into acceptance, or falling by the wayside as they are falsified. We could be about to witness a dramatic world changing scientific revolution where almost everyone is finally convinced, by new scientific evidence, to accept a single best theory of consciousness.
We've only recently gained some initial abilities to observe and play with the neural correlates of consciousness. Examples include artificial eyes and cochleae that directly interface with the brain. The lack of experimental abilities in the past has created the perception that there is no consensus over consciousness, because without experimentation, we move away from the realm of science, and into philosophy. There is every reason to expect that new experimental technology will significantly weed out many unsupported theories.
Rigorously measuring consensus has been problematic, especially where scientific rigor is intermingled with spiritual beliefs. But we believe that by using modern, properly configured social networking, wiki, and crowdsourcing tools, it is now much easier to collaboratively develop concise descriptions of the best supported theories, and to quantitatively measure which ones have the most support. We can also prevent confusion though standardizing terminologies by consensus. This is precisely what we are pursuing at canonizer.com. As of Oct 3, 2018, there is already a concise and quantitative representation survey of what approximately 50 experts in the field believe, including Lehar, Chalmers, Smythies, Hameroff, Dennett, and Edwards. The initial leading consensus camp is the Representational Qualia Theory camp with 37 experts. No other camp is even close to this level of consensus. It has not previously been possible for so many experts to definitively declare what they agree about. At this early stage, things are far from comprehensive, but indications are that there is much more consensus in this field than most people believe. All that is required is a system to collaboratively develop concise descriptions of such while easily scaling to thousands of survey participants.
The sooner we get started making such a survey, the more comprehensive, it will be before the demonstrable scientific evidence weeds out many of these still supported theories. Having a comprehensive concise and quantitative representation of what everyone believes will make it easy for anyone to have a much better grasp on the best supported theories in the entire field. Certainly having such abilities to collaboratively communicate and educate will increase our ability to make progress.
The basic goal of this Consciousness Survey Project is to come up with a comprehensive sorted summary of what all experts, and also the general population think about consciousness. To 'canonize' if you will the field of consciousness studies documented in the now more than 20K publications in Chalmers Mind Papers bibliography.
The goals include:
As of Oct 2018, there are more than 50 experts that have 'canonized' their theories in the main “Theories of Mind and Consciousness” topic. This includes the participation, in various degrees of Steven Lehar, David Chalmers, Stuart Hameroff, Daniel Dennett, John Smythies and others.
The main topic on the Theories of Mind and Consciousness has already turned into a dramatic horse race. Before this project started it was evident that most of the discussion, papers, and publications, focused on where people disagree - a kind of yes it is, no it isn't, yes it is, eternal restatement of the same old issues that had been going on since Descartes, Plato, and surely before. It was the thinking of the founders of canonizer.com that this tendency to focus on disagreements, ignoring commonalities, biases people to grossly underestimate consensus in this field. They felt that with a properly set-up system,, people would discover that there is far more consensus in this field on critical issues than everyone thinks. Our initial work has shown that this is indeed the case.
The initial leading theory, by far with more than half of all support, is the Representational Qualia Theory camp. This qualia-based theory predicts we will soon be able to 'eff' the ineffable through objective, repeatable, testable, experimental means. If possible, effing of the ineffable would permit the falsification of other theories and bring others to this camp. Members of this camp believe there is a revolution taking place in this field in this direction, based on the works of thinkers such as Steven Lehar and John Smythies, both of which are participating in this project. The fundamental issues that all the experts in this camp agree on, are contained in this super camp. The lesser issues that the camp supporters disagree on are concisely stated and quantitatively represented in the camp sub-structure.
This idea states that phenomenal redness is not the same as something that reflects light at a wavelength of 650 nm, but rather is a real physical thing in our brains that is the knowledge of redness at the other end of the causal perception process. Understanding this difference would be a more significant scientific revolution than when the experts jumped camps from a geocentric solar system to a heliocentric one. It appears that the only remaining disagreement, at least amongst the majority of experts, is just what these qualia are.
There is the leading Functional Property Dualism argued for by Chalmers and a growing number of others. There is also the competing and similarly supported Material Property Dualism camp that believes that instead of qualia being related to the neural correlate through "any equivalent functionality" qualia are related to specific physical material. They believe that without the right material, in the right state, it could not be phenomenally the same.
There are also other camps such as Smythies-Carr Hypothesis camp which talks of qualia extending into alternate dimensions and based on 'Brane theory in modern physics'. These are just the initial theories to be contributed, with surely more to come.
There is a good chance that the fact the founder of canonizer.com, Brent Allsop is in this representational camp has biased these survey results at its initial stages. His goal has always been to recruit followers of all theories, and he has spent at least as much time recruiting people from other camps as from representational camps. It's just that he has so far been far more successful amongst representational thinkers than with people in other camps.
He has been successful in recruiting most all the leading contemporary representational thinkers in this field. There are surely other theories out there that could have more consensus in a more comprehensive survey. There are 4 supporters of two similar camps (Absolute space is the noumenal source of phenomenal consciousness and Endogenous Light) that both have 'zero point' doctrines. If the supporters of these camps could manage to merge and concisely state what they agree on, this could easily become a clear second place competitor to the Representational Qualia Theory camp. The goal is to make the survey as complete and comprehensive as possible, and to 'canonize' all significant theories of consciousness and to define who supports them as ever more scientific data accumulates.
Members of the Representational Qualia Theory camp believe this early consensus lead is tentative evidence of a coming revolution in this field, and that it will eventually replace all other theories and become the dominant consensus view. This could be among the greatest scientific discoveries of all time; effing the ineffable abilities predicted by observing representational qualia would rapidly result in a world-changing scientific revolution that fundamentally changes the way we understand ourselves, others, and the world around us.
Such enthusiasm while the theory remains untested may seem like a speculative overreach. Surely some other theory could be widely supported by evidence, and garner the greatest consensus. Perhaps such a theory is yet undescribed, or is still in an obscure camp. The goal is to efficiently enable both the definitive description all the viable theories, while creating a mechanism for minority theories, which are often censored by established dogma, to be heard, and perhaps rise to the top. Revolutionary ideas, even when eventually accepted, almost always start on the fringe, rejected by almost everyone. We seek to rigorously measure and monitor all of this, going forward, and to bring us to the actual discovery, and falsification of all incorrect theories, in an ever more efficient and accelerated way.
Of course, scientists are subject to human nature, and are often comfortable with retaining their own views, and blind to their flaws. They may not know what they should be looking for, where and how to look for it. Sometimes the answer is already staring them in the face. As Max Planck stated, “Science advances one funeral at a time.” We hope to break this systematized stagnation and accelerate the process of consensus-building with a thoughtful and authoritative discussion of different views.