Consciousness Survey Project
Abstract / Introduction / Motivation
The goal of this project is to collaboratively develop concise descriptions of the best theories of consciousness, and to quantitatively measure which are the most well accepted by the experts.
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 was arguing that F was more than M * A, especially at high speeds. A few leading thinkers were the first to recognized the validity of his arguments and join Einstein's camp arguing for this revolutionary theory. Ultimately, the rest of the herding masses were finally forced to convert to this camp with the sheep dogs of scientific evidence nipping at their heels. I think it is easy to argue that we could be about to witness a far more dramatic world changing scientific revolution where almost everyone is finally about to be converted, by new scientific evidence, to accept a single best theory of consciousness.
We've only just recently started to have 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 such experimental abilities in the past is obviously the reason why there is so much perceived lack of consensus. There is every reason to expect these new demonstrable scientific abilities are about to significantly weed out large numbers of mistaken theories.
Rigorously measuring for consensus has obviously been problematic, especially where there is still so much perceived lack of consensus. But we believe using modern social networking, wiki, crowd sourcing... tools configured in the proper way, it is much more possible today to collaboratively develop concise descriptions of the best theories, including the best terminologies to use, and to quantitatively measure which ones have the most support. This is precisely what we are pursuing at canonizer.com. There is already a concise and quantitative representation survey of what 25 or so experts in the field believe, including Lehar, Smythies, Hameroff, Chalmers, Edwards... The initial leading consensus camp is the Representational Qualia Theory
camp with 14 or so experts. It has never been possible for this many experts to definitively declare that they agree with this much doctrine. Since the system is just getting started, things are far from comprehensive, but what is there now is indicating there is likely much more consensus in this field than most people believe. All that is required is the proper 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 more comprehensive the better concise and quantitative picture we will be able to capture 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 everyone to have a much better grasp on the best theories in the entire field. Certainly having such abilities to collaboratively communicate and educate will increase our ability to make progress.
The Consciousness Survey Project
The basic goal of this Consciousness Survey Project is to come up with a comprehensive survey 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
The goals include:
- Provide a level playing field and have a completely unbiased representation of how well accepted all theories are.
- Concise descriptions of all significant theories of consciousness.
- Collaborative development and maintenance of such in a 'wiki' crowd sourcing way.
- Quantitative measurement of how much consensus there is for each of the theory.
- In real time - anyone can jump camps at any time - given new scientific evidence.
- Including a complete survey history as thing continue to develop.
- Abilities to use various algorithms to measure consensus in different ways including at least:
- General population
- Mind Experts
- According to various ideologies such as what do Christians think.
- Help determine (canonize, if you will) the best terminologies to use to describe the various theories and issues.
- A communication tool to assist in the following:
- Be a reference source showing the current 'state of the art' of any particular theory and the justification for such.
- Further collaborative development and documentation of the current state of the various theories by groups of experts in 'camps'.
- Provide quantitative measures of qualities of the various theories. The quality or canonizer algorithm being selectable by the reader.
- Encourage people to both explicitly think about what they think is currently the best working hypothesis of consciousness, and to be a means of efficiently and collaboratively communicating such to others in a definitive way that nobody can refute.
Current Project State
As of Nov 2010, there are more than 25 experts that have 'canonized' their beliefs or participated in this survey on consciousness in the following initial topics.
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, focuses 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 has been going on since Descartes, Plato, and surely before. It was the thinking of the founders of canonizer.com that this tendency to only discuss disagreements, ignoring what people agree on, biases people to believe there is far less consensus than there really is in this field. They felt that with a properly set up system, where the focus is on what people agree on, people would discover that there is far more consensus in this field on critical issues than everyone thinks. Initially, the amount of consensus in the leading camps seems to be already demonstrating that this is indeed the case - that there is far more consensus in this field, at least on the important issues, than everyone thinks.
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. That such will enable making the subjective objectively sharable in a scientifically demonstrable way. If such turned out to be true, such effing of the ineffable would disprove all other theories and it is predicted this will necessarily convert all 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 already participating in this project. The important issues that all the experts in this camp agree on, are contained in this super camp. The lesser important issues that the camp supporters disagree on are concisely stated and quantitatively represented in the camp sub structure.
This idea that phenomenal red is not a property of something that reflects anything like 650 NM light, but rather is a property of our knowledge of such at the other end of the causal perception process, is 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 which 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 will 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'. And of course these are just the initial first theories to be contributed, with surely more to come.
There is surely a good chance that the fact the founder of canonizer.com, Brent Allsop is in this representational camp has biased these survey results at this initial still far from comprehensive stage. 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. Of course the goal is to make the survey as complete and comprehensive as possible, and to 'canonize' all significant theories of consciousness and to find out definitively who all believes in them going forward as ever more scientific data comes in.
Greatest Scientific Discovery of all Time?
Members of the Representational Qualia Theory
camp believe this early consensus lead is tentative evidence of a revolution that could be now taking place in this field, and that no other theory will be able to surpass it in the amount of consensus it could ever achieve. They believe that we are about to make the greatest scientific discovery of all time, as predicted by this theory, and that such effing the ineffable abilities predicted by such will soon be deemed to be the greatest scientific discovery causing the greatest and more world changing scientific revolution of all time.
Of course, at this point, this is all still tentative, pie in the sky speculative theorizing, by only some of the members of this camp, yet to be proven or falsified by demonstrable science. Surely some other theory could easily turn out to be the one currently with the most consensus or the one everyone eventually converts to. Perhaps such a theory hasn't been discovered or thought of yet or is still in a very minority camp? The goal is to enable and make more efficient both the definitively knowing what are the most well accepted theories, and also allowing room for the good minority theories that often get censored from the group think in this still very ivory tower based industry. 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 if the nuts and bolts researchers don't know what they should be looking for, where and how to look for it, they will possibly continue to be blind to it and keep on missing it, when the answer could be almost already staring them in the face?