In 2023 we are still not wearing jetpacks or living on the moon, but we do have home translation devices that allow us to have deep conversations with our dogs. However, despite all our technological advances, we still do not know how consciousness works.
A recent event during the annual meeting of the Association for Scientific Studies of Consciousness (ASSC) in New York showed that we are still a long way from understanding the source of consciousness in the human brain. The judges in the adversarial meeting of minds concluded that experiments based on the consciousness models of the Integrated Information Theory mattered more than those based on the Global Neural Workspace Theory.
Despite this, however, German-American computational neuroscientist Christoph Koch conceded defeat on a bet made 25 years ago. In 1998, Koch offered Australian philosopher and cognitive scientist David Chalmers a wager that the neurological basis of the brain’s perception of the universe would be understood within 25 years.
However, consciousness turned out to be much more complex than scientists had anticipated. Chalmers divided the search for answers to questions about consciousness into “easy problems” and “hard problems.” Easy problems involve integrating information into cognitive systems and focusing attention. Complex problems, on the other hand, are more philosophical and involve how the brain creates sensations and feelings.
To solve these problems it is necessary to combine objective measurements of cells and chemistry with subjective assessments of action and awareness. This requires the use of the tools of science, such as experimentation, replication, and reasoning, while respecting the ethics of experimentation on the human mind.
As part of a project run by the Templeton World Charitable Foundation (TWCF), researchers worked to bring together different strands of consciousness research. They conducted experimental projects to test dominant theories and to invite researchers with different perspectives to work together.
However, despite all efforts, we still do not know the exact source of consciousness in the human brain. This problem remains one of the most difficult and mysterious in science.