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Consciousness and information theory

30 Mai 2016 , Rédigé par Med Zied Arbi


Shannon is most famous for his development of the classical information theory; his works did not only contribute to the theory of probability but to the understanding of thermodynamics and statistical physics, as he presented entropy as information to be gained.

However, apart from the fact that his theory is purely numeric without any further indication of the nature of the information and its meaning, it unfortunately left the mystery of the conscious observer (probabilistic events that are only described by a numerical probability become certain when attached to a conscious observer).


The goal of this article is to unravel the mystery behind the last problem in order to understand how the effect of an event on the observer is not similar to the way it affects elsewhere in the physical world.

Overviews and definitions

In order to present the problem in simple words, i will proceed with the following example which is quiet understandable to anyone with a basic computer science background.

Observing (or rather, debugging) a running program by modifying its source code (such as adding extra output or generating log files) or by running it in a debugger may sometimes cause certain bugs to diminish or change their behavior, creating extra difficulty for the person trying to isolate the bug.

- So Observing is receiving information from an object, the information can be a result of a running program, a temporal series describing an ongoing event basically anything that describes an event.

- And Observing can add additional information in order to receive a specific representation of the event which results on altering the event itself.

With those two remarks we can assert that Observing can be defined as Adding additional information in order to Receive a specific representation of the event.

The human observer and consciousness

It is widely accepted that information processing is done inside the brain, and the brain is composed of matter which makes it less different from any physical system so the laws applied on physical systems can be applied there as well.

For Herbert S. Green Consciousness is a synthesis of awareness and volition, while awareness is the acquisition of information and volition is the creation of new information.

Those informal definitions are preferred to those taken from dictionaries because they does not need to be cyclic and can be strengthened by logical statements and mathematical formulates whose interpretation is independent of the speaker and the language.

The suggested definition is consistent with the ordinary use of the words awareness and volition which won't create an ambiguity to nonscientific readers.

Thus we can assert that:

- Consciousness is awareness or the integrality of the conscious states, aware suggests some sort of vigilance or in making inferences about what we perceive (hear, see, sense, etc.).

- Consciousness is volition or the acts of willing or choosing, it is important to note that many of what seems manifestations of volition, belongs to the unconscious sphere, for example we don't choose generally to breath or not we just do it.

Information is knowledge derived from reading, observing unorganized data, but the mind is set to see through this disorder.

Giving a framework to the subject will help to model the entities within the nervous system responsible of conscious act which is inevitable if we like to simulate and reproduce this kind of behavior.

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