David Gamez
(University of Sussex)
Computation, Information and the Correlates of Consciousness

Scientific research on consciousness is attempting to gather data about the relationship between consciousness and the physical world. The basic procedure is to measure consciousness through first-person reports, measure the physical world and look for correlations between these sets of measurements. While most of this work has focused on physical correlates of consciousness, such as neural activity patterns, it has also been proposed that consciousness could be linked to the computations that are being executed by the brain. A computational correlate of consciousness would be an objective part of the physical world that was only present when consciousness is present.

The first part of this talk suggests that whether something is or is not a computer depends on the use that we make of it at a given time. It might be thought that computers are information processors, but this does not solve the problem of subjectivity because it is more accurate to say that computers are data processors, and any physical system can be interpreted as a data processor. Finally I consider whether computation might be a type of pattern in the physical world. This claim can only be sustained if we have a workable method for identifying computational patterns. However, there are serious problems with the current approaches, which are not all applicable to the brain. The conclusion is that the brain's computations are unlikely to be correlated with consciousness. Scientists studying consciousness should focus on its physical correlates.