Abstract Details

Consciousness as Sampling of an Information-Dense Environment  Craig DeLancey (Philosophy, SUNY Oswego, Oswego, NY )   C3

The complexity of consciousness claim is that phenomenal experience would appear mysterious if either it were not a physical phenomenon, or if it were a very complex phenomenon. Here, the notion of complexity used is that of descriptive complexity (also known as Kolmogorov complexity), which is an objective measure of the amount of information in a description, and equivalently of how compressible a description is. The complexity of consciousness claim offers a way to understand the appeal of the canonical arguments against the reduction of phenomenal experience. But why would phenomenal experiences be complex? I discuss two reasons. First, that it is valuable to an organism to sample a great deal of information. This is likely driven in part by competition and predation. An organism can gain a fitness advantage for having a more discerning representation of its environment, and this can create an arms race for the development of more complex representation. For example, predators that rely on camouflage are in competition with the ability of potential prey to discern the errors in the predator's simulation. Second, the world is information dense. We can say a structure is fully information dense when a complete representation of the structure would require at least as much mass as constitutes the structure. If many phenomena in the world are fully, or nearly fully, information dense, then there is no upper limit on the complexity of information required to distinguish any two arbitrary structures. This can mean that there is no upper limit to the potential for competition over representational ability between organisms.