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New Tool To Measure Consciousness

samzenpus posted about a year ago | from the hello-in-there dept.

Medicine 151

bmahersciwriter writes "The line between consciousness and non-consciousness is thin, hard to define and, as the Terri Schiavo case taught us, often rife with ethical quandaries. A research team is developing a tool that will be able to quantify just how conscious a person is, which could prove to be quite useful for research and clinical practices. From the article: 'The metric relies on the idea that consciousness involves widespread communication between different areas of the brain, with each region performing specialized functions. Loss of consciousness during sleep or anaesthesia, or from brain injury, may be caused by the disengagement of brain regions from one another.'"

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Poor mycroft... (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44571987)

This makes me think that Moon is a Harsh Mistress got it right after all :)

Maybe they could use this as a test (5, Insightful)

korbulon (2792438) | about a year ago | (#44572005)

To determine if you're eligible to vote. Or have kids. Or be allowed outside your cage.

Re:Maybe they could use this as a test (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44572127)

all liberals, obama supporters, and climate change conspiracy theorists should take this test asap

Re:Maybe they could use this as a test (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44572495)

Funny, I felt the same thing about conservatives and libertarians.

Also...since contards are the ones who are scientifically documented to be stupid...I'm feeling pretty good about applying this test.

Let's get this legislation passed, shall we?

Re:Maybe they could use this as a test (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44573247)

Why? They will just fail it. You would spend most of your time wiping the drool from their mouths while they stare at BO's picture. Liberal are vial creatures.

Re:Maybe they could use this as a test (0)

RoknrolZombie (2504888) | about a year ago | (#44573875)

Why? They will just fail it. You would spend most of your time wiping the drool from their mouths while they stare at BO's picture. Liberal are vial creatures.

You think they're all test-tube babies or something? And you're calling THEM stupid?

Re:Maybe they could use this as a test (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44574967)

Liberals *are* stupid. Look at Detroit.

Re:Maybe they could use this as a test (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44574169)

Why? They will just fail it. You would spend most of your time wiping the drool from their mouths while they stare at BO's picture. Liberal are vial creatures.

What the fuck is a "vial creature"? Like, a creature grown in a vial? You retard, the word you are trying to use is "vile". It seems like most of the beings who comment on Slashdot articles (like you) are vile creatures too.

Re:Maybe they could use this as a test (1, Troll)

DNS-and-BIND (461968) | about a year ago | (#44572291)

No way. No no no no no. The potential for racism is far, far too high. Better to bury this tech deep where nobody will ever find it, and to shame the creators publically so badly that nobody will attempt this sort of thing again.

Re:Maybe they could use this as a test (3, Insightful)

mwvdlee (775178) | about a year ago | (#44572455)

Sad thing is; I can't tell whether you're joking or being serious.

Re:Maybe they could use this as a test (1)

korbulon (2792438) | about a year ago | (#44572531)

Sad thing is; I can't tell whether you're joking or being serious.

They got a tool for that, too.

Re:Maybe they could use this as a test (0)

DNS-and-BIND (461968) | about a year ago | (#44572615)

All three sentences are clear references to the Jim Crow laws and slavery.

Technology does not work that way. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44574597)

If the tech has value to someone, for any purpose, then it will not get buried. And even if someone did bury it, someone else would re-invent it. Scientific knowledge is funny that way.

If you think something must be done to prevent abuse, then your plan must include the fact that blocking the technology itself is impossible. Any plan that fails to recognize this fact is doomed to fail.

Re:Maybe they could use this as a test (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44572563)

To determine if you're eligible to vote. Or have kids. Or be allowed outside your cage.

...or be a presidential candidate.

Re:Maybe they could use this as a test (2)

AJH16 (940784) | about a year ago | (#44573213)

Is the requirement that they have to pass or fail to be a presidential candidate?

Re:Maybe they could use this as a test (0)

ultranova (717540) | about a year ago | (#44573299)

To determine if you're eligible to vote. Or have kids. Or be allowed outside your cage.

One says innocent people should be disenfranchised, sterilized and imprisoned if they fail an IQ test, and others think it's +5 Insightful rather than -5 So Hitler's Still Alive After All.

The next time you wonder why things are going to Hell and your government is flirting with fascism, that's why.

Re:Maybe they could use this as a test (1)

korbulon (2792438) | about a year ago | (#44573493)

Actually I was kinda hoping for +5 Funny.

Given the sort of comments I'm seeing here, I'll be sure to use <sarcasm> </sarcasm> delimiters next time round.

Re:Maybe they could use this as a test (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44575039)

Personally I thought your sarcasm wrapped right around to satire and took it as an insightful condemnation of the proposal.

Re:Maybe they could use this as a test (1)

richlv (778496) | about a year ago | (#44575203)

pffffffffft. i only opened this article to figure out whether this works as a drunkenness test. and i actually am 100% serious :)

Low End Calibration Subject (4, Funny)

joelleo (900926) | about a year ago | (#44572023)

congress

Re:Low End Calibration Subject (1)

fustakrakich (1673220) | about a year ago | (#44572043)

Voters!

Re:Low End Calibration Subject (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44574567)

So true.

"Who is more foolish? The fool, or the fool who follows him?" - Obi-Wan

Re:Low End Calibration Subject (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44572283)

It said conciousness, not concience.

Great, another workplace metric... (5, Insightful)

vomitology (2780489) | about a year ago | (#44572041)

I wonder how long till my ATC (Average Time Conscious) shows up in my annual review...

Re:Great, another workplace metric... (2)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about a year ago | (#44572089)

I wonder how long till my ATC (Average Time Conscious) shows up in my annual review...

That's the least of your problems. Because electrocorticography is not covered by the company health plan, we've graciously decided to assist employees with this expense by recruiting a nurse practitioner with a power drill and a wiring contractor we found in the lobby whose hands looked pretty clean.

Re:Great, another workplace metric... (1)

Aguazul2 (2591049) | about a year ago | (#44572209)

I wonder how long till my ATC (Average Time Conscious) shows up in my annual review...

Selecting for some metric never works out well -- ask the Chinese whether melamine powder is good in milk. So the real question is whether Tetris will give you a good ATC score.

Those Tibetian monks... (1)

Travis Repine (2861521) | about a year ago | (#44572059)

Now we can fool around with those Tibetian monks who claim they can hear us when they're meditating. Yeah right...

Terri Schiavo, what? (5, Insightful)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about a year ago | (#44572079)

Unless my memory is grossly faulty here, Schiavo was considered an atypically unambiguous case medically (with massive amounts of brain that just weren't present anymore, much less electrically active or not); but was a sordid story in messy family feuds being adopted by culture warriors, diagnosis-by-video being performed by histrionic congressmen, and whatnot.

A better understanding of the neurological correlates of consciousness would certainly be a welcome development; but it would never have saved that farce.

Re:Terri Schiavo, what? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44572139)

but it would never have saved that farce.

I read that as face and now I feel bad. Thanks. See everyone in hell.

Re:Terri Schiavo, what? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44572141)

I saw that Law & Order, Lenny sure did some fine policing.

Re:Terri Schiavo, what? (2)

Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) | about a year ago | (#44572147)

Schiavo was considered an atypically unambiguous case medically (with massive amounts of brain that just weren't present anymore, much less electrically active or not)

You mean to say that Terri Schiavo was kind of alive-o [miaminewtimes.com] ?

Re:Terri Schiavo, what? (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44572187)

I think the summary was referring to the Schiavo case in terms of "rife with ethical quandaries" in relation to people's right to die, or in the Schiavo case the right to let someone die even though they can't give consent. Remember that whenever politics is involved, and the Schiavo case was rife with political grandstanding and opportunity, that anyone whose position is different from yours is being unethical.

The Schiavo family was put through a lot, especially by members of the Schiavo family. When the politicians and the press pile on it becomes a circus and a hot button issue.

Re:Terri Schiavo, what? (4, Insightful)

EmagGeek (574360) | about a year ago | (#44572329)

There was no ethical quandary in the Schiavo case. She was not conscious, and more or less had no brain to be conscious with. It was a clear cut case of a lost cause where the body was only being kept alive to fuel the aforementioned family feud (her parents were not a big fan of her husband, IIRC, and did not want him inheriting her estate, so they fought the issue until her estate was gone and her husband bankrupt, then finally let it go).

Re:Terri Schiavo, what? (5, Insightful)

RabidReindeer (2625839) | about a year ago | (#44572469)

There was no ethical quandary in the Schiavo case. She was not conscious, and more or less had no brain to be conscious with. It was a clear cut case of a lost cause where the body was only being kept alive to fuel the aforementioned family feud (her parents were not a big fan of her husband, IIRC, and did not want him inheriting her estate, so they fought the issue until her estate was gone and her husband bankrupt, then finally let it go).

The Schiavo case was an ethical travesty. Why was she kept hooked up all that time? Because of "God". It was "immoral" to "kill" her.

Bullshit. "God" wanted her to go ahead and die. If He hadn't, He would have kept her alive, even without the equipment. It wasn't like this was temporary life support to give her time to heal. It was a prison that she couldn't escape from - worse than Guantanamo, worse than Abu Graibh, worse than the worst prison ever built by pre-technological man. Whatever consciousness she might have had was trapped in a body with no ability to move, to interact, and even to sense, for the most part. If she had been revivable after all that, she probably would have been insane. If I was to do deliberately what they did to her, "torture" would be the least unkind word used.

And for what? If you believe that Jesus had a place waiting for her, why forcibly restrain her from joining him? Even if you believe she was destined for Hell, she was already there. What was she supposed to be doing in there? Meditating on her sins? We don't grant as much reflection time for mass-murderers. Not in Florida, which is nearly as Old-Testament as Texas when it comes to capital crimes.

If there is any mercy in the Universe, God or no God, her consciousness fled long before they pulled the plug. Because with friends like those, who needs demonic enemies?

Re:Terri Schiavo, what? (1)

omnichad (1198475) | about a year ago | (#44572857)

It wasn't like this was temporary life support to give her time to heal. It was a prison that she couldn't escape from - worse than Guantanamo, worse than Abu Graibh, worse than the worst prison ever built by pre-technological man

Not if she wasn't conscious. Was there any reason to believe she might have been?

Re:Terri Schiavo, what? (0)

operagost (62405) | about a year ago | (#44573797)

Maybe if the medical community had explained how someone who responded to stimuli (like people speaking around her) wasn't really conscious, instead of using hand-waving and insulting the skeptics, they wouldn't have turned this into a total fiasco.

Re:Terri Schiavo, what? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44573935)

Sunflowers respond to stimuli but they're rarely considered conscious.

Re:Terri Schiavo, what? (1)

Black Parrot (19622) | about a year ago | (#44574213)

Maybe if the medical community had explained how someone who responded to stimuli (like people speaking around her) wasn't really conscious, instead of using hand-waving and insulting the skeptics, they wouldn't have turned this into a total fiasco.

When people *want* to see a reaction, they see it.

It turned into a fiasco because politicians wanted to use her for a football. They got blowback because people want to die with dignity, and could easily imagine themselves in that condition.

The only thing the case taught us about ethics is to keep the politicians out.

Re:Terri Schiavo, what? (2)

DerekLyons (302214) | about a year ago | (#44574115)

Unless my memory is grossly faulty here, Schiavo was considered an atypically unambiguous case medically (with massive amounts of brain that just weren't present anymore, much less electrically active or not); but was a sordid story in messy family feuds being adopted by culture warriors, diagnosis-by-video being performed by histrionic congressmen, and whatnot.

No, your memory is spot on. In fact, I've been paying attention off and on to these cases since the Karen Ann Quinlan [wikipedia.org] case in the mid 1970's, and offhand I can't recall a single case that hinged on whether or not the patient was conscious. IIRC, they've all pretty much hinged on whether or not the patient is medically alive, or whether or not they're likely to recover and/or regain consciousness. While this tool might help with the definition of the former, it's pretty much useless in the latter cases.

Re:Terri Schiavo, what? (1)

sjames (1099) | about a year ago | (#44575135)

Exactly. It can only determine the current condition, it cannot indicate if later consciousness if possible or likely. In Schiavo, there was no need for the device, the answer was medically obvious.

It looks like it will be a useful tool, but it wouldn't have helped that particular case unless it was used on the politicians that turned a family feud and a medical decision into a political football.

Makes sense (5, Interesting)

gweihir (88907) | about a year ago | (#44572137)

When the complexity of the mechanism falls below a certain threshold, it makes sense that consciousness is not generated/emerged/attached/whatever anymore. Fascinating research, and may be a first step into finding out what consciousness actually is (current state of research: nobody has a clue).

Re:Makes sense (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44572225)

Vedas and vedic teachers state the brain is more of a radio receiever than a processing unit. It's an area of research where the scientist / researcher explores by meditation and self-exploration/realization, by transcending bodily functions and mind boundaries (confines of the soul if you will). The Vedas has provided uncanny insights on some profound concepts, such as age of the universe (very very long), beginning and end of the universe (still to be decided), flying machines and bombs. However, the Vedas has traditionally been kept in oral form and most of it lost and possibly perverted / misunderstood as well, so hard to prove anything.

This research is one step closer to confirming Vedic assumptions on consciousness: We can possibly measure its "quantity", but not it's "quality" and "source".

Re:Makes sense (2)

Sockatume (732728) | about a year ago | (#44572271)

I don't think the Vedas are all that vague about the age, beginning and end of the universe, unless you choose to ignore the parts that explicitly contradict what we do know from observation.

Re:Makes sense (1)

sFurbo (1361249) | about a year ago | (#44572871)

Vedas and vedic teachers state the brain is more of a radio receiever than a processing unit.

So both are easily proven wrong by even a cursory consideration of the effects of brain damage on consciousness. Good to know.

This research is one step closer to confirming Vedic assumptions on consciousness:

Wait, what?

Re:Makes sense (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44572897)

I'm not an expert, but I've seen one talk on this subject recently. Identifying consciousness (assuming you can even define it) is analogous to identifying causation. High complexity can occur without consciousness, just like a correlation can occur without causation. It requires a well designed experiment to truly identify consciousness.

Re:Makes sense (1)

Sockatume (732728) | about a year ago | (#44573103)

It also implies an explanation for why loss of consciousness (e.g. sleep) is reversible: the modules are still active and performing their usual roles sufficiently to reinforce the associated neural connections, they're just not integrated.

It'd be interesting to see the testing expanded (4, Interesting)

Two99Point80 (542678) | about a year ago | (#44572155)

I wonder how us folks on the autism spectrum would measure,.. and how an individual's reading changes under different circumstances.

Re:It'd be interesting to see the testing expanded (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44573065)

People on the spectrum typically have higher connectivity / complexity scores, likely due to an increased density of neurons in the cortex.

Define consciousness please (5, Interesting)

WOOFYGOOFY (1334993) | about a year ago | (#44572171)

Consciousness is defined as, roughly, conscious personal experience. Nervous system-bearing organisms have it and tables don't.

The thing is, when considered as a phenomena itself, it's kind of weird.

It seems to inflict on some forms of matter (nervous systems) something non-corporeal and unnecessary. Newtons laws and QM don't need it to account for why anything at the particle level happens- we'd all be mouthing the same words, making the motions , living the same lives and generating the same collective world history without it according the our best developed theories of matter energy and causation.

In theory, we could all be as mindless and devoid of consciousness as tables and from an outside observer's POV, nothing would change in our lives, our speech or all of human history.

But it's not like that.

We *know* we have conscious experience. Suppose you're a well adjusted modern scientist who doesn't busy himself with fanciful notions of non-corporeal "stuff" (a contradiction in terms , in fact). You';re a thorough-going materialist. What does the fact of conscious experience imply for you?

It implies that conscious experience is a fact about material, perhaps suitably organized. Beyond the fact that *that is just weird* a basic question is- what characteristics of material organization gives rise to it ? Are there degrees of it. Minsky asserted (Society of Mind) that thermostats have a primitive form of it (they react to their environment in a feedbacky kind of way). This is not a far out thought and in fact seems to be even a necessity for materialists.

The point is, here is a guy talking about consciousness as though he knew what it was, and now we're going to learn more about it. He's not unusual, this is staple fare.

As if. The fact that conscious experience exists and we're all very familiar with it and infer its presence all the time in, say , dogs and cats, shouldn't be taken to mean that we understand it in any significant way, and when I say "it" I don't mean the biological underpinnings of it, I mean it as a phenomena , possibly disconnected from any kind of system specific underpinnings we're familiar with.

It may just be a fact about the universe that exists independently of what we call personal experience, just the way energy or other abstract, yet real *things* exist independently of any particular form, at least so far as our best current theories go.

Just saying. People throw this term "consciousness" around as if they know what it referred to. They don't. It's a a very basic, almost too basic, mystery. Mystery is where science begins, and you should not let yourself be separated from that feeling of the mysterious, the "out of our current conceptual grasp", by the self assured conceits of your time.

We believe in the results of science because, ultimately, we trust some combination of our senses and our brain based experience we call "thinking". We believe this combination gives us knowledge of things which are not our brains, but have an independent reality. I believe this. But this knowledge comes to us through consciousness and not through some other avenue.

One of the uncomfortable implications of this is people who claim to have a certain kind of universal knowledge or experience revealed to them by "spiritual or mystical" experience through which they come to know that the universe is somehow conscious can't just be poo pooed away. Considered in a certain way, that poo pooing would be one part of the brain, one function, one way of knowing, declaring its fiefdom of consciousness and understanding to be the ultimate judge of the reality of the outside world as processed by any other part.

Just saying- you need to be skeptical and realize that not everything someone claims is that deep a claim.

  possible knowledge states by all parts of the brain

Re:Define consciousness please (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44572231)

"and tables don't."

A bold claim. Present your evidence.

Re:Define consciousness please (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44574627)

"and tables don't."

A bold claim. Present your evidence.

Mod this up, in a way

Under what explanatory framework should my bold assertion about tables be evaluated? We don't have one. uh, correction: we don't have a good one.

Re:Define consciousness please (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44574847)

Exactly. My name in French is Pierre, which means "stone", and I can think. So that shows that stones can think.

Consciousness is a network effect (1)

davide marney (231845) | about a year ago | (#44572237)

Consciousness is what one experiences when the parts of the brain's network are communicating with one another, a classic network effect [wikipedia.org] . Consciousness is one of the attributes of value a system gets by exercising its existence.

Re:Consciousness is a network effect (1)

Sockatume (732728) | about a year ago | (#44572251)

Yet different parts of the brain communicate with one another when we're unconscious; in this study, the connectedness metric only dropped to one half its normal value when a person was knocked out. So while that's a necessary condition it is not sufficient.

Re:Consciousness is a network effect (3, Insightful)

WOOFYGOOFY (1334993) | about a year ago | (#44572357)

If you consider "systems" generally, as I think should be done, then the issues around consciousness get fuzzier, not more clear. If you want to build a theory of consciousness around the ideas of "complexity" and "systems" then this leads to pretty strange possibilities involving systems of systems being eligible for conscious .

With going all Descartes one of the basic problems is- consciousness is defined by those who have it and it's presence is only definitely confirmed subjectively, by the bearer. It's LIKE something to be at some basic level. Is it LIKE something to be a computer? Does the computer have to be programmed in a very "specific" way, then it's LIKE something be be a computer? Why can't it be LIKE something to be an inappropriately or un-programmed computer, say, something chaotic and unpleasant ?

I don't buy that, (why not Woofy Goofy? Can't say ) but my point is the follow on implications of this kind of (necessary) theorizing get bizarre fast. When things get like this, I take it to mean we lack the even the theoretical constructs and the discoveries of fact needed to form a proper framework. We lack the reifications. It's like Aristotle trying to account for observations that led top Heisenbergs Uncertainty Principle. He hasn't had those observations, and if he did a whole slew of prerequisite concepts each of which had their own experimental result as an impetus haven't been created and anyway none of this could have happened prior to technology advancing enough to grind glass into lens and melt ore into steel and so on and so forth.

We're just not there. Where? I don't know, but I know we're not there.

Re:Consciousness is a network effect (1)

Bengie (1121981) | about a year ago | (#44572801)

There was a recent article on someone with "Walking Corpse Syndrome" who got a MRI, and their brain had the same signature as that of someone in a vegetative coma, yet the person was clearly conscience. They were baffled how this person was even able to function on the most primitive levels, yet alone communicate.

Re:Consciousness is a network effect (1)

Sockatume (732728) | about a year ago | (#44573009)

I'd love to know more about that article but you've misremembered the name, Walking Corpse Syndrome is where a living person is convinced they are deceased. So I'm getting nowhere with Google.

Re:Consciousness is a network effect (1)

Bengie (1121981) | about a year ago | (#44573593)

I can't find the original article that I read, but here's something http://synapticscoop.com/2013/08/01/surprising-brain-scan-of-individual-living-with-walking-corpse-syndrome/ [synapticscoop.com]

It seems I may have mixed up "Vegetative Coma" and "Vegetative State". Either way, interesting stuff.

Re:Consciousness is a network effect (1)

Black Parrot (19622) | about a year ago | (#44574299)

The various portions of the brain do not necessarily fall asleep at the same time. It leads to people doing complex things, like driving across town and killing someone, while "sleepwalking".

Re:Consciousness is a network effect (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44572935)

An interesting though I had recently on this subject is that neural networks are basically a set of inputs and outputs, and some controlling functions and some memory. If you consider the human brain as part of a neural network, and you consider the mouth-ear (etc.) as a connection between two segments of that neural network, you can derive a single neural network consisting of multiple humans.

That is to say, can humanity as a whole be conscious on a different level from human individuals? How would we know? How can we test for such a thing?

Re:Consciousness is a network effect (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44572955)

Agreed. I saw some results recently where scientists were mapping the development of brain networks in response to two stimuli. As the stimuli became harder to distinguish, both networks would still develop, however one would never make it to consciousness (as reported by the participants knowledge of stimuli). Thus the existence of brain networks alone is not enough to conclude consciousness.

Re:Define consciousness please (4, Interesting)

Sockatume (732728) | about a year ago | (#44572243)

To summarise what you're saying: not only do we not know how the phenomenology of consciousness maps onto the physical substrate, we haven't even properly pinned down the phenomenology itself.

It's like we're trying to figure out a five-dimensional-chess computer without actually knowing the rules of chess.

Re:Define consciousness please (1)

cellocgw (617879) | about a year ago | (#44574989)

It's like we're trying to figure out a five-dimensional-chess computer without actually knowing the rules of chess.

Naaah, that's easy: Queen to Queen's Level Five.

Re:Define consciousness please (1)

marcello_dl (667940) | about a year ago | (#44572297)

QM don't use consciousness, but they don't exclude it. When/if they will be able to predict with 100% accu future interaction of matter, they will have excluded it, not earlier.

Example, what is AAAAAABAAAAAABAAAAAAB? A phenomenon easily represented by a function. It is also a map of my morning preferences (a=cafeteria, b=stay home). It is more than 90% accurate and doesn't use consciousness. Yet my choice could be conscious (if such concept exists) regardless of it.

Re:Define consciousness please (5, Insightful)

ibwolf (126465) | about a year ago | (#44572307)

We *know* we have conscious experience.

No. I know I have conscious experience. Anything beyond that is supposition. While it is entirely possible that I'm the only conscious entity in the universe, I find that unlikely. However, until we can explain consciousness in terms that enable me to test the consciousness of others, it will be a matter of faith that others are conscious (albeit the amount of faith required is very small).

This research, however limited it may be, is an attempt to provide empirical underpinnings to the term consciousness. Hopefully it will get us a little closer to understanding what consciousness is but clearly this falls well short of explaining its nature in full.

Re:Define consciousness please (1)

Sockatume (732728) | about a year ago | (#44572813)

It's also a supposition that the laws of motion apply to planetary bodies without direct experimentation upon them; however it's a reasonable and effective model, and consistent with the principle that the universe is consistent regardless of space, time, and reference frame.

Re:Define consciousness please (1)

Tyler Durden (136036) | about a year ago | (#44573383)

But we've confirmed that the laws of motion apply to every planetary body we've bothered to test against them. It started with the moon*, where Newton used his newly-invented calculus to verify that the its motion would match the predictions of his theory.

That anyone else besides myself is conscious is an assumption, albeit a reasonable one.

*Yeah, not a "planetary body", but still applies.

Parsimony (1)

Sockatume (732728) | about a year ago | (#44573675)

You could reasonably suppose that all of the other solar system bodies behave according to as-yet-unknown laws that differ from our Earthly laws of motion yet conveniently provide exactly the same results. However to make that supposition would violate the rule of parsimony. Similarly it would violate the rule of parsimony to assume that other human beings happen to behave in exactly the same ways that we do, but lack the underlying internal drives.

A parsimonious assumption consistent with the available data is a reasonable assumption and, in almost all fields of knowledge, an entirely necessary one.

Re:Parsimony (1)

Tyler Durden (136036) | about a year ago | (#44574101)

Sure, but we have much better understanding regarding how the laws of motion work than the mechanics of consciousness, which isn't much better than hand-waving in comparison. To have a detailed model work in several instances, and have the same results due to a different mechanism in others would be a much less believable coincidence than with consciousness.

The laws of motion are also very good in that it is a very simple model that can be extended to describe seemingly complicated phenomenon. Consciousness at this point seems complicated and is not well understood. It would be much simpler, in some sense, to assume that everyone else is a philosophical zombie [wikipedia.org] without having to appeal to the idea of consciousness. In another sense, they look/behave just the same as me, so why me and not them?

Are you a solipsist ? (0)

aepervius (535155) | about a year ago | (#44572479)

"We believe in the results of science because, ultimately, we trust some combination of our senses and our brain based experience we call "thinking". We believe this combination gives us knowledge of things which are not our brains, but have an independent reality. I believe this. But this knowledge comes to us through consciousness and not through some other avenue."

We do not believe in science because of our science, we trust science DESPITE our sense, because we get repeatable results. The rest of your post is the sme non sense as in "you can't trust your sense it is all in the brain blahblahblah" you might as well do the argument of the brain in jar.

The truth is consciousness is probably not anything "real" it is just the emerging process from all part of our brain neuron communicating to each other. Destroy the neuron, you destroy or change personality in various way.

As for your talk about universe consciousness ... Pffft. You can give drug to somebody, and they may dream of universal consciousness, gods, or pink elephant with carnivore teeth, but that aren't making any of thios real. Show me evidence for universal "cosnciousness" or such and I will start looking at it. Until then it is all bad trip on acid.

Re:Are you a solipsist ? (1)

Tyler Durden (136036) | about a year ago | (#44573509)

I think one of the big questions about consciousness is in what sense it is "real", besides the subjective experience. (Or the ability to have a subjective experience). What are the essential qualities needed for such an emergent process to exist?

There are some non-junk non-New Agey type theories about the universe in some sense being conscious (labeled Panpsychism), though I don't buy into them personally. The argument is that all objects have some level of consciousness, some more than others due to some kind of emergence from complexity. But, again, what the exact conditions these are that increase the level of consciousness is the big question.

Re:Are you a solipsist ? (1)

Black Parrot (19622) | about a year ago | (#44574345)

I suspect that to comprehend consciousness we will have to add "state" to the traditional notions of matter and energy.

Re:Are you a solipsist ? (1)

WOOFYGOOFY (1334993) | about a year ago | (#44574473)

We do not believe in science because of our science, we trust science DESPITE our sense, because we get repeatable results.

I thought the post was getting long , so I wasn't as clear as I could have been, You know about the results of your experiments via your senses, Ultimately, you trust them in this way- there is not a demon who makes you see the numeral 2 instead of the real 3 on your screens.

Although there is a copy machine that fits this description.
See yesterday's slashdot story.

So at some point in the chain, you trust your senses, or someone's senses , or however round about that process becomes.

Re:Are you a solipsist ? (1)

Xaedalus (1192463) | about a year ago | (#44574981)

"The truth is consciousness is probably not anything "real" it is just the emerging process from all part of our brain neuron communicating to each other. Destroy the neuron, you destroy or change personality in various way." As for your talk about universe consciousness ... Pffft. You can give drug to somebody, and they may dream of universal consciousness, gods, or pink elephant with carnivore teeth, but that aren't making any of thios real. Show me evidence for universal "cosnciousness" or such and I will start looking at it. Until then it is all bad trip on acid.

What you said isn't "Truth", in an objective way. It's your personal subjective truth that you map out onto reality in the hopes that it is True. What I'd like to ask you is: why do you need to believe that conscious is nothing more than a side effect of an emergent neural network? What about materialistic reductionism is so important to you that you must advocate for it being the Truth?

A replacement for the BIS monitor? (5, Informative)

SecState (667211) | about a year ago | (#44572241)

An article [theatlantic.com] in the Atlantic earlier this year discussed a technology apparently widely employed by hospitals to monitor whether patients are experiencing "interoperative awareness" during surgery: a Bispectral Index (BIS) monitor, which performs a electroencephalogram continuously during surgery and checks it against patterns thought to indicate conscious awareness. In early testing, it looked like it could detect most cases of interoperative awareness and was quickly adopted in hospitals from around 2004, but its reliability is now in question and the device, though still widely used, is controversial.

From TFA, it seems this system is aimed at understanding brain damage and not at preventing interoperative awareness. Unfortunately the article doesn't give enough detail to know if the new tool is also based on EEG (I can't access the original study through the paywall). But, if it is, and if it gives a better sense of what patients are aware of, maybe it will have some use in the operating room as well.

Consciousness does not define life or death (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44572273)

The decision of whether a person is alive or dead is not easily made since it is an area of "fuzzy" logic - like when is a person bald? There is not bald, going bald, and bald, but it is hard to define a line of when they become bald. The same is true of a person that is dying vs dead. It used to be that heart death defined dead, now it is a combination of metrics.

The Summary states that "the metric relies on the idea" - and it is just an idea of theory.

Re:Consciousness does not define life or death (1)

Sockatume (732728) | about a year ago | (#44572287)

I'd say that an irreversible cessation of consciousness is actually a pretty solid definition of death, myself. Of course being conscious or not is not a measure of being alive in and of itself, or we'd all be dead every time we went to sleep.

Re:Consciousness does not define life or death (1)

Bengie (1121981) | about a year ago | (#44572985)

We still need a way to have high certainty that the loss of consciousness is irreversible for the current person. We have a hard enough time telling if someone is currently conscious, yet alone if they can regain it once lost.

Re:Consciousness does not define life or death (1)

Sockatume (732728) | about a year ago | (#44573121)

Well, exactly, and this research really doesn't have anything to do with that except that you could wire someone up to it and log if they "woke up" at any point.

Yes, please. (1)

Seumas (6865) | about a year ago | (#44572275)

Having to undergo surgery and having problems with the black-magic-art that anaesthesia is absolutely terrifies me and occupies more of my mind than it probably should. Anything that could potentially make that dark-art less ambiguous would be fantastic.

Terry Schiavo is a bad example (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44572321)

Terry Schiavo is a terrible example, because she was incapable of consciousness owing to a lack of a brain, which being dead had atrophied away. Her skull was literally empty save the cerebro-spinal fluid that had filled the void where her brain once was.

Interesting but dangerous (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44572327)

How probable is it that this method misses certain cases of consciousness in locked-in patients? The danger lies in the false sense of certainty it could create. When someone is unresponsive, currently we can't tell what goes on inside their brains. A new method that promises to eliminate this uncertainty could be abused to justify killing people.

Please (1)

Impy the Impiuos Imp (442658) | about a year ago | (#44572355)

> "The metric relies on the idea that consciousness involves widespread communication between different areas of the brain"

Dumb. Consciousness evolved in much simpler animals (which to be sure have most specialized areas) but massive brain is not required. Look for just another specialized nerve mode.

Also just one lobe is enough. Therefore communication between two lobes is unneeded.

Their idea seems more of leftover emergent behavior, of the woo woo type. Loss of consciousness happens without oxygen very rapidly; but nerves in general don't stop working that quickly. Therefore look to high energy processes of the kind that cease without oxygen in 10s or less.

hello (-1, Offtopic)

Andrew Lewis (3020335) | about a year ago | (#44572409)

til I saw the bank draft four $4519, I didn't believe ...that...my brother was like they say truly making money part-time at their laptop.. there uncle haz done this for only about eighteen months and a short time ago repaid the debts on their house and bourt Bugatti Veyron. this is where I went,........Buzz55.com..... -->

Re:hello (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44572435)

Hello, Houston, we have a problem. Patient 388 has left Ward 3 and is on his way to the parking lot with a chair cushion, a bag of Cheetos, and part of Mrs. Hinston's wig. Please apprehend him and return him to his bed. Langley, out.

Support Mental Health. Or I'll kill you.

Glasgowmeter (3, Informative)

Dunbal (464142) | about a year ago | (#44572443)

This reminds me of one night when I was on call at the hospital. There was a horrendous car accident and the paramedics were talking to me via the radio. First you must understand that I'm in the third world and most of the paramedics here are just glorified bus drivers. Anyway the guy on the radio informs me that one of the patients is breathing but not conscious. So I asked him for his Glasgow score. In medicine we use something called the Glasgow score to evaluate the severity of neurological damage. It's based on 3 separate metrics that are added together. Each metric has a score more or less from 1 (minimum) to 5 (maximum). So an awake, alert person scores 15, while an almost dead person scores a 3. The scale looks at the patients eyes (whether open spontaneously, whether the patient opens his eyes when asked to, or in the presence of painful stimulus, or doesn't open them at all, for example), motor ability and verbal ability. It easy to assess someone within a few seconds and give them a "score". And there's a general rule - "8 - intubate!". Anyway, the paramedic goes off the radio for a few moments and I can hear him conferring with his buddy. After a while he gets back to me and says "Doc, I'm sorry but we don't have a Glasgowmeter here with us..." It was a facepalm moment...

Anyway this device reminded me of that night and how those paramedics might have benefited from its use :)

Re:Glasgowmeter (1)

Sockatume (732728) | about a year ago | (#44572823)

If nobody's handed them an easy-to-use conceptual tool to measure consciousness, what makes you think they'd wind up being handed a physical tool to do the same?

Re:Glasgowmeter (3, Funny)

Medievalist (16032) | about a year ago | (#44574045)

Anyway the guy on the radio informs me that one of the patients is breathing but not conscious. So I asked him for his Glasgow score. In medicine we use something called the Glasgow score to evaluate the severity of neurological damage. [...snip...] Anyway, the paramedic goes off the radio for a few moments and I can hear him conferring with his buddy. After a while he gets back to me and says "Doc, I'm sorry but we don't have a Glasgowmeter here with us..."

I was expecting "Glasgow zero, Newcastle two and they've got the ball".

Not going to be popular for saying this here... (0)

MikeRT (947531) | about a year ago | (#44572545)

But it'll be very interesting to see what happens when they use it on the severely retarded and possibly find that they have at best the consciousness of a dog. The "ethics" of the medical profession are already starting to take a real downward spiral at the higher levels with people like Peter Singer (a respected "bioethicist" at Princeton) and now the Oxford Medical Journal saying [telegraph.co.uk] that literal infanticide is no different than abortion.

This is what we pro-lifers mean when we talk about the "culture of death." If you asked the average woman about this, she'd think you're a complete monster for suggesting the existence of a "woman's right to kill a 6 week old infant." Yet this is what at least one wing of our ruling class is increasingly coming to believe is a real right. The average guy on the street has no idea how his simple understanding of an issue often is quite reasonable while our ruling class's take is just evil by comparison. Similarly, this is how you get the delta between what the Republican base feels Capitalism means and what the RNC feels Capitalism means which should explain to many why a lot of people vote the way they do seemingly "against their interests." What always matters is what the guy at the top thinks an issue means.

Re:Not going to be popular for saying this here... (1)

EmagGeek (574360) | about a year ago | (#44572759)

It's all part of the movement towards State management of who lives and dies, based of course on political ideology and revenue.

Re:Not going to be popular for saying this here... (2)

Black Parrot (19622) | about a year ago | (#44574399)

It's all part of the movement towards State management of who lives and dies, based of course on political ideology and revenue.

Such abuse is in fact possible, but right now it's your insurance company's actuary and your wallet that determine who lives and who dies.

Re:Not going to be popular for saying this here... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44572833)

If you asked the average woman about this, she'd think you're a complete monster for suggesting the existence of a "woman's right to kill a 6 week old infant." Yet this is what at least one wing of our ruling class is increasingly coming to believe is a real right. The average guy on the street has no idea how his simple understanding of an issue often is quite reasonable while our ruling class's take is just evil by comparison.

Aren't you being culturally insensitive? Or maybe racist? The Chinese have a rich cultural heritage of killing their own babies after they're born. Why can't you just live and let live?

Re:Not going to be popular for saying this here... (1)

Sockatume (732728) | about a year ago | (#44572855)

First, consciousness is not sapience. This result has nothing to do with self-awareness or intellect. I suspect that a conscious dog in the device would probably rate about the same as a conscious, healthy human being but that study literally hasn't been done.

Secondly, if you honestly believe that an abstract philosophical stance on the ethics of infanticide is an actual point of policy or ethics in the general population, you really need to stop taking your ethics tuition from the Telegraph.

Re:Not going to be popular for saying this here... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44574211)

Youre confusing consciousness with intelligence. For all intents and purposes, the consciousness of a Dog and a Human are pretty much equal.

Very low level (1)

Shavano (2541114) | about a year ago | (#44572627)

I think any vertebrate, while it's active, would pass this test. It's not a useful tool for determining human-level consciousness, just whether your brain is working and connected up right. My cats, for instance, probably have a fully functioning brains, are aware of and respond to their surroundings in a somewhat organized way, can care for their basic needs (hunt, find water, find places to sleep, fight, beg for food they don't really need). Their brains is no doubt as well connected as any human's, but they're stupid as hell by any human measurement.

On the other hand, there are people who are aware of their surroundings and can carry on a conversation with you, but some of the subsystems of their brains are damaged and there are things my cats can do that they can't. There are others who have little or no apparent impairment, but almost half their brain is dead.

Re:Very low level (1)

Sockatume (732728) | about a year ago | (#44572919)

No, it really is about more than the brain being healthy, but it's not about sapience or intelligence. For example, it can distinguish between consciousness and unconsciousness (e.g. sleep, general aneasthesia) in perfectly healthy connected subject. In "locked-in" patients it can do the same: the conscious state is independent of whatever other capabilities of the brain may be out of commission.

The trade in organs harvested from the living (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44574487)

Be in no doubt, such 'research' has only one purpose- namely to justify the organ removal from Humans who are still alive at the time. All across the West, the elites are grooming their populations to accept new laws that turn ALL of us into organ donors by default (so-called opt out laws) in readiness for a final phase where opting-out is no longer an option.

What ordinary people do not know is that those that harvest organs DEMAND access to a still living Human body for maximum quality. Legal organ removal thus ideally targets Humans declared "brain dead" but whose bodies are otherwise mostly working and keeping most of the organs in good condition. Illegal organ removal (as is widely practised by Israel- the centre of this depraved crime) uses living subjects previously taken prisoner, or poor people paid tiny sums to give up part of their body.

Obviously, when the recipients of such organs are rich (Israel operates transplant hospitals in many nations, including South Africa, and offers the service mostly to rich Jews and Arabs) they would prefer an ideal match. Widespread DNA gathering projects in target nations exists to create lists of suitable "donors". Many "donors" neither have a genuine accident/illness nor agree to a pay-off. They are made available in ways you may easily imagine.

The desire is to groom the sheeple to accept increasing numbers of cover stories so that the organ transplant business can be allowed to operate more freely in first world nations, rather than hiding away in specialist hospitals in nations with no effective laws, like Turkey, South Africa, or much of the Middle east. One can read ever more common stories of people declared 'dead' awakening to find themselves in the process of having their organs harvested. When you are an ordinary person in hospital who has already been type-matched with a rich person awaiting a transplant, you would be a complete fool to think you welfare now matters.

So, the monsters want a device they can stick on your head and say "this person may seem alive, but actually we promise you he/she is really dead", providing legal justification that will stand up in court for their immediate ENFORCED removal of all the useful organs and tissues. In Britain, within a few years, it will be IMPOSSIBLE for the family of the 'dead' person to prevent organ 'donation', and the victim him/herself will have to spend a large sum before 'death' registering themselves as an opt-out, but even this won't help since hospitals will suffer ZERO PENALTIES if they 'accidentally' strip the organs anyway.

In the USA, the ONLY industrialised nation depraved enough to permit the widespread use of slaves within its borders, slaves were dissected alive in all the major US universities for 'medical research' and an attempt to gather useful items from their bodies. Medical science was far too primitive for most forms of body part re-use, but teeth were pulled from living slaves in an attempt to implant them into white recipients.

The medical community has a terrible record of abuse when laws and regulations prove to be slack. Transplants based on need, not wealth, taken from willing family donors or victims of genuine accidents/illness are a wonderful advance in medical science. But the potential for good does NOT eliminate the potential for evil. When money and profit is involved, transplant surgery ceases to be ethical in any way. The sum total of Humans aided by transplants is pitiful compared to the Humans that can be saved with trivial and cheap treatments in the Third World. If those that are currently abusing the situation cannot be stopped, it would be better that most forms of organ transplant were declared illegal for the good of Humanity. Otherwise, in the near future, if you or your children are a perfect match to some rich scumbag awaiting transplant surgery, you will end up providing your organs one way or another.

They should test this on Republicans (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44574615)

They should test this on Republicans - and find out they really are minimally conscious!

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