Back in March of last year in my blog post “The Future of the Mind: The Scientific Quest to Understand, Enhance, and Empower the Mind” I promised a future post on Dr Kaku’s viewpoint on consciousness. Somehow I became distracted and did not produce that post, so here it is.
Dr. Kaku’s definition of consciousness is as follows: “Consciousness is the process of creating model of the world using multiple feedback loops in various parameters (e.g., in temperature, space, time, and in relation to others), in order to accomplish a goal (e.g., find mates, food shelter).
The lowest level of consciousness is Level 0 where an organism is stationary or has limited mobility and creates feedback loops in a few parameters (temperature, for example). Each feedback loop registers “one unit of consciousness,” so an organism with a single unit of Level 0 consciousness would be at Level 0:1.
Organisms that are mobile and have a central nervous system have Level 1 consciousness, which includes a new set of parameters to measure their changing location. An example of Level I consciousness would be reptiles. They have so many feedback loops that they have developed a central nervous system to handle them. A reptilian brain would have perhaps one hundred or more feedback loops governing their sense of smell, balance, touch, sound, sight, blood pressure, and so forth. Each of these contains yet more feedback loops. Eyesight alone involves a large number of feedback loops as the eye can recognize color, movement, shapes, light intensity, and shadows. Of course the reptile’s other senses, such as hearing and taste, require additional feedback loops. The totality of these feedback loops creates a mental picture of where the reptile is located and where other animals are located as well. Level I consciousness is governed mainly by the reptilian brains, which can also be found in the back and center of the human head.
Level II consciousness involves social animals with emotions. These organisms must create a model not only of where they are in space but also with respect to others. As the number of feedback loops explodes exponentially it moves to the next numerical ranking. Level II consciousness coincides with the formation of new structures in the brain in the form of the limbic system. . The limbic system includes the hippocampus (for memories), amygdala (for emotions), and the thalamus (for sensory information), all of which provide new parameters for creating models in relation to others. Consequently, the number and type of feedback loops change.
The degree of Level II consciousness is defined as the number of distinct feedback loops required for an animal to interact socially with members of its grouping. For a crude approximation, Level II consciousness can be estimated by counting the number of fellow animals in its pack or tribe and then listing the total number of ways in which the animal interacts emotionally with each one. This includes recognizing rivals and friends, forming bonds with others, reciprocating favors, building coalitions, understanding your status and the social ranking of others, plotting to rise on the social order, and so forth. So if a wolf pack consists of ten wolves, and each wolf interacts with all the others with fifteen different emotions and gestures, then a first approximation is given by the product of the two,. or 150, so it would have Level II consciousness.
Level III Consciousness, our level of consciousness, involves simulating the future. Dr.Kaku contends that humans are alone in the animal kingdom in understanding the concept of tomorrow. “Human consciousness is a specific form of consciousness that creates a model of the world and then simulates it in time, by evaluating the past to simulate the future. This requires mediating, and evaluating, many feedback loops in order to make a decision to achieve a goal.”
As the healthy memory blog contends, memory is a machine for time travel where we can travel back in time to travel forward and predict possible future outcomes. In terms of species, plants are at level 0, reptiles are at level I, Mammals are at Level II, and humans at level III. With respect to relevant parameters, temperature and sunshine are key for Level 0, space for level I, social relations for level II, and time (especially the future for level III. The primary brain structure is none for level 0, the Brain stem for level I, the Limbic System for level II, and the Prefrontal cortex, for level III.
Dr.Kaku states that self-awareness involves crewing a model of the world and simulating the future in which you appear.
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