Autocatalytic closure, first at the level of the organism, and then at the level of the conceptual network, may bring about a phase transition in the degree to which information is locally amplified. If, as Chalmers (1996) speculates, information has a phenomenal aspect, this may also cause a phase transition in degree of consciousness.
2. Since an organism eats other living things to survive, it must behave as if it values its own subjective experience more than that of the entities it consumes. Thus we may underestimate the degree to which non-self entities are conscious, where self is viewed in an extended sense; i.e., we tend to empathize with (experience what it feels to be) entities that are genetically (or memetically) similar to us. Since there is reason to believe that our intuitions about consciousness are warped, claims that Chalmers (1996) double aspect theory of information is counterintuitive cannot be treated as serious counter-evidence. The obvious question, then, is: what sort of architecture could coerce bits of phenomenally-endowed information to integrate their individual subjectivities into a single, concentrated subjectivity, such that the consciousness of non-self aspects of the world appear negligible by comparison?
3. In virtue of the fact that they are autocatalytically closed (Kauffman 1993), living things are nonsymetrically inward- biased; that is, they trap information like light caught in a sphere. Thus information is locally amplified. Moreover, an autocatalytic system generates not just novel informative components, but exactly those whose information-providing potential can be exploited by what is already in place, thereby enabling the system to function as a unified whole.
4. In humans, information is further amplified and integrated through a second tier of autocatalytic closure: memories (attractors in the space of possible experience) are integrated into a conceptual web, or worldview, through the emergence of abstractions (lower-dimensional attractors). As proposed by Richardson (1999), perceptual information is viewed as conveying changes in the hyperstructures, (or nested covariations, or bundled phase relations) of stimuli. Since these changes have direction, they are actually momentum values. Thus the attractors are interference patterns between (1) perceptual and (2) goal/drive/emotion momentum information, i.e., memory can be viewed as holographic (Pribram 1971). Experience is then a self-similar stream of holographic interference patterns. There is an uncertain relationship between the momentums of instants of experience, and the (distributed) locations in memory where they get stored. Though the interference patterns are not distributed throughout the memory, but constrained, autocatalytic closure ensures a path of associative recall from any one memory to another. Also, since the memory is autocatalytically closed, we have the functional equivalent of a concave surface. Streams of thought are focused by reflecting off this concave surface, and amplified through resonance of memories with similar phase relations. (My borrowing of concepts and terminology from optics is not unique, as there is a long history of using light as a metaphor for consciousness and insightful experience.)
5. If we reject dualism out of hand, we must explain how first person qualia could emerge from nothing. Either that, or conclude that consciousness is an illusion (Dennett 1991). The line of reasoning presented here suggests that it is the relative paucity of consciousness in the universe that is an illusion. The miracle of consciousness may be, not that you or I have conscious experience, but that the consciousness everything else is experiencing doesnt usually interfere.
Chalmers, D. (1996) The conscious mind: In search of a fundamental theory. (Oxford University Press).
Combs, A. (1999) Cultural evolution and the brain: Commentary on Gabora on origin-culture. PSYCOLOQUY 10(18). ftp://ftp.princeton.edu/pub/harnad/Psycoloquy/1999.volume.10/ psyc.98.10.018.origin-culture.7.combs http://www.cogsci.soton.ac.uk/psyc-bin/newpsy?10.018
Dennett, D. (1991) Consciousness explained. (Little, Brown and Company).
Gabora, L. (1998) Autocatalytic closure in a cognitive system. PSYCOLOQUY 9(67). ftp://ftp.princeton.edu/pub/harnad/Psycoloquy/1998.volume.9/ psyc.98.9.67.origin-culture.1.gabora http://www.cogsci.soton.ac.uk/cgi/psyc/newpsy?9.67
Gabora, L. (in press) Amplifying phenomenal information: Toward a fundamental theory of consciousness. Submitted manuscript.
Kauffman, S. A. (1993) Origins of order (Oxford University Press).
Richardson, K. (1999) Hyperstructure in brain and cognition, Psycoloquy 10(31). ftp://ftp.princeton.edu/pub/harnad/Psycoloquy/1999.volume.10/ psyc.98.10.031.hyperstructure.1.richardson http://www.cogsci.soton.ac.uk/cgi/psyc/newpsy?10.031