This project is based on an idea that I had during the TSC conference in Tucson last year. Named after David Chalmers and Stuart Hameroff, I tried to suggest a fundamental unit of consciousness which could encapsulate the full range of subjective experience, from the mystical or psychotic to the practical/realistic and the logical/theoretical.
This might be too ambitious of an idea to fit in with our current understanding of awareness, mired as we are at the moment in the misconception of ‘information’ independent of sensory experience. Here then is a first draft on a re-scoped effort to nail down a scale of awareness which does not amputate awareness itself by focusing only on functional considerations.
Here then is my dumbed down version of multisense realism, placing subjectivity in terms that should be familiar to a contemporary audience. I hate to leave out the most important parts – the details of sensory-motor participation, perceptual inertia, solitropy, and significance, but maybe this more modest proposal will have a better chance of gaining traction.
Chalmeroff Scale of Consciousness
In an effort to parameterize the study of consciousness, it is proposed that the approach described in Giulio Tononi’s Consciousness as Integrated Information: a Provisional Manifesto be augmented with a metric based upon the orientation of integration. Orientation specifies a range of proximity to the site of integration (self), so that a low value on the Chalmeroff scale would indicate information which pertains directly to the agency of the self. Information with a value of one on this scale would, for example, include the presence referred to by the pronoun (“I”). Information which is interior to the self (phenomenological) would be given a decimal value below one, logarithmically, so that the lower the value, the more ineffable the information is.
Ineffability is formally defined as follows:
The degree to which the integration of information which has been generated by a complex of private elements is inversely proportionate to the accessibility of meaningful integration from outside of the complex.
In other words, an experience is ineffable when the subject derives meaning from generated information which supervenes on an extensive personal history. A person who has struggled for many years to accomplish something will attach much more significance to that accomplishment than an outsider who is ignorant of the struggle. This amounts to a relativity of information entropy, which occurs privately through run-time rather than programmatically as configurations of data.
This relativity adds an orthogonal dimension to the quantitative measure of Integrated Information Theory (IIT), as it describes how realistically we can expect to approximate the internal integration of a system externally. Information which relates to public physical interactions for example would not require much of an investment by an outside observer to recognize and interpret. Social interactions are somewhat more ineffable and would generate private information which could be interpreted by an outside observer with a more substantial investment in learning to read the social narratives, as would an anthropologist.
The IIT defines Qualia space (Q) as a multi-axis space where each axis refers to a possible state of integrated relationships(Φ) among information generating elements. On top of this foundation, it is necessary to recognize the significance of the self-world orientation. It is proposed that the first person orientation actually generates the topology of the Qualia space, such that low Chalmeroff value information maps to a polar-radial-mandala geometry while higher Chalmeroff value information increasingly maps to a Cartesian grid. In this way, the essence of the transition from private phenomenology to public realism can be represented clearly, if somewhat simplistically.
IIT provides a mathematical analysis for experience as a complex of spatial relations, to which the Chalmeroff scale adds a dimension of significance which is not merely emergent from public data, but residually implicit from all contexts, both interior and exterior to the system. In this way, the static wireframe model of information mechanisms can be understood to survive as narrative animations within a cosmological totality (eternity).