Review: Warren Mansell's article on consciousness

So that would be a “no”.

You asked me

You quote part of my response, as far as I said

No, that is not a “no”. It’s more like “Eh. Wrong question.”

Someone reading your reply would think that was all I said. You left out the example that you asked for.

If you believe information about the environmental feedback function is irrelevant, please tell us more.

However, the same issues of communication and channel capacity apply to axons and dendrites, and especially to whatever is really going on in the many-one and one-many transformations of neural signals between perceptual levels. Actual research into perceptual input functions and reference input functions is virtually nil, and what is done in programming simulations is a convenient fiction.

You said " But recall that Shannon information was first created to better understand environmental feedback functions in the Bell Telephone system…"

Shannon couldn’t have possibly been creating information theory to understand “environmental feedback functions in the Bell Telephone system”. In order to be doing that he would have had to know that the perceptual variable people control when they communicate on the phone corresponds to his measure of “information”. I don’t think Shannon could have possibly known that since I don’t think he was doing any tests for controlled variable(s) back then.

I don’t think information about feedback functions is “irrelevant”. But I do think it’s impossible to be informed about feedback functions without knowing the outputs and controlled variables that they connect. Feedback functions aren’t just sitting out there in the world to be discovered. They exist only as connections between system outputs and the variables the system controls.

I’ll also just mention that information theory has been applied in psychology in a way that is inconsistent with PCT. So information theory is not just a useless tool for understanding the controlling done by organisms; it’s also quite misleading.

Since you are being quite literal and rather unforgiving as to implied context, I will fill in some words that seemed obvious.

But to return to the topic, in his paper Warren does not advocate use of information theory. He cites literature that does refer to information theory, including Powers et al. 1960 referring to Shannon, “integrated information theory (IIT; Tononi, 2008; Tononi et al., 2016)”, and “control information (Corning 2007)”. Bringing these together, he says

«An alternative view of information sits in between the Shannon
definition that delegates the interpretation and use of information to
the observer, and that of intrinsic information within IIT that is self contained
and observer independent; it is control information
(Corning, 2007). Control information is “the capacity (know
how) to control the acquisition, disposition and utilization of
matter/energy in purposive (teleonomic) processes” (Corning,
2007, p. 302). It is the information used within a control system
while it is in the process of controlling.»

Powers et al. (1960) talks about this information. That seminal work says a variable is a combination of two bits of information or ‘percepts’, of two kinds. One kind of percept is information about the identity of the variable, and the other kind of percept is the quantity of the variable. The ‘identity’ bit they thenceforth ignore; in a (consensually in PCT) ‘objective’ sense the ‘identity’ bit is a function of the location of the perceptual input function and comparator for that variable within the hierarchy as specified by its connectivity to comparators for other variables, and in another sense the ‘identity’ bit is a qualium. (As far as I can tell, qualia remain enigmatic and intractably subjective primitives which, like consciousness, people keep hoping to derive from something ‘objective’.) About this distinction, Powers et al. say “we are concerned only with information flow, and not with the means by which the information is transmitted nor the physical form in which it is transmitted.” So the size (or as we say now, the value) of a variable is a measure of information flow within a control system.

Warren then talks about how perceptual input functions integrate information from lower levels. When a new perceptual input function is created, the integration of information obviously is new, it was not in the hierarchy before; whence, ‘novel integration of information’. (Warren connects both qualia and consciousness to the emergence of novel information, especially in a condition of conflict. I won’t follow that here as it is beside the present topic.) After introducing the reorganization system for his readers, Warren proposes that the rate of endogenous novel information is itself a controlled variable, likening this to how the performance of genetic algorithms drops off as they depart from an optimum mutation rate. In genetic algorithms, of course, the mutation rate is externally manipulated, suggesting a pretty direct analogy with no hint that the optimum mutation rate might be a necessary consequence of their operation or an emergent property.

With a little introspection, you might discover control of this variable operating within your own perceptual control hierarchy, and that could be the basis of a little more empathy for those who are slow at pledging allegiance to PCT, and possibly recognition of rhetorical strategies that could be more effective. This question from Bill in 2003 might help. (I’m using a link rather than the Discourse quoting mechanism because I’m not aiming to make that post a current topic.)

Bill Powers (2003.05.25.1310 MdT)

Rick, I’m getting a strong sense of foot-dragging from you, as though
you’re perfectly satisfied with everything the way it is and are resisting
any suggestion that something new might be added – even peripherally.
What’s the problem?

What do you mean “we” now describe them as environmental feedback functions. I don’t describe anything as an environmental feedback function until I know what variable is being controlled and how it is affected by the controller.

What this “alternative view” is saying is that input information tells the system how to act to control that same information. What could be more wrong? I would prefer that we just forget about information and explain that purposive behavior is the control of perception.

Yes, and that was a very confusing way to talk about perception. You can tell how confusing it is because it led you to conclude: “So the size (or as we say now, the value) of a variable is a measure of information flow within a control system”. In PCT, the size (or magnitude) of a perceptual signal is an analogue of the state of the perceptual variable being controlled; it is not a measure of information flow in a control system (however information flow is conceived).

And he gets it wrong. He says “The next step in bridging IIT and PCT is to consider the integration of input signals to form an input function”. Integrating input signals does not form an input function; it provides a new set of inputs to an existing input function. I think an implication of the hierarchical PCT model is that the input (perceptual) functions at each level of the hierarchy are built in. If they weren’t it would be highly unlikely that everyone would end up perceiving the world in terms of a hierarchy of the same types of perceptual variables (intensities, sensations,… programs, principles, systems concepts), as hypothesized by PCT.

I don’t know why he propose this? Has he observed people controlling the rate of endogenous novel information? I don’t even know what to look for to see if people are doing that. How do I measure the rate of endogenous novel information in order to see if it’s being controlled?

I have experienced what could be described as “control of the rate of novel information” but that description would just be metaphorical. When I think about it in terms of my understanding of myself as a perceptual control system – that is, when I think of it in terms of the PCT model of my own behavior – I understand my experience as an attempt to resolve a conflict created by my own efforts to control (in imagination) several different perceptual variables at the same time.

I guess I’m just not into people pledging allegiance to PCT. I’d rather they pledged to try to understood PCT before taking off on trying to make it better.

OK, your response speaks for itself. No need for me to say any more.