integrated information theoryu

What is Integrated Information Theory?

Integrated Information Theory, also called IIT, is a theory posited by psychiatrist and neuroscientist Giulio Tononi in 2004. With the idea, Tononi hoped to explain what consciousness is and why it might be associated with certain physical systems like those found in the brain. Since its initial publishing, IIT has been developed for over a decade, with the most recent version of the theory (called ITT 3.0) being published in 2014.

infoIncidents both uplifting and tragic, from the Paris Attack to SpaceX’s successful rocket landing, demonstrate how diverse and endlessly relevant consciousness is among human beings.

Fundamental to IIT is its decision to approach the problem of explaining consciousness by “starting with consciousness” or accepting the existence of consciousness as certain from the get-go. The theory then attempts to reason about the properties that a postulated physical substrate would have to have in order to account for that consciousness. In order to jump from the phenomenology of consciousness to the mechanism that underlies it, IIT assumes that if a conscious experience can be fully accounted for by an underlying physical system, the properties of that physical system must be constrained by the properties of the experience. IIT then attempts to identify the essential properties of conscious experience, called axioms, and then to find the corresponding properties of conscious physical systems, called postulates.

The aforementioned axioms are lined up in an attempt to isolate the essential aspects of all conscious experience, meaning that every existing axiom should apply in every possible occurrence of consciousness. The most versions of the axioms can be summed up as follows:

Intrinsic experience- consciousness exists and each experience here and now actually exists. A person’s experience comes from a person’s intrinsic perspective, which is independent of external observers.

Composition- consciousness has an intrinsic structure in which each experience is composed of multiple phenomenological distinctions which can be sorted by their elementary or higher-order natures.

pickInformation- Consciousness is specific in that each experience is the particular way it is; it is composed of a specific set of phenomenal distinctions what differ it from other possible experiences. An experience may include everything from phenomenal distinctions that specify spatial locations, several concepts, higher-order “bindings” of first-order distinctions, and even negative concepts like the absence of a bird or a bicycle.

Integration- Consciousness is unified in that each experience is irreducible to non-interdependent, disjoint subsets of phenomenal distinctions, meaning when you see you see everything in your field of vision in all the colors you can see, as opposed to just the left or just red, white and black. Seeing a blue book cannot be reducible to seeing a book without the color blue plus the color blue without the book; it all happens together.

Exclusion- consciousness is definite; each experience has the set of phenomenal distinctions it has and it flows as fast as it flows, and there are limits to each experience in terms of what must and cannot be perceived.

Perhaps my next entry will discuss the postulates of the IIT, but for now a teaser: they’re separated into the same categories, but deal more directly with cause-effect systems and the constitution of elements. Until then, thanks for reading.

dell bexit

Did Brexit Raise Tech Prices?

In wake of the Brexit vote, US-based computer manufacturer Dell and Chinese smartphone company OnePlus both raised the prices of their products sold in the UK. Both manufacturers cited the country’s recent vote to leave the EU as the reason behind the change in price.

price increaseWhile these companies may be the first to raise their prices in the UK, there’s indication that they won’t be the last. Intro 2020, a company used by camera equipment-makers, has claimed that it will soon follow suit, stating that it has been “punched in the stomach very hard” as a result of sterling’s drop, one of many unforeseen consequences of the Brexit referendum.

Considering the pound hit a 31-year low against the dollar earlier last Wednesday, the price rises in the tech industry are likely to continue. In fact, falls against certain Asian currencies have only increased.

While Dell has declined to give specifics in terms of product rise changes, the Register reported that the computer manufacturer had already posited 10% blanket increase in the costs of all products for UK retailers. Dell claimed that it delayed the move for as long as possible, as one spokesperson explained:

“In line with the rest of the industry, our component costs are priced in US dollars, and unfortunately, the recent strengthening of the US dollars, and unfortunately, the recent strengthening of the US dollar versus sterling and other currencies in the EMEA [Europe, Middle East and Africa] region, following the UK’s decision to leave the European Union, will have a direct impact on the price we sell to our UK customers and partners,” the spokesperson stated.

“We understand that this is an uncertain time for many British businesses, and we will continue to work closely with our customers and partners to provide great value products and services,” she concluded.

OnePlus, a handset manufacturer that sells a variety of popular products in the UK, recently revealed that it would be selling its OnePlus 3 for 329 pounds from July 11 onward in an attempt to protect its “extremely thin margins.” That comes out to a rise in price by 6.5% from its current price of 309 pounds.

“While we’ve held off action as long as we can, the sharp drop witnessed in the currency markets following the Brexit decision has forced us to re-evaluate the OnePlus 3’s pricing in the UK,” the company explained via its website. “Accessories will not be affected,” it assured.

b cionIntro 2020, the aforementioned camera part manufacturer, has plans to rise its own prices by 10-12%, a decision that is likely have a price-rising domino effect that will take its toll on all its customers, including Tamron, Tokina, Samyang, Hoya, Keno, Velbon, Sunpak and Tamrac.

“For virtually everything we handle, there will be price increases from 1 August,” explained Intro 2020 general manager Jim Mackay. “The currency situation is precarious for us at the moment- my feeling is that it’s going to be six to nine months before we get some stabilization.”

“It’s painful,” he continued. “We expect our turnover will fall as a result.”

As more and more companies raise prices in the UK, only time will tell if its citizens continue to support the Brexit decision.

ozone depletion

Technologists Rejoice at Healing Ozone Hole

While technology often creates products that in turn create problems, technology can also offer solutions to those problems.

Researchers may have recently found the first clear sign that a thinning ozone layer over Antarctica is beginning to heal, likely as a result of environmentally friendly legislation passed thirty years prior.

According to the scientists involved, in September 2015 the hole spanned four million square kilometers fewer than it did at the turn of the century. That accounts to a healed area of ozone about the size of India.

global atmosphereThe hole’s shrinking status has been attributed to legislation that phased out ozone-destroying chemicals over the course of decades. The scientist’s study also reveals the surprisingly drastic effects of volcanoes, which substantially worsen the issue of climate change.

Holes in the ozone layer spell disaster for most forms of life on Earth; without a constant level of ozone to protect the Earth from the sun’s harmful ultraviolet radiation, the overall temperature of the Earth will rise and throw many ecosystems into wack. For humans in the short term, a reduced ozone layer means increased chances of skin cancer, cataract damage, and general harm to humans and the many environmental processes they rely on to continue with their preferred way of life.

The ozone’s replenishment today owes largely to the research of whistle-blowing scientists whose most important work was done in the 1980’s. That’s when British scientists noticed a dramatic thinning of ozone in the stratosphere 10 kilometers above Antarctica. Then in 1986, US-based researcher Susan Solomon demonstrated that the ozone was being destroyed by the presence of molecules containing chlorine and bromine that came from chlorofluorocarbons or CFCs. At the time, the gases were found in hairsprays, refrigerators, air conditioning units and many more commonly used products.

Antarctica was particularly at risk of ozone thinning because of the climate’s extreme cold and huge amounts of light. These factors contribute to the production of Polar Stratospheric Clouds that enable the chlorine chemistry that in turn destroys the ozone.

Luckily for the future generations, the warnings derived from these discoveries were well-heeded by members of the Montreal Protocol in 1987. Since the signing of that treaty and the phasing out of CFC use, the situation in Antarctica has slowly begun to improve.

While several studies have revealed the declining influence of CFCs in the atmosphere, the researchers behind this newest study claim that their results constitute the “first fingerprints of healing” and that the ozone layer is actually growing.

susanProfessor Susan Solomon and her colleagues, including researchers from the University of Leeds in the UK, have been carefully watching and researching the mount of ozone in the stratosphere between the years 2000 and 2015. Their data, which were collected in weather balloons, satellites and model simulations, demonstrated that the thinning of the ozone had declined by 4 million sq km over the 15-year stretch. They also were able to conclude that at least half of this shrinking could be attributed to the reduction in atmospheric chlorine.

“Even though we phased out the production of CFCs in all countries including India and China around the year 2000, there’s still a lot of chlorine left in the atmosphere,” warned Professor Solomon. “It has a lifetime of about 50-100 years, so it’s starting to slowly decay and the ozone will slowly recover… We don’t expect to see a complete recovery until about 2050 or 2060 but we are starting to see that in September the ozone hole is not as bad as it used to be.”