Consciousness and Complexity


How do conscious experiences, subjectivity, and apparent free will arise from their biological substrates? In the mid 1600s Descartes formulatedthis question in a form that has persisted ever since [1]. According to Cartesian dualismconsciousness exists in a non‐physical mode, raising the difficult question of its relation to physical interactions in the brain, body andenvironment. Even in the late twentieth century, consciousness was considered by many to be outside the reach of natural science [2], to require strange new physics [3], or even to be beyond humananalysis altogether [4]. Over the last decade however, there has been heightened interest inattacking the problem of consciousness through scientific investigation [5,6,7,8,9]. Succeeding in this inquiry stands as a key challenge for twenty‐first century science.

Conventional approaches to the neurobiology of consciousness have emphasized the search for so‐called ‘neural correlates’:Activity within…

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