IIT vs. GNWT and the meaning of evidence in consciousness science

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This post follows one I wrote earlier in the summer, after ASSC. Since then I have been trying (in a first-person therapy sort of way) to figure out what made me so worried after the IIT vs. GNWT showdown, and the media coverage that followed it. In this post (which is going to be more technical, and more focused on theories of consciousness) I aim to articulate why many of us were concerned about how the results of the first Accelerating Research on Consciousness initiative were portrayed, and the lessons that this holds for future ARCs, particularly those attempting to test theories that are metaphysically unusual such as IIT.

I am personally invested in trying to understand what happened here, as together with Axel Cleeremans I am co-leading a similar project, also funded by TWCF, in which we are comparing different higher-order theories (HOTs). Our project hasn’t started yet, so now feels like a good time to think about how best to organise ourselves. I also want to start with a disclaimer: I thoroughly admire the efforts to change the field that the Cogitate project has engaged in. Running adversarial collaborations is hard – and running the first one is no doubt an order of magnitude harder. Simply put, we would not be having these discussions (and I would not be writing this blog post) If it wasn’t for their project. We would in all likelihood be pursuing “regular” projects which, as Yaron and colleagues have strikingly highlighted, have repeatedly suffered from confirmation bias and “looking under the lamppost”.

In what follows I focus on three distinct issues. The first is the origin of predictions, and the idiosyncratic nature of these. The second is the role of background assumptions, and how consciousness science interfaces with mainstream neuroscience. The third is the bigger-picture (and perhaps harder to resolve) issue of how to test between two theories that have radically different metaphysical starting points and implications.

Link to resource: https://elusiveself.wordpress.com/2023/09/09/iit-vs-gnwt-and-the-meaning-of-evidence-in-consciousness-science/

Type of resources: Reading

Education level(s): College / Upper Division (Undergraduates), Graduate / Professional, Career /Technical, Adult Education

Primary user(s): Student, Teacher, researcher

Subject area(s): Life Science, Social Science

Language(s): English