i n t e g r a l   c o u n s e l i n g   i n s t i t u t e

                        e n e r g i z i n g    t r a n s f o r m a t i o n    t  h r o u g h    i n q u i r y ,   i n s i g h t ,   a n d   i n t e g r a t i o n

   

                   May 2006 Book Review and Quotes Archive

                               Conference Review:  Toward A Science of Consciousness
                                                 Tucson, Arizona April 4 - 9, 2006

 

I have had the good fortune to attend four of these conclaves in the desert: 1998, 2000, 2004, and 2006.

Their hallmark is academic intensity, diversity, and for me, at least, biannual inspiration. They are unique,

so say the attendees, in bringing together multiple disciplines - philosophy, neuroscience specialties,

quantum physics, anthropology, psychology, parapsychology, information theorists, and practitioners of

meditative traditions - all arrayed to shed some light on what Co-chair of the conference, David Chalmers,

dubbed the "easy" and the "hard problem".

The easy problem is tough enough though progress is steadily being made on how brain function

works in terms of neural pathways, sensory integration and anatomical structure - in large part a mapping

process of the neural correlates of consciousness or NCCs. The hard problem is how the sense of

vivid subjective experience comes about. Qualia is the term describing such things as our experience of

the color crimson or the aroma of a Stilton cheese. David's site is a hub for articles, consciousness

links, and all things zombie: http://consc.net/chalmers/

Most of the 850 attendees seem to be university affiliated researchers representing, as Co-chair Stuart

Hameroff described: "all continents but Antarctica". With over three hundred presentations in keynote,

plenary, concurrent, and poster sessions running from 8:30 in the morning till ten (or later) at night, the

challenge is to pick and choose themes or presenters and pace yourself to stay alert enough to soak up

the highlights.  Huge plastic urns of coffee on the hospitality table may just be the secret energy source

driving the consciousness behind the conference. Check out the abstracts yourself at

 www.consciousness.arizona.edu/

One of the highlights was a "Dream Debate" posing Harvard's Alan Hobson against South African

psychoanalyst Mark Solms on the proposition: Freud's Dream Theory is Misguided and Misleading

and Should Be Abandoned. For an audience of contemporary scientists, it seemed Hobson's debate

to lose. He then commenced to do so and by no small margin. I was ready to vote his way before the

debate but swung strongly to Solm's pro-Freud-in-perspective position.

In my opinion, the question itself is still open though the debate itself was lost by Hobson's gratingly

self-righteous attitude. Though he accused Solms of "egregious errors of logic" he, himself, made an

egregious error of fact in claiming Solms had never published in a peer reviewed journal. In fact, he

has some 300 citations. It's a tough bluff when you've got Google on your side. I used the debate title

in a verse of "Crossroads Zombie" to immortalize the debate and Hobson's attitude. The brilliant and

effervescent Sue Blackmore, author of Teaching Consciousness has a jounalist's eye for detail on this

debate in her blog: http://commentisfree.guardian.co.uk/sue_blackmore/2006/04/voting_on_freud_1.html

Another key theme that ran through the week was information processing as metaphor and model for

brain function and epiphenomenal consciousness.  Keynoter Giulio Tononi gave a tour de force address:

An information integration theory of consciousness. Douglas Hofstadter perhaps best popularly known

as the author of Godel, Escher, Bach gave a startlingly, seemingly extemporaneous but for hand drawn

and colored overheads (refreshing, actually, in the age of power point overkill), titled Strange loops,

downward causation, and distributed consciousness. Let me refer you to the blog of my colleague

at ICI, John Parker, for more detail regarding the information theme: http://johnsparker.tripod.com/index.blog

Dean Radin, author of The Conscious Universe led a pre-conference workshop entitled Entangled Minds,

also the title of his newly released book. He offered up history and meta-analysis of paranormal (psychic)

research using quantum physics as metaphor and speculative model for explanatory theory.  It was a

fascinating take both in hypothesis supporting the phenomena and explanation of its stigma to the

business of science. Read more at www.deanradin.com

Meditation was clear, lucid, articulate and insightful in quite a number of sessions.   Alan Wallace,

www.alanwallace.org , and Clifford Saron led a pre-conference workshop titled: Toward a Science

of Contemplative Practice. As a clinician interested in meditation for stress and pain management,

I am also keenly interested in the methods for making essentially internal, subjective experience

an objective focus of understanding, enhancement, and validation. Alan's one-of-a-kind personal

background and position made their presentation a personal highlight.

The week wraps up with the Zombie Poetry Slam that evolved from a long ago, late night post conference

night of revelry at the Congress Hotel by David Chalmers and Stu Hameroff. It is now an earlier evening

(10pm till midnight) performance art spectacle of music, poetry, observation, and bit shtick, introduced

by Hameroff's reading the consciousness-observed poetry of "Homeless Joe" and capped by the amazing

physical theatre antics of David Chalmers slinking Garlandesque to the stage apron and casting his six foot

self from the edge only to catch at the last split second by the stair handrail, hovering above the abyss in

come-hither levitation, while he composes a new verse for the night's anthem: the Zombie Blues. This

sight alone is well worth the price of admission.

Though I am now officially disqualified from award recognition at the slam due to previous wins, the music

just won't stop. My third ode to the conference in song: Crossroads Zombie completed The Triple Crown

Zombie Trilogy. Give a listen by clicking on the songs below for an alternative take on TASOC 2006.

Perhaps I'll see you there in 2008.

                                                                                                      Tom Tower, Integral Counseling Institute

 

            LISTEN TO THE TRIPLE CROWN ZOMBIE TRILOGY BY CLICKING ON THE TITLE!

 

                                       Zombie Babe Blues* (2000 First Place Winner!)

                                          No Simple Zombie* (2004 First Runner Up!)

                   Crossroads Zombie (Tom was disqualified for too many previous wins,

                                          but this one stands on it's own for 2006!)

 

*Recorded at Ground Zero Sound                                 Live Crossroads recording by John Parker
 

                         

                           

     Tom and David Chalmers         Tom and the effervescent Sue Blackmore         The ICI Delegation (John Parker, Tom and Debbie)        

 

                                                                     Thanks so Kyle Gribskov for the photos!

                  

                                            May 2006 Weekly Quotes    

 

I am interested in what is on top of information processing - that is consciousness.
Haukwan Lau ~ Toward A Science of Consciousness 2006

Consciousness is a system's ability to integrate information.
Giulio Tonino ~ Toward A Science of Consciousness 2006
 

You are not wasting your time generating objectless compassion.
Clifford Saron ~ Toward A Science of Consciousness 2006
 

Some scientists feel the ultimate direction of scientific research would be the merger of

all three scientific revolutions in the far future. The quantum theory would provide us with

microscopic quantum transistors smaller than a neuron. The computer revolution would

give us neural networks as powerful as those found in the brain. And the biomolecular

revolution would give us the ability to replace the neural networks of our brain with synthetics

ones, thereby giving us a form of immortality.
Michio Kaku, Visions

Consciousness seems more and more like a dance between different competing parts of

the brain, but without a master conductor orchestrating the whole process.   With all these

thoughts and sensations rippling past our brain, we are only left with the illusion that there

is a "place" where our soul and consciousness resides.
Michio Kaku, Visions

 

                                                                              


 

 

                                     

 

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