Chapter 5

Theorem IV: A Quale is a Special Kind of Signaling Pattern

In the previous chapter, qualia, which are non-material, are proved to be completely neural-process associated physical phenomena. But, other than that, what is the exact nature of these phenomena? At present, there are several theories about what qualia are and how they occur [1-6]. However, none seems to be accepted unanimously as conclusive [7], and none seems to answer the hard problem of qualia or the hard problem of consciousness – the problem of why there are qualia and consciousness at all [7-11] – satisfactorily. This theory finds that the answers to these questions exist in the qualia’s physical properties, which have been discussed in detail in the previous chapter. They are summarized here again as follows:

Physical properties of qualia (PQ)

PQ1. Required physical properties

PQ1.1. Their nature is non-material mental phenomena.

PQ1.2. Their characteristics are phenomenal and consciously experienceable.

PQ2. Observed physical properties

PQ2.1. Their activities are fast, dynamic, and information-intensive.

PQ2.2. Their occurrences and existence are with their specific neural processes and are consistent.

PQ2.3. Their places of occurrences are selectively and specifically limited to some specific neural processes.

PQ2.4. Their capacities are limited and identical to those of their specific neural processes.

PQ2.5. Their details are identical to those of their specific neural processes.

PQ2.6. Their structures are definite and determined by their specific neural processes.

PQ2.7. Their changes are with their specific neural processes.

PQ2.8. Their interactions are via their specific neural processes.

5.1. The nature of a quale and Theorem IV

As qualia are completely neural-process associated physical phenomena, they must occur with neural processes, but how do qualia occur with neural processes?

The first possibility is that, functionally, a quale occurs as a separate, additional entity to its neural process but functions in complete association with its neural process, like separate entities commonly illustrated in general pictures that depict qualia, such as a visual quale of a house (A), an auditory quale of a song (B), and an olfactory quale of a rose in Figure 5.1 below.

Figure 5.1 Qualia occur as separate, additional entities

However, it is also possible that, functionally, a quale occurs intrinsically in its neural process without any additional entity occurring, like various information that occurs intrinsically in the sign language without any additional entity occurring, such as in Figure 5.2 below.

Figure 5.2 Information occurs as an intrinsic entity

Therefore, there are two possibilities of how, functionally, a quale occurs with its neural process:

Possibility 1. A quale occurs separately from its neural process as an additional entity. Thus, its functions and effects are separate from those of its neural process, yet it somehow functions in complete association with its neural process.

Possibility 2. A quale occurs intrinsically in its neural process with no additional entity occurring. Thus, its functions and effects are intrinsically part of its neural process’s functions and effects, and it naturally functions in complete association with its neural process.

To be noted at this point are that a quale in both possibilities can be either a by-product (an epiphenomenon) or an objective product of its neural process and that it may be inert (yielding no effects) or active (yielding some effects) – these have to be investigated later.

Now, like the case of mental process’s nature in Chapter 2, the means to identify which possibility is correct is to examine the physical properties of the proposed quale in each possibility. This is because anything that is a quale must have all the physical properties of qualia, which have been listed at the beginning of this chapter. So, let’s examine the two possibilities one by one to see which possibility has a quale that has all the properties of qualia.

   5.1.1. Possibility 1: A quale occurs separately from its neural process as an additional entity.

Suppose a quale is an entity that occurs separately from its neural process as an additional entity. Let’s denote this separate, additional entity with Q. (Figure 5.3)

Figure 5.3 Q is an entity that occurs separately from its neural process

PQ1.1. The nature of Q must be non-material, but what is the exact nature of Q? Identifiable additional phenomena that occur in the neural circuit separately from the neural process and that are non-material are numerical changes in neural metabolic activities (e.g., heat generation, oxygen consumption, and intracellular biochemical reactions), numerical changes in regional blood circulatory activities, and numerical changes in physical components (e.g. changes in mass, energy, and entropy) of the neural process. But these phenomena are non-specific (i.e., these numerical changes can be quantitatively different but cannot be qualitatively different among various neural processes) and thus cannot function variedly to be various types of qualia. Also, these phenomena are not readable by the consciousness neural process (property PQ1.2., which Q must have). So, none of them can be Q. Thus, Q must be a novel entity, which requires a whole new hypothesis to explain its nature.

PQ1.2. Q’s characteristics must be phenomenal and consciously experienceable. From PQ1.2. in the previous chapter, this means that Q  must be information about something that is not itself, must not react with anything other than the consciousness neural process, must have a unique signaling pattern, must be readable by the consciousness neural process, and must be able to induce conscious awareness and a conscious experience of itself in the consciousness neural process.

First, Q must be information about something that is not itself. But if Q occurs separately from its neural process as an additional entity, how and where can it get information of something (that is not itself) so that it can be the information in the mind about that thing? For example, if Q is a visual of a house or an auditory quale of a song, how and where can it get information of the house or the song so that it can be information about the house or the song in the mind? If it receives the information from its neural process, how can its neural process do that? Neural processes, including its neural process, do not have an apparatus to send information to anything other than to other neural processes via their signaling patterns. A new hypothesis is needed to explain this.

Next, Q must not react with anything other than the consciousness neural process. But if Q occurs separately from its neural process as an additional entity, what prevents it from reacting with something other than the consciousness neural process? A new hypothesis is needed to account for why it reacts with only the consciousness neural process.

Next, Q must have a unique signaling pattern. Q can have a unique signaling pattern by its nature, but, if Q occurs separately from its neural process as an additional entity, its signaling pattern cannot be E/EC (electrical/electrochemical) signaling pattern. The problem will be what is the nature of Q’s signaling pattern? A new hypothesis is needed for this.

Finally, consider the very important properties of qualia: a quale must be readable by the consciousness neural process and must be able to induce conscious awareness and a conscious experience of itself in the consciousness neural process. But if Q occurs separately from its neural process as an additional entity, how can Q be readable by the consciousness neural process and how can it induce conscious awareness and a conscious experience of itself in the consciousness neural process? A new hypothesis is needed to account for this property.

For example, consider Neural Process V (Figure 5.4), which is a neural process that functions to produce a visual perception of a house with a visual perception quale “Q” occurring separately as an additional entity. The consciousness neural process that connects with Neural Process V, after it reads the signaling pattern of Neural Process V, will interpret and register the signaling pattern as a visual perception of a house without a quale occurring because Q occurs separately from Neural Process V as an additional entity, with separate functions and effects from those of Neural Process V.

Figure 5.4 A quale as a separate, additional entity

For the consciousness neural process to have conscious awareness and a conscious experience of Q, it must read signals from Q, process them, and then create the conscious awareness and conscious experience of Q. However, if Q is an additional entity that occurs separately from its neural process, its signals cannot be E/EC signals, as noted above, and a new type of signals that is not E/EC must be postulated for it. But, signal-wise, a neural process does not have an apparatus to read anything except E/EC signals of other neural processes, so a new mechanism for the consciousness neural process to read the signals that are not E/EC signals and that are separated from the neural process are needed.

So, for a quale that occurs separately from its neural process as an additional entity, there are many important problems that need several new hypotheses to explain how its characteristics can be phenomenal and consciously experienceable.

PQ2.1. Q must have fast, dynamic, and information-intensive activities. Q can be fast and dynamic by its nature, but how can it be information-intensive? To be information-intensive, it must receive information from something. But, if Q occurs separately from its neural process as an additional entity, how can it get information from the neural process (see the discussion in PQ1.2. above), or, if it does not get information from the neural process, how and where can it get information that can be as intensive as that of the neural process?

PQ2.2. Q’s occurrence and existence must be with its specific neural processes and is consistent. The problem is how does Q occur? If it is produced by its neural process, how does its neural process produce it? A neural process does not have an apparatus to produce anything that has fast, dynamic, and information–intensive activities, except its signaling pattern and signaling state (which are intrinsic parts of the neural process and thus cannot be Q of this Possibility).

In the case that Q is not produced by its neural process, what is the thing that produces Q? If there is that thing, other questions will follow, such as where does that thing come from, what produces that thing, what are the characteristics of that thing, how can that thing produce Q, and how can that thing produce Q in association with Q’s neural process consistently?

Or if Q occurs spontaneously out of nothing by itself, questions will also follow, such as how can it occur out of nothing, why does it have to occur only when its neural process starts functioning, change when its neural process changes, and disappear when its neural process stops functioning, and how can it do so consistently?

PQ2.3. Q’s place of occurrence must be selectively and specifically limited to some specific neural process. But, if Q and other qualia can occur separately from their neural processes as additional entities, why must they occur with only some neural processes (such as the final perception neural processes, the thinking neural processes, and the emotion neural processes), but not with some neural processes (such as the neural processes in basal ganglia, brainstem, and cerebellum), and why must qualia of a certain type occur with only some specific neural processes (i.e., why must visual qualia occur with only visual perception neural processes [why do they not occur scatteredly with other neural processes], why must auditory qualia occur with only auditory perception neural processes, and so on)? What are the mechanisms that create and keep the selectivity and specificity in places of occurrences of qualia?

PQ2.4. Q’s capacities must be limited and identical to those of their specific neural processes. For example, if Q is a visual quale, Q’s visual field extent and color spectrum must be limited and identical to those of the visual perception neural process. But, if Q occurs separately from its neural process as an additional entity, its capacities need not depend on those of its neural process. Or if its capacities somehow match with its neural process’s capacities so perfectly that they seem to depend on them, how can it do that or what is the mechanism that keeps its capacities matching with those of its neural process all the time?

PQ2.5. Q’s details, or information, must be identical to those of their specific neural processes. For example, if Q is a visual quale, Q’s visual details (color, brightness, and velocity information of each and every minute portion of Q) must be identical to those of the visual perception neural process. But, if Q occurs separately from its neural process as an additional entity, its information needs not be identical to that of its neural process. Or if its information somehow matches with its neural process’s information so perfectly that they seem to be identical, where and how does Q get the information that can be identical to that of its neural process all the time?

PQ2.6. Q’s structure must be definite (i.e., the number and types of components and the spectral characteristics of Q are invariable among billions of peoples, everywhere and all the time) and determined by its specific neural process. But if Q occurs separately from its neural process as an additional entity, why must its structure be definite? For example, why cannot a visual quale have different numbers and types of its components and different spectral characteristics among billions of different people, who are at different places and in different times (i.e., today, yesterday, and other past days)? What is the mechanism that keeps Q’s structure invariant among billions of people everywhere and all the time? Also, if Q occurs separately from its neural process as an additional entity, why must Q’s structure be determined by its specific neural process? Why cannot it be independent of its neural process? What is the mechanism that keeps Q’s structure dependent on its neural process?

PQ2.7. Q’s changes must be with its neural process. For example, if Q is a visual quale of a movie, then Q must change identically with the visual perception neural process. But if Q occurs separately from its neural process as an additional entity, it needs not change with its neural process.  Or if its changes somehow match with those of its neural process so perfectly that it seems to invariably and simultaneously change with its neural process, how can it do that or what is the mechanism that keeps its changes matching with those of its neural process simultaneously all the time?

PQ2.8. Q’s interactions must be via its specific neural process. But if Q can occur separately from its neural process as an additional entity, why cannot it interact with other qualia directly? Why does its interaction have to occur via its neural process?

It is evident that Possibility 1 – a quale occurs separately from its neural process as an additional entity – has several critical questions of how the quale can have all the properties of qualia, and several additional hypotheses are needed to support this possibility.

   5.1.2. Possibility 2: A quale occurs intrinsically in its neural process with no additional entity occurring.

If this is the case, then a quale must be some intrinsically occurring entity in the neural process. This entity must be a non-material entity that is readable by the consciousness neural process and that can induce conscious awareness and a conscious experience of itself in the consciousness neural process (like Possibility 1, it must fulfill the property that a quale must be consciously experienceable – because, in reality, conscious awareness and a conscious experience of the quale do occur). Now, the only intrinsically occurring, non-material entity in a neural process that the consciousness neural process can read is the signaling pattern, which is the information, of that neural process. However, the consciousness neural process receives a lot of signaling patterns from various kinds of neural processes because it is an extensive network that has extensive connections [12-25]. But when it processes the signals from these neural processes, it does not create conscious awareness and experiences of these signals for all of them. Thus, not all of these signaling patterns can induce conscious awareness and conscious experiences of themselves in the consciousness neural process – only some of them can. Those that can must be different from those that cannot – they must be in some special forms that can induce conscious awareness and conscious experiences of themselves in the consciousness neural process. This theory will assign the term “special signaling patterns” to these special forms of signaling patterns that can induce conscious awareness and conscious experiences of themselves in the consciousness neural process.

Definition. A special signaling pattern (SSP) is the neural process’s signaling pattern that can induce conscious awareness and a conscious experience of itself in the consciousness neural process.

Now, because a special signaling pattern (SSP) is non-material, is an intrinsically occurring entity in the neural process, is readable by the consciousness neural process, and can induce conscious awareness and a conscious experience of itself in the consciousness neural process, it can be the entity that a quale is. This theory asserts this as Theorem IV:

Theorem IV: A quale is a special signaling pattern (SSP).

This is the specific form of Theorem IV. But, because a special signaling pattern is just a special kind of signaling pattern – a signaling pattern in some special form – a quale is simply a special kind of signaling pattern. Thus, the basic form of Theorem IV can be stated as:

Theorem IV: A quale is a special kind of signaling pattern.

And because a signaling pattern of a neural process is the information of that neural process, a quale is a special kind of information of a neural process, and it is just an informational part of the whole signaling process of that neural process. (It should be noted that this is similar to a mental process, which is the information-processing process of a neural process and is also an informational part of the whole signaling process of that neural process.)

Now, let’s examine how a special signaling pattern can be a quale. First, consider Neural Process V (Figure 5.5A) that functions to produce a visual perception of a house with some signaling pattern that is not a special signaling pattern (SSP). The consciousness neural process that connects with Neural Process V, after it reads this signaling pattern, will interpret and register the signaling pattern as a visual perception of a house without conscious awareness and a conscious experience of the visual perception the house occurring because the signaling pattern is not an SSP (so it cannot induce conscious awareness and a conscious experience in the consciousness neural process). This means that the signaling pattern of Neural Process V is not a quale, which is a mental phenomenon that is consciously experienceable and is thus able to induce conscious awareness and a conscious experience of itself in the consciousness neural process.

Next, consider Neural Process V’ (Figure 5.5B), which is another neural process that functions to produce a visual perception of the same house but with a signaling pattern that is an SSP. The consciousness neural process that connects with Neural Process V’, after it reads this signaling pattern, will interpret and register the signaling pattern as a visual perception of a house with conscious awareness and a conscious experience of the visual perception of the house occurring because the signaling pattern is an SSP (so it can induce conscious awareness and a conscious experience of itself in the consciousness neural process). This means that the signaling pattern of Neural Process V, the SSP, is a quale, which is a mental phenomenon that is consciously experienceable and is thus able to induce conscious awareness and a conscious experience of itself in the consciousness neural process.

In summary, this is how a quale occurs intrinsically in the neural process with no additional entity occurring: by a neural process producing an SSP, which is the quale. And this is how conscious awareness and a conscious experience of a quale, with the awareness of what the quale’s phenomenal characteristics are like occurring, occur: by the consciousness neural process reading the SSP, processing it, and then, with its specialized ability, creating the conscious awareness and the conscious experience of the SSP – of the quale.

But how can a signaling pattern induce the consciousness neural process to create conscious awareness and a conscious experience of itself? To answer this question, let’s consider the effects of the information of neural processes as follows:

Figure 5.6 Effects of information of neural processes

In Figure 5.6A, a neural process has information of the blood level of sodium (Na), and it sends this information via its signaling pattern to other neural processes, such as the autonomic neural processes, and the regulation of the blood level of sodium occurs. As there is no conscious awareness and a conscious experience of this information occurring, it means that this information cannot induce the occurrence of conscious awareness and a conscious experience of itself in any of the neural processes that receive the information, either because those neural processes do not have the ability to create conscious awareness and conscious experiences or because this information does not include the information that can induce the occurrences of conscious awareness and a conscious experience. If the consciousness neural process also receives this information, it definitely means that this information does not include the information that can induce the occurrence of conscious awareness and a conscious experience of the information in the consciousness neural process. Therefore, conscious awareness and a conscious experience do not and cannot occur in this case.

Now, Neural process in Figure 5.6B has the information of the visual perception of the house together with the information of the visual perception quale of the house. When it sends the whole information to the consciousness neural process via its signaling pattern, which in this case is a special signaling pattern (SSP), the consciousness neural process will have the information of both the visual perception of the house and the visual perception quale of the house. After processing this whole information, the consciousness neural process will create, with its specialized ability, conscious awareness and a conscious experience of the visual perception quale of the house.

Therefore, the answer to the question of how some signaling patterns can be qualia is that some signaling patterns – the SSPs – have the information of the qualia in themselves and thus can induce the consciousness neural process to create the conscious awareness and the conscious experiences of the qualia. And the answer to the question of how the consciousness neural process can create the conscious awareness and conscious experiences of the qualia is that the consciousness neural process, with its specialized ability, can create conscious awareness and a conscious experience of any quale if it is provided with the information of the quale. These are how the conscious awareness and experiences of what the phenomenal characteristics are like (of what the red color is like, what the sound of note C is like, what the emotion of happiness is like, et.) occur.

In this universe, it is just that some signaling patterns can have information of the qualia in themselves and thus can be qualia and that some neural process (i.e., the consciousness neural process), with its specialized ability, after reading and processing the qualia, can create the conscious awareness and conscious experiences of the qualia. These are all possible because of their fundamental nature. It is a brute fact. If we consider the matter in general, this is actually not very surprising or improbable. There have been countless kinds of neural processes with various kinds of signaling patterns and signaling states since the nervous system occurred in this world about 700 million years ago. It is quite possible that some of them evolved the capability to exhibit additional phenomena (like qualia, conscious awareness, and conscious experiences) that more primitive neural processes with more primitive signaling patterns and signaling states could not. There even is a possibility that some other kinds of mental phenomena that we do not know of yet and that may be even more fascinating than qualia, conscious awareness, and conscious experience already exist or will occur in other kinds of signaling patterns and signaling states of present or future neural processes.

(It remains to investigate what kinds of signaling pattern can be qualia or can have phenomenal characteristics and what their characteristics are. Many neuroscientists are working on these issues, and interesting concepts and theories, such as information cycled through a hierarchy of networks in a resonant state [3], joint parietal-frontal-cingulate activation, cortico–cortical or thalamo–cortical γ-band oscillations, cortical neural synchronization or top-down recurrent, reentrant, or resonant activities between neural processes underlying conscious perception [26-36], the attractor activity in networks of pyramidal cells in the cerebral cortex [37-39], or the operational architectonics [40,41,42], are emerging. Other interesting theories of how qualia or subjective experiences occur are The Integrated Information Theory [4,43,44] and Attention Schema Theory [45,46].)

Now, if qualia are the SSPs of their neural processes, the SSPs must have all the physical properties of qualia; otherwise, qualia cannot be the SSPs. Do the SSPs have all the physical properties of qualia? This can be verified as follows:

PQ1.1. Because SSPs are signaling patterns, they are information and thus non-material. Because they are signaling patterns of neural processes, they occur in the functioning brain. Therefore, they are non-material phenomena in the functioning brain – as required.

PQ1.2. SSPs have phenomenal characteristics and are consciously experienceable. This can be proved as follows:

From PQ1.2. in the previous chapter, if an SSP has consciously experienceable phenomenal characteristics, physically it must

  1. be information about something that is not itself,
  2. not react with anything other than the consciousness neural process,
  3. have a unique signaling pattern,
  4. be readable by the consciousness neural process, and
  5. be able to induce the conscious experience and the conscious awareness of itself in the consciousness neural process.

Now, let’s examine the required properties in detail:

  1. Because the SSP of a neural process is information about a certain thing in the environment (such as light, sound, or smell), in the body (such as proprioception, equilibrium, or pain from internal organs), or in the mind (such as emotion, thought, or memory), it is information about something. And because that “something” is never the SSP itself, the information in the SSP is always about something that is not itself – as required. (See an example in Figure 5.7.)

Figure 5.7 Information of a special signaling pattern

The SSP of the quale red is the information about the 700-nm light,

not about the SSP itself.

   2. Because an SSP sends information to the consciousness neural process only, it cannot and does not react with anything other than the consciousness neural process – as required.

   3. Because different kinds of neural processes that create different kinds of SSPs (for vision, sound, thought, emotion, etc.) are in different brain areas (occipital cortex, temporal cortex, frontal cortex, amygdala, etc.) and have different cytoarchitecture, different connections, and different receptors and neurotransmitters [47-69], each of these different kinds of neural processes creates its kind of signaling pattern that is characteristically unique and basically different from other kinds of signaling patterns. Thus, different kinds of SSPs that are created from these different kinds of neural processes have unique kinds of signaling patterns – as required. While differences in major patterns of SSPs create different kinds of qualia with major differences in manifestation characteristics (vision, sound, thought, emotion, etc.), differences in minor patterns create different details in the same kind of qualia (different images of visual qualia, different sounds of auditory qualia, different emotions of emotion qualia, etc.). With the estimated 100 to 1,000 trillion synaptic connections in the brain [70,71] and with signaling patterns that involve both spatial and temporal permutation of signals passing through these multitude synapses [72,73], even a portion of the whole neural circuits of the brain can create virtually infinite numbers of different SSPs that can represent virtually anything in the world and result in virtually infinite qualia that we experience in our lives. Therefore, SSPs have the capacity to represent everything that we experience in our lives.

4 & 5. Because, by definition, an SSP can induce the conscious awareness and the conscious experience of itself in the consciousness neural process, an SSP is readable by the consciousness neural process and is able to induce the conscious awareness and the conscious experience of itself in the consciousness – as required.

Therefore, with the required five properties fulfilled, SSPs are proved to have phenomenal characteristics and are consciously experienceable – as required.

PQ2.1. Because the activities of any signaling patterns of neural processes are fast, dynamic, and information-intensive by their nature, the activities of SSPs are fast, dynamic, and information-intensive – as required.

PQ2.2. Because SSPs consistently occur and exist with their neural processes whenever their neural processes function (because their neural processes will produce their SSPs whenever they function) and because SSPs consistently disappear whenever their neural processes stop functioning (because their neural processes will not produce their SSPs when they do not function), SSPs’ occurrences and existence are with their specific neural processes and are consistent – as required.

PQ2.3. Because SSPs can occur in only the neural processes that can produce SSPs, they do not and cannot occur randomly in the brain but occur and have to occur selectively in only the neural processes that can produce SSPs. This explains the selectivity in places of occurrences – as required. And because each specific neural process produces only its specific SSP, each specific SSP occurs with its specific neural process only. For example, a color-perception neural process produces a specific SSP that is the color-perception quale, and no other neural processes produce this specific SSP, so this specific SSP, the color-perception quale, occurs with the color-perception neural process only. This explains specificity in places of occurrences – as required.

PQ2.4. Because neural processes have limited ranges of information, such as limited color spectrum ranges and sound spectrum ranges, that they can encode in their signaling patterns, the SSPs’ capacities, or ranges of information, are limited – as required. And because the ranges of information of neural processes are naturally the ranges of information of signaling patterns of those neural processes (because information of neural processes is the signaling patterns of the neural processes), the SSPs’ capacities or ranges of information are identical to those of their specific neural processes – as required.

PQ2.5. Because all the details of information encoded in the signaling patterns of neural processes are determined by their specific neural processes and are identical to those of their specific neural processes, all the details of information in the SSPs are determined by their specific neural processes and are identical to those of their specific neural processes – as required.

PQ2.6. Because the number and types of component SSPs of any kind of qualia (such as the number of component SSPs of a visual quale is 6, and the types of component SSPs of a visual quale are always color, brightness, acuity, shape, dimension, and velocity) are determined by the number and types of component neural processes of that kind of qualia and because the number and types of such neural processes are fixed and definite (such as the number of component neural processes of vision is 6 and the types are color, brightness, shape, acuity, dimension, and velocity, see Figure 5.8), the number and types of basic SSPs of any kind of qualia are fixed and definite.

Figure 5.8 Component neural processes for visual perception

Also, because the spectral characteristics of SSPs of any kind of qualia are determined by the neural processes of that kind of qualia (such as the spectral characteristics of SSPs of the color quale are determined by the color perception neural process that produces the SSPs) and because the function of those neural processes are definite (not different among people), the spectral characteristics of SSPs of any kind of qualia are definite (not different among people).

Therefore, because the number and types of component  SSPs and the spectral characteristics of SSPs of any kind of qualia are definite, the structure of SSPs for any kind of qualia are definite (not different among people) and determined by their neural processes – as required.

PQ2.7. Because signaling patterns are intrinsic parts of the signal-processing processes, which are the neural processes, it is inevitable that SSPs change with their specific neural processes – as required.

PQ2.8. Because SSPs are signaling patterns of neural processes and because interactions of neural processes’ signaling patterns occur via their neural process synapses, the SSPs’ interactions are via their specific neural processes – as required.

Therefore, the SPPs have all the physical properties of qualia. Now, this may not be enough for the SPPs to be the entities that qualia are. We have to check whether the SPPs can function as qualia can, too. This can be checked as follows: Because qualia (mental phenomena that have manifestation characteristics) are phenomena of mental processes and because mental processes are parts of their neural processes (Theorem I), qualia are parts of their neural processes. Thus, qualia’s manifestation characteristics and how qualia can function to manifest themselves depend on their neural processes’ abilities, capacities, and information. But, because the SPPs are the manifested information of the whole neural processes (i.e., the information that the whole neural processes send to other neural processes), not just of a partial portion of the neural process, their manifestation characteristics are all the manifestation characteristics of the neural processes and must include those of the qualia of the same neural processes, and how the SPPs can function to manifest themselves must be no less than how the qualia of the same neural processes can function to manifest themselves. Therefore, the SPPs can certainly function as the qualia can and thus have the functional properties of qualia, such as being private, subjective, representational, intentional, ineffable  [74-77]. For example, if a quale of a certain neural process is a representation of something, then the SSP of that neural process is certainly a representation of that thing too because the SSP has the same neural process’s information as the quale does. Also, any signaling pattern is certainly private and subjective – experienceable by only the subject who is having that signaling pattern – because a certain signaling pattern occurs in only the subject who is having it. And, all signaling patterns are ineffable because there are no sensory apparatus and no neural circuits that are built to get information about what signaling patterns themselves are. (All neural circuits are built to get the information that the signaling patterns contain, which is information about something else, such as visual information of the 700-nm light, auditory information of the musical note C, or emotional information of anger. No neural circuits are built to get information about what the signaling patterns themselves physically are.) Therefore, with no information about the signaling patterns themselves, all the signaling patterns are ineffable. (Please see related discussion about this matter in PQ1.2. above and PQ1.2.A in the previous chapter.)

In summary, an SSP has all the properties that qualia have while a novel entity that functionally occurs separately from the neural process (Possibility 1) needs several hypotheses to explain how it can have them. The most important thing for this hypothesized entity, which is not an E/EC signaling pattern, is how can the consciousness neural process read this entity’s signals so that it can process them and create the conscious awareness and the conscious experience of this entity, which is the must for all qualia? All neural processes have evolved to read, operate, and send information via only electrical/electrochemical signals, after all. That is the remarkable fact of neural processing. Therefore, this theory asserts that a quale is a special kind of signaling pattern.

“If we look around and consciously experience the visual qualia occurring right in front of us now, with the fact that the consciousness can experience the visual qualia and that the only things the consciousness neural process is capable of reading are signaling patterns of neural processes, it is inescapable to conclude that we are, in fact, experiencing the signaling patterns of neural processes!”

A quale is thus neither a new physical entity nor a novel non-physical entity but is just an under-recognized part of the well-recognized physical entity – it is just the signaling pattern of a neural process or just the informational part of a physical process.

5.2. The nature of conscious awareness and conscious experience

Next, let’s examine the nature of conscious awareness and conscious experience. When the consciousness neural process reads the signaling pattern of a neural process that has a quale it processes the information and then, with its specialized ability, creates the conscious awareness and the conscious experience of the quale. But what is the nature of the conscious awareness and the conscious experience? Are they separate entities from the consciousness neural process or intrinsic entities in the consciousness neural process?

We can investigate this matter similarly to what we did in the investigation of the nature of a quale in section 5.1 previously. Let’s investigate conscious awareness first.  Suppose the conscious awareness is an entity that functionally occurs separately and additionally to the consciousness neural process as in Figure 5.9A.  If this is the case, we will run into similar problems that Possibility 1 (section 5.1.1) encounters, for examples:

#1. What is the nature of this conscious awareness? From observation, it seems to be non-material, but other than that what is the exact nature of this non-material entity?

#2. How can it occur? Questions regarding its occurrence are similar to those of a quale’s occurrence in Possibility 1 (section 5.1.1.) For instance: If it occurs from the consciousness neural process, how does the consciousness neural process produce it? A neural process does not have an apparatus to produce anything that can contain signals or information, except its signaling pattern or signaling state. But if it does not occur from the consciousness neural process, what is the entity that produces it and what is the nature of this entity? And if the conscious awareness occurs out of nothing by itself, how can it do that and how can it know when and where to appear and when to disappear?

#3. How can this functionally separate conscious awareness get the information of Quale Q from the consciousness neural process or how can the consciousness neural process transfer the information of Quale Q to it so that it can be conscious awareness of Quale Q? A neural process does not have an apparatus to transfer information to anything, except to other neural processes, via its signaling pattern.

#4. How can the consciousness neural process read the signals from this separate conscious awareness so that it can be aware of this conscious awareness? If conscious awareness is an entity that occurs separately from the neural process, its signals cannot be E/EC signals and must be something else. What is the nature of these signals, and how can the consciousness neural process read signals that are not E/EC signals and that are functionally separate from it? A neural process does not have an apparatus to read anything that is signal or information, except E/EC signaling patterns of other neural processes.

It is evident that the possibility that conscious awareness is an entity that functionally occurs separately and additionally to the consciousness neural process has several critical questions that at present have no answers, and several additional hypotheses are needed to support this possibility. This is also true for the case that a conscious experience is an entity that functionally occurs separately and additionally to the consciousness neural process.

But if the conscious awareness of Quale Q occurs intrinsically in the consciousness neural process as in Figure 5.9B, what is its nature? The nature of the conscious awareness can be found from its physical properties as follows:

  1. Because it must be the information of the conscious awareness of Quale Q, it must be a signaling state or a signaling pattern in the consciousness neural process that is reading Quale Q (because information in the nervous system is in the form of a signaling state or a signaling pattern).
  2. Because the consciousness neural process can be consciously aware of the conscious awareness of Quale Q, the conscious awareness of Quale Q itself must be a quale. This means that the signaling pattern of the conscious awareness of Quale Q must be an SSP.
  3. Because there occurs conscious awareness of the conscious awareness of Quale Q and because there occurs conscious awareness of the conscious awareness of the conscious awareness of Quale Q and so on, this means that the conscious awareness of Quale Q must be in the state of sending its signals back to itself for the reentrant awareness to occur repeatedly, i.e., the conscious awareness of Quale Q must be in the form of a reentrant signaling state.

Definition. A reentrant signaling state is a signaling state that has its signals sent back to itself.

Now, the only thing in the consciousness neural process that can have these three properties is the reentrant signaling state of the consciousness neural process. This signaling state occurs after the consciousness neural process reads the signals from Quale Q, processes the signals, creates an SSP that represents primary conscious awareness of Quale Q, loops these signals back to itself to create the secondary conscious awareness of the primary conscious awareness, then loops the signals of the secondary conscious awareness back to itself to create tertiary conscious awareness and so on until the final conscious awareness that represents the unified conscious awareness of Quale Q and of its awareness of Quale Q results. The final reentrant signaling state thus is the information of the unified conscious awareness of Quale Q and of its awareness of Quale Q, and, like Possibility 2 in section 5.1., it can similarly be verified that it has all the physical properties of qualia.

Thus, it is logical to conclude that conscious awareness is just a reentrant signaling state of the consciousness neural process. The nature of a conscious experience can be found in the same way to also be another kind of reentrant signaling state of the consciousness neural process. Both of these reentrant signaling states differ from other reentrant signaling states that may occur in other neural processes [31] in that they are in some specific forms that have the information that makes them be conscious awareness and conscious experiences. Reentrant signaling states in other neural processes do not have this kind of information and thus cannot be conscious awareness and conscious experiences. Basically, however, both conscious awareness and conscious experiences are just special kinds of signaling states. Thus, while a quale is a special kind of information because it is a special kind of signaling pattern, conscious awareness and conscious experiences are also special kinds of information because they are special kinds of signaling states.

Let’s pause and recheck what we have found out up to this point about the nature of the mind, mental processes, qualia, conscious awareness, and conscious experiences. From Theorem II and this theorem (Theorem IV), it has been found that

  1. The mind is the composite of all information-processing processes of the brain.
  2. Mental processes are information-processing processes of their neural processes.
  3. Qualia are special kinds of information (or special kinds of signaling patterns) of their neural processes.
  4. Conscious awareness and conscious experiences are special kinds of information (or special kinds of signaling states) of the consciousness neural process.

All of them – the mind, the mental processes, the qualia, the conscious awareness, and the conscious experiences – are informational entities, not the conventional physical entities (mechanical entities) like mass, energy, or forces. They thus belong in the functional, informational category, not the physical, mechanical category that mass, energy, and forces belong. That is why they are intangible and so different from the conventional physical entities.

5.3. Products of evolved neural processes

As qualia occur selectively in some neural processes, not scatteredly in the whole nervous system, and as this is consistently true in billions of humans nowadays and in the past, qualia are certainly not randomly occurring phenomena. As all neural processes in the more primitive parts of the brain, such as the brainstem, cerebellum, and basal ganglia, do not have qualia while some neural processes in the latest-evolved parts of the brain, such as some parts of the neocortex, have qualia, qualia are evidently products of evolved neural processes. As there are physical differences between the more primitive neural processes that do not have qualia and the more evolved neural processes that have qualia [78], some physical differences between the two categories of neural processes are likely to be the determining factors for the qualia to occur. It is very likely that some specific physical characteristics have evolved in neural processes and resulted in specific kinds of neural processes that can generate SSPs, or qualia.

With similar consideration, it can be concluded likewise for conscious awareness and conscious experiences: they are products of the evolution of neural processes. It is very likely that some specific physical characteristics have evolved in neural processes and resulted in a specific kind of neural processes that can generate re-entrant signaling states that are conscious awareness and conscious experience: the consciousness neural process.

5.4. Effects of qualia

Do qualia have any effects or are they just inert mental phenomena, without any effects whatsoever? There are two ways to find this answer. They both lead to the same answer.

1. Consider Neural Process V (Figure 5.10A) that functions to produce a visual perception of a house without a quale occurring. Compare it with Neural Process V’ (Figure 5.10B) that functions similarly (i.e., to produce a visual perception of the same house) but with Quale Q (the quale of the visual perception of the house) occurring.

Like the previous discussion about the neural processes in Figure 5.5A and Figure 5.5B, there certainly are differences between the signaling pattern of Neural Process V and that of Neural Process V’ because Neural Process V does not have the special signaling pattern while Neural Process V’ does. Therefore, physical effects of both neural processes on the consciousness neural processes and other neural processes must be different too, at least from the processing of different signals. Thus, a neural process that has a quale has different physical effects from a neural process that does the same function but does not have a quale. So, a quale must have some physical effects.

2. Consider Neural process V and the consciousness neural process in Figure 5.10A. As there is only a registration of the visual perception occurring in the consciousness neural process, the information in this consciousness neural process will consist only of the visual perception registration. But Neural process V’ in Figure 5.10B functions similarly (i.e., to produce a visual perception of the house) but with Quale Q (the quale of the visual perception of the house) occurring. When the consciousness neural process in Figure 5.10B reads the signals from Neural process V’, which has Quale Q, not only the visual perception registration but also the conscious awareness and the conscious experience of Quale Q will occur in this consciousness neural process. The conscious awareness and conscious experience of Quale Q are additional information that the consciousness neural process in Figure 5.10A does not have. A different signaling state must occur in the consciousness neural process in Figure 5.10B to represent this new information. So, there is a difference between the signaling states of the two consciousness neural processes. Therefore, a quale must have physical effects, at least in causing a different signaling state (to represent the conscious awareness and experiences of it) to occur in the consciousness neural process that reads it.

At present, there is not enough evidence to state conclusively what the effects of qualia are. As qualia occur in the final stages of sensory perception and the highest-level cognitive and executive mental processes only, it is probable that qualia evolved to augment functions of these important mental processes, such as to augment effects of sensory perception or emotion mental processes so that they have more effects on other mental processes, such as thought mental processes or the autonomic system. Evidently, these augmenting effects must yield some beneficial edges to the animals that possess qualia, such as (definitely) humans and (probably) high-level animals (other mammals, birds, reptiles, etc. [79]), because they seem to be thriving in the evolutionary process.

5.4.1. But why does it have to be qualia to gain these augmenting effects?

Actually, before the augmentation of mental process functions by creating qualia emerged in the nervous system, the nervous system had been augmenting its functions with other means all along since it appeared: by developing a more and more complex and more and more capable nervous system. From a pre-nervous system with scattered neuron-like cells (such as in sponges) to a primitive nerve net (such as in cnidaria) to a primitive nerve cord with primitive nerve ganglia (such as in flatworms) to a nervous system with primitive brain (such as in gastropoda, e.g., molluscs) to a nervous system with primitive cerebral cortex (such as in vertebrata, e.g., lamprey) to a nervous system with highly developed cerebral cortex (human beings)[80], the nervous system has been evolving to be more complex and more capable throughout the time. Even after qualia had emerged in the cerebral cortex by evolving new neural circuitries and special signaling patterns, other parts of the cerebral cortex that functioned without qualia occurring in their processes did not stop evolving: they have been continuing to evolve to be more complex and more capable [81], resulting in higher intelligence, more language facilities, more manual skill abilities, etc. Even the cerebellum and other parts of the brain have proved to continue to co-evolve with the cerebral cortex [82,83,84] (which is most likely the seat of qualia) all the time, even if they do not have any qualia occurring in any of their neural processes. Thus, the nervous system has always been evolving to be more complex and more capable, notwithstanding the absence or presence of qualia.

Creation of qualia is just one possible path in the nervous system evolution. Qualia emerged in this world simply because, at some stage in the nervous system evolution, it was possible – the neural processes were advanced enough to evolve the new kinds of neural processes that were capable of producing signaling patterns that were qualia. After qualia began to appear in this world, they have been selected to persist up to the present time possibly because they yield some advantages to the animals that have them. And qualia emerged because of no other cause than evolution; that is why it took more than two billion years after life had appeared on earth and hundreds of millions of years after the nervous system had emerged before they could evolve into existence.

It remains to be seen whether creating qualia is the end of this evolutionary path or whether neural processes with qualia can evolve further into new kinds of neural processes with new kinds of mental phenomena that may be even more fascinating than qualia. It remains to be seen, also, whether non-qualia superintelligences (i.e., super-intelligences without qualia) rivaling or exceeding human intelligence (which has qualia) can evolve into existence in some animals in the far future. Actually, this kind of development is already progressing rapidly now in a non-living entity: a supercomputer without qualia, which is now able to solve complex mathematical problems that a human can never finish in his/her lifetime and to beat its own master at complex intelligent games, such as chess or Go. Someday, this type of super-computer – which does not have qualia – may become the ultimate supercomputers that are more intelligent and more capable of dealing with all problems better than their own masters, humans – who have qualia. If we consider the powerful capabilities of the cerebellum, which can process billions of signals and control millions of muscle fibers accurately in milliseconds without qualia occurring in their processes but can result in such marvelous motor feats as those performed by skillful gymnasts and masterly musicians, it is reasonable to speculate that some animals can possibly develop non-qualia intelligence and capabilities. Even today, it is possible that some animals that demonstrate intelligence but have quite different brain structure from ours, such as octopuses and bees, may not have qualia in their systems. The generation of qualia is not the necessary path or the most effective path, but just one possible path, in augmenting the nervous system functions.

5.4.2. Then, why not augment all mental processes with qualia, why augment only some of them?

As qualia occur only in the final stages of sensory perception and the highest-level cognitive and executive mental processes, which are crucial mental processes for surviving in the complex world, it is possible that qualia evolved to augment functions of these crucial mental processes. Evidently, the lower mental processes, such as those in the basal ganglia, brain stem, and cerebellum, are able to perform their routine functions efficiently already without qualia. Qualia in these mental processes may thus be unnecessary and even disadvantageous because some resources must be diverted to create, maintain, and operate them. Therefore, the answer to this question is that qualia exist in only some mental processes and not in some mental processes because in some mental processes they are beneficial while in some mental processes they are not and may even be disadvantageous.

5.5. The hard problem of qualia

The hard problem of qualia is like the hard problem of consciousness [1,8,11,28,85-87] in that it is not expected to be answered by scientific investigations alone. To address it, some novel basic concepts are needed. These concepts have been developed from the first chapter up to this section and can now be used to answer this problem. The hard problem of qualia and closely related questions are as follows:

5.5.1. What are qualia?

Qualia are special kinds of neural process information. These kinds of information describe the phenomenal characteristics of things – which are different from those thing’s non-phenomenal characteristics such as various physical values that may be sent together subconsciously by other processes. Therefore, when the consciousness neural process reads these kinds of information, conscious awareness and conscious experiences of the phenomenal characteristics of those things naturally and inevitably occur. This is how qualia appear in the mind with all their phenomenal characteristics.

Physically, qualia are special kinds of neural process signaling patterns. These signaling patterns themselves are qualia (the information discussed above) – nothing else is created to be the qualia. These kinds of signaling patterns can induce the consciousness neural process to create conscious awareness and conscious experiences of the signaling patterns, with the awareness of what their phenomenal characteristics are like occurring; because of this, they are qualia. Thus, qualia are intrinsically occurring entities in, not entities that occur separately and additionally to, their neural processes. They are informational entities like the mind and mental processes and are categorically different from conventional physical entities (mechanical entities) like mass, energy, and force.

5.5.2. Why do qualia exist?

Qualia exist in this universe because it is fundamentally possible to have them in this universe. And they exist in the nervous system – in the special signaling patterns of neural processes – because, in this universe, it is fundamental in the neural signaling patterns’ nature that some kinds of them are qualia: some kinds of neural signaling patterns in this universe can induce the consciousness neural process to create the conscious awareness and conscious experiences of themselves. It is a brute fact.

5.5.3. Why do qualia occur?

Qualia occurred because, at some evolutionary stage about 520 – 315 million years ago**, it was possible for the nervous system, which was advanced enough then, to evolve new kinds of neural processes that were capable of producing special signaling patterns, which were qualia. Thus, qualia occurred simply because it was evolutionarily possible for them to occur.

Qualia still occur today because there are neural processes that are capable of producing them functioning. Evidently, that these kinds of neural processes still exist today means that they have been preserved in the evolutionary process since they appeared in this world. This, in turn, indicates that these kinds of neural processes, which produce qualia, must yield some effects that increase the chance of survival of the species that possess them. Thus, qualia still occur today because they must somehow help increase the chance of survival of the species that possess them.

(**Approximately, life began 3.5 billion years ago, and primitive nervous system arose about 700 million years ago (in Cnidaria)[88-90]. Between 550 and 525 MYa, we see the first fossil appearances of many animal innovations, including eyes [91], and nervous system complex enough to generate qualia arose around 520 million years ago (in primitive vertebrates) [88-90,92] or around 315 million years ago (if in more advanced vertebrates)[93].)

5.5.4. How do qualia occur?

Qualia occur by the functioning of neural circuits. Specifically, they occur by neural circuits circulating their signals in some special signaling patterns. These special signaling patterns themselves are qualia – no additional entities to be qualia are created.

5.5.5. When do qualia occur?

As discussed in 5.5.3., qualia occurred in this world around 520 – 315 million years ago when the nervous system was advanced enough to evolve neural circuits that were able to produce special signaling patterns, which were qualia. After that, qualia occur whenever neural circuits circulate their signals in the form of special signaling patterns.

5.5.6. Why can there not be just mental processes without qualia?

There can be just mental processes without qualia, and this had been the case for a long time – hundreds of millions of years – since the nervous system had appeared on this planet to the time when evolving neural processes became advanced enough to produce qualia. When that time came, qualia emerged simply because it was possible. It is only after that time that there are mental processes with qualia. But, it should be noted that, even nowadays, mental processes without qualia still far exceed mental processes with qualia in number.

5.5.7. Why can SSPs not be qualia but still preserve the same augmenting effects?

Because they cannot do that. If SSPs are qualia (which they indeed are), they induce the consciousness neural process to produce conscious awareness and conscious experiences, which are particular signaling states, of the qualia. These particular signaling states are what that have the augmenting effects (Figure 5.11 A).

Figure 5.11 Effects of a signaling pattern that is and that is not a quale

If they are not qualia (Figure 5.11 B.), they will not induce the consciousness neural process to produce conscious awareness and conscious experiences of the qualia. Consequently, the particular signaling states that are conscious awareness and conscious experiences of the qualia will not occur, and the augmenting effects from such particular signaling states will not occur. In conclusion, the augmenting effects cannot occur if these particular signaling states (conscious awareness and conscious experiences of the qualia) do not occur because SSPs are not qualia in the first place.

In conclusion, qualia, as they are (i.e., with phenomenal characteristics that can induce the occurrences of conscious awareness and conscious experiences of themselves), occur in the nervous system because, in this form, they have particular effects on the nervous system and thus have particular functions in the nervous system. If they were not in this form (i.e., without phenomenal characteristics that can induce the occurrences of conscious awareness and conscious experiences of themselves), these particular effects and functions would not occur.

5.6. Predictions

  1. A quale can be identified, quantified, or monitored by identifying, quantifying, or monitoring only its SSP, respectively. These actions on the SSP are both necessary and sufficient for the corresponding actions on the quale to occur, and these actions on anything else without having the actions on the SSP will not result in the corresponding actions on the quale.
  2. A quale can be created, modified, tested, or destroyed by creating, modifying, testing, or destroying only its SSP, respectively. These actions on the SSP are both necessary and sufficient for the corresponding actions on the quale to occur, and these actions on anything else without having the actions on the SSP will not result in the corresponding actions on the quale. Experimentally, isolated actions on the SSP, without having actions on anything else, can be done by electrical stimulations, magnetic stimulations, and pharmacologic agents that have effects on only E/EC signal transmissions of the neural process (because the SSP is the pattern of E/EC signal transmissions among neurons of the neural process).
  3. In any event or experiment, all predictions that are valid for the SSP of the neural process of a quale, such as that the SSP will occur, change, or disappear, will be identically valid for the quale: the changes that occur in the SSP and those that occur in the quale will be identical in all aspects (quality, quantity, temporal pattern, etc.). For example, if the SSP changes its pattern abruptly from being a signaling pattern of the static, faint, homogenous red color to being a signaling pattern of the dynamic, vivid, complex movie; the changes in the quale will be identical in all aspects, such as identical changes from homogeneous color to complex movie (quality), from faint to vivid (quantity), and abruptly from static to dynamic (temporal pattern).
  4. It will be found that neural processes that have qualia have signaling patterns that are SSPs, which have categorically different characteristics from those of signaling patterns of neural processes that do not have qualia, and that signaling patterns of different kinds of qualia are significantly different from each other but have some principal features in common.

5.7. Remarks

Even with all the demonstrated evidence, some people may still insist that a quale is not a special kind of E/EC signaling pattern (SSP) but is something else, let’s denote it with Q. If this is the case, then there must be some properties that differentiate Q from the SSP. These properties must be the quale’s properties, other than those listed at the beginning of this chapter, that Q has but that the SSP does not. Thus, not only must Q have all the already listed properties of the quale but also it must have these additional, differentiating properties too. The questions are, other than the SSP, what is the entity that has all the already listed properties of the quale and what are these additional, differentiating properties that will invalidate the SSP as the entity that the quale is? As long as such an entity and such properties are not identified and as long as the predictions pertaining to the assertion that the quale is the SSP, as stated above, are true, it is illogical and useless to devise Q or any other entity to be the entity that the quale is and logical to insist that the quale is the SSP.

Also, it should be noted that the kind of idea that the signaling pattern of a neural process is a quale is not a novel one. The idea that patterns of neural processes correlate with qualia has been in existence for some time. For more details of the background of this idea, please see ref 3,94,95. This theory just proves it explicitly and specifically that it is the special signaling pattern that is the quale and states it definitely as a theorem so that its implications can be discerned easily and can be the clear targets for experiments in the future.

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“Basically, all qualia that we have – all the colors, all the sounds, all the emotions, all the thoughts, and all the memory as they are in our minds – are here simply because it is possible to have them in this universe and for them to come into existence at some evolutionary time. And they are still here because they have helped us in our survival.

Qualia are here to help us survive.”

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Next: Chapter 6 – Theorem V >

Back to Chapter 4 – Theorem III


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