Theorem IV: A Quale is the Special Signaling Pattern of a Neural Process
In the previous chapter, it is concluded that qualia are physical phenomena. But 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 , 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 details in the previous chapter. They are summarized here again as follows:
QP1. Required physical properties.
QP1.1. Their nature is mental phenomena.
QP1.2. Their characteristics are phenomenal and consciously experienceable.
QP2. Observed physical properties.
QP2.1. Their nature is non-material.
QP2.2. Their activities are fast, dynamic, and information-intensive.
QP2.3. Their occurrences are from and their existence is with their specific neural processes, and both are consistent.
QP2.4. Their places of occurrences are selectively and specifically limited to some specific neural processes.
QP2.5. Their capacities are limited and identical to those of their specific neural processes.
QP2.6. Their details are determined by and are identical to their specific neural processes, with definiteness in form of occurrence.
QP2.7. Their changes are dependent on their specific neural processes.
QP2.8. Their interactions depend on and are via their specific neural processes.
5.1. The nature of qualia and Theorem IV
As qualia are mental phenomena, they are parts of their mental processes, which are parts of their neural processes (Theorem I). Thus, like their mental processes, qualia are also parts of their neural processes, in the sense that they are created by, are at the same places as, change with, and disappear with their neural processes. However, even if a quale must anatomically be at the same place as its neural process, it is possible that, functionally, it occurs as a separate, additional entity to its neural process but functions in unity with its neural process, like the soul (in many beliefs) that is envisioned to be a separate, additional entity to the brain but functions in unity with the brain. However, it is also possible that, functionally, a quale occurs intrinsically in its neural process without any additional entity occurring, like the affirmative information that occurs intrinsically in the head-nodding process without any additional entity occurring.
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.
Possibility 2. A quale occurs intrinsically in its neural process with no additional entity occurring.
Possibility 1 requires that, functionally, a quale is an entity that occurs in addition to and separately from its neural process. Thus, its functions and effects are separate from those of its neural process.
Possibility 2 requires that, functionally, a quale is an entity that 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.
To be noted at this point is that a quale in both possibilities can be either a by-product (an epiphenomenon) or an objective product (an intended product) of its neural process, and it may be inert (yielding no effects) or active (yielding some effects) – these have to be investigated later.
5.1.1 Possibility 1: A quale occurs separately from its neural process as an additional entity.
Consider Neural Process A (Figure 5.1) that functions to produce a visual perception of a house without a quale occurring. The consciousness neural process will communicate with Neural Process A via its signaling pattern and read it as a visual perception of a house without a quale occurring.
Now, Neural Process A’ (Figure 5.2) is another neural process that functions to produce a visual perception of the same house, but with Quale A’ (a quale of a visual perception of the house) occurring separately as an additional entity. The consciousness neural process will communicate with Neural Process A’ via its signaling pattern and read it as a visual perception of a house without a quale occurring because, functionally, Quale A’ occurs separately from Neural Process A’ as an additional entity, with separate functions and effects from those of Neural Process A’.
The problems of this possibility are as follows:
Figure 5.3 A Functionally Additional and Separate Quale
#1. For the consciousness neural process to have a conscious experience and conscious awareness of Quale A’, it must read signals from Quale A’ and get into the signaling state that signals the conscious experience and conscious awareness of Quale A’ (Figure 5.3). But, signal-wise, a neural process does not have organelles or apparatuses to read anything except electrical and/or electrochemical signals of other neural processes. So, if a quale is an additional entity occurring separately from its neural process, a new type of signals that is neither electrical nor electrochemical must be postulated for this quale, and new mechanisms for the consciousness neural process to read the signals that are of a new type and that are functionally separated from the neural process are needed. (This problem occurs from the necessity to fulfill the property QP1.2., that is, it must be consciously experienceable.)
#2. What is the exact nature of Quale A’? From the properties of qualia, listed at the beginning of this chapter, which Quale A’ must have, Quale A’ must be a non-material entity. But what is the exact nature of this non-material entity? Identifiable additional phenomena that occur with the neural process and that are non-material, such as changes in neural metabolism (e.g., heat generation, oxygen consumption, and intracellular biochemical reactions) and changes in regional blood circulation, are non-specific (i.e., they are similar in all neural processes) and thus cannot function variedly to be various types of qualia. Also, these additional phenomena do not have fast, dynamic, and information-intensive properties and are not readable by the consciousness neural process. So, they cannot be Quale A’. Thus, Quale A’ must be a novel entity, which requires a whole new set of laws governing its nature.
#3. How does Quale A’, which has to have fast, dynamic, and information-intensive properties, occur? If it is produced by the neural process, how does the neural process produce it? A neural process does not have organelles or apparatuses to produce anything that has fast, dynamic, and information–intensive characteristics, except its signaling pattern (which is an intrinsic part of the neural process and thus cannot be Quale A’ by its definition).
Also, if Quale A’ occurs separately and additionally to its neural process, how can Quale A’ have information capacity and details identical to its specific neural processes? For example, if Quale A’ is a visual quale, how can Quale A’s capacity (i.e., visual field’s extent and color spectrum) and details (color, brightness, and velocity information of each and every pixel in the visual field) be identical to those of the visual perception neural process? And how can Quale A’, in a case of a dynamic quale such as a quale of a movie or of a song, always change identically and simultaneously with its specific neural process. Some novel mechanisms must exist to enable its specific neural process to always transfer its information capacity and details from itself to the functionally separate Quale A’ instantaneously and continuously. But, a neural process does not have organelles or apparatuses to transfer information to anything, except to other neural processes, via its signaling pattern.
In summary, what are the mechanisms that a certain neural process uses to create an additional, separate entity that has fast dynamic and information-intensive characteristics with information capacity and details identical to itself, instantaneously and continuously?
#4. If qualia occur separately and additionally to their neural processes like Quale A’, how can they restrict their occurrences to only some kinds of neural processes (such as those in the final stages of sensory perception and in the highest-level cognitive and executive processes) and never occur in other kinds of neural processes (such as those in the early stages of sensory perception, basal ganglia processes, and cerebellar processes)? This is in contrast to other phenomena that occur separately and additionally to neural processes, such as changes in neural metabolism and changes in regional blood circulation, as described above. These separate, additional phenomena occur non-selectively in all neural processes. Therefore, there must be some mechanisms that determine and control their rigid selectivity in places of occurrence. What are these mechanisms?
#5. If qualia occur separately and additionally to their neural processes like Quale A’, how can they not be qualitatively uniform no matter where they occur; how can there be different kinds of qualia with different phenomenal characteristics – visual, auditory, emotional, thought, etc.? And how can each kind of qualia be very specific in where they occur (visual qualia occur in only visual neural processes, auditory qualia occur in only auditory neural processes, emotional qualia occur in only emotional neural processes, etc.)? This is in contrast to other phenomena that occur separately and additionally to neural processes, such as changes in neural metabolism and changes in regional blood circulation, as described above. These separate, additional phenomena are similar in all neural processes – there are no different types of them for different neural processes. Therefore, there must be some mechanisms that generate different kinds of phenomenal characteristics of these qualia and control the specificity in their places of occurrences. What are these mechanisms?
It is evident that Possibility 1 – a quale phenomenon functionally occurs separately from the neural process as an additional entity – has several critical questions that at present have no answers, 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, a quale must be some intrinsically occurring entity in the neural process. This entity 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 (like possibility 1, it must fulfill the property QP1.2., that is, it must be consciously experienceable). Now, the only intrinsically occurring entity in a neural process that the consciousness neural process can read is the signaling pattern 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 not all of those 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 conscious 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 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. The theory asserts this as Theorem IV:
Theorem IV: A quale is the special signaling pattern (SSP) of a neural process.
As a special signaling pattern is just the special form of a signaling pattern and as a signaling pattern of a neural process is information of that neural process, a special signaling pattern is the special form of information of that neural process. Theorem IV can be stated equivalently in another form:
Theorem IV: A quale is the special form of information of a neural process.
Consider Neural Process A (Figure 5.4) that functions to produce a visual perception of a house without a quale occurring. The consciousness neural process will communicate with Neural Process A via its signaling pattern and read it as a visual perception of a house without a quale occurring.
Now, Neural Process A’ (Figure 5.5) is another neural process that functions to produce a visual perception of a house with the quale of the visual perception of the house, Quale A’, occurring intrinsically in the neural process with no additional entity occurring. This means that Neural Process A’ has the special signaling pattern, which is a different signaling pattern from that of Neural Process A. So, when the consciousness neural process reads this signaling pattern, it gets into the signaling state that signals the conscious awareness and the conscious experience of Quale A’. When the consciousness neural process is in this signaling state, the conscious awareness and the conscious experience of Quale A’ unavoidably occur. This is how a quale occurs intrinsically in the neural process with no additional entity occurring: by a neural process producing the special signaling pattern. And this is how conscious awareness and a conscious experience of a quale occur: by the consciousness neural process reading the special signaling pattern and then getting into the signaling state that signals the conscious awareness and the conscious experience of that quale.
But how can material electrical/electrochemical signals be qualia, which is non-material? The answer is that the electrical/electrochemical signals per se are not qualia; it is the patterns of the signals, the information or the abstract aspect of the signals, that are. And, as noted above, not all signaling patterns are qualia, only some signaling patterns – the SSPs – are qualia. But, then again, how can some signaling patterns be qualia? The answer is that some signaling patterns (the SSPs) can induce the consciousness neural process into the signaling states that signal the conscious awareness and the conscious experiences of the qualia. When the consciousness neural process is signaling the conscious awareness and the conscious experiences of the qualia, the conscious awareness (of the qualia’s occurrence and of what the qualia’s phenomenal characteristics are like (what the red color is like, what the sound of note C is like, what the feeling of happiness is like, etc.) and the conscious experiences of the qualia must occur – this is unavoidable. In this universe, it is just that some signaling patterns of mental processes can be qualia and that the consciousness neural process can signal conscious awareness and conscious experiences of the qualia with some of its signaling patterns*; it is all 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 many kinds of neural processes and signaling patterns 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 and signaling patterns cannot. 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) exist or will occur in other kinds of signaling patterns of present or future neural processes.
(*It remains to investigate what kinds of signaling pattern can generate phenomenal characteristics and what their characteristics are. Many neuroscientists are working on these issues, and interesting developments and theories, such as 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, there are no contradictions occurring in regard to the required physical properties that qualia must have. This can be verified as follows:
QP1.1. Because the SSPs are just some kinds of signaling patterns of neural processes, they are inherently part of signaling-pattern processing processes, which are mental processes. That is, they are part of mental processes or mental phenomena – as required.
QP1.2. The SSPs have phenomenal characteristics and are consciously experienceable. This can be proved as follows:
From QP1.2. in the previous chapter, if an SSP has consciously experienceable phenomenal characteristics, physically it must
- be information about something that is not itself,
- not react with anything else other than the conscious neural process,
- be able to induce consciousness neural process into a unique signaling state,
- be readable by the consciousness neural process, and
- be able to induce the consciousness neural process into the signaling state that signals the conscious awareness and the conscious experience of itself.
Proof that the SSP has consciously experienceable phenomenal characteristics:
- Because the SSP of a neural process is information about stimuli from the environment (such as light, sound, or tactile stimuli), from the body (such as proprioception, vestibular stimuli, or pain from internal organs), and from within the mind (such as emotion, thought, or memory), it is information about something. And because each SSP is not information about itself, it is information about something that is not itself – as required. For example, the SSP of the quale red is the information about the 700-nm light, not about the SSP itself [Figure 5.6].
Figure 5.6 Phenomenal Characteristics of a Signaling Pattern
2. Because the SSP sends information to the consciousness neural process only, it cannot and does not react with anything else other than the consciousness neural process – as required.
3. Because the SSPs of various kinds of qualia (vision, sound, thought, emotion, etc.) are created by different kinds of neural processes in different areas of the brain (occipital cortex, temporal cortex, frontal cortex, amygdala, etc.) and because these different kinds of neural processes have different cytoarchitecture, different connections, and different receptors and neurotransmitters [47-69], each of these different kinds of neural processes creates a special signaling pattern that is characteristically unique and basically different from others. And when it is read by the consciousness neural process, it will appear unique (as vision, sound, emotion, etc.) and different from others. Thus, the SSP is able to induce consciousness neural process into a unique signaling state, – as required.
While differences in major patterns of special signaling patterns create different kinds of qualia with major differences in experiential characteristics (vision, sound, thought, emotion, etc.), differences in minor patterns create minor differences (or differences in details) of 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], the brain’s neural circuits can create virtually infinite numbers of different special signaling patterns that can represent virtually anything in the world and result in virtually infinite qualia that we experience in our lives. Therefore, the SSPs have the capacity to represent everything that we experience in our lives.
4. & 5. Because, by definition, the SSP can induce the conscious awareness and the conscious experience of itself in the consciousness neural process, the SSP is readable by the consciousness neural process and able to induce the consciousness neural process into the signaling state that signals the conscious awareness and the conscious experience of itself – as required.
QP2.1. Because any signaling patterns of neural processes are information of the neural processes, the SSPs are information of their neural processes and thus non-material – intangible, no mass, no size, and no shape – as required.
QP2.2. 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.
QP2.3. Because the SSPs consistently occur and exist whenever their neural processes function (because their neural processes will create their SSPs whenever they function) and because the SSPs consistently disappear whenever their neural processes stop functioning (because their neural processes will not create their SSPs when they do not function), the SSPs’ occurrences are from and their existence is with their specific neural processes, and both are consistent – as required.
QP2.4. Because the SSPs can occur in only 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 neural processes that can produce SSPs. This explains the selectivity in places of occurrences – as required. And because each specific neural process produces only a 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 occurs with the color-perception neural process only. This explains specificity in places of occurrences – as required.
QP2.5. Because neural processes have limited ranges of information, such as limited color spectrum ranges and limited sound spectrum ranges, that they can encode in their signaling patterns, the SSPs’ capacities, or ranges of information, are thus limited and identical to their neural processes – as required.
QP2.6. Because the details and all other aspects (such as spectral characteristics)* of information encoded in the signaling patterns are determined by the neural processes, the SSPs’ details and all other aspects (such as spectral characteristics) are thus determined by their neural processes – as required. And because the number and types of SSPs of any qualia (such as the number and type of basic qualia – color, shape, dimension, movement, etc. – for visual qualia) are determined by the number and types of neural processes that create that qualia and because the number and types of neural processes for any qualia are definite, the number and type of SSPs for any qualia are definite – as required.
(*See more detail about spectral characteristics and number-and-type of components in section QP2.6. in the last chapter.)
QP2.7. Because signaling patterns are functioning parts of the neural processes, it is inevitable that the SSPs are functioning parts of the neural processes and thus change identically and simultaneously with their neural processes’ functions – as required.
QP2.8. Because the SSPs are signaling patterns of neural processes and because interactions of neural processes’ signaling patterns depend on and occur via their neural process synapses, the SSPs’ interactions depend on and are via their neural process synapses – as required.
For other, non-physical properties that some philosophers believe are the properties of qualia, such as being private, subjective, representational, intentional, ineffable [74-77], the SSPs have these properties too. If it can be proved that qualia have these properties, then it can be proved in the same way that the SSPs also have these properties because the SSPs contain the same information and has the same connections to and the same effects on other neural processes/mental processes as qualia do. For example, if a quale is representational to something, the SSP is certainly representational to that thing as well because they have the same information. Also, any signaling pattern is certainly being 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 apparatuses and no neural circuits that are built to get information about what signaling patterns themselves are. (All neural circuits are built to get 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, 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 QP1.2 above and QP1.2.-A in the previous chapter).
A quale is thus neither a new physical entity nor a novel non-physical entity but is just an under-recognized part of the already existing physical entity – the special signaling pattern of a neural process or the special form of information of a physical process. Because they are information, they are abstract – that is why they are so different from material things.
Finally, to be noted is that if one insists that a quale is something else, let’s say Q, that is not the SSP of the neural process, then there must be some properties that Q has but the SSP lacks that makes Q able to be the quale while excluding the SSP. No such properties are identifiable now. At present, all the evidence is that all the identifiable properties of a quale are identically the properties of the SSP, and the SSP can account for all the quale manifestations. Most importantly for Q, however, is that how can the consciousness neural process read the non-signaling-pattern Q and how can this non-signaling-pattern Q induce the consciousness process into the signaling state that signals the conscious awareness and the conscious experience of itself, which is the must for all qualia? All neural processes have evolved to read, process, and send only neural signals, after all. That is the remarkable fact. Therefore, this theory asserts that a quale is the special signaling pattern of a neural process.
“If we look around and consciously experience the vision occurring right in front of us now, with the fact that this vision can be aware of 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!”
5.2. The nature of conscious awareness and conscious experience
Next, the question is “What is the nature of conscious awareness and conscious experience?”.
It was discussed in 5.1.2. that when the consciousness neural process reads the signaling pattern of the neural process that has Quale A, it gets into the signaling state that signals the conscious awareness and the conscious experience of Quale A, and when the consciousness neural process is in this signaling state, the conscious awareness and the conscious experience of Quale A unavoidably occur. This is because the consciousness neural process is signaling nothing else but the conscious awareness and the conscious experience of Quale A, so it is the conscious awareness and the conscious experience of Quale A, not anything else, that are to occur.
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 quale in section 5.1 above. Let’s investigate conscious awareness first. Suppose the conscious awareness is an entity that occurs separately and additionally to the consciousness neural process as in Figure 5.7.
If this is the case, we will run into similar problems that possibility 1 in section 5.1.1 encounters, that is, what is the nature of this conscious awareness, how can it occur, how can the consciousness neural process read the signals from this separate conscious awareness so that it can be aware of this conscious awareness, and how can this separate conscious awareness get the information of the Quale A’ from the consciousness neural process so that it can be conscious awareness of Quale A’?
But if the conscious awareness occurs intrinsically in the consciousness neural process as its special signaling pattern like qualia, as in Figure 5.8., the consciousness neural process can readily be aware of this conscious awareness because it is in the form that the consciousness neural process can read and because the consciousness neural process can readily access it. Also, the special signaling pattern of the neural process certainly has the information of Quale A’ that the consciousness has.
Thus, it is logical to conclude that the conscious awareness is just the special signaling pattern of the consciousness neural process. Therefore, when the consciousness neural process is in the signaling state that has this special signaling pattern, conscious awareness must occur. The proof for a conscious experience is the same. And because conscious awareness and a conscious experience of a quale always occur together, it can be concluded that conscious awareness and a conscious experience are the special signaling pattern of the consciousness neural process. Therefore, conscious awareness and a conscious experience always occur when the consciousness neural process is in the signaling state that signals this special signaling pattern. This matter will be summarized as a theorem in the next chapter when other aspects of consciousness are discussed.
5.3. Qualia: the objective products of neural processes.
As not all neural processes have qualia, not all neural processes have SSPs. 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 have qualia and as these two categories of neural processes differ physically , some physical differences between the two categories of neural processes must be the determining factors for the SSPs to occur. This means that some specific physical characteristics have evolved in neural processes and resulted in specific kinds of neural processes that can generate SSPs. As neural processes had to evolve to produce these SSPs and as these evolved neural processes that produce the SSPs have no other additional effects, the SSPs or the qualia are thus the objective products, not by-products or epiphenomena, of these evolved neural processes.
As qualia are the objective products of neural processes, they do not arbitrarily occur in their neural processes – they always occur in their neural processes whenever their neural processes function. This is simply because they are the SSPs of their neural processes; thus, whenever their neural processes function, the SSPs will always occur, and so will qualia. The evidence that supports this is the consistency of qualia’s occurrences, which was discussed in section QP2.3. in the previous chapter.
Also, there cannot be identical neural processes that some of them have qualia and some of them do not. If some of them have qualia, then their signaling patterns must be the SSPs, and all other neural processes that are identical to them must have the SSPs as their signaling patterns. The qualia will thus inevitably occur in all of them. This negates the possibility of a p-zombie that is defined as a being that is physically identical to a normal human except that it lacks qualia. According to this theory, any being that is physically identical to a normal human, who has qualia, must have qualia. This will be discussed more in details in Chapter 10 Zombie.
5.4. Effects of qualia
5.4.1. Do qualia have any effects or are they just inert mental phenomena, without any effects whatsoever?
To answer this question, let’s consider Neural Process A (Figure 5.9) that functions to produce a visual perception of a house without a quale occurring. Compare it with Neural Process A’ (Figure 5.10) that functions similarly (i.e., to produce a visual perception of a house) but with a Quale A’ (a quale of a visual perception of a house) occurring.
Like the previous discussion about the neural processes in Figure 5.4 and Figure 5.5, there certainly are differences between the signaling pattern of Neural Process A and that of Neural Process A’ because Neural Process A does not have the special signaling pattern while Neural Process A’ does. Therefore, physical effects of both neural processes on consciousness neural processes and other neural processes must be different too, at least in 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.
5.4.2. What are physical effects that occur from qualia?
At present, there is no definite evidence to conclude what they 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 autonomic system. Evidently, these augmented 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.  – because they seem to be thriving in the evolutionary process.
5.4.3. But why does it have to be qualia to gain these augmented effects?
Actually, before augmentation of mental processes 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 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), the nervous system has evolved to be more complex and more capable throughout the time, notwithstanding the absence or presence of qualia. 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 function without qualia occurring did not stop evolving: they have been continuing to evolve to be more complex and more capable , 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.
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 had advanced enough to evolve the new kinds of neural processes that were capable of producing signaling patterns that are 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 to no other causes 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 and 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., superintelligences 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 beat its own master at complex intelligent games, such as chess or Go. Someday, this type of super-computer (i.e., without 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 super-intelligence and capabilities like those of the ultimate supercomputers too. 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.
5.4.4. Then, why not augment all mental processes’ functions with qualia? Why augment only some mental processes?
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 a 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 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 maybe even disadvantageous.
5.5. The hard problems of qualia
5.5.1. 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. Whether qualia exist in other signaling patterns, such as signaling patterns of electronic circuits in computers or robots, or in other non-signaling processes, such as weather systems, population systems, or dynamic energetic processes in the star, remains to be investigated.
5.5.2. 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 neural processes that were capable of producing special signaling patterns that were qualia**. Thus, qualia occurred simply because it was evolutionarily possible for them to occur.
(** Approximately, life began 3.5 billion years ago, and primitive nervous system arose about 700 million years ago [in Cnidaria][85,86,87]. Between 550 and 525 MYa, we see the first fossil appearances of many animal innovations, including eyes , and nervous system complex enough to generate qualia arose around 520 million years ago [in primitive vertebrates][85,86,87,89] or around 315 million years ago [if in more advanced vertebrates].)
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, implies that these kinds of neural processes, which produce qualia, must yield some beneficial functions 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.
5.5.3. 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. The exact characteristics of these special signaling patterns are being actively investigated by neuroscientists.
5.5.4. When do qualia occur?
As discussed in 5.5.2., 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 that were qualia. After that, qualia occur whenever neural circuits circulate their signals in some special signaling patterns.
5.5.5. 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 that evolving neural processes became advanced enough to produce qualia (see ** above). When that time came, qualia emerged simply because it was possible.
5.5.6. (a) Why can SSPs not be qualia but still preserve the same augmenting effects?
(a) Because they cannot do that. As SSPs are qualia, they induce the consciousness neural process into particular signaling states that signal conscious awareness and conscious experiences of qualia; if they are not qualia, they will not induce the consciousness neural process into these particular signaling states. The consciousness neural process in these particular signaling states has particular effects on other neural processes. Therefore, these particular effects cannot occur if SSPs are not qualia in the first place.
5.5.6. (b) Why does nature not augment the nervous system with signaling patterns that are identical to SSPs in physical effects but that are not qualia?
(b) Because that is not possible. As evident from (a), augmenting the nervous system with qualia and without qualia can never be identical in physical effects due to the differences in the resulting signaling states of the consciousness neural process in cases with qualia and in cases without qualia. And the consciousness neural process in different signaling states have different physical effects on other neural processes, so the physical effects in cases with qualia and in cases without qualia can never be identical.
- Qualia are the special signaling patterns of neural processes. Equivalently, qualia are the special forms of information of neural processes.
- Qualia exist because it is fundamentally possible to have qualia in this universe, and qualia exist in neural processes because it is fundamentally possible for some signaling patterns of the neural processes to be qualia. Similarly, conscious awareness and conscious experiences of qualia exist in the consciousness neural process because it is fundamentally possible for some signaling states of the consciousness neural process to signal conscious awareness and conscious experiences of qualia.
- Qualia emerged into existence because, at a certain stage of nervous system evolution when neural processes had advanced enough, neural processes that could produce special signaling patterns that were qualia evolved into existence.
- Qualia are not by-products of neural processes; neural processes had to evolve to be able to produce special signaling patterns that were qualia. And qualia are not inert – they have certain physical effects, probably beneficial effects to beings that have them.
- Qualia still exist today because they must yield some advantages that help increase survival chance of the species that have them, so they are thereby selected to remain with the species.
“Basically, all qualia that we have – our vivid sensory perceptions, our vivid joy and happiness, our vivid suffering and sadness, our vivid memory, our vivid thought, etc. – are here simply because it was 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.”
- It will be found that neural processes that have qualia have signaling patterns that are categorically different from signaling patterns of neural processes that do not have qualia. At present, there is some evidence about what these special signaling patterns might be. It has been found that qualia can result from information cycled through a hierarchy of networks in a resonant state , cortical neural synchronization , attractor behavior in networks of layer 2/3 and of layer 5A pyramidal neurons [37,38], and other mechanisms [1,6,34,35,37,43].
- It will be found that neural processes that have a certain kind of qualia, such as visual qualia, have signaling patterns that are significantly different from signaling patterns of neural processes that have a different kind of qualia, such as auditory qualia or emotion qualia. But the signaling pattern differences between different kinds of qualia will not be as much as the signaling pattern differences between neural processes that have and that do not have qualia.
- It will be found that signaling patterns that represent different things but that are of the same kind of qualia, such as a signaling pattern of a visual quale of the color red and that of a visual quale of the color blue, are different in minor patterns but similar in major patterns.
- As a quale is a kind of signaling pattern of a neural process, all predictions that are valid for the signaling pattern of that neural process in any event or experiment will also be valid for that quale. For example, if the predictions in an event or experiment involving a signaling pattern are that the signaling pattern will disappear, reappear, change, etc., the same predictions will be true for the quale of that signaling pattern too.
- A quale can be created, manipulated, measured qualitatively and quantitatively, monitored, or destroyed by performing the respective action to the signaling pattern of that quale.
- Mind reading is possible. If the knowledge of signaling patterns that are qualia is advanced enough, it will be possible to identify what quale a certain signaling pattern is. For example, if the exact signaling pattern of the vision of a red rose, of the hearing of the note C, of the emotion of furious anger, and of the thinking of one’s home are known, when any of these signaling patterns occurs, we can identify which one of the qualia is occurring [91,92,93].
- Neural prostheses that can generate the special signaling patterns will be successful in creating the qualia of those signaling patterns.
It is to 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, not any other kinds of signaling patterns, that is the quale, and this Theory states it definitely as a theorem so that its implications can be discerned easily and that it can be the clear target for tests and verification experiments in the future.
This Theorem will be invalidated if there is evidence showing that there are properties that qualia have but special signaling patterns cannot have or there are properties that special signaling patterns have but qualia cannot have.
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