Phi: A Voyage from the Brain to the Soul
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This title is printed in full color throughout.
From one of the most original and influential neuroscientists at work today, here is an exploration of consciousness unlike any other—as told by Galileo, who opened the way for the objectivity of science and is now intent on making subjective experience a part of science as well.
Galileo’s journey has three parts, each with a different guide. In the first, accompanied by a scientist who resembles Francis Crick, he learns why certain parts of the brain are important and not others, and why consciousness fades with sleep. In the second part, when his companion seems to be named Alturi (Galileo is hard of hearing; his companion’s name is actually Alan Turing), he sees how the facts assembled in the first part can be unified and understood through a scientific theory—a theory that links consciousness to the notion of integrated information (also known as phi). In the third part, accompanied by a bearded man who can only be Charles Darwin, he meditates on how consciousness is an evolving, developing, ever-deepening awareness of ourselves in history and culture—that it is everything we have and everything we are.
Not since Gödel, Escher, Bach has there been a book that interweaves science, art, and the imagination with such originality. This beautiful and arresting narrative will transform the way we think of ourselves and the world.
things are the way they are, and not another. This was a principle that Galileo had always tried to follow. There must be, thought Galileo, some necessary and sufficient conditions whereby the activity of certain cells located in the visual cortex is associated with a conscious experience of light and dark, whereas the activity of the photodiode is not. But which conditions? This, then, perhaps in its simplest form, was the first problem of consciousness. * * * NOTES Turing, a pioneer
Galileo himself believes the image on the camera is one. He thinks it’s one! He does not see, the visionary physicist, the man armed with the telescope, that it is one only in the eye of the beholder.” K. went on: “Here I am, facing the scientist who began the mathematical study of nature, who removed the mind of the observer from the description of the world of physics. And I wonder, how could such a scientist miss the obvious, the self-evident, that the observer must be removed once more? And
a child growing to discern the novel taste of wine, a poet savoring all flavors that melt inside a word; but those were mere variations on a theme: now that he had mastered the meshwork over which the architecture of consciousness was built, why not mold it and warp it at his will, creating new pinnacles of suffering, labyrinths of darkest gloom, pits of inverted hope, ever-expanding explosions of lacerating loss? And what was the opposite of perfect pain? Did it truly exist? “This is why I
a small, shipwrecked island in a sea of waste. Consciousness vanishes, but some individual function may remain, as if a poor cobbler alone were left to whine in a dead city.” Copernicus lay mute: they called his name, asked if he could hear, if he knew where he was, if he felt any pain. No question would make him say a word. Arms and legs jolted back when Frick touched them with a pinprick, but when Galileo made a threatening gesture, Copernicus did not respond. And yet his eyes were open,
little notebook to Galileo; and turned away. * * * NOTES It is hard to know what to make of this late return to school. One can discern a certain thread linking the three “Daylight” chapters, from exploration and discovery (“Daylight I”), to creation and invention (“Daylight II”), to the growth of consciousness by integrating multiple concepts within a single experience (“Daylight III”). As put by the mannequin: investigation, imagination, integration. Indeed, the mysterious mannequin