Can we Prove that there are Computational Correlates of Consciousness in the Brain?

Volume 15
Issue 2
David Gamez
Scientific research on consciousness is attempting to gather data about the relationship between consciousness and the physical world. The basic procedure is to measure consciousness through first-person reports, measure the physical world and look for correlations between these sets of measurements. While most of this work has focused on neural correlates of consciousness, it has also been proposed that consciousness is linked to the computations that are being executed by the brain. If this is the case, we would expect there to be a high level of correlation between some of the brain’s computations and consciousness. This could be scientifically tested if a plausible method for measuring computations could be found. This paper investigates whether Chalmers’ method for identifying computations could be used to measure computations during an experiment on the correlates of consciousness. A number of arguments are used to show that Chalmers’ account of implementation fails for a desktop computer, which makes it unlikely that it could be used to identify computational correlates of consciousness in the brain. While a different account of implementation might be able to rescue computational approaches to consciousness, the problems raised in this paper suggest that it is going to be difficult to develop a method for measuring computations that could be used to test whether there are computational correlates of consciousness in the brain.

Key words: Implementation, computation, correlates of consciousness, functionalism, combinatorial state automata, finite state automata, brain