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Previous Programs

2020 Consciousness in the Physical World
Awardees

2019 Intelligence in the Physical World
Awardees

2019 Information as Fuel
Awardees

2018 Agency in the Physical World
Awardees; RFP download

2016 Physics of the Observer
Awardees; RFP download

2015 The Physics of What Happens
Awardees; RFP download

2013 Physics of Information
Awardees; RFP download

2010 The Nature of Time
Awardees; RFP download

2008 Foundational Questions in Physics and Cosmology
Awardees; RFP download

2006 Foundational Questions in Physics and Cosmology
Awardees; RFP download

Matilde Marcolli
California Institute of Technology

Project Title

Towards a Topological Model of Consciousness

Project Summary

The development of quantitative models of consciousness is motivated both by a better theoretical understanding of the brain, and by pressing medical and ethical questions such as detecting consciousness in people with damaged brains, in non-human animals, and possibly in artificial entities. Some mathematical models of consciousness have been proposed in recent years, based on a sufficient amount of informational complexity detecting a high level of interdependence over subsystems. These models, however, are computationally impractical and they may provide a necessary but not a sufficient condition for consciousness. This project aims at a different kind of model, based on topological methods for the investigation of brain structures. The fundamental idea that we want to formalize is that consciousness is a mechanism that constructs and transforms representations from neural codes topologically and that topology, the branch of mathematics that deals with intrinsic and stable properties of space, is the right language with which to attempt a mathematical formulation of qualia, intrinsic “subjective” experiences. The motivation behind this approach comes from recent results in neuroscience, showing that an increase in topological complexity is detectable in response to stimuli, and that the neural code stores information about the stimulus space topologically.



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