There was the cerebellum, which had even more elements, but they were separated into many small modules that did not talk to each other. Each of them formed a small, separate complex, and for each little complex Φ was low. Like a collection of photodiodes, thought Galileo, and remembered Poussin: the painter’s hand trembled without a cerebellum, but his mind was rich and full.
Then there were diagrams explaining why your eyes may be blind but your consciousness can have inner vision, like the blind painter in front of his great allegory. They showed how the visual inputs reached the cerebral cortex, influenced its functioning, but did not become part of the great complex of high Φ that gave rise to consciousness.
And there was his friend M., too, showing that all the nerves reaching out of the great complex, though necessary to speak and act, did not participate in it and thus did not contribute to his consciousness. There were Galileo’s muses, the poetess and the gamba player, with loops going out and into the great complex, but the loops themselves remained outside. This was why, thought Galileo, so many neural processes that make us understand speech, or find the right words, or say them, or remember them, perform marvelous feats, but still remain outside the special sphere of consciousness.
And finally there was Ishmael, with the nerve fibers linking the right and left hemisphere split, and the great complex splitting in two and yielding two consciousnesses with similar values of Φ, Ishma and El. Other, smaller splits, might explain why Teresa could see and yet did not know it, thought Galileo. And surely Φ was low during the frenzy of seizures, or the deep waves of unconscious sleep, because the repertoire of distinguishable brain states was bound to shrink.
“You think this might explain it?” asked J. after a while.
Consciousness is such a lofty bird that it must be caught with an equation, said Galileo. First catch the concept, then dress it in the language of mathematics. Then, and only then, knowing how it can be measured, would one truly know what it is. It may be, said Galileo, it may be that the essence of consciousness is integrated information.
And this may be a way this concept can be grasped— a way to catch this bird: a way to find what entity is a single entity, a nucleus of experience.
“Something still perplexes me,” J. said pensively. “The brain is inconceivably complex, so much so that trying to understand its mysteries through a network of equations is like trying to collect the sea with fishing nets. The brain has more trees than the jungle, more streets than a great city, is more plastic than the desert’s sand, more changeable than the waves of the sea. And who would hope to reduce the endless wavering of the dunes, the bustling traffic of the market, the tangle of leaves and animals in the jungle canopy, to a series of equations, or worse, to a set of numbers? Mathematicians may weave their networks, but in the end, I am afraid, they will catch nothing.”
“Do not be afraid, since there is beauty in principles,” said Alturi’s voice from a distance, and J. turned to question Galileo.
But Galileo too was far away. For he had read something at the end of Frick’s notes, something he recognized from long before:
Philosophy is written in this grand book— the universe I say— that is wide open in front of our eyes. But the book cannot be understood unless we first learn to understand the language, and know the characters, in which it is written. It is written in the language of mathematics, and its characters are triangles, circles, and other geometric figures, without which it is humanly impossible to understand a single word of it; without these it is like wandering in vain in an obscure labyrinth.