Conscious systems and the third law of biology

Living Systems are conscious

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Abstract

An unconscious bird cannot fly.

  

Introduction

Let us consider an air plane in flight. We know that the plane can not fly up on its own spontaneously. It needs a conscious effort by a pilot to take the plane into the sky. Even if it is a remotely controlled as unmanned plane one has to control it remotely and a consciously made programme is always there that automatically controls the flight. If the pilot loses his consciousness or if the automatic programme gets corrupt, the plane falls down spontaneously. In other words non spontaneous processes may require conscious effort.
 
 

A bird in flight

A bird in flight is same as a plane in flight except that there is no pilot and the bird drives it self that is the bird is self driven. Suppose that the bird loses consciousness temporarily while in flight due to high intensity sound of a blast, then the bird falls down spontaneously. Thus the flying of a bird is a non spontaneous process that can proceed only if the bird is conscious. Thus an unconscious bird can not fly. It may be noted that zero consciousness1 relates to death.
 

Forms and levels of consciousness

The term consciousness is generally being used with respect to the consciousness located in the human brain / mind. I think consciousness related or located in the brain / mind may be termed Consciousness Proper or brain consciousness or just CoP. What about the living organism that do not have a formal brain? Are they not conscious? Reportedly2,3 the enteric nervous system [ENS] acts as brain of tubular animals which as such does not have a brain. ENS is said to be responsible for our [human] gut feelings. May kindly see4 this: It was shown that a large amoeba-like cell Physarum polycephalum subject to a pattern of periodic environmental changes learns and changes its behavior in anticipation of the next stimulus to come. Are organisms such as Physarum polycephalum without consciousness? To resolve these questions it is stated that a self programmable system is conscious. The above approach permits us to arrive at genomic consciousness as genome, as a system is self programmable. A system is self programmable if the system has programmed it self without an external programmer. The first condition for a system to be self programmable is that it should be aware of its existence. Thus it may be noted that consciousness may be operating from different levels or in different forms, say genomic consciousness [or genpsy], Physiological consciousness [through ENS and other systems within the body of an organism] or just Cophy. And there may be different degrees of consciousness at sub levels in each of the three forms. In other words there is hierarchy of consciousness.
 
Sleep walking man is at the lower degrees of CoP. Let us take the example of Coma5 where a patient in coma is assessed by gauging the level of consciousness. A coma patient may die, or may go into vegetative state [brain dead but not dead physiologically] or may come back into CoP. What brings a coma patient back to CoP? Consciousness in the physiological and genetic forms / levels struggle to realign with CoP by reprogramming the mind/brain. The body of a man in coma is self programmable at the physiological level and hence is alive even when brain is dead fully or partially. A system is conscious if it is self programmable. A system can programme itself provided if it [1] can sense itself, time and location [2] is intelligent [3] has memory. Self programming allows self upgrading of the programmes. Thus we can measure consciousness in terms of the information in the genome. The three aspects of first condition about consciousness are taken from the views of Frederic Peters6.
 
 

Criteria for consciousness

A “system” to be aware of it self must exist in two interacting/ communicating/ sensing states that can act in tandem. Genome eminently satisfies the criteria for self awareness in physical terms. Hence genome is the originator of self awareness in physical terms and hence is the real self. The brain generated “self” image/consciousness is ephemeral.
 
 

The third law of biology

It is construed that life is a state of matter with distinct emergent properties such as self programmability, Free Will [or Will as such] and Consciousness. The absence of these properties makes the system dead. The third law of biology may be stated as,” All living systems are conscious”.
 
 

References

  1. Sekhar, DMR, The paradox of life, Genopsych, Transcience Transactions, Vol. II, Scientific Publishers (India), Jodhpur, 2011.
  2. Michael. D, Gershon, Alcmene Chalazonipis, Taube. P, Rothman, 1993, From Neural Crest to Bowel: Development of the Enteric Nervous System, Journal of Neuro Biology, Vol. 24, No. 2
  3. Sandra Blakeslee, There is a brain behind gut feelings, Times of India, 5, Feb., 1996.
  4. Yuriy V. Pershin et al. Memristive model of amoeba’s learning, http://precedings.nature.com/documents/2431/version/1
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  6. Unbound Intelligence – Review
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  48. Living Systems
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