Phi

Consciousness as integrated information: a provisional manifesto.
Tononi G.

Author information

Department of Psychiatry, University of Wisconsin, Madison, Wisconsin, USA. gtononi@wisc.edu

Abstract

The integrated information theory (IIT) starts from phenomenology and makes use of thought experiments to claim that consciousness is integrated information.

Specifically:

(i) the quantity of consciousness corresponds to the amount of integrated information generated by a complex of elements;

(ii) the quality of experience is specified by the set of informational relationships generated within that complex. Integrated information (Phi) is defined as the amount of information generated by a complex of elements, above and beyond the information generated by its parts. Qualia space (Q) is a space where each axis represents a possible state of the complex, each point is a probability distribution of its states, and arrows between points represent the informational relationships among its elements generated by causal mechanisms (connections). Together, the set of informational relationships within a complex constitute a shape in Q that completely and univocally specifies a particular experience. Several observations concerning the neural substrate of consciousness fall naturally into place within the IIT framework. Among them are the association of consciousness with certain neural systems rather than with others; the fact that neural processes underlying consciousness can influence or be influenced by neural processes that remain unconscious; the reduction of consciousness during dreamless sleep and generalized seizures; and the distinct role of different cortical architectures in affecting the quality of experience. Equating consciousness with integrated information carries several implications for our view of nature.

Giulio Tononi is a neuroscientist and psychiatrist who holds the David P. White Chair in Sleep Medicine, as well as a Distinguished Chair in Consciousness Science, at the University of Wisconsin.

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