Tuesday, December 2, 2014


I tried to stay at the Koch talk today. I had read his piece for the talk with a care probably greater than that with which it was written, and intended to ask him the questions below. What I heard was the beginning of one of the worst talks I have ever heard at Cal. This is the abstract;


 Within 15 minutes, he had made sufficient basic errors  to convince me that cycling home 5 miles in the rain was going to be infinitely less painful  than sitting through any more. For example, Descartes did not say anything resembling “I am conscious, therefore I am”; what he said is that an evil spirit could not stop him from at least construing himself as something.

My questions were based partly on some empirical tests we did of this theory in 2010. We published these in FOM 1;

and in a peer-reviewed Springer journal in 2011;


 Let’s look at my questions on the article. In the first place, however, there is  a problem with the work “phenomenological” that he uses. It can imply “phenomenology” in the Husserlian sense; it can also imply the exact opposite, a phenomenalist approach to science. Koch/Tononi clearly do not know this; a phenomenalist approach to consciousness would indeed be a breakthrough

This apparent casuistry could be passed over, were it not for the fact that Koch goes on with a similar queen of Tarts (words mean what I want them to)  approach to information. His “informational” model is not about information in the Shannon sense, but an undefined conceptual mush. That changes when he talks about compression of the EEG signal or, as Tononi put it in  the 2010 NY Times, measuring  consciousness in bits.

T also claimed that epilepsy would show a minimally entropic signal; this is plain wrong. So what, I ask Christof in this forum, would constitute a refutation of this theory?  Popper famously argued that Freudianism was unfalsifiable and therefore unscientific…….

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