Neuroscientist and psychiatrist Tononi (Consciousness Science/Univ. of Wisconsin; co-author: A Universe of Consciousness: How Matter Becomes Imagination, 2000) offers an original, provocative tale of a scientist’s quest to understand how the brain generates consciousness.
The scientist is the aging “father of science” Galileo, who sets out in the company of three others (Francis Crick, Alan Turing and Charles Darwin) to investigate all aspects of consciousness: what it is, how it can be measured, why it fades during dreamless sleep but returns when we dream, and how the known facts can form a theory of consciousness. The theory is Tononi’s integrated information theory (IIT) of consciousness, which, as he notes in the preface, he describes scientifically in his paper “Consciousness as Integrated Information.” This book takes Galileo—and readers—step by step through the development of the theory, now widely viewed as a promising fundamental theory of consciousness. During the course of his imagined journey of discovery, Galileo has lengthy conversations with his guides, hears accounts of what’s involved—or not—in consciousness and sees innumerable paintings, photographs, drawings and other images from over the centuries (all reproduced here) that help elucidate aspects of the lessons. There are intriguing discussions of whether consciousness exists in the split brain, during seizures, in dementia and other states. Tononi playfully draws us deeply into the wondrous adventure of understanding consciousness and the critical role of integrated information in shaping our experience in the world. With Galileo, we learn that each moment of awareness is a unique and unified experience unlike others before or after it. Indeed, consciousness—the flow of integrated information—can be expressed in a set of mathematical equations.
A challenging, rewarding read that will undoubtedly alter your consciousness.