Is Integrated Information Theory of Consciousness a pseudoscience?
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bashmaester avatar

Biting my tongue here a bit, but loving the discussion and would like to add some fuel. Is the problem the IIT part or the consciousness part (e.g. consider the analogy IIT : consciousness :: String Theory : universe ).

April avatar
Aprilbought Ṁ10 of NO

I think the word pseudoscience should be reserved for things which pretend to be science despite being demonstrably false; I don't think speculative philosophy counts.

7 replies
JosephNoonan avatar
Plasma Ballin'predicts YES

@April I disagree. Pseudoscience is anything that masquerades as science despite not following the methodology of science. Limiting this only to things that are demonstrably false means it's impossible to call things that definitely are pseudoscience pseudoscience. If I've picked up the latest new age healing practice, and no one has yet bothered to perform scientific studies proving that it doesn't work, does that mean I can claim that the mystical healing magic works, and present it as being on par with or better than established medicine, without this being labelled as pseudoscience?

The purpose of the pseudoscience label is to prevent people from passing something off as science when it's really not. We already have a phrase for things that are demonstrably false.

Also, arguably, IIT is demonstrably false (see the post linked by Adam Treat below).

AdamTreat avatar
Adam Treatpredicts YES

@April But this is exactly something pretending to be science but demonstrably false. Dead logic gates arranged in a particular order are not any more conscious than being born in a certain month determines your personality type.

April avatar
Aprilpredicts NO

@AdamTreat Surely if you use enough logic gates you can simulate a human brain

April avatar
Aprilpredicts NO

@JosephNoonan Is it the case that ITT masquerades as science? It's always seemed very clearly to be speculative philosophy to me.

JosephNoonan avatar
Plasma Ballin'predicts YES

@April But the specific arrangement described in the link doesn't appear to be conscious. It's just a rather unremarkable matrix applied to the starting state over and over again.

JosephNoonan avatar
Plasma Ballin'predicts YES

@April I have seen people portray IIT as if it's science.

April avatar
Aprilbought Ṁ10 of YES

@JosephNoonan Hmm. Okay, yeah, I agree that someone who portrays ITT as established science would be engaging in pseudoscience.

I think I disapprove of denouncing the theory rather than misleading presentations of the theory as pseudoscience, though.

"Hey, maybe consciousness works like this? I think it does!" isn't pseudoscience, but "this is how consciousness works" can be.

a2bb avatar

Anything involving the word "consciousness" (that isn't linguistics) is pseudoscience by the modern standards of scientific method.

2 replies
AdamTreat avatar
Adam Treatpredicts YES

@a2bb You don’t have to go that far to see that this theory that dead logic gates as more conscious than human beings as pseudoscience

a2bb avatar

@AdamTreat I couldn't care enough to evaluate it.

42irrationalist avatar
42irrationalistbought Ṁ50 of NO

@AdamTreat Bad predictions don't mean it's pseudoscience. Heliocentrism would give less accurate predictions than Geocentrism for quite some time but it didn't make it pseudoscience.

Consciousness itself is likely an electromagnetic phenomenon, i.e. electromagnetic field itself is likely conscious (though not necessarily in a human way, perhaps most of it is qualia "white noise"). But that does not mean we don't need other theories especially given that we don't just want to know what consciousness is but formalize and quantify it. IIT is a pretty neat attempt at this.

JosephNoonan avatar
Plasma Ballin'predicts YES

@42irrationalist I think if someone continues to espouse geocentrism today, even after its predictions have been falsified, then it is a pseudoscience. It wasn't when it was first proposed, but it is now.

JosephNoonan avatar
Plasma Ballin'predicts YES

@42irrationalist Also, there are more problems with IIT than just failed prediction if it's being posited as scientific theory anyway. There is no proposed way to empirically test it, so it doesn't even qualify as a scientific hypothesis. But it is often portrayed as if it really is "the scientific theory of consciousness" because it looks like a scientific theory to the layman. It has the trappings of one, like a nice, mathematical formula that you can theoretically use to judge whether something is conscious. So, it seems to fit the bill of a pseudoscience pretty much perfectly. It's a non-scientific idea that is often falsely portrayed as scientific.

JosephNoonan avatar
Plasma Ballin'predicts YES


Consciousness itself is likely an electromagnetic phenomenon, i.e. electromagnetic field itself is likely conscious (though not necessarily in a human way, perhaps most of it is qualia "white noise").

I don't understand what you mean by this. Sure, the only tokens of consciousness that we know of (the human mind, and some other animal minds) are electromagnetic phenomena, but that doesn't mean that electromagnetism inherently has anything to do with consciousness. That's just a reflection of the fact that basically everything in the macroscopic world is controlled by electromagnetism (with the exception of gravitational phenomena). I feel like there must be some more charitable interpretation of this than that you think the EM field itself is literally conscious in some sort of wooey way, but I am not sure what.

NicoDelon avatar
Nico D