Just like the Universe, our brains might be programmed to maximize disorder – similar to the principle of entropy – and our consciousness could simply be a side effect. Researchers decided to investigate whether they show any patterns in the way they neurons choose to order themselves while we’re conscious.
To figure this out, a team from the University of Toronto and Paris Descartes University used a type of probability theory called statistical mechanics to model the networks of neurons in nine people’s brains – including seven who had epilepsy.
They looked at two datasets: first they compared the connectivity patterns when participants were asleep and awake; and then they looked at the difference when five of the epileptic patients were having seizures, and when their brains were in a normal, ‘alert’ state.
In both situations, they saw the same trend – the participants’ brains displayed higher entropy when in a fully conscious state. “We find a surprisingly simple result: normal wakeful states are characterised by the greatest number of possible configurations of interactions between brain networks, representing highest entropy values,” the team writes. This lead the researchers to argue that consciousness could simply be an “emergent property” of a system that’s trying to maximise information exchange.
Before we get too carried away, there are some big limitations to this work – primarily the small sample size. (1)
The abovementioned results give a good starting point for philosophical thinking. (is this not what we crave for anyway?) If thinking is a result of higher entropy, then non-thinking means a state of lower entropy. A state of higher order.
This is something already postulated by wise men along the centuries.
We just did not believe them.
Once upon a time we had all the information about ourselves and existence. Once upon a time we know by simply Being. Now we are trying to learn. And all this new knowledge we gain is creating entropy to a point where no point can be made…
It’s the only way to actually think.