Entropy and Consciousness


A curious finding according to the study referred to in the article above is that the human brain displayed higher entropy when fully conscious than when not. “Normal wakeful states are characterized by the greatest number of possible configurations of interactions between brain networks, representing highest entropy values,” the team wrote in the study.  This means that, at least to me, that the higher number of connections between brain cells at any point in time, the higher the level of entropy at that point.  One could extrapolate that the more wakeful one is the more entropy there is in the brain and by inference, as one goes to sleep the less entropic the brain becomes.

This seems to go against the idea that learning, reasoning and awareness about the world is a type of “push back” against entropy.  Instances of life are generally seen as organized, metabolizing and replicating pieces of matter that eventually are overcome by entropy and die.  Almost like little islands of anti-entropy in a sea of entropic chaos.  How life can maintain this uphill struggle has always been a fascinating subject of study for biological scientists. Individual instances cannot keep up the struggle forever.  We eventually fall below a minimal level of energy production and consumption and die. This is probably the motivator for the evolution of replication and reproduction.[i]

We think of consciousness as a characteristic of life and thus of order, but this study seems to say the opposite.  Consciousness is a characteristic of chaos and disorder, and that pieces of matter at various locations and periods of time, when they display local order, tend to have less entropy and less consciousness.  This seems to me to infer a type of “cosmic consciousness” associated with entropy.  A concept that, at least from my experience dates back to, at least the hippie era of the 1960’s and 70’s, when expressions such as this were quite often externally stimulated.

Can life’s tendency to continue to live, that is to be less entropic, be a natural reaction against the cosmic consciousness which tends to disorganize our local order?  Can states like sleep, for example, be temporary reversals in the flow toward entropy while consciousness pushes forward our flow toward it?  Is it possible that cosmic consciousness is just the sum total of all local consciousnesses, and after one dies consciousness in the form of entropy, in a sense, lives on?

Another article along the same vein is this:  https://futurism.com/the-byte/mathematicians-think-universe-conscious

An earlier post by me about entropy and information loss can be found at:  https://birkdalecomputing.com/2019/02/08/information-entropy/

[i] A subject for another day.

Tags: ,

3 Responses to “Entropy and Consciousness”

  1. Birkdale Computing Says:

    […] This is a follow up to a previous article on consciousness and entropy:  https://birkdalecomputing.com/2020/05/03/entropy-and-consciousness/ […]

  2. Daniel Kurtz Says:

    For a rather comprehensive description of the intersection between information theory and neural/cognitive/behavioral sciences, give this a read:


    • Wayne Kurtz Says:

      Yes, that is a very comprehensive article. What I found most interesting was the link between behavioral psychology (both Pavlovian and Skinnerian) and information theory. I have studied both fields (psychology 50+ years ago and information science just in the past year or so) and it never occurred to me they could even be related. Thanks for the link.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: