It appears that we are approaching a unique time in the history of man and science where empirical measures and deductive reasoning can actually inform us spiritually. Integrated Information Theory (IIT)–put forth by neuroscientists Giulio Tononi and Christof Koch–is a new framework that describes a way to experimentally measure the extent to which a system is conscious.
As such, it has the potential to answer questions that once seemed impossible, like “which is more conscious, a bat or a beetle?” Furthermore, the theory posits that any system that processes and integrates information, be it organic or inorganic, experiences the world subjectively to some degree. Plants, smartphones, the Internet–even protons–are all examples of such systems. The result is a cosmos composed of a sentient fabric. But before getting into the bizarreness of all that, let’s talk a little about how we got to this point.
The decline and demise of the mystical
As more of the natural world is described objectively and empirically, belief in the existence of anything that defies current scientific explanation is fading at a faster rate than ever before. The majority of college-educated individuals no longer accept the supernatural and magical accounts of physical processes given by religious holy books. Nor do they believe in the actuality of mystical realms beyond life that offer eternal bliss or infinite punishment for the “souls” of righteous or evil men.
This is because modern science has achieved impeccable performance when it comes to explaining phenomena previously thought to be unexplainable. In this day and age, we have complete scientific descriptions of virtually everything. We understand what gives rise to vacuous black holes and their spacetime geometries. We know how new species of life can evolve and the statistical rules that govern such processes. We even have a pretty good understanding of the exact moment in which the universe, and thus of all reality, came into existence! But no serious and informed scientist will tell you that at present we fully understand the thing each of us knows best. That is, our own consciousness.
One of science’s last greatest mysteries
Although we’ve come along way since the time of Descartes, who postulated that consciousness was actually some immaterial spirit not subject to physical law, we still don’t have a complete and satisfactory account of the science underlying experience. We simply don’t know how to quantify it. And if we can’t do that, how do we know whether those non-human life forms that are unable to communicate with us are also conscious? Does it feel like anything to be a cat? Most will probably agree that it does, but how about a ladybug? If so, how can we know which life forms are more conscious than others? Do animals that show impressively intelligent behavior and elaborate memory, like dolphins or crows, experience the world in a unified conscious fashion as we do? These questions are almost impossible to answer without a way to measure consciousness. Fortunately, a neuroscientific theory that has been gaining popular acceptance aims to do just that.
Integrated Information Theory to the Rescue
Integrated Information Theory (IIT), which has become quite a hot topic in contemporary neuroscience, claims to provide a precise way to measure consciousness and express the phenomenon in purely mathematical terms. The theory was put forth by psychiatrist and neuroscientist Giulio Tononi, and has attracted some highly regarded names in the science community. One such name is Christof Koch, Chief Scientific Officer at the Allen Institute for Brain Science, who now champions the idea along with Tononi. Koch may be best-known for bringing consciousness research into the mainstream of neuroscience through his long-term collaboration with the late DNA co-discoverer Francis Crick. Now Tononi and Koch are actively researching the theory along with an increasing number of scientists, some from outside the field of neuroscience like esteemed physicist and popular author Max Tegmark, who is joining the ranks of those who believe they’ve figured out how to reduce one of science’s greatest secrets to numbers. Bits of information to be exact.
People keep asking me for more Holsom soulmates in the collective unconscious universe! I kinda said earlier but we all got distracted by the Niagara clause, but anyway, Holsom are kind of hard for me to write because they have fewer narrative hooks–in OMGCP they’re static characters who function as stand-ins for hockey bro culture at large (like, if you think there aren’t a ton of heterostraight bro life partners just like Ransom and Holster in hockey you are not paying attention, there totally totally are) against whose stability Jack and Bitty’s progress is measured.
But I’ve been thinking and hey, what if I assume they are what the comic portrays them as–best friends whose romantic and sexual attention is focused on women–and say, yes, but they’re also Platonic Soulmates, they’re literally psychically bonded and they know they’ll be happier if they’re friends for life, they’re like my friend whose husband went into the relationship literally and explicitly knowing that she considered her platonic relationship with her ace roommate every bit as important as their marriage. Ransom and Holster both want wives and kids (maybe husbands and kids), but they probably also want to buy houses next door to each other and knock down the fence between their back yards.
Which, in another way, that kind of makes them my favourite kind of characters, because if they’re soulmates, then their relationship is the healthy, unfussy, unquestioned bedrock on which they go out and do awesome things. Stories about them, like their lives, are primarily focused on the things they’re doing, the people they’re meeting, the problems they’re solving, and even if you tell a story about them it by their very nature has to be all about those other things as well. There are very few moments that are exclusively them.
So they met each other on the ice at Samwell and never really thought about soulmates that much because their joint dreams always felt so exactly like their individual dreams; there was never any dissonance. There was just that sudden, joyous, incredulous moment of Oh, it’s you, I didn’t even know it was you but now you’re here and you have a body for me to hug.
There was the third year med school, where Ransom insisted that he didn’t CARE if he was as overworked as hell and Holster got off work every day at 4:30 sharp, he was GOING to do his half of the chores, so Holster bought groceries and printed off recipes and chopped ingredients and left them there for Ransom to stumble in and throw on the stove, and he kept his mouth shut for six months straight until Ransom draped himself over him in exhaustion and said, “This isn’t working.” “No, it’s not,” Holster said. “Want me to take over?” And Ransom moaned and said, “Yes, please,” and Holster tied on his apron with a feeling of victory.
There was a complicated case that ate up Ransom’s cope (see, this story isn’t actually about them, but we can spin it that way) that was heartbreaking and awful, at the worst conjunction of the limits of human mortality and medical science and how much people can hurt each other, and all Ransom could do was watch and listen and write prescriptions and give injections, and it hurt, and Holster clocked out of work early and came into Ransom’s clinic, past medical administrators and nurses who knew him well, opened the door to his office, and just knelt next to Ransom’s chair and put his arms around him. “I think you’re amazing,” he said. “I think these people are lucky to have you as their doctor. I think you’re doing an incredible job and it’s not your fault you can’t fix everything.”
There are a lot of moments like that, while they play hockey and live life and go on vacations and have families and heal people and everything else.
A few days ago I had a super cute dream!! I don’t remember everythig but it was about that because Lapis didn’t wanted to return to homeworld the crystal gems allowed her to live close to Steven but she couldn’t be in the Earth (it was ‘cause the ocean I think) so she had to stay in the moon and she could come to earth everytime it was full moon to play with Steven so eventually they started to spend that time being a fusion and making fart noises
If my computer wasn’t playing up I’d show you the vast number of screenshots I’ve just compiled of the UNBEATABLE Squirrel Girl’s numerous conquests. I’ll have to just describe them to you instead.
(1) She beat Doctor Doom with an army of squirrels, impressing Iron Man so much that he owed her a favour for years afterwards.
(2) She’s fought Deadpool several times (you know, the guy who can’t die and always gets back up again?) and won EVERY TIME.
(3) They’re totally sort of friends now though, so yay.
(4) You know the other healing guy, Wolverine? Yeah … she beat him up too.
(5) She beat up Thanos. THANOS. She literally rendered one of the most powerful beings in the Marvel universe unconscious.
(6) Speaking of powerful beings, she also single-handedly stopped Galactus from devouring the world using the power of friendship.
(7) She single-handedly had to fight Captain America (both Steve and Sam), Spider-man, Hawkeye and Black Widow when they were under the influence of Ratatoskr and … you guessed it … she won.
(8) She defeated Doctor Doom AGAIN only this time also stopped him from destroying the timeline and declaring himself dictator.
(9) Actually helped raise the future Captain America (Danielle Cage) which I dunno is kinda important (duh)
(10) She’s literally the least judgemental superhero ever? Most recently in New Avengers, where she’s probably the only character who hasn’t brought drama into the mix and gets along with everyone because she’s adorable.
Maybe Squirrel Girl started off as a ‘silly’ character, but she’s far from a joke. You might not want to admit it, but a girl with a tail who talks to squirrels just so happens to be one of the most powerful and unstoppable heroes in the Marvel universe.