NIAS Public Lecture: Let Us Measure Consciousness! by Mohit Virmani, Lecture Hall, 1330 hrs

Public Lecture

Let Us Measure Consciousness!


Mohit Virmani

Research Fellow, Consciousness Studies Programme, NIAS


Date and day: 11th August, 2016; Thursday,  

Time: 3.30 PM

Venue: Lecture Hall, NIAS, IISc Campus, Bengaluru 560012

Chairperson: Nithin Nagaraj, Assistant Professor, NIAS Consciousness Studies Programme

Abstract: What if humans are able to create machines which are more intelligent than themselves? Will the chain reaction of self-improvement giving rise to super-intelligence lead to the extinction of human race? We can't answer these questions definitively until we have a ubiquitously agreed, theoretically grounded and empirically tested measure of consciousness. Consciousness is something rather than nothing, which each of us is experiencing right now. The problem of measuring consciousness is hard but the idea that consciousness is the result of a balance between functional integration and differentiation in thalamocortical networks, or brain complexity, has recently gained popularity and led more belief into mathematically grounded computational approaches for measuring consciousness.  Furthermore, a measure of complexity called Integrated Information – Phi^Max has recently gained much popularity as a measure of consciousness under the purview of Integrated Information Theory of Consciousness (IIT), proposed by Giulio Tononi and supported by several neuroscientists and philosophers.

Inspired by the theoretical framework of IIT and a clinical measure of level of consciousness known as Perturbational Complexity Index (PCI), we propose a new measure that serves as a bridge between the two, for the first time. We call this as: Phi^C , a `Compression-Complexity' measure, defined as `the maximally-aggregate Lempel-Ziv (LZ) or Effort-To-Compress (ETC) complexity of time series of each node of a network, generated by perturbing each possible atomic partition with a random input.'  The maximum entropy (aggregated) output that is triggered by a maximum entropy input is a measure of the capacity of the system to integrate information. In this talk, we shall delve into the properties and salient innovations of the new measure.

About the Speaker: Mohit Virmani received his Bachelors of Engineering in Information Technology with honors from the PEC University of Technology, Chandigarh in 2011. He has been an active IEEE student member and has represented IEEE Delhi Section at R10 Global Student Congress and presented Project `Aarogya’-An interoperable health portal for developing countries at IEEE Humanitarian Tech Challenge at NUS, Singapore. After a short stint with Cisco Systems in VOIP products domain, he founded and ran a technology start-up for two years to build applications for emerging product start-ups and corporates such as Samsung. He is currently a Consciousness Studies Programme Research Fellow at NIAS. His research interests lie in computational neuroscience to build measures for conscious experience (for patients unable to report their awareness) and develop an objective scale for our mental health capturing a spectrum (stressed person to a meditator). He is an avid traveler, having backpacked and hitchhiked across Himalayas, caves in MP and rainforests in western ghats of India.


For more info write to: NIAS Consciousness Programme <>

Thursday, August 11, 2016