https aeon.co essays consciousness-is-not-a-thing-but-a-process-of-inference

thick and thin models of time, then, suggests that viruses are not conscious; even if they respond inferentially to changes in their external milieu, they do not embody a deep understanding of their past or a long-run view of their future, which. So what would this look like, in practice? The answer is simple: it will minimise the expected surprise following an action. But if consciousness is inference, does that mean all complex inferential processes are conscious, from evolution to economies to atoms? If we know the Lyapunov function for each state of the system, we can write down its flow from one state to the next and so characterise the existence of the whole system in terms of that flow. The trick here is to understand the nature of the Lyapunov function. In non-conscious processes, this selection is realised in the here and now; for example, with selection among competing systems (such as phenotypes in evolution) or the evocation of reflexes (such as chemotaxis in simple organisms, in which they move towards or away from a higher.

In quantum systems, for example, the state of a particle can be described by a wave function that entails its position, momentum, energy and spin. Any time theres a deviation from the attractor, this triggers flows of thoughts, feelings and movements that eventually take you back to your cycle of attracting, familiar states. The topography of the mountain stands for the Lyapunov function, and the movement of water describes how the system evolves over time. Key among these is the ability to understand psychiatric disorder as false inference. The process of natural selection minimises surprise (that is, it maximises adaptive fitness) but not uncertainty or expected surprise of the whole system (that is, adaptive fitness expected under alternative, non-Darwinian evolutionary operations). Consciousness, Id contend, is nothing grander than inference about my future. The first comes from information theory, which says that the Lyapunov function is surprise that is, the improbability of being in a particular state. The proof follows by reductio ad absurdum from what we already know: existence itself entails minimising surprise and self-evidencing. In fact, thats exactly the interpretation currently found in theoretical neurobiology. From Bacteria to Bach and Back: The Evolution of Minds (2017). While natural selection performs inference by selecting among different creatures, consciousness performs inference by selecting among different states of the same creature (in particular, its brain). If one regards the brain as a self-evidencing organ of inference, almost every one of its anatomical and physiological aspects seems geared to minimise surprise.