Consciousness as a process of queries and answers in architectures based on in situ representations

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Functional or access consciousness can be described as an ongoing dynamic process of queries and answers. Whenever we have an awareness of an object or its surroundings, it consists of the dynamic process that answers (implicit) queries like "What is the color or shape of the object?" or "What surrounds this object?" The process of queries and answers is based on a computational architecture that integrates grounding of representations with cognitive productivity. The human brain may be unique in combining grounding and productivity. Because representations have to remain grounded in combinatorial structures underlying the productivity of cognition, they have to remain in situ. Hebbian neuronal assemblies are an example of in situ conceptual representations, although the latter are not just associative. To obtain productivity, in situ representations are embedded in specialized neuronal "blackboards" by which (temporal) combinatorial structures can be formed. In situ representations interact in these blackboards. This interaction initiates the (implicit) query and answer process underlying functional consciousness. In this process, an in situ representation, dominating one blackboard, could begin to dominate other blackboards as well. Viewed in this way, human consciousness derives from the unique ability of the human brain to combine grounding and cognitive productivity.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)27-45
Number of pages19
JournalInternational journal of machine consciousness
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2013


  • Cognitive productivity
  • Functional consciousness
  • Grounding
  • In situ representations
  • Neuronal blackboard architecture


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