ArticlePDF Available

BIOLOGICAL CONDITIONS FOR THE EMERGENCE OF MUSICAL ARTS IN A CIVILIZATION OF INTELLIGENT BEINGS1

Authors:
BIOLOGICAL CONDITIONS FOR THE EMERGENCE OF
MUSICAL ARTS IN A CIVILIZATION OF INTELLIGENT BEINGS
1
Juan G. Roederer
Geophysical Institute, University of Alaska-Fairbanks
2
and
The Abdus Salam Centre for Theoretical Physics, Trieste
INTRODUCTION
If we want to broadcast messages to inform other civilizations that music is an important part of
human culture, it would seem naïve to just send out an appropriately coded version of, say,
Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony. Likewise, if we want to find out if there was music elsewhere in
the Universe, it would be naïve to just look for signals with structure and organization that
resemble, say, the tango “La Cumparsita”. Before planning any meaningful attempt of interstellar
communication about music we should first have it clear in our own mind what music really is
from an objective physical and biological point of view.
Speech and music both involve the transmission of information by acoustic waves—air pressure
oscillations within given ranges of frequency and amplitude. We have a clear understanding of
what kind of information is conveyed by human speech, and strategies and algorithms are being
developed to configure electromagnetic signals that may allow an alien intelligence to learn about
human language and its relation to events in the environment and abstract things like numbers.
Similar considerations apply to our strategies and algorithms to find out about the possible
existence of linguistic communication in other civilizations. But what kind of biologically
relevant information is conveyed by music? From our subjective experience we know that it has
to do with feelings, i.e., the emotional states of the organism—but how do we explain this to an
alien civilization? And how do we look for interstellar messages that may carry information on
emotional states of extraterrestrial beings?
A related aspect difficult to convey as an interstellar message is the fact that, in contrast to
speech, music seems to serve no immediate “practical” purpose (this, of course, is common to all
expressions of art). Again, we know from experience that an important purpose of music is
emotional arousal. But can we explain why we respond emotionally to successions and
superpositions of tones which seem to have little relationship with environmental events, current
or in our evolutionary past? And if we do have an answer, how would we formulate it in an
interstellar message? Must we assume that musical feelings are such a ubiquitous attribute of
intelligent beings that our message would be understood at once?
The purpose of this chapter is to analyze “music” as a human endeavor in the most compre-
hensive, objective and scientific terms possible, and to argue on neuroscientific grounds that
musical arts may indeed be ubiquitous in civilizations exhibiting human-like intelligence.
1
To be published as Chapter 10 in D. Vakoch, ed., Between Worlds, The MIT Press, Boston, Mass., 2004.
2
Permanent address: Geophysical Institute, University of Alaska-Fairbanks, Fairbanks AK 99775-7320, USA. E-mail:
jgr@gi.alaska.edu
. Web page: www.gi.alaska.edu/~Roederer.
1. WHAT ON EARTH IS MUSIC?
To answer this question within the context of this book, we must identify those characteristics of
music that are common to all musical cultures—the so-called “universals”, attributes that are
independent of an individual’s musical upbringing. In all cultures, music is based on organized
and structured sequences and superpositions of discrete sounds consisting mainly of complex
tones, which are periodic vibrations of a frequency lying in the audible range between approx-
imately 30 and 15,000 Hz. Periodic oscillations can always be decomposed into a superposition
of sinusoidal, single-frequency vibrations called harmonics, whose frequencies are integer
multiples of a fundamental frequency (Fourier’s theorem). The fundamental frequency, whether
actually present or not, leads to the sensation of pitch; the particular mixture of harmonics (their
relative intensities) leads to the sensation of timbre; and the acoustical energy flux into our ears
gives the sensation of loudness (for details on these attributes and other aspects of music
perception, see Roederer, 1995, and references therein).
In music, complex tones are organized into temporal successions, the melodies; tone
superpositions define the harmony. An important feature is that the pitches of musical tones are
always selected from a discrete repertoire, a scale, even if the human voice (no doubt the first
musical “instrument”) is able to sweep over frequencies continuously, and our ear is able to
discriminate among pitches far closer to each other than those of neighboring tones of a scale.
Another universal aspect of the organization of musical sounds is rhythm, a periodic grouping and
loudness enhancement with time scales similar to those of the neural circuits controlling
repetitive activation of the muscular system. Here, of course, we are only talking about the
common “infrastructure” of music. Actual music depends on how this infrastructure is used, i.e.,
on how melodies, harmonies and rhythm are put together. The greater the complexity of this
assemblage, the more it will be influenced by the evolution of the particular musical culture in
question.
The sensation of consonance and dissonance is another important cross-cultural attribute of tone
superposition. In particular, the octave as the most “perfect” musical interval has a unique
property: the pitches of two tones that are one or more octaves apart are perceived as belonging to
the same pitch “family”. As a result, all notes differing by one or more octaves are designated
with the same name. This circular property of pitch (return to the same “family” after one octave,
when one moves up or down in pitch) is called chroma; it has intrigued people for thousands of
years but is now thought to be a consequence of the pitch processing mechanism in the brain (see
next section). In fact, all universal attributes mentioned above are the consequence of infor-
mation-processing mechanisms in the acoustic neural system. In particular, concerning scales and
consonance, this is supported by a recent archeological find that indicates that musical scales
already were in use in pre-paleolithic times: the fragment of a flute made of b, one dated from
43,000-67,000 years ago has finger holes that correspond to the diatonic scale, and there is similar
evidence from bone flutes dated 30,000 years ago (Fig. 1, Gray et al, 2001).
All characteristics discussed above are necessary ingredients of what we consider “music” on
Earth, but they are not sufficient conditions. The most intriguing aspect, indeed, is the pair of
related questions: Why do human beings respond emotionally with feelings to music and why are
they motivated to create music? In other words, what is, or was, the biological survival value of
music, so that music-loving could have appeared during the course of human evolution? An
answer to these questions is paramount for the development of strategies to search for musics
elsewhere in the Universe and for the crafting of messages about ours.
2
Fig 1: Left side: Piece of a flute made of bone, dating from 43,000-67,000 BP, revealing finger holes that
would correspond to a diatonic scale. Right side, top to bottom: reconstruction of this flute and two others
dating from 30,000 and 4,000 years BP, respectively. From Gray et al (2001).
2. THE SENSE OF HEARING; COMPARISON WITH VISION
To understand music and speculate about its existence in other civilizations we must understand
first how the auditory system works, because its mechanisms, physical, physiological and neural,
define the foundation for the existence of music on Earth.
The oscillations of the eardrum elicited by an acoustical wave are transmitted by a chain of three
tiny bones in the middle ear to the cochlea, a marble-sized tunnel spiraling like a snail shell
through the temporal bone. This cavity is partitioned into two channels, interconnected at the
distal end, filled with a direct filtrate of the cerebrospinal fluid. The partition separating both is in
itself a highly structured duct of triangular cross section; one of its boundaries is the basilar
membrane which holds the sensory organ proper (organ of Corti); in the human adult it is about
34mm long. Because of its gradual change in width and thickness there is a 10,000-fold change of
stiffness from one end to the other; this determines the cochlea's basic hydromechanical
properties and frequency-analyzing function over a four orders of magnitude range of frequency
values. Vibrations transmitted by the bone chain to the cochlea are converted into pressure
oscillations of the cochlear fluid; the ensuing pressure differences across the partition between the
two channels flex the basilar membrane up and down setting it into motion like a waving flag.
About 16,000 receptor units, called hair cells, arranged in one inner row and three outer rows,
pick up mechanically the motions of the basilar membrane and impart electrical signals to the
neurons that are in synaptic contact with them.
The remarkable fact is that for a pure tone of one single frequency, the basilar membrane
oscillations occur only in a limited region, whose position depends on the frequency of the tone.
In other words, for each frequency there is a region of maximum stimulation, or “resonance
region,” on the basilar membrane. The spatial position of this region along the basilar membrane
determines the primary sensation of pitch (also called spectral pitch). For the lower frequency
range, most relevant for speech perception, there is another type of encoding operating
simultaneously: because of the non-linear response of the hair cells (they fire only when flexed in
one direction, not the other), the electrical pulses fired by the neurons wired to them are bunched
in time, in synchrony with the input signal.
Pure, single-frequency tones don’t exist in the natural environment. “Natural” sounds of animal
and human acoustic communications (animal calls, cries, vowels) contain an important proportion
of periodic oscillations, which, as mentioned in section 1, share a common property: they are
made up of a superposition of harmonics whose frequencies are integer multiples of a
3
fundamental frequency. These complex tones elicit a complicated resonance pattern on the basilar
membrane, with multiple amplitude peaks, one for each harmonic. In spite of its complexity, the
pattern does bear some invariant characteristics. One such invariance is the particular distance
relationship between neighboring resonance maxima (which, however, increasingly overlap after
the 7
th
harmonic). We either learn at an early age, or we have a built-in mechanism, to recognize
this “topological” characteristic as representing “one and the same thing”. The responsible
mechanism is called the central pitch processor. The main function of this neural unit is to
transform the peripheral activity pattern into another pattern in such a way that all stimuli with the
same periodicity are similarly represented. The result is a single pitch sensation for each complex
tone—in spite of the many concurrent harmonics and the ensuing complexity of the primary
excitation pattern. This unique pitch sensation corresponds to that of the first harmonic, or
fundamental, which in natural sounds is usually the most prominent one intensity-wise (one must
have a musically well-trained ear to “hear out” individually the first few harmonics of a
continuously sounding musical tone). A theory of harmony based on a neural model for the
central pitch processor was developed by Terhardt (1974). It is important to point out, however,
that the function of a central pitch processor is not unique to humans: complex tone perception
works in a similar way in other mammals.
All this shows a certain analogy with visual pattern recognition. For instance, when you look at
the symbol Щ , it may not convey any “unique” meaning at all (your interpretation would
probably depend on the context in which it is shown). But anyone who has learned the Cyrillic
alphabet clearly perceives it as just “one thing” (the letter shch), no matter of what size and where
in the visual field it appears. As it happens with vision, the acoustic pattern recognition
mechanism of the pitch processor works even if only part of the excitation pattern is available.
Indeed, if instead of a natural complex sound, we are exposed to one in which some normally
expected elements are suppressed (e.g., the fundamental is missing), the partially truncated
excitation pattern on the basilar membrane still is recognized as pertaining to a musical tone with
a definite pitch—only its timbre will appear as modified.
I am presenting all this detail because it gives the basis for the explanation of many fundamental
properties of harmony and music perception. Consonance and chroma are based on the physical
fact that any periodic oscillation is a superposition of single-frequency harmonics, and that the
intervals between successive lower harmonics are, in order, the octave, fifth, fourth, major third,
etc.—precisely, the order of decreasing consonance. And in the spatial patterns elicited on the
basilar membrane of two tones an octave apart the resonance regions of the upper tome all
coincide fully with every other one of the lower tone. Even dynamic attributes such as the sense
of return and the dominance of one particular pitch can be related to the ways periodic tones are
made up physically and accordingly analyzed by the neural system.
The above mentioned analogy with the visual system is dangerous, however. There are no real
analogues in vision to psychoacoustic attributes like pitch, consonance, the chroma, etc. One may
be tempted to associate color with pitch because both are related to the frequency of the stimulus,
but this would be wrong. First, visible light covers a range of frequencies differing less than a
factor of two (i.e., less than an octave) whereas the audible range covers a range extending over
3-4 orders of magnitude (about 9 octaves). This means that there can be no luminous equivalent
to the percept of a real musical tone: none of the “upper harmonics” of a periodic electromagnetic
wave whose fundamental frequency falls into the visible range would be registered by our eye!
Second, and more importantly, there is no unique correspondence between the sensation of color
and frequency—there are still little understood superposition effects (the whole basis of
composite color perception) to which there is no equivalent in pitch perception. There is a certain
analogy, though (as implied in a preceding paragraph), between the one-dimensional excitation
4
pattern along the basilar membrane (giving the sensations of pitch and timbre) and the two-
dimensional distribution of excitation on the illuminated retina (leading to the perception of form
and position of objects), but no specific analogies between associated percepts can be drawn: our
brain reacts quite differently in each sensory modality. For instance, the equivalent in vision to a
musical tone with its very specific and invariant cochlear excitation pattern would be a class of
objects or symbols, each with a common form or shape—e.g., some regular-patterned pictorial
motif or a collection of, say, letters “A”. But looking at a screen full of letters A of periodically
changing orientation, size and position will never give us the same emotional sensation as
listening to a musical piece! In music, there has to be some hidden connection with a very
specific class of acoustical information processing operations in the brain. The result of all this is
that the musical arts and the visual arts are completely different endeavors.
So far we have discussed only some primary attributes of music. There are higher level attributes
which are also “universal”, i.e., independent of the particular musical upbringing, the most
significant of which being the existence of an emotional response to it. To understand such higher
attributes of music we must turn to the higher functions of the nervous system.
3. NEURAL INFORMATION PROCESSING
Let us follow a somewhat unorthodox line and begin with a brief discussion of the role of
information in the Universe. It will become clearer later that understanding correctly the concept
of information and information-processing in an objective way, detached from the traditional
practical interpretation of these terms in communications theory, is of fundamental importance
for the understanding of the evolution of human intelligence and for any speculation about
human-like intelligence elsewhere.
“In the Beginning” … there was no information—it played no role in the evolution of the
physical, non-biological constituents of the Universe since the Big Bang. Interactions between
inanimate bodies or systems are based on fields and forces which, given a set of initial conditions,
determine the dynamics; this applies to all domains, from quantum to cosmological. Although we
interpret the process of cosmic evolution and increasing complexity as “generating information”
(Chaisson, 2001), this is information for us observers—it did not control any of the natural
processes involved (Roederer, 2002). It is important to point out that we are talking here about
what is called pragmatic information, which is different from the more subjective concepts of
statistical, semantic or algorithmic information used in traditional information theory (for details,
see Küppers, 1990). Basically, whenever a certain pattern in a “sender”—not energy, forces or
fields—triggers a specific response (change) in a “recipient”, we define “information” as the
entity that represents the unique correspondence between pattern and response. Unfortunately, in
physics we often use animistic language by making such statements as “the system ‘selects’ a
path of least action”, “the system ‘seeks’ a strange attractor”, or “the photon ‘decided’ to go
through the left diffraction slit”. One needs a brain to select, seek or decide!
Only when living organisms began to appear and interact with the inanimate world, did
information and information-processing enter into the picture in total independence of our own
role as “observers”. Indeed, a biological system is a natural (not human-made) system exhibiting
interactions that are controlled by information-processing operations (the proviso in parentheses
is there to emphasize the exclusion of artifacts such as computers and robots; Roederer, 2000).
Küppers (1990) stated: “Systems of the degree of complexity of organisms, even at the molecular
level, can arise and maintain themselves reproductively only by way of information-storing and
information-producing mechanisms”. I prefer to go one step further and state that information is
5
the defining concept that separates life from any natural (i.e., not made) inanimate complex
system (Roederer, 1978). The search for life elsewhere in the Universe thus becomes a search for
information-driven interactions (for prototype examples of information-based interactions, see
Roederer, 2002).
We know of two and only two distinct types of natural (not artificial) information systems:
biomolecular and neural (Roederer, 2002). Bacteria, viruses and cells are governed by infor-
mation-based interactions of the biomolecular type. The responses of cells to physical-chemical
conditions of the environment are ultimately controlled by “molecular machines” and devices
manufactured and operated according to blueprints that appeared in a long evolutionary process.
In plants they are integrated throughout the organism by a chemical communications network. I
think that there is general agreement in the biological community that any advanced carbon-based
form of life in a physical and chemical environment similar to that of early Planet Earth would
evolve on the basis of cell-like units enclosed by lipid membranes that enable the maintenance of
a highly organized, low entropy region in long-term unstable equilibrium with the environment
(lipid molecules are indeed found on condensed matter elsewhere in the Universe). In the
evolution of such microorganisms, information about the environment would have to be stored in
code-carrying template macromolecules (calling for certain properties that, as far as we know, are
possessed only by nucleic acids); the particular information content of the latter would not be
derived from physical laws and deliberately stored, but, rather, emerge gradually in a process of
selective adaptation (as happens with the DNA molecules on Earth).
For faster and more complex integrated information-processing in multicellular organisms with
locomotion a nervous system is necessary, as well as sophisticated sensory and motor systems to
link the organism with the outside world in real time. At the earliest stage of its evolution, the
nervous system merely served as a “high-speed” information transmission device in which an
environmental signal, converted into an electrical pulse in a sensory organ at one end, is
conveyed by a neuron to a muscle fiber at the other end, where it triggers a contraction. Later,
neural networks evolved that could analyze and discriminate different types of input signals and
send appropriate orders to different effectors. Finally, memory circuits emerged that could store
relevant information for later use. The culmination of this evolutionary process is the animal
brain as a central processor, coupling information stored in genes and ontogenic memory, as well
as real-time information on body and environment, with behavioral motor output. We must
assume that elsewhere in the Universe animal-like intelligence, a necessary precursor of human-
like intelligence, also would require the evolution of an information gathering and processing
system working on two basic time scales: a genetic one, and one dictated by the pace of real-time
environmental changes of relevance to the organism.
To accomplish its integrative function, the animal brain evolved in a way quite different from the
development of most other organs. Separate layers appeared, with distinct functions, overgrowing
the older structures but not replacing them, thus preserving “older functions”. Subcortical
structures such as the “limbic system” are phylogenetically old parts of the brain carrying
information acquired during the evolution of the species. The outermost layer of the brain, or
neocortex, executes all higher order cognitive operations, based on sensory information acquired
during the lifetime of the organism. We thus have two neural information-processing systems that
coexist and cooperate, working with two fundamentally distinct sources and types of
information—genetic and acquired in real time.
To understand the cognitive mechanisms in music perception it is important to examine in more
detail how the various levels of sensory information processing and representation operate in the
brain. For that purpose, we turn again to the visual system, with which the readers may be more
6
familiar, pointing out those processing aspects that operate similarly in the auditory system (see
the oversimplified sketch in Fig. 2; Roederer, 2000). The neural circuitry in the periphery and
afferent pathways up to and including the so-called primary sensory receiving area of the cortex
carries out some basic preprocessing operations mostly related to feature detection (e.g., detection
of edges and motion in vision, spectral pitch and transients in hearing—see preceding section).
The next stage is feature integration or binding, needed to sort out from an incredibly complex
input those features that belong to one and the same spatial or temporal object (i.e., binding those
edges together that define the boundary of the object; or in the auditory system, complex tone
discrimination, i.e., sorting out those resonance regions on the basilar membrane that belong to
the same musical tone). At this stage the brain “knows” that it is dealing with an object (or tone),
but it does not yet know what the object is. This requires a complex process of comparison with
existing, previously acquired information. The recognition process can be “automatic” by
associative recall, or require a further analysis of the full sensory input in the prefrontal cortex. As
one moves up the stages of Fig. 2, the information processing becomes less automatic and more
centrally controlled; in particular, more motivation-controlled actions and decisions are
necessary, and increasingly the previously stored (learned) information will influence the
outcome.
Fig.2: Ascending information routes and processing levels for visual information. The routing through
lower, subcortical levels (not shown) checks on current subjective relevance of the information on its way
to the prefrontal cortex. Only humans can override the output of this stage. Through feedback pathways, an
associative recall or, in humans, the imagination of a given object triggers neural activity distributions at
lower levels that would occur if the object was actually perceived by the eye. The auditory system has
similar processing stages. After Roederer (2000).
7
A fundamental fact is that the paths shown in Fig. 2 can also operate in reverse: there is
experimental evidence now that the memory recall (or, in humans, also the imagination) of a
given object, triggers those specific neural activity distributions at lower levels that would occur
if the object was actually seen. In the auditory system, “internal hearing” operates on this basis:
the imagination of a melody or the recall of an entire musical piece is the result of the activation,
or “replay”, of neural activity triggered somewhere in the prefrontal cortical areas (depending on
the specific recall process), which then feed the appropriate information back down the line of the
auditory processing stages creating sensory sensations without any sound whatsoever entering our
ears.
4. THE CORTICO-LIMBIC INTERPLAY
The motivational control of these processes deserves special attention. As mentioned above, one
of the phylogenetically old parts of the vertebrate brain is the so-called limbic system, which
works on the basis of genetic information represented in mostly prewired (inherited) networks.
We use this term as a short-hand for several deep interconnected subcortical structures which, in
conjunction with the cingulate cortex and the hypothalamus, construct neural representations of
the information on the state of the organism, evaluate sensory input according to phylogenetic
experiences, selectively direct memory storage according to the relevance or value of the
information, and mobilize motor output (Fig. 3; for a recent review see Dolan [2002]).
Fig. 3: Basic functions of brain regions collectively known as the limbic system—the brain’s “police
station” that assures cognitive functions and behavioral response that are most beneficial for the organism
and the propagation of the species. The limbic system controls emotion and communicates interactively
with higher processing levels of the cortex, particularly the prefrontal regions, relating everything the brain
perceives and plans to the needs of the organism and vice versa. In higher species, the coherent operational
mode of the cortico-limbic interplay gives rise to consciousness. The human brain is able to map and coor-
dinate this interplay at an even higher level, which leads to self-consciousness. After Roederer (1995).
8
Emotion (controlled by the deep structures) and motivation (controlled by the anterior cingulate)
are integral manifestations of the limbic system's function. It constantly challenges the brain to
find solutions to alternatives, to probe the environment, to overcome aversion and difficulty in the
desire to achieve a goal, and to perform certain actions even if not needed by the organism at that
moment. For the purpose of this article (see following sections), the most important examples of
the latter are animal play and, for human beings, paying attention to music! In all its tasks, the
limbic system communicates interactively with the cortex, particularly the prefrontal regions,
relating everything the brain perceives and plans to the organism and vice versa (Fig. 3). In short,
the aim of this system is to ensure a behavioral response that is most beneficial to the organism
and the propagation of the species according to genetically acquired information—the so called
instincts and drives.
To carry out its functions, the limbic system works in a curious way by dispensing sensations of
reward or punishment; pleasure or pain; love or anger; happiness or sadness, anxiety and fear. Of
course, only human beings can report to each other on these feelings, but on the basis of
behavioral and neurophysiological studies we have every reason to believe that higher vertebrates
also experience them. What kind of evolutionary advantage was there to this mode of operation?
Why does an open wound hurt? Why do we feel pleasure scratching a mosquito bite, listening to
Bach or having sex? How would we program similar reactions into a robot? Obviously this has
much to do with evoking the anticipation of pain or pleasure whenever certain constellations of
environmental events are expected to lead to something detrimental or favorable according to
genetic experience, respectively. Since such anticipation comes before any actual harm or benefit
could arise, it helps guide the organism's response into the direction of maximum chance of
survival. In short, feelings direct a brain to want to survive and to find out the best way of doing
so given unexpected, genetically unprogrammable, external circumstances. Plants cannot respond
quickly and plants do not exhibit emotions; their defenses (spines, poisons) or insect-attracting
charms (colors, scents) developed through the slow process of evolution. Reactions of non-
vertebrate animals are neural-controlled but “automatic”—there is no interplay between two
distinct neural information processing systems and there are no feelings guiding behavioral
response.
It is important to emphasize that the specific neural activity in cognitive acts is not limited to just
one brain processing center, but that it involves much of the cortex and many underlying nuclei at
the same time. What characterizes the neural activity distribution is that, even if many well-
defined processing levels are involved, there is monolithic coherence and synchronism (von der
Marlsburg, 1997), and consistent specificity with each cognitive act, feeling or motor output.
While no doubt many subservient programs or “subroutines” are involved which do not reach
consciousness but control very specific information-processing operations in highly localized
“modules” (think of listening to music while driving!), there is only one “main program” (or
“operating system”) which leads to unity of perception and behavior and represents the basic
conscious state of the animal or human brain (close but not equal to what has been called “core
consciousness” (Damasio, 1999)).
There are fundamental operational and evolutionary reasons for having a single state of
consciousness. First of all, if several “main programs” with different emotional states were to run
at the same time, there could be no coherence between the many subsystems, and simultaneous
but conflicting orders would ensue: the brain would fall into a sort of epileptic state. Second, the
instantaneous state of brain activity as represented by a specific neural activity distribution must
spread over processing networks that are responsible for memory recall in all modalities, in order
to be able to trigger an appropriate behavioral response. And, finally, the specific neural activity
must be intimately coupled to the limbic system, to be able to implement the dictates of the latter
9
for the benefit of the organism (see Fig. 3). Without the guiding mechanism of a limbic “control
station”, animal intelligence could not have evolved.
This should also be true for animal-like intelligences elsewhere. Without instincts and drives the
survival of a complex, mobile organism would be highly improbable. Without the drive to acquire
information even if not needed at the moment, a repertoire of environmental information and
appropriate responses thereto could not be built up in the memory. Without a coherent,
cooperative mode of two distinct information processing systems, a cognitive one (mainly
handling recent information) and an instinctive one (mainly working with genetic information and
values), that is, without the single “main program” we call consciousness, animal-like intelligence
would not be possible.
5. THE HUMAN BRAIN: SELF-CONSCIOUSNESS AND THE CAPACITY TO
OVERRIDE LIMBIC INSTRUCTIONS AND TRIGGER LIMBIC RESPONSE
From the neurophysiological and neuroanatomical points of view the human brain is not
particularly different from that of a chimpanzee. It does have a cortex with more neurons (a total
of 10
10
– 10
11
) and some of the intercortical fasciculae have more fibers, but this difference is of
barely one order of magnitude. More significant is the number of synapses in the adult brain,
which for humans is several orders of magnitude larger (about 10
14
). Is the difference in
information processing capabilities only one of quantity but not one of substance?
Aristotle already recognized that “animals have memory and are able of instruction, but no other
animal except man can recall the past at will”. More specifically, the most fundamentally distinct
operation that the human, and only the human, brain can perform is to recall stored information as
images or representations, manipulate them, and re-store modified or amended versions thereof
without any concurrent external sensory input (Roederer, 1978). In other words, the human brain
has internal control over the feedback information flow depicted in Fig. 2; in animal brains, that
feedback can only be triggered by real-time somatic and sensorial input. The acts of information
recall, alteration and re-storage without any external input represent the human thinking process
or reasoning. More recently, J. Z. Young (1987) stated this in the following terms: “Humans have
capacity to rearrange the ‘facts’ that have been learned so as to show their relations and relevance
to many aspects of events in the world with which they seem at first to have no connection”. And
Bickerton (1995) writes: “…only humans can assemble fragments of information to form a
pattern that they can later act upon without having to wait on … experience”.
This had vast consequences in human evolution. The capability of re-examining, rearranging and
altering images led to the discovery of previously overlooked cause-and-effect relationships
(creation of new information), to a quantitative concept of elapsed time, and to the awareness of
future time. Along this came the possibility of long-term prediction and planning (“information
about the future”; Squires, 1990; Roederer, 2000), i.e., the mental representation of things or
events that have not yet happened (this should not be confused with the capacity of higher
vertebrates to anticipate the course of current events on a short-term basis of seconds or, at most,
a few minutes). Concomitantly with this came the postponement of behavioral goals and, more
generally, the capacity to overrule the dictates of the limbic system (think of a diet) and also to
willfully stimulate the limbic system, without external input (think of sexual self-arousal). The
body started serving the brain instead of the other way around! Mental images and emotional
feelings could thus be created that had no relationship with momentary sensory input—the human
brain can go “off-line”, as expressed by Bickerton (1995). Abstract thinking and artistic creativity
10
began; the capacity to predict also brought the development of beliefs (unverifiable long-term
predictions) and values (societally adopted priorities).
Concurrently with this development came the ability to encode complex mental images into
simple acoustic signals and the emergence of human language. This was of such decisive
importance for the development of human intelligence that certain parts of the auditory and motor
cortices began to specialize in verbal image coding and decoding, and the human thinking process
began to be influenced and sometimes controlled by the language networks (this does not mean
that we always think in words!). Finally, though much later in human evolution, there came the
deliberate storage of information in the environment; this externalization of memory led to the
documentation of events and feelings through visual symbols and written language, music scores,
visual artistic expression, and science—to human culture as such. And it was only very recently
that human beings started creating artifacts capable of processing information and entertaining
information-based interactions with the environment, such as servomechanisms, computers and
robots, and accelerating the old genetic modification process of animal breeding with genetic
engineering and cloning.
It is important to point out that the capabilities of recalling and rearranging stored information
without external input, making long-term predictions, planning and having the concept of future
time, stimulating or overruling limbic drives, and developing language, most likely all co-evolved
simultaneously as one single neural “module” of human intelligence.
At the root of this development from the informational point of view lies the human capability of
making “one representation of all representations”. There is a higher-order level of represen-
tation in the human brain which has cognizance of consciousness and which can manipulate
independently the primary neural representation of current brain activity both in terms of
cognitive acts and feelings. It can construct an image of the act of forming first-order images of
environment and organism, as well as of the reactions to them. There is no need to assume the
existence of a separate neural network, some highly localized “seat” of consciousness or some
mysterious immaterial entity like “mind” or “soul” for this highest-order representation in the
human brain. There is enough information-handling space in the cortical and subcortical networks
that can be shared with the processing of lower-level representations (except, perhaps, that there
may be a need for a greater involvement of the prefrontal cortex and that language networks may
participate in an important way). Fig. 4 depicts schematically the principal milestones and
processing levels in the evolution of human intelligence. My point is: it also should depict the
evolution of conditions for any other human-like intelligence!
The capacity of retrieving and manipulating information from the memory without any external
or somatic trigger; the feeling of being able to observe and control one’s own brain function; the
feeling of “being just one” (even in the most severe case of multiple personality disorder); the
capacity of making decisions that do not depend on real-time environmental and somatic input;
and the possibility of either overruling or independently stimulating the limbic dictates,
collectively represent what we call human self-consciousness (close but not equal to “extended
consciousness” (Damasio, 1999)). The mental singleness we humans experience reflects the fact
that a thought can establish itself only if none of the participating modalities throws in a veto (von
der Marlsburg, 1997); again, coherence of brain function assures the latter. Self-consciousness is
far more than just a feeling—it represents the capability of some very unique information
processing actions. A useful metaphor for this is the following: while consciousness is “watching
the movie that is running in the brain”, self-consciousness is the capacity of human beings “to
splice and edit that movie” (Roederer, 2002). Finally, the fact that both consciousness and self-
consciousness involve both feelings and cognitive functions clearly shows that they emerge from
11
a tight and coordinated interplay between the neocortical and the old limbic structures of the
brain.
Fig. 4: Schematic view of the principal milestones and levels of the evolution of the animal and human
brain. It also should depict the evolution of any human-like intelligence.
6. WHY IS THERE MUSIC?
We are now in a better condition to address the question: Why is there music? Let me state at the
outset: without a cortico-limbic interplay and without the capacity of internal information recall
and image manipulation detached from current sensory input, there could be no music (and no
art—perhaps even no science). We can envision robots programmed to compose and perform
music according to preset rules, but it would be hard to imagine a robot enjoying to listen to
music, wanting to compose or perform music, or, in the general context of this volume, desiring
to communicate with other civilizations!
It is not difficult to try to trace the origin of the motivation to perform certain actions that have no
immediate biological purpose, such as climbing a mountain (instinct to explore), playing soccer
(training in skilled movement) or enjoying the view of a sunset (expectation of the shelter of
darkness). But why have “abstract” musical tones and forms been of advantage to early
hominids? Of course, this question must be considered part of a more encompassing question
related to the emergence of esthetic motivation, response, and creativity.
We contend that music is a natural byproduct or, better, co-product of the evolution of human
language (Roederer, 1984). In this evolution, which undoubtedly was an essential factor for the
development of the human race (see previous section), a neural network emerged, capable of
executing the ultracomplex operations of sound processing, analysis, storage, and retrieval
necessary for phonetic recognition, voice identification, and comprehension of speech. It is
therefore conceivable that with the evolution of human language a drive emerged to train the
acoustic sense in sophisticated sound pattern recognition as part of an inborn human instinct to
12
13
acquire language from the moment of birth. During the later stages of intrauterine development,
the acoustic sense of the fetus begins to register passively the intrauterine sound environment. At
birth there is a sudden transition to active behavioral response in which the acoustical
communication with the mother or her surrogate plays a most fundamental role. An acoustical
communication feedback cycle is thereby established, which may reinforce the emotional
relationship with the mother and feed both the motivational drive to acquire language in the infant
and the motivational drive of the mother to vocalize simple successions of musical tones. The
mother’s song arouses the attention of an infant to listen, analyze, and store sounds as a prelude to
the acquisition of language. The motivation to listen to, analyze, store, and vocalize musical
sounds, even when there is no apparent need given by present circumstances, leads to limbic
rewards, i.e., trigger feelings of pleasure, when this is done. This is quite similar to animal's play
as the manifestation of an inborn motivation to develop or improve skilled movements required
for hunting and self-defense.
To facilitate the acoustical information processing of speech the motivation emerged to discover
symmetries and regularities, to extrapolate, predict, interpolate, to tackle with both the familiarity
of redundancy and repetition and the surprise of sudden change, and a drive to explore, diversify,
and prioritize. These are additional factors that contribute to the affective elements of music,
ranging from those of instantaneous or short-term character related to the subjective sensations of
timbre, consonance, tonal expectation, sense of tonal return, to the longer-term structures of
melodic lines. These affective elements may be manifestations of limbic rewards in the search for
the phonetic or phonemic content of sound and for the identification of grammatical organization
and logical content of acoustical signals. The fortunate fact that these feelings are irrepressible
and occur every time lies at the very foundation of modern music theory (e.g., Lerdahl and
Jackendoff, 1983). Human language is the “hidden connection” mentioned at the end of section 2.
Unmusical individuals, who are unable to experience these sensations, probably are subjects
whose musical message identification mechanism has not had a chance to develop its
potentialities to full capability. Hence, although they hear everything that highly musical subjects
hear, their central auditory system did not develop the skills to extract musically relevant
information from non-speech-related sound superpositions and sequences. Musical events such as
a tonality change are heard but not interpreted and thus do not evoke any affective response.
Since an early stage in life, most persons are exposed to a limited class of musical stimuli.
Cultural conditioning rapidly takes hold, and emotional response begins to be influenced by
external factors, some fortuitous and subjective, like the emotional state experienced by a person
during the first listening of a given musical piece or passage therein; some more controllable,
such as the degree of repetition of characteristic musical forms pertaining to a given musical
style; some guided by the innate drive to diversify the possibilities of human endeavor, which in
the case of music would be taking advantage of technological developments such as the
appearance of keyboard instruments or, more recently, electronic synthesizers. This ultimately
may determine why one particular style or type of music is preferred over some other kind. What
still remains invariant from the original instincts are (i) the fact that there are some components of
music that are common to all musical cultures; (ii) the fact that motivation exists to pay attention
to musical sounds and forms; and (iii) the fact that an emotional reaction and feelings can be
triggered.
We may search for further elements of a survival value of music. Like a good public speech,
music can succeed in arousing and maintaining the attention of great masses of people, overruling
their normal limbic drives for extended periods of time. Since music conveys information on
affective states, it can contribute to the equalization of the emotional states of a group of listeners
just as an oral lecture may contribute to the equalization of the intellectual state (knowledge) of
14
the audience. The role of music in superstitious and sexual rites, religion, ideological proselytism,
military arousal, even antisocial behavior, clearly demonstrates the value of music as a means of
achieving behavioral coherence in masses of people. In the distant past this could indeed have had
an important survival value, as the increasingly complex human environment demanded coherent,
collective actions on the part of large groups of human society (Roederer, 1995, Benzon, 2001).
Thus far we omitted any reference to rhythm as a fundamental component of music, a particularly
critical omission, because the appearance of rhythm always seems to have been the first step in
the evolution of a given musical culture. The propagation through cerebral tissue of a cyclically
changing flux of neural signals triggered by rhythmic sound patterns may somehow enter in
“resonance” with the natural clocks of the brain that control body functions and motor response.
The coupling of music with dance is another innate quality that may have co-evolved with the
development of speech as the expression of human language.
One final word about other theories on the origin of music. Analyzing the characteristics and
structure of whale and bird song, Gray el al (2001) proposed that music may predate humans and
that our emotional response to it may have its origin “in our lizard brain” (the phylogenetically
old limbic structures—section 4). However, in my opinion, for these animals “songs” are their
way of communicating very concrete messages, biologically relevant in real time, just as the
shrieks and chatter of a chimpanzee are. What happens is that to us humans bird song sounds like
music whereas the utterances of our much closer ancestors certainly don’t! Benzon (2001), on the
other hand, has suggested that “musicking”, as he calls it, may predate language in human
development. Hominids, in their northward migration through Africa’s gradually advancing
steppe, developed behavioral strategies of mimicry of animal calls and movement. Rhythmic
coordination proved to be of advantage for survival—and led to a motivational drive to engage in
musicking and dancing. No doubt an interesting idea—but I still believe that the unique and
complex characteristics and organization of music—even of primitive music—had to develop in
parallel with the unique and complex structures of human language. It was language that acted as
the “driving force” in human evolution (see section 5).
7. SPECULATIONS ABOUT “MUSIC OF THE SPHERES”
Music is coupled to our sense of hearing as the visual arts are coupled to vision and culinary art is
coupled to olfaction. Whereas pictorial and culinary arts are mainly “static”, the most relevant
information in music is represented by time sequences of acoustic signals. As a matter of fact,
quite generally, information processing in the auditory system consists mainly of an analysis of
change as a function of time, involving a wide range of characteristic time scales (see Roederer,
1995). These are also the relevant time-scales for speech and the neural information processing of
language—which is not surprising if, as we posited in the preceding section, music co-evolved
with human language as a “training tool” for information processing operations necessary for the
development of oral communication.
We conclude that music, as we know it, could not exist (i) without a sensory system capable of
sophisticated processing operations working on temporal signals and fast time-scales; (ii) without
this sensory system playing the central role for the conveyance of language-like information (i.e.,
highly compressed information encoding complex sensory and mental images and their
relationships); (iii) without a brain-like central processor of information with motivational control
of its cognitive functions, so that non-inheritable components of language can be acquired
efficiently during the early lifetime of the organism; and (iv) without a control mechanism
15
working in the mode of dispensation of reward/punishment-like feelings if the action taken is
deemed favorable/detrimental according to evolutionary experience.
I believe that any extraterrestrial civilization with human-like intelligence must have evolved an
information-processing system similar to our central nervous system that operates with
“monolithic coherence”, i.e., exhibits consciousness (section 4); that has the capability of “going
off-line” to work on its own imagery, i.e., exhibits self-consciousness (section 5); and that has
developed a language-based intraspecies communications system (section 6). Taking into account
the statements in the previous paragraph, I believe that a temporally expressed “language-system
related art” would necessarily have developed in that extraterrestrial culture. Human-like
language and the equivalent of a human-like music would have co-evolved—the latter as an
evolutionary relic of a training tool for the acquisition of language.
I don’t think that the language communications system in another civilization would necessarily
have to be acoustic—for instance, it could be optical (some ultrasophisticated firefly-like
emission organ, or some advanced gesticulation capability). The key should be the capacity of
detecting, encoding in highly compressed form, processing at high speed, storing efficiently, and
sending out very complex information. However, an acoustical intra-species communications
system is far more advantageous in terms of diffraction around obstacles, less absorption in the
medium, propagation along natural wave guides (caves), etc., than the line-of-sight optical mode.
Still, if there was an optical language system, there should have appeared an instinctive drive to
engage in relevant information-processing operations without any present need—just for the
“fun” of it! Yet, as implied in section 2, an “optical system of music” would necessarily be
lacking many of the attributes of our music (consonance, harmony, etc.), because of the extremely
limited range of wavelengths of electromagnetic radiation that can be handled by a physiological
system built with carbon-based biochemistry.
I am no specialist in interstellar message composition, but I submit that to craft signals
broadcasting information about our own musical world it is of fundamental importance to
understand why we have music on Earth. In our messages, we must be able to convey information
on the facts that (1) human beings entertain themselves with complex tasks that per se are not
necessary to satisfy immediate survival needs; and (2) among such tasks there is one class that
deals with the perception, creation and emission of very specific, highly structured and varied
time-sequences of signals, which follow certain basic “rules” shaped by the way the biological
intraspecies communication system works, but which have no direct relationship with the primary
purpose of the latter. As I stated at the beginning of this chapter, encoding Beethoven’s Fifth may
be naïve, but encoding samples of typical acoustic vibration patterns, time-sequences and
harmonic superpositions, with some clue on the absolute time-scales involved, would be a logical
way to start. Maybe these transmissions should be made always between more practical messages
about mathematics, astronomy and the laws of physics, to leave recipients in other worlds
wondering and investigating: “Why are there such strange intermissions with apparently useless
information?!”
8. REFERENCES
Benzon, W. (2001). Beethoven’s anvil. New York: Basic Books.
Bickerton, D. (1995). Language and human behavior. Seattle, WA: University of Washington Press.
Chaisson, E. J. (2001). Cosmic evolution: The rise of complexity in nature. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
16
Damasio, A. (1999). The feeling of what happens. San Diego, CA: Harcourt.
Dolan, R. J. (2002). Emotion, cognition and behavior. Science, 298, 1191-1194.
Gray, P. M., Krause, B., Atema, J., Payne, R., Krumhansl, C., & Baptista, L. (2001). The music of nature and the
nature of music. Science, 291, 52-54.
Küppers, B. O. (1990). Information and the origin of life. Cambridge: MIT Press.
Lerdahl, F. & Jackendorff, R. (1983). A generative theory of tonal music. Cambridge: MIT Press.
Marlsburg, C. von der (1997). The coherence definition of consciousness. In M. Ito, Y. Miyashita, & E. T. Rolls
(Eds.), Cognition, computation and consciousness (pp. 193-204). Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Roederer, J. G. (1978). On the relationship between human brain functions and the foundations of physics.
Foundations of Physics, 8, 423-438.
Roederer, J. G. (1984). The search for a survival value of music. Music Perception, 1, 350-356.
Roederer, J. G. (1995). The physics and psychophysics of music. New York: Springer-Verlag.
Roederer, J. G. (2000). Information, life and brains. In J. Chela-Flores, G. Lemarchand, & J. Oró (Eds.),
Astrobiology: Origins from the Big-Bang to civilization (pp. 179-194). Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Kluwer.
Roederer, J. G. (2002). On the concept of information and its role in nature. Manuscript submitted for publication.
Squires, E. (1990). Conscious mind in the physical world. Bristol, UK: Adam Hilger.
Terhardt, E. (1974). Pitch, consonance and harmony. Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 55, 1061-1069.
Young, J. Z. (1987). Philosophy and the brain. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
... Consider a rat that receives sugar if it presses a lever: the sugar acts as a reward that increases the probability that the rat will repeat the associated actions. Neurobiologically, rewards involve dopamine neurons and pathways (Berridge & Robinson, 1998; Schultz, 1998) and, in humans, cortico-limbic interplay (Roederer, 2004). In the present scenario of the origins of music, the emotions associated with a given sound or movement pattern are rewards that lead to an increase in the frequency of occurrence of the actions that produced them — regardless of the specific cognitive mechanisms that process this information. ...
Article
Existing theories of the origins of music and religion fail to account directly and convincingly for their universal emotional power and behavioural costliness. The theory of prenatal origins is based on empirically observable phenomena and involves prenatal classical conditioning, postnatal operant conditioning and the adaptive value of mother-infant bonding. The human fetus can perceive sound and acceleration from gestational week 20. The most salient sounds for the fetus are internal to the mother's body and associated with vocalisation, blood circulation, impacts (footfalls), and digestion. The protomusical sensitivity of infants may be based on prenatal associations between the mother's changing physical and emotional state and concomitant changes in both hormone levels in the placental blood and prenatally audible sound/movement patterns. Protomusical aspects of motherese, play and ritual may have emerged during a multigenerational process of operational conditioning on the basis of prenatally established associations among sound, movement and emotion. The infant's multimodal cognitive representation of its mother (mother schema) begins to develop before birth and may underlie music's personal qualities, religion's supernatural agents, and the link between the two. Prenatal theory can contribute to an explanation of musical universals such as specific features of rhythm and melody and associations between music and body movement, as well as universal commonalities of musical and religious behaviour and experience such as meaning, fulfilment, and altered states of consciousness.
Chapter
Human beings function within a complicated relationship of rules of behavior that we call culture . In practice, there are three distinct but interrelated ecologies for intelligent species: the natural, the social, and the technical ecologies. These act, and are acted upon, in concert. Here we distinguish between them, and discuss a number of issues that are threaded through the following chapters. The world of intellect includes both ‘rational’ processes such as science, mathematics, and technology and ‘non-rational’ processes such as religion, play, fashion, and the arts. These are discussed here with an eye to answering two questions: would ETI engage in these intellectual practices? And if they do, what are the implications?
Chapter
Given the velocity limter C, the majority of our exchanges with ETI are likely to be intellectual. Given this is the case, some examples of the kinds of exchanges--art, mathematics, play, fashion--are discussed here. Such exchanges are unlikely to be straightforward, since they depend on context and on the different understanding of the parties about what is being exchanged. The issue of fashion is particularly important because it ties together cultures and the civilization that they (and we) might be part of.
Book
Full-text available
Using astronomical telescopes and biological microscopes, among a virtual arsenal of other tools of high technology, modern scientists are weaving a thread of understanding spanning the origin, existence, and destiny of all things. Now emerging is a unified scenario of the cosmos, including ourselves as sentient beings, based on the time-honored concept of change. From galaxies to snowflakes, from stars and planets to life itself, we are beginning to identify an underlying, ubiquitous pattern penetrating the fabric of all the natural sciences—a sweepingly encompassing view of the order and structure of every known class of object in our richly endowed Universe. We call this subject "cosmic evolution." Recent advances throughout the sciences suggest that all organized systems share generic phenomena characterizing their emergence, development and evolution. Whether they are physical, biological or cultural systems, certain similarities and homologies pervade evolving entities throughout an amazingly diverse Universe. How strong are the apparent continuities among Nature's historical epochs and how realistic is the quest for unification? To what extent might we broaden conventional evolutionary thinking, into both the pre-biological and post-biological domains? Is such an extension valid, merely metaphorical, or just plain confusing? For many years at Harvard University, starting in the 1970s and continuing to the present, I have taught, initially with George B. Field, an introductory course on cosmic evolution that sought to identify common denominators bridging a wide variety of specialized science subjects—physics, astronomy, geology, chemistry, biology, and anthropology, among others. The principal aim of this interdisciplinary course explored a universal framework against which to address some of the most basic issues ever contemplated: the origin of matter and the origin of life, as well as how radiation, matter, and life interact and change with time. Our intention was to help sketch a grand evolutionary synthesis that would better enable us to understand who we are, whence we came, and how we fit into the overall scheme of things. In doing so, my students and I gained a broader, integrated knowledge of stars and galaxies, plants and animals, air, land, and sea. Of paramount import, we learned how the evident order and increasing complexity of the many varied, localized structures within the Universe in no way violate the principles of modern physics, which, prima facie, maintain that the Universe itself, globally and necessarily, becomes irreversibly and increasingly disordered. Beginning in the late 1980s while on sabbatical leave at MIT, and continuing for several years thereafter while on the faculty of the Space Telescope Science Institute at Johns Hopkins University, I occasionally offered an advanced version of the introductory course. This senior seminar attempted to raise substantially the quantitative aspects of the earlier course, to develop even deeper insights into the nature and role of change in Nature, and thus to elevate the subject of cosmic evolution to a level that colleague scientists and intelligent lay persons alike might better appreciate. This brief and broadly brushed monograph—written mostly in the late 1990s during a stint as Phi Beta Kappa National Lecturer, and polished while resuming the teaching at Harvard of my original course on cosmic evolution--is an intentionally lean synopsis of the salient features of that more advanced effort. Some will see this work as reductionistic, with its analytical approach to the understanding of all material things. Others will regard it as holistic, with its overarching theme of the whole exceeding the sum of Nature's many fragmented parts. In the spirit of complementarity, I offer this work as an evolutionary synthesis of both these methodologies, integrating the deconstructionism of the former and the constructivist tendencies of the latter. Openly admitted, my inspiration for writing this book has been Erwin Schroedinger's seminal little tract of a half-century ago, What is Life?, yet herein to straighten and extend the analysis to include all known manifestations of order and complexity in the Universe. No attempt is made to be comprehensive in so far as details are concerned; much meat has been left off the bones. Nor is this work meant to be technically rigorous; that will be addressed in a forthcoming opus. Rather, the intent here is to articulate a skeletal précis—a lengthy essay, really—of a truly voluminous subject in a distilled and readable manner. To bend a hackneyed cliché, although the individual trees are most assuredly an integral part of the forest, in this particular work the forest is of greater import. My aim is to avoid diverting the reader from the main lines of argument, to stay focused on target regarding the grand sweep of change from big bang to humankind. Of special note, this is not a New Age book with mystical overtones however embraced or vulgarized by past scholars, nor one about the history and philosophy of antiquated views of Nature. It grants no speculation on the pseudo-science fringe about morphic fields or quantum vitalism or interfering dieties all mysteriously affecting the ways and means of evolution; nor do we entertain epistemological discussions about the limits of human knowledge or post-modernist opinions about the sociological implications of science writ large. This is a book about mainstream science, pure and simple, outlining the essence of an ongoing research program admittedly multidisciplinary in character and colored by the modern scientific method's unavoidable mix of short-term subjectivity and long-term objectivity. In writing this book, I have assumed an undergraduate knowledge of natural science, especially statistical and deterministic physics, since as we shall see, much as for classical biological evolution, both chance and necessity have roles to play in all evolving systems. The mathematical level includes that of integral calculus and differential equations, with a smattering of symbolism throughout; the units are those of the centimeter-gram-second (cgs) system, those most widely used by practitioners in the field, editorial conventions notwithstanding. And although a degree of pedagogy has been included when these prerequisites are exceeded, some scientific language has been assumed. "The book of Nature is written in the language of mathematics," said one of my two intellectual heroes, Galileo Galilei, and so are parts of this one. Readers with unalterable math phobia will benefit from the unorthodox design of this work, wherein the "bookends" of Prologue-Introduction and Discussion-Epilogue, comprising more than half of the book, can be mastered without encountering much mathematics at all. What is presented here, then, is merely a sketch of a developing research agenda, itself evolving, ordering and complexifying—an abstract of scholarship-in-progress incorporating much data and many ideas from the entire spectrum of natural science, yet which attempts to surpass scientific popularizations (including some of my own) that avoid technical lingo, most numbers, and all mathematics. As such, this book should be of interest to most thinking people—active researchers receptive to an uncommonly broad view of science, sagacious students of many disciplines within and beyond science, the erudite public in search of themselves and a credible worldview—in short, anyone having a panoramic, persistent curiosity about the nature of the Universe and of our existence in it. -- Summary Abstract of This Work -- The essence of this book outlines the grand scenario of cosmic evolution by qualitatively and quantitatively examining the natural changes among radiation, matter, and life within the context of big-bang cosmology. The early Universe is shown to have been flooded with pure energy whose radiation energy density was initially so high as to preclude the existence of any appreciable structure. As the Universe cooled and thinned, a preeminent phase change occurred a few hundred centuries after the origin of all things, at which time matter's energy density overthrew the earlier primacy of radiation. Only with the onset of technologically manipulative beings (on Earth and perhaps elsewhere) has the energy density contained within matter become, in turn, locally dominated by the rate of free energy density flowing through open organic structures. Using non-equilibrium thermodynamics at the crux, especially energy flow considerations, we argue that it is the contrasting temporal behavior of various energy densities that have given rise to the environments needed for the emergence of galaxies, stars, planets, and life forms. We furthermore maintain that a necessary (though perhaps not sufficient) condition—a veritable prime mover—for the emergence of such ordered structures of rising complexity is the expansion of the Universe itself. Neither demonstrably new science nor appeals to non-science are needed to explain the impressive hierarchy of the cosmic-evolutionary scenario, from quark to quasar, from microbe to mind.
Article
Full-text available
What is it that drives humans, whales, birds, and many other animals to make music? In a fascinating Perspective, Gray and her colleagues compare the ways that birds, whales, and humans make music and ask the provocative question: Is music universal?
Book
This book takes up the question of the degree of interplay between chance and law in the evolution of life from the standpoint of the philosophy of science, emphasizing the contribution made by information theory. With a preface by Carl Friedrich von Weizsäcker Comments Nobel laureate Sir John Kendrew “This is an essential contribution toward the solution of one of the fundamental problems of biology“ Carl Friedrich von Weizsäcker “Scientifically, this theory seems to close a gap that is perhaps comparable to the geographical discovery of the North-West-passage north of America“ Gregory Chaitin “It belongs to that handful of books, including Erwin Schrödinger’s 1944 classic ‘What is Life?’ that confront the most fundamental concepts of biology“
Article
A most basic issue in the study of music perception is the question of why humans are motivated to pay attention to, or create, musical messages, and why they respond emotionally to them, when such messages seem to convey no real-time relevant biological information as do speech, animal utterances, and environmental sounds. Expanding on previous work (Roederer, 1979, 1982) three possibly concurrent factors will be examined: (1) The inborn motivation to train language-handling networks of the brain in the processing of simple, organized sound patterns as a prelude to the acquisition of language; (2) The need to extract the information contained in the “musical” components of speech; (3) The value of music as a means of transmitting information on emotional states and its effect in congregating and behaviorally equalizing masses of people. In the discussion, special attention will be paid to the role of motivation and emotion in auditory perception, to the fact that in humans limbic system functions can be activated by internally evoked images in complete detachment from the current state of environment and organism, and to the existence of two distinct strategies of cerebral information processing, namely short-term time sequencing, as required in speech communication and thinking, and holistic pattern recognition, as required in music perception. © 1983, Regents of the University of California. All rights reserved.
Chapter
As we look around us we realize that much of the human environment appears to be made up of discrete clumps of matter, objects with clearly defined, sharp boundaries. It is our experience from daily life (and from precise observations in the laboratory) that the presence of one object may alter the state of other objects in some well-defined ways. We call this process an “interaction”, and consider it one of the fundamental, primary concepts, like space, time and measurement, with which science, and physics in particular, works.
Article
Part 1 Physics and conscious mind: physics as the theory of everything physics and the violation of experience physics and reductionism from physics to conscious mind. Part 2 Consciousness: what is consciousness? what is conscious? can a machine be conscious? what does consciousness do? the uniqueness of conscious mind the unconscious mind states of consciousness. Part 3 From classicla physics to the standard model: the classical era interference the quantum revolution the standard model the standard model of cosmology unanswered questions. Part 4 Philosophical background: "words, wrds, mere words" idealism realism materialism the mind-brain identity hypothesis dualism psychoneural pairs panpsychism process philosophy. Part 5 Experiments relevant to conscious mind: science needs experiments consciousness in animals blindsight the brain split brain experiments the effects on the brain of mental events the effects of consciousness on the external world. Part 6 Free will: a property of conscious mind freedom as the possibility of alternative action free-will as an illusion free-will and determinism the origin of free-will purpose and design summary of our conclusions about free-will. Part 7 Time: time and the laws of physics the experience of time time asymmetry and thermodynamics memory movement through time time and space. Part 8 Truth: facts and tautologies paradoxes axiometric systems Goedel's theorem does a machine tell the truth? Part 9 Quantum theory: particle-wave duality the wavefuction of quantum theory the probability interpretation of the wavefunction quantum theory and determinism quantum theory and external reality quantum theory and locality time and quantum mechanics. Part 10 What does quantum theory mean?: the interpretation problem the orthodox interpretation what can make a quantum theory measurment? consciousness and wavefunction reduction hidden-variable models the many-worlds interpretation of quantum theory knowledge and quantum theory. Part 11 Conscious mind and quantum physics: why does consciousness enter physics? the unique world of conscious mind free-will and quantum physics psychokinesis and quantum physics universal consciousness and clairvoyance are brain events microscopic. Part 12 Conclusions: is there an external world? is there anything else? why does it seem to matter so much? are we responsible ofr our actions? what is conscious mind?.
Article
A most basic issue in the study of music perception is the question of why humans are motivated to pay attention to, or create, musical messages, and why they respond emotionally to them, when such messages seem to convey no real-time relevant biological information as do speech, animal utterances, and environmental sounds. Expanding on previous work (Roederer, 1979,1982) three possibly concurrent factors will be examined: (1) The inborn motivation to train language-handling networks of the brain in the processing of simple, organized sound patterns as a prelude to the acquisition of language; (2) The need to extract the information contained in the "musical" components of speech; (3) The value of music as a means of transmitting information on emotional states and its effect in congregating and behaviorally equalizing masses of people. In the discussion, special attention will be paid to the role of motivation and emotion in auditory perception, to the fact that in humans limbic system functions can be activated by internally evoked images in complete detachment from the current state of environment and organism, and to the existence of two distinct strategies of cerebral information processing, namely short-term time sequencing, as required in speech communication and thinking, and holistic pattern recognition, as required in music perception.
Article
This book explains how the intense activities of cells and brains are relevant to the work of philosophers and to questions about the nature of man, perception, freedom, determinism, and ethical values; and, conversely, indicates to biologists the importance of their understanding of philosophical concepts. The author describes in simple terms what research and experiment have revealed about the brain and its functions. He demonstrates that perception is not a passive process but an active search for information: human knowledge, it is suggested, may be a special development of the process of gathering information for life which is essential for all organisms. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)