The ant colony as a test for scientific theories of consciousness

This in Synthese freely available here.

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We introduce the Ant Colony Test (ACT) as a rigorous reverse test for consciousness. We show that social insect colonies, though disaggregated collectives, fulfill many of the prerequisites for conscious awareness met by humans and honey bee workers.

However only a small fraction of neurons in the brain might be involved in processing visual impulses amplified by sensory cells. Yet all cells of the human are affected by the activity of just these few. It would not make sense to say that any skin cell or single neuron “fell for an illusion”. Similarly it does not make sense to say that any single worker was fooled, the illusion occurred via a colony-level process. Thus we cannot explain away the susceptibility of the colony to illusion by reductionistically appealing to individual worker behavior. The outcome of being fooled arises as a system property, in both humans and ant colonies (Baluška and Levin 2016). The spatially-organizing activity of colonies occurs as a consequence of interactions among individuals, most of which might not be directly involved in the organizational task.