One thing is whether we are fundamentally conflating two related but somewhat distinct concepts in discussions of consciousness.
The first concept relates to the connection between information and consciousness. The second concept is the feeling of the information.
Since information is physical, there is no reason to believe that matter itself even in its smallest forms might not contain information. An electron, for example, might be conceptualized as an “information field” that is a continually fluctuating wave of calculations about its itself and environment. I am using “information field” in an attempt to suggest something implementation neutral. It might be quantum, electromagnetic, or some other wave-like mechanism not understood at this time. It may be something like a tensegrity structure that I wrote about quite a while ago and that Donald Ingber discussed in a Scientific American piece. While Ingber was primarily talking about living forms towards the end of his discussion he writes:
Finally, more philosophical questions arise: Are these building principles universal? Do they apply to structures that are molded by very large scale forces as well as small-scale ones? We do not know. Snelson, however, has proposed an intriguing model of the atom based on tensegrity that takes off where the French physicist Louis de Broglie left off in 1923. Fuller himself went so far as to imagine the solar system as a structure composed of multiple nondeformable rings of planetary motion held together by continuous gravitational tension. Then, too, the fact that our expanding (tensing) universe contains huge filaments of gravitationally linked galaxies and isolated black holes that experience immense compressive forces locally can only lead us to wonder. Perhaps there is a single underlying theme to nature after all. As suggested by early 20th-century Scottish zoologist D’Arcy W. Thompson, who quoted Galileo, who, in turn, cited Plato: the Book of Nature may indeed be written in the characters of geometry.
The key idea is that there might be similar organizing principles in the small and the large and the principle might involve wrapping information and binding it into structure. The panpsychists then could be correct that consciousness in its information aspect is found throughout the universe in all matter and structures from the smallest to the largest. The complex consciousness that we humans have is but another example of an information structure built on common principles from which all structures in the universe are constructed.
At the same, however, our consciousness seems different, seems to be more than just information. The reason is that it is felt. This might be where the panpsychists, the IIT theorists, and computationalists go wrong when they conflate the feeling of the information with the information itself. Hence, we get absurd statements about electrons feeling things from the panpsychists or the notion that a thermostat might be minimally sentient from an IIT theorist.
Perhaps the prototypical neuron is the sensory neuron – a neuron that senses (feels?) something about its environment. The apparent “feeling” of consciousness is actually neurons sensing the feedback generated by other neurons in its environment. The mind in this feeling aspect is biological and localized to small areas over which neurons are able to be sensed, that is brains. The feedback itself provides an explanation for apparent causal ability of mind without which an evolutionary explanation for its origin is difficult. Consciousness as we know it and feel it represents a sort of wrapped structure, an “information field”, but it belongs to biological matter and is also felt.