Wednesday, January 02, 2019

Electrons don’t think

Brainless particles leaving tracks
in a bubble chamber. [image source]
I recently discovered panpsychism. That’s the idea that all matter – animate or inanimate – is conscious, we just happen to be somewhat more conscious than carrots. Panpsychism is the modern elan vital.

When I say I “discovered” panpsychism, I mean I discovered there’s a bunch of philosophers who produce pamphlets about it. How do these philosophers address the conflict with evidence? Simple: They don’t.

Now, look, I know that physicists have a reputation of being narrow-minded. But the reason we have this reputation is that we tried the crazy shit long ago and just found it doesn’t work. You call it “narrow-minded,” we call it “science.” We have moved on. Can elementary particles be conscious? No, they can’t. It’s in conflict with evidence. Here’s why.

We know 25 elementary particles. These are collected in the standard model of particle physics. The predictions of the standard model agree with experiment to best precision.

The particles in the standard model are classified by their properties, which are collectively called “quantum numbers.” The electron, for example, has an electric charge of -1 and it can have a spin of +1/2 or -1/2. There are a few other quantum numbers with complicated names, such as the weak hypercharge, but really it’s not so important. Point is, there are handful of those quantum numbers and they uniquely identify an elementary particle.

If you calculate how many particles of a certain type are produced in a particle collision, the result depends on how many variants of the produced particle exist. In particular, it depends on the different values the quantum numbers can take. Since the particles have quantum properties, anything that can happen will happen. If a particle exists in many variants, you’ll produce them all – regardless of whether or not you can distinguish them. The result is that you see more of them than the standard model predicts.

Now, if you want a particle to be conscious, your minimum expectation should be that the particle can change. It’s hard to have an inner life with only one thought. But if electrons could have thoughts, we’d long have seen this in particle collisions because it would change the number of particles produced in collisions.

In other words, electrons aren’t conscious, and neither are any other particles. It’s incompatible with data.

As I explain in my book, there are ways to modify the standard model that do not run into conflict with experiment. One of them is to make new particles so massive that so far we have not managed to produce them in particle collisions, but this doesn’t help you here. Another way is to make them interact so weakly that we haven’t been able to detect them. This too doesn’t help here. The third way is to assume that the existing particles are composed of more fundamental constituents, that are, however, so strongly bound together that we have not yet been able to tear them apart.

With the third option it is indeed possible to add internal states to elementary particles. But if your goal is to give consciousness to those particles so that we can inherit it from them, strongly bound composites do not help you. They do not help you exactly because you have hidden this consciousness so that it needs a lot of energy to access. This then means, of course, that you cannot use it at lower energies, like the ones typical for soft and wet thinking apparatuses like human brains.

Summary: If a philosopher starts speaking about elementary particles, run.

712 comments:

  1. Kevin,

    Your comment is just meaningless blather. To begin with, energy is not an invariant. A particle has any energy in some restframe. I will not approve further comments with similar content.

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  2. Sabine said:

    "I totally get that, but look, you either make that "mystery" one without evidence, so it's a type of religion. Or it's in conflict with data. Please be clear about it."

    Really you are asking for evidence that consciousness acts in ways contrary to accepted scientific laws - i.e. you want evidence of paranormal phenomena.

    There is in fact a huge literature on paranormal phenomena, which is normally ignored because it contradicts the laws of science!

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  3. There's also "a huge literature" on vampires and that doesn't make it any more plausible they exist.

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  4. @ Tim Mauldin: Gödel's theorem is as you say a limitation of any axiomatic system, comparable to the Russel-Whithead Principia Mathematica, to determine whether all statements about it are true or false. Alan Turing demonstrated how an idealized computer, universal Turing machine, is not able to derive a list of all algorithms, Turing machines, that halt or not. The two results are isomorphic, and in some ways I prefer Turing's approach.

    A quantum system is a processor of quantum bits. The measurement of a quantum system as ultimately the enumeration of quantum bits by a system of quantum bits is a sort of quantum Turing machine. It might be wrong, but at this point I do not see why it is completely illegitimate to think of this as self-referential loop.

    I am aware there are controversies with the Frauchiger-Renner thesis. I also do not think the measurement problem has been at all solved. Certainly Bohmian mechanics is not likely a solution, at least it is at best upheld by a very small minority of physicists. GRW posits a spontaneous collapse of a wave function, which for a single qubit is rare, and only appears regularly with a large number of qubits. I see problems with this in that it adulterates QM in a way so that quantum information conservation is problematic and unitarity violated.

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  5. "There is in fact a huge literature on paranormal phenomena, which is normally ignored because it contradicts the laws of science!"

    If paranormal phenomena are real, why aren't you rich? I refer to the award of $1,000,000 which James Randi will pay to anyone who demonstrates paranormal ability under controlled conditions agreed upon in advance.

    It's not like these folks don't want the money, since many of them collect money from gullible customers.

    Needless to say, no-one has been awarded the money, since no-one has passed the test. Some have signed up, but backed down at the last minute, usually without saying why. My favourite is a woman who claimed that she could communicate with the souls of the dead. Signed up, backed down with no reason given. When Randi later located her and put her on the spot and asked her why she didn't say that she was pulling out, she said that she didn't know how to contact him. :-|

    There are similar awards by various other organizations. Often, the people genuinely believe that they have psychic powers. Some invent some excuse as to why it didn't work when it "worked" in rehearsal, some are genuinely confused, and some admit that they had been deluding themselves.

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  6. Sabine wrote to me:
    >What I said doesn't depend on how you define "information." It's really about the ability of one system to act as a predictive model for another.

    Hmmm... I'm afraid you've lost me. The statement I quoted from you was:
    >>My best guess is that consciousness is a relational property that can emerge in system with many constituents that process information...

    Where are the two systems here, one of which is acting as a "predictive model" for the other?

    I'm not being argumentative: I honestly don't see what you are getting at or how the statement from your earlier post and your statement from the most recent post connect.

    All the best,

    Dave

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  7. This debate is endlessly fascinating and I can't pretend to be sufficiently educated or have thought about many of the issues raised here long or deeply enough to feel genuinely that I have anything valuable to add. Except perhaps for one notion:

    When I look around the world I see plenty of examples of brains at work. Inside every person's head. This is sufficient evidence (without appeals to logic, philosophy or any other body of thought) that if there is one fact in all of this that is undeniable, it is that brains are not a speculative idea, they exist as physical objects.

    And you can see how essential the precise mechanism of the brain is for thoughts to work. A casual perusal of the works of Oliver Sacks will give ample examples of how functioning brains go wrong when they suffer some physical damage.

    It seems clear to me from the evidence of brains going wrong, that brain operations are highly dependent on the proper arrangement of the matter than makes up the brain. Dis-organise that arrangement and things go terribly wrong, or disarrange it enough and it stops working altogether.

    The brain is some kind of machine that needs all its parts in the right place, working together properly to create a thinking person.

    Given the obvious dependency on the arrangement of the parts, understanding this arrangement to the point we can replicate or simulate it mechanically seems the way forward. All these different speculative theories of mind, these models of consciousness, speculations on mysterious and mystical modes of operation without any grounding in the operation of how physical brains actually work just seem superfluous.

    Evolution went to a great deal of trouble of building all that complicated neural wiring. The first step is surely to understand how it is all put together. Reserve the speculative philosophical musings for the time we have finished the job of reverse engineering an actual brain if that doesn't prove the path to enlightenment.

    But please feel free to tell me why this is muddle-headed, I'm here to learn.

    Best

    David Millier
    London
    UK

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  8. Steven Evans wrote to me:
    >Strawson's paper is without value. The one piece of terminology you mention seems more like a petty dig to point out the "crazy" physicSalists don't know quite everything. It's strange that as a physicist you link to a crank paper like Strawson's. The argument in this blog post shows neatly and clearly that it is physicSally impossible for panpsychism to add anything to the explanation of consciousness from matter.

    Ah, Steve!

    The piece of terminology I posted about emphasizes that the word "physical" is often used without definition or explanation in philosophical debates: it would be hard for anyone who has read much in this field to deny that. Being clear on how we use words is a virtue in both philosophy and physics.

    Steve also wrote:
    > But then links are posted to this neuroscientist or that philosopher making absolutely no sense, and posted by professional philosophers or academics published in Sci Am or physicists who have been taught by a triumvirate of Nobel laureates. It's the academic paper equivalent of Rickrolling - take a look at this paper - gotcha, it doesn't make any sense whatsoever. Strawsonlinking we can call it.

    Well, Steve... You were the one who gratuitously described me as a "NotVeryGood Physicist": my mentioning just a few of my actual achievements seemed a rather calm and courteous response to your unprovoked ad hominem attack.

    Now, if you would like to reciprocate and mention some of your achievements in some STEM areas, perhaps we can all determine whether you are entitled to judge whether others are any good at any STEM subject at all.

    Or not. As you wish.

    I take it from others here that this is sort of your standard operating procedure. To each his own.

    Again: I am a critic of panpsychism, and I disagree with Galen's conclusions. But, I can still see one thing of value in his paper. In the same way, I have often learned things about history or politics from people whose political views I disagree with. Perhaps you have not had that experience.

    All the best,

    Dave

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  9. Dave,

    Please read this essay, I hope it will clarify it.

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  10. This post may be off-topic, though I see it as slightly related. Although I have rarely thought about, and try not to think about, electrons having the ability to think, I have thought quite often, albeit naively (with respect to preon models), about photons having 'bodies'.

    Can a supposedly insubstantial boson like the photon 'think' when it is supposed not to have a 'body'? And as time is not experienced by a photon, if a photon could think, would
    the thoughts occupy no time at all?

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  11. @A.M Castaldo

    Let me just add, after re-reading your comment, that Chalmers introduced the hard problem in part as a *response* to the theory you're mentioning (that qualia are identical to brain processes, called identity theory) which was popular like 30 years ago but fell out of fashion because of various arguments.
    You cannot accuse him of overlooking the kind of position he was challenging in the first place.

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  12. "Evolution went to a great deal of trouble of building all that complicated neural wiring. The first step is surely to understand how it is all put together. Reserve the speculative philosophical musings for the time we have finished the job of reverse engineering an actual brain if that doesn't prove the path to enlightenment."

    Indeed. Read up on the work of <A HREF="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eric_Kandel><B>Eric Kandel</B></A>. He has spent much of his career working with <I>Aplysia californica</I>, which has a brain of 20 thousand large neurons, some up to a millimetre in size. Easy to study. Still, this brain is not completely understood. It would make more sense to try to completely understand such a brain first, before jumping on to human brains.

    I have no doubt that, in principle, "mind" is a consequence of "brain", i.e. the result of the way the hardware in the brain is put together and works. Thus, in principle, this could be emulated on other hardware. When, if ever, this will be practical is another question. One should be careful, though, of the logical mistake of going from "it's complicated and I don't understand it" to "its somehow magical, somehow not explicable with conventional science".

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  13. Lawrence Crowell

    "A quantum system is a processor of quantum bits. The measurement of a quantum system as ultimately the enumeration of quantum bits by a system of quantum bits is a sort of quantum Turing machine. It might be wrong, but at this point I do not see why it is completely illegitimate to think of this as self-referential loop."

    "Self-reference" is a semantic notion. All you have written is that a measurement is a physical interaction between one (quantum) system and another. Well, yes. When I step on a scale, that results in a measurement of my weight due to a physical interaction between my body and the scale. But there is no self-reference involved.

    "I am aware there are controversies with the Frauchiger-Renner thesis. I also do not think the measurement problem has been at all solved. Certainly Bohmian mechanics is not likely a solution, at least it is at best upheld by a very small minority of physicists."

    The measurement problem has a particular logical form. Due to that logical form, there are, in principle, only three types of solutions: additional variables, collapse,. and Many Worlds. (See, for example, my "Three Measurement Problems".) Two of these generic sorts of solution have been given complete mathematically precise examples for the non-Relativistic realm: additional variables (Bohm) and collapse (GRW). As Bell memorably put it, either the wavefunction as given by the Schrödinger equation is not everything [additional variables] or not is not right [collapse].

    Many Worlds has, in my view, not yet been given a completely satisfactory presentation. It has neither been explained how to understand probabilities in the theory, nor has it been explained how the theory hooks up to experimental data.

    So when I said that the measurement problem has been solved, I did not mean that we have the correct precise solution in hand, much less than that anyone can prove it is the correct solution. What I meant was that we have some mathematically precise detailed theories that—if true—would completely resolve the logical problem. What the opinions are of regular physicists (who have never studied or even read about the foundations of physics) is no more relevant here than what the opinions are of dentists. And none of these three proposed solutions makes any use at all of the notion of self-reference. So that is a red herring. And piling Gödel's theorem on top makes it a flashing neon red herring.

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  14. @PhysicistDave

    If Strawson ever comes up with a theory that explains a physical phenomenon and shows it is not a physicSal phenomenon, he will be able to put his terminology to use. I won't be holding my breath. Any physical theory will have to avoid contradicting any physicSal theories, and as shown by panpsychism's demise, that is getting harder and harder. I think Strawson's terminology is as unnecessary as the word "atheist" and similarly politically motivated to try to create a dichotomy which hasn't been shown to exist. Is there any physical phenomenon which is demonstrably not a physicSal phenomenon, or even which one might have reason to suspect is not a physicSal phenomenon? Can't think of any. Did your Nobel buddies mention any to you?

    At least one good use for Strawson's terminology has presented itself - discussing the uselessness of Strawson's terminology.

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  15. Sabine said:

    "There's also "a huge literature" on vampires and that doesn't make it any more plausible they exist."

    Sure, but there are also books like Dean Radin's "Entangled Minds" that discuss blinded experiments demonstrating ESP and related effects! Alternatively, you could go to Brian Josephson's website:

    http://www.tcm.phy.cam.ac.uk/~bdj10/

    All I am saying is that if you want evidence that science is incomplete without explicit reference to consciousness, it does exist. If you turn it down unexplored, you are turning down the very evidence you were asking for.

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  16. @PhysicistDave wrote: gives a clear and definitive answer to the question of whether and under exactly what conditions machines can be conscious. Would you please fill me in on this

    Here is what I think we know.

    1) I think FAPP neurons are evolved to learn and match patterns; initially simple patterns of sensory inputs that predicted immediate future events (good or bad) to cause immediate reaction (e.g. it's hot, pull away. It's edible, eat it). For me the neuron is the smallest unit of "thinking", but is not "conscious". It is a machine, and an imperfect one for many reasons.

    2) I think neurons evolved to provide each other inputs and develop more complex predictive models, and memories. However, as the number of neurons increases, they cannot be totally connected; due to combinatorial explosion. So interconnects are forced to be more selective, and form a "small world" network (see Wiki); which is what we see in the brain. Those (I think) will evolve a kind of fractal network. So small predictive models or individual neurons at the bottom (level 0), feed a larger predictive model at Level 1; those also form a small-world network, and so on. but there is not exactly a "top level" of one giant model; more like a plateau with many thousands of high level occupants.

    (studying communications in the brain we are finding this kind of networks exist; but I will add a caveat to this: As a post-doc I was helping a neurologist with statistical fitting (Weibull distributions apparently show up everywhere in neurology), and in lunch conversation he warned me that, in his experience, you can look for nearly anything (algorithmically speaking) in the brain and think you've found it. Maybe it's all in there, maybe you are fooling yourself, but no single processing algorithm is going to suffice.)

    3) I think brains are an ordered collection of many millions of such predictive models. Of course they are useless if they don't talk to each other, and useless if they talk too much, so a balance must be achieved (by evolution) or the organism is paralyzed, or behaving randomly. Thus, while I think predictive models receiving inputs are all active in parallel, their output can be masked by the more generalized models they feed. They are operating, but that is the subconscious.

    4) I think consciousness is the interaction of many models on the "plateau". Many of those are language-center models. Thus a predictive model exists for our high-level concept of a "dog". It is fed by other models; including those for dog-components, what dogs eat and do, when they are dangerous or not, sick, in pain, etc. We can have even higher level models of specific dogs; I know at least twenty distinct dogs. That model can be triggered by another model of hearing or reading the word "dog", seeing a picture of a dog. Or by other neural models, if I show you enough drawings of small parts of dogs you will snap to "dog", meaning this node in your neural network has become active, and it will activate the nodes IT informs, and that is your experience of "dog". You may sense that internally you hear the word dog; but that is because the same node that finally translates sound into recognizing the word "dog" has also fired.

    (continued)

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  17. (continued)

    4a) Qualia. Instead of saying a pattern is "recognized", I prefer to think of it as sensed. We sense external things, and nerves fire to activate models attached to them. I think when the neural node "signals" another, that is the same kind of sensing. So by many routes I may sense a "dog", externally or internally, but the so-called qualia of "dog" (or red or free fall) is all our predictive models reacting to the nodes activated by the "dog" node. The dogs we have known, the good and bad about dogs, the emotional reactions we have had, etc. For me, that is what it is "like" to see a picture of my dog; that mix of emotions and memories.

    5) I don't think consciousness requires language. I think it is an endless loop of communications between the nodes in my neural network, which are always running (barring injury or the mechanical disabling by sleep, drugs, etc). Because I know a language, some nodes attach to words, and my language centers will automatically compose these into sentence fragments; so I may have an internal verbal "conversation" going on in the wake of activating nodes. (which I think explains the results of experiments that suggest what we consciously experience lags decisions we have made subconsciously by many milliseconds).


    6) Machines. I believe machines can be conscious in the same way; but there may be some minimum number of interacting nodes or some minimum depth of the hierarchy to sustain a continuous circuit of activations. I think self-driving cars have some limited form of consciousness. I am not involved in such projects, but I assume they have an internal model of themselves and their abilities supported by sensors, and have models of roads, signs, other vehicles, pedestrians and objects in the road, also supported by various sensors, and that they are in a continuous loop of processing these models as their environment is changing to anticipate what happens next and if they should take some sort of action or not.

    Whether it (or we) are deterministic does not matter; the inputs to the system are effectively random.

    7) This may sound hand-wavy but it is a post; and I don't think it is; this model is supported by academic studies, statistical psychology, what we've learned from biology and fMRI scans and our models of neurons. Recent advances in vision and voice recognition rely on "Convolutional Neural Nets" and "Deep" neural nets, that are inspired by studies of the human visual cortex, which is organized in this hierarchical style that controls combinatorial explosion of trying to interpret too many signals at once; i.e. the idea is to build up in layers that process a handful of signals at a time.

    (continued)

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  18. (continued)

    Many of the features (like "priming" of responses mentioned in a previous post on this thread) are demonstrated by experiments in under-graduate classes every semester, and provide evidence much of our brain must be organized similarly. e.g. if it is winter and I put some students in a cold room to assign emotions to pictures of people with neutral expressions, your sense of physical "cold" will influence your choices of assignment to metaphorically "cold" personality traits; and vice versa if I put other students into a physically warm room, judging the same pictures. That seems to happen at a subconscious level. Well, that isn't surprising if the sub-net of neurons dealing with all things "cold" is active and providing positive input to sub-nets that model personality traits, biasing the selection of ones including metaphorical "coldness", especially in the absence of other information: The photos are curated to be neutral and give no clues of internal emotions; and there is an over-arching intent in the subjects to complete the task they agreed to perform so they need to select something.

    I don't claim this model is complete, but it isn't dependent on magic or unknowns. It makes consciousness the physical signals being processed in our brain. Interrupt those and consciousness ends (though the physical network could still support it). It is consistent (to my knowledge) with neurology and what we already know about brain organization.

    Can a machine be conscious? I think so, because I think the brain is an electro-chemical machine, and that consciousness, qualia and emotions are sensations which in turn are electro-chemical signals between predictive models. I am not sure if there is a term for "necessary complexity", to mean as complex as needed to accomplish a given function or produce a range of non-random behaviors. But I think the level of consciousness is probably related to the necessary complexity of an entity's internal predictive models, and whether they can fall into an endless feedback activation (not necessarily a "cycle"). Neurons arranged in an acylic tree would not be conscious; that is just a pattern matching that results in an action (like a reflex).

    (end)

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  19. @Quentin says: Chalmers introduced the hard problem in part as a *response* to the theory you're mentioning (that qualia are identical to brain processes,

    Okay, I didn't know that, but fail to see how it is relevant. I think he made a mistake and I pointed it out; he doesn't get to refute a theory that two things are the same by implicitly assuming those two things are not the same. That boils down to his opinion and nothing more, and no matter how famous or accomplished he is, or how many people failed to see that, his assertion that they are different must be proven by something other than circular logic.

    I stand by my claim, it is only a "hard problem" because he begins with the assertion that two things are different, a false assumption, and then cannot put his finger on the non-existent path between point X and itself. First he has to prove brain-states and consciousness are two different things, and he hasn't done that, he only asserts it.

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  20. Tim,

    you had a typo here, it must be: … either the wavefunction as given by the Schrödinger equation is not everything [additional variables] or it is not right [collapse].

    Do not make it too hard for us physicists to understand you.
    New terminology is already hard, but a typo hidden as double negation is at the limit ;-)

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  21. The fact that brain states, and the awareness of those states, are two different things is self-evident; it's not an assumption. It's the core of the hard problem.

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  22. On the last part no problem.. On the first part don't you mean the brain response gives to this particular look rather than the other way around? Working on that short paper..

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  23. A.M Castaldo

    He doesn't merely assume, but gives arguments to support the claim that no physical description of a brain can tell what it's like to have experiences. That's what he's assuming. These arguments have been influential.

    Best.
    Quentin

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  24. @jim_h The awareness of the states is also a brain state; so I am not sure what your point is. Self aware beings have a predictive model of themselves; that will include predictions of my brain states, recognition of them occurring, etc. For example, I can predict in advance whether I will enjoy certain types of entertainment. While I am engaged in those entertainments, I have some brain state, and a component of my self-awareness is updating THAT brain state to better predict if I will like it. Thus one part of my brain is monitoring another part of my brain and learning to predict what will happen.

    I don't see a "hard problem" there.

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  25. @Quentin; I have not read all of those arguments, but the ones I have read all seem logically flawed to me; they implicitly assume what they intend to prove; or assume something that is not in evidence. Eventually there is an assumption that an "experience" is inherently different from a brain-state and I think that assumption is flawed. Like anybody, I give up on nonsense after awhile. I'm Pavlovian, I need some insight as a reward or I quit!

    As for "influential" nothing has been more influential than the God hypothesis and I find that one ridiculous; but I guess over 90% of humans love it, many enough to kill each other. Many ideas that appeal to our emotions are wildly influential but not grounded in anything remotely real or well reasoned.

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  26. Chris wrote: Because science fiction?

    You'll recall the context of my response. You asked if anyone could "conceive" of a world in which there was no consciousness and no emotional content; just "evaluations" based on "information." You seemed to imply that emotions are required for consciousness. The sci-fi stuff was to show that for a long time people have been talking about consciousness without emotional content.

    My bottom line remains the same: There's no reason to think that emotions are required for consciousness. If you disagree, make your case.

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  27. Bee, you wrote:

    "There, you did it once again. You start out with a theory that is identical to the standard model, and then a miracle happens and somehow it "explains" more than the standard model. Don't you see that that's a logical impossibility? More concretely, you state that "consciousness... complexifies as matter complexifies". Leaving aside that I am not sure what you mean by "complexifies" how do you think your panpsychisitic reinterpretation makes it any easier to explaining how this happens than would just starting with the standard model?"

    1) I didn't state that the panpsychist interpretation is identical to the standard model; I stated that in the context of empirical outcomes of electrons in two-slit experiments there is no empirical difference.

    2) We seem to be missing each other on what it means to have different interpretations of a given theory's formalisms. Do you agree that there are two basic parts to any theory, the mathematical formalisms and the interpretation of those formalisms in terms of how the formalisms map on to the real world? What I'm getting at is that we don't have to posit different maths to have a different and more useful theory. We can instead posit different interpretations, i.e., ontological content, for the maths and thereby achieve a better theory.

    3) Positing "choice, not chance" with respect to individual electron events does in fact lead to substantial benefits over other non-panpsychist interpretations because it avoids the problems associated with emergence. The key problems with emergence relate to explaining a) how mind, something apparently so different from purely objective non-mental stuff, can emerge from purely objective non-mental stuff, and b) why would it emerge at any particular point and not a moment sooner or later, both ontogenetically and phylogenetically? That is, if we're looking at a human embryo or fetus as an example, and you posit (as a hypothetical) that human consciousness generally emerges in the fetus at, say, eight weeks, what miraculous change happened in that collection of cells, which grows steadily and incrementally throughout its development, such that it suddenly becomes imbued with consciousness?

    This is what Sewall Wright is getting at when he wrote that emergence of mind from no mind is sheer magic. Panpsychism avoids this problem by saying that there's some kind of mind always present and it becomes more complex and rich as its associated matter becomes more complex and rich.

    So, no, it's not a logical impossibility to explain consciousness with a panpsychist interpretation of QM. It's actually pretty sensible and logical.

    Here's a preprint of our latest paper that explains what we mean by complexification of matter and mind: https://www.authorea.com/users/61793/articles/346253-the-easy-part-of-the-hard-problem-a-resonance-theory-of-consciousness

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  28. Sabine wrote (to David Bailey): A local anesthetic blocks pain receptors. If you do that, your brain does not receive the same information - that's the whole point.

    I was going to respond to David with the same point, but you beat me to it. The only thing I'll add is the general point I made earlier - in the context of the lobster - that the experience of pain is an injury-avoidance mechanism. We can't say if other organisms experience injury the same way humans do, but since they take action to avoid injury, we can say they experience *something*.

    With the right kind of anesthetic, you might be able to cut open your own chest and hold your beating heart for a few moments before dying. Injury-avoidance mechanisms are important to an organism. Consciousness without pain is a dangerous combination.

    There's the classic scene in Monty Python and the Holy Grail, when the Black Knight is cut to pieces and seems to feel no pain. Or the scene in Terminator, when someone asks Schwarzenegger if bullets hurt, and he says, "I sense injury. The data could be called pain." If a lobster could talk, I suppose it would say the same thing. :-)

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  29. Phillip wrote: I refer to the award of $1,000,000 which James Randi will pay to anyone who demonstrates paranormal ability under controlled conditions agreed upon in advance.

    I think the Randi award is no longer offered, due to its success. After 50 years, I guess they just got tired of debunking applicants.

    As you say, there are a number of other awards. And besides, if anyone can demonstrate actual paranormal ability, that person will get rich and famous even without awards. It would be one of the greatest scientific discoveries in human history. All particle and string theorists would immediately drop what they were doing to study the phenomenon. :-)

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  30. Thank you for your kind reply at one in the morning. This thread has become quite long and your inbox must be flooded, to say the least. I like the use of comprehension in your answer. Predictability is also an essential element. Not to beg the point, I distinguish between the ability to perceive vs the ability of being conscious. A rock perceives changes in its local environment, and changes its behaviour, as a result, with complete predictability. (Please ignore Heisenberg). Because of predictability, we discount consciousness. A flatworm can be trained to swim towards light, usually, by punishing it with electric shocks. But it is unpredictable. You can shock a rock forever, but you cannot train it to roll uphill. And sometimes a trained flatworm, like a precocious physicist, will swim against the status quo and rebel. So, my personal preference in this discussion is that the ability to rebel indicates free will. However, it may be that you are raging against the machine because you have to and it is not a matter of choice. That Truth is in some way objective and humans are programmed to uphold it.

    Please continue your excellent work.

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  31. PhysicistDave wrote (to Evans): if you would like to reciprocate and mention some of your achievements in some STEM areas, perhaps we can all determine whether you are entitled to judge whether others are any good at any STEM subject at all.

    Before I say anything, let me point out that I'm not defending Evans. I'm responding to the point you made to Evans.

    It is quite possible, and even desirable, for non-scientists and laypeople to criticize scientists. When this happens, it isn't necessarily relevant to "determine whether that person is entitled (or qualified) to judge."

    Michael Behe is my go-to example. Behe is a biochemist who argues for intelligent design. I'm not a scientist or a biochemist; I'm just a moderately well-informed layperson. And yet, in a debate, I could demonstrate that Behe's argument is scientifically faulty. In that debate, Behe might claim that I'm not qualified or entitled to judge the science, or he might claim that he is far more qualified than I am. Nevertheless, I'm confident that I could argue against Behe as effectively as any "entitled" or "qualified" scientist, partly because Behe's errors are so fundamental and easy to grasp.

    Bringing it back to Evans, he challenged you on some specific point. I don't remember what it was (and I don't care). He also insulted you, but that's his style and it's got nothing to do with his point. Sabine asked him to tone it down, and it looks like Evans has managed to control his urge to use insults.

    If you want to respond to Evans, I'm not interested in anyone making a "determination" that he's "entitled" to challenge you. It would be more relevant and interesting to see you respond to whatever point he was making.

    That being said . . .

    Evans wrote (to PhysicistDave): Did your Nobel buddies mention any to you?

    Well, he hasn't got *complete* control over his urge to insult. But he's better than before. :-)

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  32. OMG they're everywhere! Today in Quanta: "For many decades, the favored candidates for dark matter particles have been hypothetical shy things called weakly interacting massive particles, or WIMPs. Many experiments search for them by looking for evidence that a WIMP has come by and knocked regular matter around. In this scenario, a WIMP would tap an atomic nucleus via the weak force. The startled nucleus would then recoil and emit some form of energy, such as a flash of light or a sound wave." Courageous nuclei never recoil, unless the WIMP is MACHO.

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  33. @Sabine,

    I have to say your perspective has helped me a lot.

    You said ”You want something that connects with what humans commonly refer to as "experience", and that requires that you connect the input to your knowledge about your environment and yourself.”.

    FYI, (I think) this puts you in the camp of Higher-Order-Thought theory and potentially Global Workspace theory, which is fine. I would just like to suggest that how “humans commonly refer to” things tends to mean exactly how humans do those things, which leaves little room for examining the commonalities with how other things (trees?) do very similar things (respiration?,information processing?). So, a little flexibility on what “experience” means might be helpful.

    Also, having read your FXQI essay, I have some questions on your understanding of a “goal”. Should I ask those here, or use some other medium? (Or just not bother you. :) That’s a sincerely acceptable option.)

    @David Miller, you said
    The brain is some kind of machine that needs all its parts in the right place, working together properly to create a thinking person.
    I just wanted to point out this statement contradicts your point about Oliver Sacks patients. Clearly their brains don’t have all their parts “working together properly”, but we still consider them (most of them, anyway) thinking persons.

    *
    [James of Seattle]

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  34. @Tim Maudlin, you said
    Many Worlds has, in my view, not yet been given a completely satisfactory presentation. It has neither been explained how to understand probabilities in the theory, nor has it been explained how the theory hooks up to experimental data.

    I am not a physicist, but I’m pretty sure Sean Carroll explained those things in this video.

    What I got was: according to Multiple Worlds,
    1. Probabilities are essentially your lack of knowledge as to what world you are in. The location of an electron is determined by the equation, and in different worlds it is in different places, but you are in only one of those world’s, and you can’t tell which one until you measure the electron. The probability of measuring it “there” is just the probability, given your current knowledge, that you are in a “there” world.

    2. That theory seems to hook up to the data quite nicely.

    *
    [James of Seattle]

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  35. To Steve Mason and all the ships at sea:
    1. I use the term "superdeterminism" because Dr. H. uses that term.
    2. If everything IS determined by initial conditions then evolution itself is just the playing-out of a script and the universe is teleological. This last statement is true whether one is/is not a theist.
    3. Your comments are mostly just hand-waving. Why would "the universe" have predetermined that pneumatic rubber tires, the carbureator, and internal combustion engines all appear within a few years of each other -- instead of spread-out over billions of years? I think this demonstrates that events are not predetermined -- free will and improvisation exist and define us.
    4. Re "emergence," the only time that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts is when one uses a crooked accountant. There is no physical property known as "emergence" (if there is, what is its mass?)
    5. The comments on this board consist mostly of very astute individuals pushing their own gee-whiz theories of how the mind is created. I don't think much good comes out of this sort of chaos.
    6. Emotions are a function of intelligence -- so far as we know, only mammals have emotions (as opposed to responding to stimuli) and they are the most intelligent beings. (What does a bored snake look like? Can you separate a joyous amoeba from one that is just having a so-so day?) Humor and emotions are a function of intelligence and partially define it. How does dead matter do dat?
    7. If you damage the brain then the mind goes out of kilter. If one damages a computer then the program goes out of kilter. BUT, the software is not a product of the machine and given enough paper and pencils you can carry it out with just a series of 1s and 0s. In short -- the software is independent of the mechanism.
    8. To say that unconscious matter becomes conscious "depending on how it is arranged" is a pathetic argument. Science, in this instance, abandons its relentless reductionism -- because it is getting nowhere -- and suddenly lapses into mysticism. It is all about a vast unknown called "emergence" (see above remark on crooked accountants.)
    9. Your comments often verge on the personal -- why?

    Once again, Dr. H., thank you for your patience.

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  36. @Quentin Upon re-reading your comment; I agree on the technicality that a physical description of the brain, down to the atoms, does not duplicate the "experience".

    That isn't the point. The point is that an "experience" is entirely physical within the brain that experiences it; there is nothing "extra" to describe. The feelings of pain or ecstasy are physical brain states, no description of those states will give you the same feeling, just like no description of what happens when you cut yourself can feel like cutting yourself. Or no description of what happens when you feel surprised will make you feel surprised. The point is the thoughts are physical, the emotions are physical, the sensations are physical. There doesn't have to be anything more than the nerves, brain matter and charges.

    Also, no experience is instantaneous; an experience transpires over some amount of time, and during that time the brain is undergoing constant changes of state. The experience of seeing "red" is not instantaneous, or even something that can happen in a femtosecond. It is something that transpires over many milliseconds or even seconds through a transformation of brain states.

    Nor is the experience of seeing "red" unique within the same individual; a flash of red is one experience, a prolonged exposure to red is a different experience, it allows time for more "red"-linked nodes to be activated and to themselves activate other nodes, causing a more extensive brain-state change than a mere flash of red could. And thus a different experience. There is some processing hysteresis involved; a limit to how quickly the brain can respond.

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  37. David Bailey wrote: there are also books like Dean Radin's "Entangled Minds" that discuss blinded experiments demonstrating ESP and related effects!

    So you think there's actual scientific evidence for ESP. I've debated this topic in other science forums. In those debates, believers always pointed to a book or experiment, and I was always able to find the flaws.

    Over a period of 50 years, James Randi offered a million dollars to anyone who could demonstrate psi phenomena. There were over a thousand applicants and none were successful. There are numerous other awards for anyone who can demonstrate psi; again no applicants have been successful. There is always someone (like you) who claims that proof for psi can be found in *this* book or *that* experiment.

    In my debates with believers, it often ends up with them telling me that the scientific community is biased against psi. They claim that if scientists acknowledged the reality of psi, it would somehow undermine science. I point out that, to the contrary, it would be one of the most amazing and important scientific discoveries in the history of mankind, and the first brave scientist to demonstrate that psi exists would get rich and be forever enshrined in the history books.

    I assume you know that Radin and Josephson have already been critiqued by many scientists. You didn't mention the criticism.

    In my previous debates, believers say that one reason psi hasn't been proven is because the necessary experiments are difficult and expensive. To that I say it would be ridiculously easy and inexpensive to conduct scientific experiments that would detect paranormal ability, in the initial screening phase.

    Another excuse I've heard is that scientific experiments somehow interfere with paranormal abilities. Apparently, paranormal abilities can be easily demonstrated in front of thousands of paying customers, but not in a lab. That's terribly convenient for people who claim that psi is real. Yet another excuse is that scientific experiments are designed to make people fail. Also, believers claim statistical significance in experimental results when there isn't any.

    The Parapsychological Association complains that science journals such as Nature and Science won't publish interesting and competent research. These journals say that in order to be published, psi research must provide irrefutable proof of any claims being made. Yes, this is a higher bar than some other fields have to meet, but given how extraordinary the claims are, and their ramifications, that's to be expected. Proof of psi is paradigm changing, to say the least, and therefore shouldn't be treated lightly as something that's "interesting."

    It's not as if psi research isn't being published. The Parapsychological Association has two journals. And it's not as if skeptical scientists are completely ignoring psi research. Plenty of scientists have taken the time and trouble to evaluate research, evidence and experiments. Whenever this has been done, flaws and alternate explanations have been identified. Over the decades, the track record of psi research has been abysmal, and it's time for the Parapsychological Association to acknowledge that fact.

    If you cry wolf too many times, at some point you have to offer proof that there really is a wolf before anyone comes running. Scientists have already run to Radin and Josephson, so you need to find another wolf.

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  38. Obliquely related? Yes.

    Timely? Even more so.

    https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2018/10/new-sokal-hoax/572212/

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  39. Tim, SM no more tells us what counts as a chair than it does what counts as conscious. This isn't a problem: no one looks for BSM physics in a furniture catalog or for a new chair design at LHC.

    Sabine, your original post on panpsychism was interesting because it made an honest empirical proposition of a philosophical fancy. Some philosophers will resist this move, as you now know. That's partly because what they really want is a science where there is none, so appeals to existing science will seem irrelevant. To a practitioner of actual science I imagine this looks disreputable, but before you write it off completely, note that any work we call scientific traces its ancestry to work we call philosophical. It's true that most philosophical work through history yielded nothing in the way of durable frameworks for empirical research, but some philosophical work did. And there's even philosophical work that didn't contribute to a framework and yet still is valuable, for example, work exposing confusions that emerge, and can be cleared up, in the absence of a framework, in other words, conceptual confusions in areas where there aren't operational definitions, experimental methods, etc. Talk about "what it's like" to be an X, qualia, 1st-person authority, and so on tend to be of this latter sort, and as a physicist you might just ignore it. But you should also be wary of presuming that physics is equipped to clear up those sorts of confusions without breaking a sweat. Physicists are justly proud of their discipline's achievements, but you don't do your discipline any honor by pretending it's got something to say at the frameworkless frontiers -- any more than it has about what chair I should buy for my desk.

    But what do I know. I'm just a philosopher.

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  40. Phillip wrote: she said that she didn't know how to contact him

    No doubt she'll be able to contact Randi after he dies. He's 90 so that shouldn't be too long. Of course, contacting Randi will prove to Randi that she can in fact contact the dead. It will be a poignant event for the scientific community.

    But then, Randi might be too skeptical to believe his experience as a ghost and assume he is in a coma having a strange dream. In any case, assuming that clairvoyants can contact dead people, how do dead people experience the encounters with living people? As a voice in their consciousness? Has a dead person ever told anyone that they don't want anything to do with them in the afterlife? Can you get restraining orders in the afterlife? :-)

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  41. Phillip wrote: One should be careful, though, of the logical mistake of going from "it's complicated and I don't understand it" to "its somehow magical, somehow not explicable with conventional science".

    I'm never certain if your understatements are meant to be funny or merely polite, but I, for one, find them amusing. If I were you (to use Sabine's favorite idiom), I'd say it was an outright mistake that reveals ignorance of fundamental principles of science. People who invoke magic and point to the so-called failures or inadequacies of science don't deserve understatement. :-)

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  42. @ Tim Mauldin, If a quantum system defines a needle state that points to the eigenvalue of some other quantum state that is in a way a sort of Gödel numbering. Or we might think of it as similar to a universal Turing machine emulating another.

    I might well be wrong on this, but my sense is the quantum measurement problem may have no solution. This might be a reason why. John Wheeler even suggested something similar to this that he represented as a big U, for universe, with an eye looking at the other end.

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  43. David Miller
    “If the brain was so simple that we could understand it , then we would be so simple that we couldn’t “

    If you want to build a replica brain that will produce consciousness then the first thing you will need is exact replica parts . An exact knowledge of the principles that make the brain work will be required also .





    8:30 am
    One of my all-time favorite quotations is, “If the brain was so simple that we could understand it, then we would be so simple that we couldn’t.”

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  44. Sabine wrote: It looks as it does because it gives rise to this particular brain response.

    Indeed. Consider synesthesia. Some people see colors when they hear sounds. Some people taste food when they hear certain words.

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  45. Sabine wrote: Your comment is just meaningless blather.

    I'm sorry, but I just had a mental picture of you saying that to your children when they were babbling babies. Context is everything. :-)

    (Heck, often enough I said it to my kids even when they were teenagers)

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  46. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  47. Jakc,

    As I write in my book, physicists would be well-advised to pay more attention to philosophy (and I include myself in that). Much of the problem we currently have in the foundations could have been avoided had physicists been more mindful about the metaphysical principles they rely on. I am not saying one shouldn't use them - I think there's no way around them - but one shouldn't confuse them with science. Works both ways.

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  48. Jakc:

    " SM no more tells us what counts as a chair than it does what counts as conscious. This isn't a problem: no one looks for BSM physics in a furniture catalog or for a new chair design at LHC."

    If you can account for the shape and reflectance properties and solidity, etc. of a given chair, then you have accounted for all of its relevant properties. Whether anyone calls it a "chair" or not is irrelevant (consider a borderline case of a chair, for example). Physics has within it the resources to account for these things: the atomic bonds, for example, account for the solidity by ensuring that the particles maintain their relative distances as it moves and when it is subjected to forces.

    In contrast, a pain has a characteristic—the felt painfulness—that has no conceptual connection to the properties treated by physics. That is an entirely different matter.

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  49. Lawrence Crowell,

    "I might well be wrong on this, but my sense is the quantum measurement problem may have no solution. This might be a reason why. John Wheeler even suggested something similar to this that he represented as a big U, for universe, with an eye looking at the other end."

    You are wrong. A have already mentioned two quite different theories that solve the problem. As for Wheeler's "self-excited circuit", it has always been a complete piece of nonsense. The experiment that he thought required some retrocausation (the delayed choice experiment) requires no such thing. Both Bohm and GRW make all the right predictions for that experiment without a speck of retrocausation.

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  50. Tam,

    "I didn't state that the panpsychist interpretation is identical to the standard model; I stated that in the context of empirical outcomes of electrons in two-slit experiments there is no empirical difference."

    If it's not identical to the standard model, then write it down and demonstrate you can reproduce all achievements of the standard model.

    "Do you agree that there are two basic parts to any theory, the mathematical formalisms and the interpretation of those formalisms in terms of how the formalisms map on to the real world? What I'm getting at is that we don't have to posit different maths to have a different and more useful theory. We can instead posit different interpretations, i.e., ontological content, for the maths and thereby achieve a better theory."

    Yes, I agree that a theory consists both of the formalism and a map of that formalism to the real world. If two theories agree on all predictions I would say they are the same theory. Ie, there is generally an equivalence class of theories within which you cannot experimentally distinguish between them, so fapp they are the same. You can then say those theories differ by interpretation. The interpretation is not merely about the map - it's generally a combination of the formalism with the map.

    Having said this, I already told you earlier, if you do not change the theory but only the interpretation you cannot claim to have explained something we do observe (in the case at hand experience or consciousness). As the saying has it, you can't have your cake and eat it too. If you postulate an unobservable something you cannot claim to have explained something we do observe.

    "Positing "choice, not chance" with respect to individual electron events does in fact lead to substantial benefits over other non-panpsychist interpretations because it avoids the problems associated with emergence. The key problems with emergence relate to explaining a) how mind, something apparently so different from purely objective non-mental stuff, can emerge from purely objective non-mental stuff, and b) why would it emerge at any particular point and not a moment sooner or later...

    This is what Sewall Wright is getting at when he wrote that emergence of mind from no mind is sheer magic. Panpsychism avoids this problem by saying that there's some kind of mind always present and it becomes more complex and rich as its associated matter becomes more complex and rich."


    You are just repeating the same thing (this time attributing it to someone else) but not answering the question. How do you think a theory that is identical to the standard model can possibly lead to any other mode of emergence than the standard model. Please write down how you think "mind emerges".

    (Besides this, proclaiming that the emergence of mind is "sheer magic" because we do not know exactly when and how it happens is unjustified.)

    As has been noted before, you are trying to invent an explanatory gap and then postulate something to try and fill it, while there was never anything to fill in the first place. Best,

    B.

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  51. @ Steven Mason: "You seemed to imply that emotions are required for consciousness."

    You seem to have misunderstood the point of zombie world. It's not (just) a lack of emotion; it's a lack of any experience. It has nothing to do with unemotional Vulcans.

    (Who weren't, in fact, unemotional at all. They were historically an extremely emotional, violent, war-like race who embraced emotional suppression as a belief system to save their species.)

    This very long comment thread is all over that some see "experience" as just what being in a working brain is like, no big deal. Others (myself included) see a deeper mystery in exactly why being inside a working brain is like this.

    It essentially hinges on a perception that what it is like could be either much simpler or entirely absent, as in a robot or puppet.

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  52. Tim Maudlin, can you provide a link(s) or more info otherwise on your statement about Wheeler's delayed choice experiment and retrocausation? I've been meaning to examine this more deeply and I'm intrigued by your statement that there is no need to invoke retrocausation.

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  53. Sabine, Tim,

    I believe that consciousness is a (weakly) emergent property, independent of the hardware like silicon or biochemistry.

    My first neural network (NN) I wrote about 35 years ago. Implementing stuff from scratch on a computer always helps me to understand things. Especially if there are no analytic solution as with manifest non-linear problems like a NN.

    The task was to recognize handwritten digits, 0 to 9. It was a simple 3-layer NN: 1 input, 1 output and 1 hidden layer. The input was a 8*8 matrix. The output were 10 neurons activated depending on the recognized digit. The hidden layer consisted of e.g. 20 neurons.
    The all-important ingredient of a NN are the weighted connections (real numbers) between the neurons.
    There were 8*8=64 neurons connecting to 20 and further to 10 neurons, thus 64*20*10=12,800 weighted connections between 64+20+10=94 neurons
    Training a NN means adjusting these weights. An algorithm does this with randomized training sets and starts with random initial weights. It is an optimization problem of a 64*20*10-dimensional cost function. The technical terms are e.g. feed forward, error back propagation, gradient, feedback, ….
    The challenge is not to get trapped in the worst of the many local minima, therefore like in biological evolution randomness is a handy tool. The training algorithm uses a pseudo random number generator (RNG).
    Btw since in biological evolution the cost function (survival in an also evolving environment) always changes, evolution will never reach the ‘absolutely "best" solution’.

    The result of this “learning” is a hopefully well trained NN consisting of 64+20+10 dynamical neurons and 64*20*10 static weighted connections. Then the trained NN is used as a passive element in e.g. pattern recognition. This was a simple example of a shallow NN, i.e. with 1 hidden layer, deeper NNs use more hidden layers.

    Deep learning is a bit different. It uses different modules, some of which are again pretrained NNs. But what comes on top is that these modules for e.g. recognition, monitoring, strategy, predictive models, … are negotiating more or less like Sabine outlines here. Negotiating here means the modules are loosely coupled, i.e. not exclusively causally deterministic. This again means a pseudo RNG is used to make decisions depending on calculated probabilities that the modules are providing.

    Deep learning NNs like Alpha Go can train itself and play better than all humans within a day with no other input than the very simple rules of the game. This gives the prospect, if one believes in weak emergence and independence of the hardware, that consciousness of an AI is also not too far away. (1)


    ---------------
    (1) sure, so far, a human brain has much more neurons, but it also has 2 major limitations: 1.) the number of connections (axons and dendrites plus synapses) is limited, since they use space in the skull. 2.) the nerve impulse speed is about 100 m/s. To compensate these limitations neurons are clustered according their tasks.

    CONT.

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  54. A NN consisting of constituents (neurons) AND interactions (weights) between them is a highly relational entity.
    In “The Case for Strong Emergence” (see also here) Sabine emphasizes the interactions between the constituents. “It´s a novel feature that arises by the interaction of a system’s constituents…”.
    Thus, the emergent property is not a property of the constituents alone, but it emerges because the constituents interact.

    To add a bit of an esoteric touch here some questions:
    “how can the whole have a property that the parts do not have?”
    “Is the whole more than just the sum of its constituents?” (2).
    The answer lies in the interactions between the constituents and the combinatorial exploding number of possibilities to form new more or less stable structures. It is this relational aspect that is all important.
    “How can distinguishable macroscopic objects like tables or living beings consist out of in-distinguishable constituents like Fermions and Bosons?”
    Same answer. It is this relational aspect as I was trying to explain here. E.g. proteins, the Legos of life in the realm of biochemistry are just half way between in-distinguishable particles like electrons, atoms up to maybe amino acids and distinguishable living beings. This is the level were real complexity emerges. This is also the transition from linear QM to non-linear physics. Only from this level on feedback and (semantic) self-referential loops are possible.
    Again, the relational aspect is all-important.

    Can we ever test if AI consciousness is possible? Maybe we simply have to wait a bit until an AI evolves consciousness. This would be kind of an experimental test. And hopefully we also are able to recognize it. How do we “know”? Do we have qualia when we communicate with another conscious being? I guess here we also have to rely on the relations and maybe we simply “feel” it.

    With the Bell inequality it also finally after decades became possible to experimentally test a so far philosophical and thus fundamentally physical question - whether or not there is a non-local aspect in this world.

    Here my own simple take on consciousness and qualia which is about the same as Sabine’s. And here my favorite discussion about emergence and indeterminism. I side with George Ellis.


    ---------------
    (2) I deliberately omitted the interactions.


    CONT.

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  55. So, yes, I believe that consciousness is a (weakly) emergent property independent of the hardware.
    But I also believe that the physical law is not an exclusively deterministic one, i.e. it is not an exclusively unitary evolution (3). In the context of complex systems, we need a tiny bit of randomness for a loose coupling and to explore the vast combinatorial configuration space.
    This tiny bit of randomness can enter in physics depending on how we solve the measurement problem.

    And this tiny bit of randomness is the only dissent I have with Sabine. But here Sabine already says “They just calculate probabilities but never discuss how the probabilities turn into measurement outcomes.” (see also here). Tim righteously emphasizes how important the measurement problem is and possible Bohm or GRW-like solutions. I am convinced that it is a solution where fundamental QM randomness enters into our universe.


    ---------------
    (3) breaking an exclusively unitary evolution would dispatch the BH info loss problem and also fundamentally explain statistical independence, substituting the classical Stosszahlansatz. This favors a indeterministic GRW-like theory. My best pick is Penrose objective reduction (OR) as explained here. This does not try to quantize gravity, but instead quantizes or better restricts the maximal mass/energy contained in a bunch of entangled particles. This would also introduce a new fundamental cutoff in QFT at a fraction of the Planck mass.
    My favorite dichotomy is probability/unitarity here, where is also explained how a little bit of randomness can enter the block universe.

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  56. Tam Hunt said, "The panpsychist view is the opposite of emergence; rather than emerging, consciousness is there all along in some form."

    That sums up the whole thing, right there.

    I am an experiential materialist, not the other kind of materialist (reductive? eliminative?). Hence, panpsychist.

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  57. Bee,

    I was persuaded to review the "I think... " essay... a fortuitous decision on my part... before revisiting and expanding on one of my previous comments.

    I have come across one apparent discrepancy on Page 5 regarding the "4 Levels of Awareness"; excuse me if this issue has already been clarified, but, for my own edification:

    Was Number 1 on the list meant to be "Perception", as appears in the graphic to the left, or, "Reception", as appears in the numbered list?

    My vote is for "Reception", but I just want to clarify whether that was your intent.

    Thanks!

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  58. R. Taylor,

    I hadn't noticed, thanks for pointing out! It should both have been "perception". Then again, this is only a word I've chosen to capture what's explained in the text.

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  59. Bee,

    re: "Perception" vs. "Reception"...

    I voted for "Reception" because the detailed description begins with "The system receives... " rather than perceives.

    Of course, this may be a instance where nuance trumps consistency, making perception the better choice; I used domain and province in the same sentence in one of my comments in reference to things that, at first glance, might seem synonymous. Yes, the only thing I disliked more than math courses was English : )

    Also, while we're at it, Page 6 appears to have a typo wherein "be" became "by":

    " ...no particular reason why a conscious system needs to by compact... "

    Hey! I have a hard time spotting my own typos as well : )

    Anyways, I decided that, before I rehashed my comment on my anesthetization experience, I would review the essay, having no idea what it might discuss. So imagine the look on my face after I began reading the essay!

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  60. "As you say, there are a number of other awards. And besides, if anyone can demonstrate actual paranormal ability, that person will get rich and famous even without awards. It would be one of the greatest scientific discoveries in human history. All particle and string theorists would immediately drop what they were doing to study the phenomenon. :-)"

    Indeed. Comedian Jay Leno once quipped: Why do you never see the headline "psychic wins lottery"?

    By the same token, the financial advice offered by various pundits in the early hours of the morning on television must be wrong, because if it were right, these people would be rich enough that they wouldn't have to get up early in the morning to appear on television.

    As to Brian Josephson: The guy actually has a Nobel Prize in physics. So people perhaps initially took him more seriously than the average crank. But since he has still not managed to convince the community, then there is probably nothing to his claims.

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  61. @ Tim Mauldin, We will have to see. So far I see no advancement in either the measurement problem or in finding a consistent interpretation. Gödel faced an icy reception from most mathematicians because his result upset the Hilbert apple cart. I suspect most physicists have a disdain for any idea Gödel's result applies in physics. If it should turn out the measurement and interpretation problems are unsolvable I suspect many will see it as ugly. I suspect an apparatus needle state pointing to the value of a measured outcome is a sort of Gödel numbering by quantum states.

    I once met a girl or should I say she once met me. The Beatles

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  62. @Tim Maudlin; on Many Worlds:

    I was intrigued by Many Worlds when I first heard it, but I think it boils down to Collapse Is Random But Don't Worry About It.

    Because in the universe we observe it still looks random even if other universes exist for every other possible result of the collapse, and we cannot observe those other universes from our own.

    It seems like an unprovable hypothesis to me, even if the math works out. But it does produce some fun SciFi.

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  63. @Steven Evans said as unnecessary as the word "atheist" and similarly politically motivated

    What are you talking about? I am an atheist. Everybody gets what that means and how it distinguishes me from theists, or in general supernaturalists.

    Although technically animists believe in souls without believing in a "god", and people can believe in magic or witchcraft without believing in a God, so the word "atheist" can get a little fuzzy, but I think it still makes a clear distinction from the vast majority of Abrahamic believers.

    I don't think the word "atheist" is either unnecessary or politically motivated, it describes a distinctive state of belief. And I don't think "beliefs" are inherently political.

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  64. Unknown (James of Seattle) said:

    @David Miller, you said
    “The brain is some kind of machine that needs all its parts in the right place, working together properly to create a thinking person.”
    I just wanted to point out this statement contradicts your point about Oliver Sacks patients. Clearly their brains don’t have all their parts “working together properly”, but we still consider them (most of them, anyway) thinking persons.

    James

    You are almost forcing me to go to the unnecessary effort of explaining the obvious with this piece of pedantry, which is slightly irritating. But I accept the need for precision, so how about recasting the statement as:

    **
    The brain is some kind of machine that needs all its physical parts in the right place, working together properly to create a properly functioning thinking person. Various kinds of damage disrupt proper function, causing thinking people to be hampered, dis-organised or recognisably broken in some way. The fact that disruption to the physical brain results in observably damaged functionality in a thinking person, is evidence for thinking in all its states to be demonstrably the result of the organisation of a physical brain machine
    **

    Or something like that. Feel free to draft your own version.

    Speaking of pedantry, there appear to be two commentators with similar names. My surname is not "Miller" but "Millier" with an extra i. I'm not at all offended by people mis-spelling my name, it is an uncommon spelling and I'm used to it, but given the un-threaded nature of the comments section, I can see it causing confusion.

    Regards

    David Millier
    London, UK.

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  65. @Tam
    "Positing "choice, not chance" with respect to individual electron events does in fact lead to substantial benefits over other non-panpsychist interpretations because it avoids the problems associated with emergence"
    We know that electrons are indistinguishable.
    We know that (at relevant energy scales) electrons do not have inner degrees of freedom.

    So how does calling what happens in an electron measurement event "choice" make any sense? There is no procession of information (since the electron has no internal DOFs), so we have absolutely identical electrons doing different things. How can this be called "choice" in any meaningful way? Who chooses if not the electron (since two identical electrons don't choose the same thing)?

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  66. Lawrence Crowell,

    "So far I see no advancement in either the measurement problem or in finding a consistent interpretation."

    Bohmian mechanics both solves the measurement problem and is a completely consistent "interpretation" of non-Relativistic QM, and Bell-Type QFTs do the same for quantum field theory.

    If you want to dispute this you actually have to point out some inconsistency or explain why the measurement problem is not solved. All the rest is just chin music.

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  67. Tam Hunt,

    The predictions for the delayed-choice experiment are predictions of standard non-Relativistic QM, so any theory that returns the predictions of standard non-Relativistic QM (or does so FAPP) gets those right. Ergo both Bohm and GRW get those right. And the fundamental time evolution equations of both of those theories is strictly uni-directional, in the one case deterministic and in the other stochastic.

    Bell discussed the pilot wave case in "deBroglie-Bohm, delayed-choice double-slit experiment, and density matrix", which is chapter 14 in Speakable and Unspeakable.

    What Wheeler did is take the predictions of quantum theory and then try to understand them in terms of classical mechanics. Bad idea.

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  68. @all: I truly do not understand what the perceived problem is with "emergence".

    If I take a few dozen otherwise inanimate parts I can make a bicycle. The bicycle has properties and utility that is possessed by no individual part. In particular, I can travel farther, faster and with less energy expended on a bicycle than I can do either walking or running.

    The utility of the bicycle is an emergent property, because it is not inherent in any part of the bicycle, a gear chain or a ball-bearing or an axle does not have any inherent "bicycleness" in it.

    At least for me, that is all I mean by emergence, it means "what a machine can do that its parts cannot." With machine meaning an arrangement of interacting parts.

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  69. David Millier
    Apologies David , I am one of the guilty parties. Feel free to change the I to an O and we’ll call it even .

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  70. Bruce wrote: you cannot train [a rock] to roll uphill . . . my personal preference in this discussion is that the ability to rebel indicates free will.

    So when a human walks up a hill, that's an act of rebellion and it's evidence for free will?

    By the way, I've seen rocks roll uphill at The Mystery Spot in Santa Cruz, California. Even untrained rocks can do it. :-)

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  71. Unknown wrote: I use the term "superdeterminism" because Dr. H. uses that term.

    So what? My point is the same no matter who uses that term. If you disagree with my point, explain why. Passing the buck to Dr. H. doesn't explain anything.

    Unknown wrote: If everything IS determined by initial conditions then evolution itself is just the playing-out of a script and the universe is teleological.

    No. Is the outcome of a roll of dice teleological?

    Unknown wrote: Why would "the universe" have predetermined that pneumatic rubber tires, the carbureator, and internal combustion engines all appear within a few years of each other -- instead of spread-out over billions of years?

    You have revealed that you conflate determinism with teleology. Besides that, determinism doesn't predict that rubber, tires, engines and airplanes get spread out over billions of years. No wonder you're confused.

    Unknown wrote: There is no physical property known as "emergence"

    So you *are* the same Unknown who railed against emergence last month. If you're already nostalgic, why don't you just re-read that discussion?

    Unknown wrote: Can you separate a joyous amoeba from one that is just having a so-so day?

    Are you referring to something someone said, or are you just making stuff up to argue against?

    Unknown wrote: the software is independent of the mechanism

    What's your point? Are you saying that humans get no external programming?

    Unknown wrote: To say that unconscious matter becomes conscious "depending on how it is arranged" is a pathetic argument.

    Are you saying you're a believer in panpsychism?

    Unknown wrote: Your comments often verge on the personal -- why?

    That's a personal comment. Give me an example of what you mean.

    Unknown wrote: all the ships at sea

    That's a personal comment. Why did you write it?

    Unknown wrote: Once again, Dr. H., thank you for your patience.

    That's personal too. And how do you know that Dr. H's patience has been tested?

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  72. Chris wrote: It's not (just) a lack of emotion; it's a lack of any experience.

    Let's review what you wrote:

    "Can you conceive of a world just like ours, except that there is no conscious experience? In this reality, our minds would evaluate an apple and deliver a rating with no emotional content."

    In your example of "no conscious experience," you give us a mind that evaluates the nutritional benefits of an apple without any emotional content. Can you see how this strongly suggests that you associate emotional content with consciousness?

    So if it's not emotional content, how can you say that this is an example of "no consciousness" and "no experience"? I recognize consciousness and experience in this example.

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  73. Reimond wrote: the emergent property is not a property of the constituents alone, but it emerges because the constituents interact

    Yes, that's what emergence is all about. After all this time we're still defining it, which strikes me as funny because it's a pretty simple concept.

    Don't get me wrong: It's a simple concept but a powerful insight. Sometimes powerful insights seem so obvious after we discover them. For example, consider zero, negative numbers, and calculus. And who hasn't seen some invention and thought, "That's so obvious! I should have thought of that!" :-)

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  74. Tam Hunt wrote: The panpsychist view is the opposite of emergence; rather than emerging, consciousness is there all along in some form.

    Phillip Thrift wrote: That sums up the whole thing, right there.

    I don't think it sums up much of anything. I think panpsychists are still on the hook to explain how human consciousness emerges from conscious particles (or whatever).

    Would you say that water is wet because wetness is there all along in hydrogen and oxygen in some form? Panpsychism reminds me of homeopathists claiming that water has memory of the substances mixed in it.

    I say woo-hoo to woo woo!

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  75. I'll try to explain the view one more time. Physics gives us behavioural structure; panpsychism is a proposal about what underlies that behavioural structure. Think about an mathematical model in economics that's just a bunch of equations that abstracts away from the concrete realities of labour, prices, etc. The reality of labour doesn't add to the reality specified by that model; to the contrary, labour is the very thing one of those symbols refers to! Similarly, according to panpsychism, physics gives us mathematical models that abstract away from the reality of a conscious universe. If that view makes sense, then there's no conflict with physics. There are all sorts of ways you could (and people do) challenge it, but you haven't given us one.

    Indeed, the very reason philosophers like David Chalmers, Sam Coleman and myself are interested in this form of panpsychism is that it, in contrast to dualism, it avoids a conflict with physics. There's been a huge number of peer reviewed articles published in academic journals on this view in the past 10 years or so. Do you really think that if there were such a basic conflict with physics, it would not have been picked up on before? Philosophers working on this stuff may be profoundly misguided, but we're not idiots.

    I'll leave it there.

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  76. Phillip wrote: Comedian Jay Leno once quipped: Why do you never see the headline "psychic wins lottery"?

    Have you noticed that all psychic shops have a sign saying "Call for appointment"? I *always* ask whomever I'm with why a psychic needs to schedule appointments.

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  77. Steven Mason wrote:
    "So you think there's actual scientific evidence for ESP. I've debated this topic in other science forums. In those debates, believers always pointed to a book or experiment, and I was always able to find the flaws."

    My position is that there is definitely suggestive evidence for paranormal phenomena, and that evidence is greatly strengthened in my view by the difficulty in explaining consciousness conventionally. David Chalmers didn't conceive of the Hard Problem for no reason! Remember that Christof Koch is a prominent neuroscientist, who had long championed the idea that consciousness was an emergent phenomenon, consistent with the laws of physics, before switching to panpsychism. Maybe he would have been better not to choose a specific alternative, because like SH, I don't believe panpsychism as such makes sense. I mean within QM electrons are governed by the rule that the wavefunction simply changes sign if you swap over two electrons - which doesn't offer much scope for electrons carrying proto-consciousness because they are identical. I only have a hazy understanding of QFT, but as I understand it, panpsychism fares no better in that formalism - the electrons don't really exist, only the electron matter field.

    The Hard Problem could be thought of as the difficulty/impossibility of explaining consciousness from the laws of matter, but IMHO there is a better alternative than panpsychism - one with a long history - Idealism. This is the idea that consciousness is fundamental, and what we call matter is generated by consciousness! From this perspective, the laws of physics are literally great conscious thoughts.

    I am not a religious person, but I think consciousness has to be taken a lot more seriously in any understanding of reality. Try looking up Brian Josephson's views on the matter. The theoretical physicist, Roger Penrose is also clearly aware that consciousness is an anomaly in our universe. See his "Shadows of the Mind", although he comes to a somewhat different tentative conclusion. With physics heavyweights like these, maybe it makes sense to be a little more cautious in dismissing alternative ideas about consciousness.

    As soon as you consider the possibility that consciousness is fundamental, paranormal phenomena become far more plausible.



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  78. Castaldo wrote: I don't think "beliefs" are inherently political.

    As long as theists run the show, atheism is inherently political. And if atheists run the show, theism is inherently political, insofar as theistic beliefs bump up against secular government. Funny how that works.

    General harmony on political positions is theoretically possible between atheists and theists. Call it schadenfreude if you want, but I experience pleasure knowing that most Catholics are more like atheists than Catholics, but they'd never admit it. I *know* it bothers the Pope, but he won't admit it. I was raised Catholic, so I'm entitled to mock them. :-)

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  79. Hi Sabine.. In response to our little sub discussion of qualia.. No particular POM here, only a little phenomenology.. Short paper..
    https://ruminations.blog/2019/01/08/what-are-qualia-and-why-are-they-interesting/

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  80. David Millier wrote: You are almost forcing me to go to the unnecessary effort of explaining the obvious with this piece of pedantry, which is slightly irritating.

    You took Unknown's bait. Your meaning was obvious. I also find myself explaining the obvious to people who misconstrue or pretend not to understand.

    David Millier wrote: My surname is not "Miller" but "Millier"

    So is there a David Miller and David Millier? I'll watch for that from now on. Thanks.

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  81. Tam wrote: The key problems with emergence relate to explaining how mind, something apparently so different from purely objective non-mental stuff, can emerge from purely objective non-mental stuff

    In other words, according to you, the key problem with emergence is that we haven't figured everything out yet. Therefore you conclude that scientists will *never* find a natural explanation for consciousness. You further conclude that this "failure" logically points us to panpsychism.

    Once we realized that humans are made of the same stuff as everything else, it was a problem for lots of people. It still is. Billions of people need to insert gods and souls into the equation. We want to be special. We don't want to be "stuff." Wishful thinking makes us biased against ugly truths. Some people don't think of it as an ugly truth. Some people, like me, think it's pretty amazing. It's amazing how much fun I can have even though I'm just stuff. The glass is half full for me.

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  82. @MartinB, you ask "So how does calling what happens in an electron measurement event "choice" make any sense? There is no procession of information (since the electron has no internal DOFs), so we have absolutely identical electrons doing different things. How can this be called "choice" in any meaningful way? Who chooses if not the electron (since two identical electrons don't choose the same thing)?"

    A few comments:

    1) Considering electrons to be identical rests on a number of debatable assumptions, such as the notion that a "particle" is actually a separate kind of thing from its context, which an electron clearly is not, or the notion that we could even in theory measure all aspects of an electron to determine whether all electrons are identical. Bohm, to cite one prominent physicist, asserted that electrons are not in fact identical. They certainly all differ in location and velocity so in those measurable dimensions they are uncontroversially not identical. And there are various theories that consider electrons and other subatomic particles to not be fundamental, which means they would have parts.

    2) If the electron "particle" is better viewed as a localized wave of a plenum, as Bohm and many others assert, then it's not just the localized aspect of the electron that is engaging in choicemaking, it's the totality. The quantum potential guides the electron and other particles in Bohm's QM and this guidance process is the context by which each electron exerts some iota of choicemaking ability. See Bohm's book Wholeness and the Implicate Order for more on this. And Griffin's book Unsnarling the World-knot for more explicit panpsychist explanations of these and related phenomena.

    3) In the Bohmian and Whiteheadian worldview, which is empirically equivalent to QFT in this scale, each electron is not a static entity like a small cloud or billiard ball but is instead a society of similar manifestations over time. So an electron is a constantly changing series of snapshots. The choices made are in terms of how to manifest in each snapshot. Whitehead's book Process and Reality is difficult but well worth the read if you're curious.

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  83. artuncut,

    "according to panpsychism, physics gives us mathematical models that abstract away from the reality of a conscious universe. If that view makes sense, then there's no conflict with physics. There are all sorts of ways you could (and people do) challenge it, but you haven't given us one."

    I asked you several times what you think this explains. You haven't replied.

    "Do you really think that if there were such a basic conflict with physics, it would not have been picked up on before? Philosophers working on this stuff may be profoundly misguided, but we're not idiots."

    That's an argument from popularity. Similar to the one Quentin has made before.

    Do I think it's possible that a group of intelligent people spends decades producing papers about a problem that doesn't exist and solutions that don't explain anything? Yes, I do. I just wrote a book about how that happens. Maybe read it?

    Best,

    B.

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  84. Dr. A.M. Castaldo said...

    "What are you talking about?"

    The word atheist is used by vested interests like organised religions to manufacture a dichotomy that does not exist, and to pretend there is a debate that doesn't exist. People who think Jesus Christ's father created the universe are, by definition, delusional. The opposite of delusional is sane, not atheist.

    Similarly, Swanson tries to manufacture a dichotomy between general physical phenomena and the subset that are explained by Physics, a subset he refers to as physicSal. But he has not demonstrated a single phenomenon which is physical but not physicSal, so his terminology is redundant.

    Academic philosophers continue to churn out this drivel to maintain their flow of money, status and power, just like organised religions.

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  85. What physics tells us is that the physical world admits of certain mathematical descriptions. (At least, this seems like a pretty common and reasonable view, and one that both panpsychists and most of their opponents appear to accept.) Consequently, the most complete and accurate description of physical reality that physics could possibly provide would tell us no more, and no less, than that a certain chunk of mathematics applied to it. Would that description be a complete description of the physical world?

    Some say that it would. They say that the nature of the physical world is exhausted by its amenability to a certain mathematical description (the one provided by ideal physics). This is sometimes called structuralism.

    Structuralism isn't obviously false. Nor is it obviously true. People who reject it don't deny that physics (in its ideal completed form) tells the truth: they just deny that it tells the whole truth. They think that there's got to be more to the physical world than that a certain chunk of math applies to it. They think that there has to be something for the math to apply to, and that this something can't just be a that-to-which-the-math-applies.

    Since I think it's an open question whether structuralism is true, I'm interested in learning about alternatives to it. Panpsychism is one such alternative: the one that says that what the math applies to---the whole world of forces and fields, planets and plankton, mass and charge, etc.---is something experiential. (There are other alternatives: Kant speaks of noumena in this connection, Leibniz of monads, Berkeley of God, Chalmers of protophenomenal properties, Mill of permanent possibilities of sensation.)

    I'm not a panpsychist. I think panpsychism is probably false. But I hope I'll never dismiss it as naive, unscientific, or pointless, since that could only mean that I'd lost my ability to grasp the problems it purports to solve, which are among the deepest that can occupy an inquiring mind.

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  86. Philip Goff:

    " but we're not idiots."

    Prove it by answering the point then - only the physical properties of matter can be appealed to in explaining the consciousness of the brain (or the Standard Model is wrong) so how does assuming the matter is panpsychic help?
    (Pointless analogies and apparent flaws in "dualism" are not arguments for panpsychism.)

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  87. Tim,

    Yes, Wheeler as everyone else gets confused, when we try to imagine something classically “moving” in the unitary evolution. Immediately leads to cognitive dissonance if we try to imagine one particle “flying” through e.g. two slits or a “Elitzur–Vaidman bomb tester”.
    The particle/wave duality, or maybe better dichotomy is just a “separation of concerns” (SoC) (1).
    In the unitary evolution (U), the wavy part of QM, just probabilities get calculated. In the reduction (R), the particle part, (I restrict myself to the probabilistic, GRW-like case) these probabilities get realized. And we better separate U and R.
    SoC is a powerful principle often used (2).
    Also Penrose uses it here to dis-entangle an entangled mess. (3)



    ---------------
    (1) This time a term from computer science as kind of revenge for your supervenience - you really got me confused since I did not know that this is a precise philosophical term. But I am afraid you already know SoC for sure.
    (2) just recently here “… how do we untangle this mess? … separate …”.
    (3) Further the assumption that spacetime is quantized, i.e. it can be in superposition, would even enlarge this entangled mess. I know very well that this is the favorite approach to quantum gravity, but maybe this assumption is just wrong.

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  88. “It's a simple concept but a powerful insight. Sometimes powerful insights seem so obvious after we discover them”
    Yes, indeed.
    And besides emergence and “separation of concerns” (SoC) there is another powerful principle: “dependency inversion” (1)
    This is relevant for questions like: “Is it bottom-up or top-down?”

    ---------------
    (1) but I guess this is only used in computer science - so far.

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  89. "Try looking up Brian Josephson's views on the matter. The theoretical physicist, Roger Penrose is also clearly aware that consciousness is an anomaly in our universe. See his "Shadows of the Mind", although he comes to a somewhat different tentative conclusion. With physics heavyweights like these, maybe it makes sense to be a little more cautious in dismissing alternative ideas about consciousness."

    Again, the fact that these people did good work in physics---decades ago---does not qualify them to be competent in other fields. Many people, physicists and others, have looked into their claims and found them wanting. Penrose's particular nanotube theory of quantum consciousness has been debunked.

    It's an insult to Penrose to put him into the same category as Josephson. Josephson is famous for one thing (and got a Nobel Prize for it), then went off the deep end. Penrose has had a long career and contributed really important stuff in many areas. Penrose has some unorthodox stuff, not only in relation to consciousness, but doesn't paint himself as the misunderstood genius.

    Penrose's ideas on consciousness are strongly based on Gödel's incompleteness theorem, which he uses to demonstrate that a machine cannot think. But what is to prevent me from using the same arguments about Penrose as he uses about machines?

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  90. @Tam
    It does not really matter for this discussion whether we phrase what an electron does in the language of QM or QFT. In the language of QM, electrons are identical particles (if they were not, the Pauli principle would not hold and atoms would not work...).
    If you look at QFT, all electrons are excitations of a single electron field, but in the low-energy limit, you can recover the standard Schrödinger equation from that and end up with QM again.
    What you cannot do is claim that a single electron (or, if you prefer, a localized 1-particle state excitation of the electron field) facing a double slit has any *internal* degrees of freedom that make it different from another electron in another position. And if you claim that it is the position itself that determines the outcome, you have to show how even in principle position could affect this, how the changing position of the electron can be said to constitute some kind of "choice" (apart from the obvious fact that wherever the electron ends up, there it is) and you may also run into trouble with translational invariance of quantum physics.

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  91. @MartinB

    You repeat Sabine's argument which is refuted definitively by Bohmian mechanics. That theory does precisely what Sabine and you claim cannot be done, which demonstrates that the entire argument fails.

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  92. I had a typo here. Instead of 64*20*10 it must be 64*20+20*10, just to be consistent with “… 64 neurons connecting to 20 and further to 10 neurons …”. All connections went only through the hidden layer, no direct ones. 35 years ago, the process to adjust some 1,480 weights was already time consuming enough.

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  93. @ Tim Mauldin: Many quantum interpretations attempt to solve the quantum measurement problem. With MWI the idea is the wave function no longer collapses, but rather the observer is conscious of one particular eigenstate correspond to a split off world. In Bohmian mechanics the wave or pilot wave is separated from a particle so it is left in configuration space. The quantum potential is adjusted in some ad hoc way to make this appear to work. GRW has all wave functions spontaneously collapsing with some small probability, so an entanglement of a quantum system with a huge number of states in an apparatus exhibits collapse. So GRW build in nonunitarity, which is not quantum mechanics. Chris Fuchs, who I have met a number of times, claims there is only a Bayesian update and no concern over imaginary wave functions.

    So far I have yet to hear a great trumpet voluntary sound by physicists that this problem has been solved. We are faced with the problem that a quantum system which evolves by unitary transformations and an apparatus composed of atoms etc also with evolution by unitarity and Schroedinger equation exhibit these behaviors that are not at all unitary and not deterministic according to a wave equation.

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  94. Tim,

    Martin is making a very simple technical point. Switching to a different interpretation does not change the fact, it merely changes the language. Also, I did not bring up the exclusion principle, so it is not correct that he has repeated my argument. I had a reason to not go on about the exclusion principle, but it seems futile to even discuss this as you still have not understood the problem to begin with.

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  95. Sabine,

    Your argument is that you cannot add additional physical degrees of freedom to, say, electrons in a theory without altering the empirical predictions. This is just false, and is directly refuted by counterexample.

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  96. Sabine Hossenfelder to artuncut:

    "according to panpsychism, physics gives us mathematical models that abstract away from the reality of a conscious universe. If that view makes sense, then there's no conflict with physics. There are all sorts of ways you could (and people do) challenge it, but you haven't given us one."

    One possible answer to that, is that quantum physics gives us a vast branching tree of possible ways that things can evolve. If indeed consciousness (the observer) helps to determine what eigenstates fall out of each wave function collapse, it is easy to see how we could have a world that follows physical laws but is partially controlled by consciousness.

    The founders of QM made explicit reference to the 'observer', and I think they did so for a reason - because in any QM scenario - say the double slit setup - there is the problem of where you collapse the wave function (if indeed it does collapse). The double slit experiment is usually described as a quantum collapse at the point where the photons hit the screen, but why not push it back to the retina of the observer, or back still inside the brain of the observer. In that case is it too big a stretch to suggest (as the physicist Henry Stapp does) that consciousness collapses the wave function?

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  97. @ Lawrence Crowell

    "The quantum potential is adjusted in some ad hoc way to make this appear to work."

    This is completely false. The standard contemporary formulation of the theory does not even use a quantum potential, and a fortiori that is not adjusted in any way. The standard presentation uses the guidance equation: see, for example, Bell's "On the Impossible Pilot Wave" in Speakable and Unspeakable.

    Chris Fuchs is terminally confused.

    GRW makes slightly different predictions than a non-collapse theory, but has not been ruled out empirically and clearly solves the Measurement Problem.

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  98. Tim,

    "Your argument is that you cannot add additional physical degrees of freedom to, say, electrons in a theory without altering the empirical predictions. This is just false, and is directly refuted by counterexample."

    You are right in saying that that is false, but it's also not what I said. Both Martin and I have been very clear about which theory we are talking about and what degrees of freedom.

    You, on the other hand, have not told us how it's supposed to work that electrons make "choices." How about you finally tell us how "physical degrees of freedom" that do not alter empirical predictions help electrons to "choose" and what it means that an electron makes "choices" and how any of that helps to explain consciousness?

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  99. David,

    You have it backwards, that was a comment addressed at me, not one by me.

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  100. Sabine

    The additional variables (e.g. positions) in a theory like Bohmian mechanics determine the outcomes of experiments. If you want to call that "choosing" the outcome, fine. If not, then I have no idea what you are even asking for.

    I have never claimed such degrees of freedom help explain consciousness. If you haven't noticed, I have not been defending panpsychism: I have been insisting (contrary to your repeated assertions) that there really is a Hard Problem of consciousness. I haven't got a clue how it even can be solved. That's why it is hard.

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  101. @David
    " In that case is it too big a stretch to suggest (as the physicist Henry Stapp does) that consciousness collapses the wave function?"
    This would imply that there is a physical way to determine whether something is conscious or not - which seems to be a stretch (at which exact moment does a baby become conscious? - you could measure that in this scenario). Unless you claim that everything is conscious, but then you cannot claim that consciousness collapses the wavefunction because then everything does and it is back to square one.

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  102. Tim,

    Good, fine, I am sorry for thinking that you have now been defending panpsychism.

    Positions are not internal degrees of freedom. In addition, they're relational, so it doesn't even make sense to say that a particle's position determines the outcome of an experiment. It's only the position relative to other particles that matters (and of course in a quantum theory the outcome isn't really determined etc). Every particle is unique in its relation to all other particles (unless you believe in a multiverse and such.) All of this is correct, but also not new, so it doesn't help explaining anything.

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  103. David Bailey said:

    "One possible answer to that, is that quantum physics gives us a vast branching tree of possible ways that things can evolve. If indeed consciousness (the observer) helps to determine what eigenstates fall out of each wave function collapse, it is easy to see how we could have a world that follows physical laws but is partially controlled by consciousness."

    This is reminiscent of the views of John Eccles, another Nobel prizewinner with unorthodox ideas. At least that guy knew a thing or two about the brain: he got his Nobel prize for work on the synapse.
    One problem with this kind of approach, though, is that in QM the results of measurements are random events. It's hard to see how tossing a coin at random is the same thing as making a choice (or "using free will").
    If anyone has an idea how to solve this apparent contradiction, I'd love to hear about it!

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  104. Sabine

    Your comments about positions being relational are irrelevant. Fine. Make the position of an electron approaching a double-slit the position relative to where the slits are. That is still a physical degree of freedom that goes beyond the wavefunction: two successive approaching electrons with the very same wavefunction but different relative positions with respect to the slits will end up on different locations at the final screen and produce differently located marks. This shows that no experimental results ever have—or ever could—rule out the possibility that individual electrons in the same quantum state nonetheless have different (and even temporally changing) physical properties.

    If that does not refute the argument you have been trying to give against panpsychism, then I'm afraid you have not expressed the argument clearly.

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  105. @Steven Mason, @Steven Evans: The fact that atheism is politicized does not make it unnecessary, and does not make it politically motivated. It is a word that makes a distinction and is therefore useful, and I see no evidence it was coined for any particular purpose; "a" is a negator in many words, like typical vs. atypical.

    There are many words that are useful in making distinctions we understand, but have been politicized, like "homosexual." That does not make the words unnecessary, they are necessary when we wish to communicate the distinction succinctly in words easily understood.

    If the word "atheism" is unnecessary, then presumably we could ban its use. But I think it certain that some other word would quickly arise to take its place, because asserting the distinction is important to both atheists and theists. Thus some word conveying that distinction is necessary, for clear and succinct communication.

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  106. Tim,

    The position of one object relative to other objects is not a property of the object itself. It's a property of a collection of objects. I am not sure whether we are having a misunderstand here or really an argument.

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  107. Sabine,

    So: suppose someone held that every entangled pair of particles is conscious (where the state of consciousness is a function of the relative positions of the particles). I myself would call that a version of panpsychism. Is your position that your argument has bite against the claim that single particles are conscious but none against the claim that entangled pairs are?

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  108. Sabine

    And by the way, most string theorists speak as if they believe that even individual "particles" (such as electrons) have very complex and changing internal degrees of freedom (the "vibrations"). Are you claiming that string theory is empirically refuted? If so, I think that is news to them.

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  109. Tim,

    That's right, you can give additional internal degrees of freedom to particles provided you make sure that you can only resolve them at high energies. I explained this in my blogpost. In this case, however, you cannot use them to explain the emergence of consciousness exactly because you had to make sure that they decouple at low energies in order to not run into conflict with experiment.

    If you held it that consciousness is encoded in entanglement I would say it's not appropriate to call it panpsychism because "pan" leads me to expect you indeed have consciousness in everything, including single particles. (In that case you'd have other problems explaining the emergence of consciousness though.)

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  110. Sabine,

    Even if one were to accept the claims you just made, the issue of "resolving" degrees of freedom (i.e. getting some *external* indication they exist) is neither here nor there. Appealing to them to discuss the Hard Problem means relating them to the first-person states of consciousness, not to more third-person describable behavior.

    Again, I am not defending panpsychism, nor string theory for that matter. But the idea that the LHC has ruled out some approach to the Hard Problem misunderstands both what the problem is and what the results of the LHC prove.

    And—let's just be honest—after all this argument does the issue as you have been discussing it really come down to whether *just one* electron can be conscious or whether it takes *at least two"? I think most of the people following this would be pretty shocked that that is the killer objection to panpsychism.

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  111. @ Tim Mauldin: The guidance equation is just p = ∇S from the Hamilton-Jacobi equation. The Hamilton equation of motion

    dp/dt = -sum_i∂H/∂q_i = -∇H = -∇(V + Q)

    for Q = -(ħ^2/2m)(∇^2sqrt{ρ})/sqrt{ρ} means the quantum potential plays a role. These equations are of some interest and we do have that with dv/dt = ∂v/∂t + v∇·v this leads to

    ∂v/∂t + v∇·v = -(1/m)∇(V + Q),

    which is a sort of Navier-Stokes equation. The right hand side is a type of force due to a standard classical potential and the quantum potential. Strominger has done work to demonstrate how some solutions of the Einstein field equation have Navier-Stokes analogues. I have a bit of interest in that, for this is a curious way of thinking on how general relativity and quantum mechanics are from a mathematical perspective isomorphic or in some way categorically equivalent.

    The measurement problem has not as far as I know been really solved. There are various camps of people who say “within my interpretation it is solved.” That is different IMO, and quantum interpretations are in effect additional physical postulates (GRW with its spontaneous collapse etc) one attaches to quantum mechanics. This looks suspiciously similar to toggling various axioms on and off when the Euclid 5th axiom is removed.

    I would have to look back at the considerable depth of these to see how we got into this. I think it was due to the caution with hypotheses that mental consciousness is manifested by self-reference and Gödel's theorem. This is to avoid quantum consciousness thinking.

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  112. Tim,

    "Even if one were to accept the claims you just made, the issue of "resolving" degrees of freedom (i.e. getting some *external* indication they exist) is neither here nor there. Appealing to them to discuss the Hard Problem means relating them to the first-person states of consciousness, not to more third-person describable behavior."

    Sorry, but I don't know what you mean by this. You don't really need an external indication they exist to hypothesize about them, of course. Physicists do this all the time. The issue is that all instances of consciousness we know are low-energy phenomena. As I said, there are ways you can try to work around this, but it certainly requires an explanation how it's supposed to work.

    "And—let's just be honest—after all this argument does the issue as you have been discussing it really come down to whether *just one* electron can be conscious or whether it takes *at least two"? I think most of the people following this would be pretty shocked that that is the killer objection to panpsychism."

    Well, at least it seems you now understand my argument. I never claimed it's a particularly deep point. If it was, I'd have written a paper, not a blogpost. It serves to highlight merely that you shouldn't speak about the properties of particles without asking what particle physics has to say about that.

    As I mentioned, if you want to assign consciousness to entanglement that causes other problems. But if we could at least agree that calling an elementary particle "conscious" is either wrong or meaningless, that would be progress.

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  113. Lawrence Crowell,

    No, you misunderstand.

    Classical mechanics has a dynamics that is second-order in time. That is why the initial conditions are both the positions and momenta of the particles. Bohmian mechanics is a theory with a pair of dynamical equations—the Schrödinger equation and the guidance equation—that are first-order in time, so the initial conditions are the initial wavefunction and the initial particle positions (configuration). And the relevant Schrödinger equation does not contain any "quantum potential" term that can be "adjusted". Given this data, the solution of a problem is fixed.

    Bohm himself acknowledges that the quantum potential is just a useful heuristic crutch for people who are accustomed to think in terms of classical mechanics, and that in many circumstances it does not even fulfill that heuristic role. One can present the theory from beginning to end without so much as mentioning it. Again, read Bell.

    You claimed that there is some objection to saying that Bohmian Mechanics solves the Measurement Problem. You have not pointed one out. Ineffective gesturing at the quantum potential is not such an objection.

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  114. This seems to me a sad case of lost in translation...spiced with a bit of hubris. I always thought philosophy doesn't talk about nature: if physics is the talk about things ("nature"), philosophy is the talk about the talk about things.

    I think this distinction has been disregarded in this discussion.

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  115. I recently got a copy of 'the Emperor's New Mind' by Roger Penrose from the 'little free library' at UU 'church' i sometimes go to.


    (I also got a book about Summerhill school --- thats the kind of school i'd go to if they had a PhD program. Both Penrose and Sumerhill were or are in UK, as is my niece---newly minted from mit undergrad program. Newton was also from UK, and i read he also worked at the mint, besides his fundamental research in alchemy. Newton also dabbled in mechanics, cosmology, and calculus. )

    Roger penrose apparently also dabbled in physics --I associated him with 'spinners' (tho
    some said he meant dirac/pauli spinors) --and his maybe main idea is 'twistors'. The Beatles had that before Penrose--'do the twist' and then there is 'get twisted' (e.g. DC's own BYB (backyard band--features Big G who also was in a TV show called 'the wire').

    unlike normal libraries, free libraries dont require a library card, and if you take a book its not considered stealing. You also are supposed to put books you dont need in the free library for others to steal with no consequences. 'the gift economy'--marecel mauss.)

    I solved the 'hard problem' of consciousness (as called by Tononi, Dyson, or others)--the solution i wrote down is in the margin of the page in Penrose's book on 'wang tilings', post's word problem, and penrose's own solution to aperiodic coverings or tilings of the plane. (there was band called 'the jefferson airplane' (i think thomas jefferson was in it) and a song by john denver called 'i'm leaving on a jet plane'. there are alot of planes, plans and tilings.

    Thwere are 513 comments on this thread. I wonder how many of these people know what they are talking about---could be all A^-1, some E^-1/2, or none = 0 .

    Natuure loves, or abhors a vaccum. I hate the sound of a vaccum cleaner.

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  116. @Tim Maudlin: I'll disagree with Sabine, I think her point is a deep point.

    I think if an electron is not conscious, that disproves panpsychism; i.e. consciousness does not pervade all matter, and thus human consciousness does not arise from the inherent consciousness of matter.

    If it takes multiple particles for consciousness to exist, then consciousness is necessarily an emergent phenomenon, from interacting particles.

    Once we admit that, panpsychism is defeated, and the question becomes nailing down what consciousness is; apparently our working definition here is an ability to make some kind of choices.

    But I don't think my thermostat is conscious. I think my dog is, based on her behavior. So I doubt two particles have sufficient states to have (inherent or developed) "models" of the outside world that can be used in internal simulations to imagine multiple possible futures, thus enabling a "choice" of one preferred future over others.

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  117. TM,

    Nope. Physics accounts for all possible observations that can be made in any reference frame. So that necessarily includes what it is like to be me because I am an observer from my first person point of view as you are as well from your point of view. This is why I think that the hard problem while very fascinating and important will dissolve away into the "easy" problem of consciousness. Consciousness is the last fortress of the metaphysician.

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  118. To Steve Mason:

    One last try.

    You asked whether in a deterministic universe the rolling of dice is teleological and the answer is "Yes." Let me repeat this -- one cannot have random events in a predetermined universe. If so, please define for us all what would constitute a "random, predetermined event." Dr. H. is a determinist, I gather, because it is the only way she sees around the findings of Dr. John Bell. But, the problem - to repeat -- is that if all things were "set" by initial conditions then the universe just follows a script from which it cannot deviate -- it is all an "act."

    I continue to bring up emergence because no one can explain how it is possible. Either things occur according to physical laws or they do not. If one dead molecule becomes alive when combined with another dead molecule then WHY do we have a subsequent living organism instead of two dead molecules (1 + 1 = 2.) The responses here consist of shouting "emergence!" and I don't see how that differs from shouting "abracadabra!" HOW does this happen to create conscious entities?

    Finally, I thank Dr. H. for her patience because she spends hours a day on this blog and receives no remuneration. She lets all of us play in her sandbox and I think it only courteous to be grateful.

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  119. @Unknown

    Physics as we have accounts for zero states of consciousness in any "reference frame", whatever that means. If you object, write down a physical state, then derive from it the conscious state that accompanies it. Or point out a single physics text anywhere where this is done.

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  120. Unknown,

    A "teleological" theory attempts to account for the physical behavior at a time in terms of some goal or end state. So a teleological theory involves some degree of backwards causation, or else is a theory of an entity that can represent to itself an end state and take steps to try (successfully or not) to achieve it. Classical mechanics is 100% deterministic and 0% teleological, and the same goes for Bohmian mechanics.

    There is no way "around" Bell's theorem. It demands that be accept physical non-locality. Having done that, you can pursue deterministic or indeterministic theories as you wish. Both exist.

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  121. (Part 1) Bee, you wrote to me that if my panpsychist interpretation of QM and the standard model (mainly Bohmian, though I am working on a modification thereof) is "not identical to the standard model, then write it down and demonstrate you can reproduce all achievements of the standard model."

    We're still missing each other on this point so let me suggest another way to frame the point I'm trying to make:

    The Standard Model is too ontologically thin b/c it excludes consciousness for the most part. Yes, some interpreters suggest that consciousness is required for collapse of the wave function but many interpretations don't involve collapse and the ones that do don't actually require a human conscious observer, just some kind of measurement. And the measurement problem itself is a massive problem with Copenhagen and other collapse-based interpretations of QM.

    A panpsychist interpretation of QM and the Standard Model is ontologically fatter, more generous, in that rather than assuming that the fundamental beables of physics are "vacuous actualities," as Whitehead put it, they are in fact nonvacuous actualities. That is, they are imbued with experience, which we call consciousness when it complexifies through many levels of structure to reach the rarefied heights of human brains and bodies.

    All theories pick and choose what parts of the world they will symbolize and thus designate for potential measurement and manipulation. The Standard Model forgot consciousness itself, as did modern physics more generally, in the temporary trick that Schrödinger called "objectivation." This trick was to pretend for a while that consciousness doesn't exist in order to make the "objective world" more tractable for scientific description and study. So modern materialism solved the problem of Cartesian dualism by simply lopping off one half of the world and pretending it didn't exist.

    But of course it does: we're here now, talking to each other and wondering what the hell is going on in this universe and how we arose out of it. So the task of modern physics and philosophy is to find a graceful way to reinsert mind/consciousness/subjectivity back into our physics in order to create a whole world again -- not just a model of half the world. That is the Hard Problem.

    I'm no expert in Bohmian QM and the version of it that I'm most familiar is Bohm's version, which Tim thinks has been superseded in some ways. However, Bohm is great in explaining the key aspect of his interpretation of QM as resting on the notion of a plenum, of wholeness, and the key point that no particle is an island b/c particles are not really particles, they're excitations of a field. Bohm advanced this point and it has became somewhat de rigeur with QFT, but it seems that people still have a hard time imagining the fundamental connectedness of all things and rejecting the notion of "particles" as little tiny balls that whiz around. As I responded to Martin earlier: it's not that the electron qua tiny isolated electron is making any choices all by itself; rather, it's the totality including the quantum potential/guiding wave that is making the choice with the electron.

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  122. (Part 2) I'm going to follow up with Tim on why he thinks the quantum potential can be ignored since Bohm is quite clear in his work on the absolute importance of viewing particles as part of the plenum and not isolated in any way. Here are a couple of good quotes from his book Wholeness and the Implicate Order:

    P. 196:

    [T]he wave-particle properties of matter show that the

    overall movement depends on the total experimental arrangement

    in a way that is not consistent with the idea of autonomous

    motion of localized particles...

    [I]t has no meaning to talk about an observed object as if it were separate from

    the entire experimental situation in which observation takes

    place. So the use of the descriptive term ‘particle’ in this

    ‘quantum’ context is very misleading.



    Pp. 196-7:

    In the ‘quantum’ context, there similarly will

    be an intersection of an implicate order of some ‘whole

    movement’ corresponding to what we have called, for example,

    ‘the electron’ .... Thus, the

    word ‘electron’ should be regarded as no more than a name by

    which we call attention to a certain aspect of the holomovement,

    an aspect that can be discussed only by taking into

    account the entire experimental situation and that cannot be

    specified in terms of localized objects moving autonomously

    through space. And, of course, every kind of ‘particle’ which in

    current physics is said to be a basic constituent of matter will

    have to be discussed in the same sort of terms (so that such

    ‘particles’ are no longer considered as autonomous and

    separately existent). Thus, we come to a new general physical

    description in which ‘everything implicates everything’ in an

    order of undivided wholeness.

    You ask me to suggest my view on how mind emerges, but I've been pretty clear in arguing that mind does not emerge -- it's always present and associated with matter. Where there is mind there is matter and where there is matter there is mind. They go together, like black and white, front and back. Mind complexifies and becomes more rich as matter complexifies through the processes of biological evolution.

    I'm confused by your statement that there is no explanatory gap with respect to consciousness. Are you now suggesting that the mind-body problem is solved, that we do know how mind emerges from matter?

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  123. Tim Maudlin, are you suggesting that Bell's book Speakable and Unspeakable... is the best source for an updated version of Bohmian QM? Weren't most of those essays written before Bohm's own books on his theory?

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  124. artuncut wrote: I'll try to explain the view one more time . . . according to panpsychism, physics gives us mathematical models that abstract away from the reality of a conscious universe

    You're missing the point. We know about abstract models. We don't need panpsychists telling us what we already know and acknowledge. Panpsychists need to acknowledge that their models - such as they are - are also abstractions.

    The *reality* of a conscious universe? You're joking, right?

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  125. Sabine, then why would anything be conscious or feel anything. Why would a brick have less human rights than a human.

    Scott Aaronson made great blog posts about this before and concluded we just don't understand this thing well enough, and might in the future. All possible solutions run to paradoxes.

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  126. Here's the blog post (I tihnk you discussed this before):

    https://www.scottaaronson.com/blog/?p=2756

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  127. David Bailey wrote: As soon as you consider the possibility that consciousness is fundamental, paranormal phenomena become far more plausible.

    Fundamental to what? Fundamental to the fundamental nature of matter?

    Before we start speculating on ways to make psi more plausible, we need to establish that psi phenomena exists. You think there is "suggestive evidence," I think there is no evidence.

    I'm not biased against psi. I would love if we discovered that humans had psi ability. I would love if humans turned out to be "special" after all. When I was a teen and became an atheist, I gave up all notions of being special. The hardest part was giving up wishful thinking about an afterlife. If this life is all we've got, then all the stupid things I do are infinitely more stupid.

    I'm like a man walking through the desert dying of thirst, desperately looking for water. Psi would be an oasis for me. But as far as I can tell, psi is a mirage. Every time I've gone there I end up with sand in my mouth.

    As far as I can tell, psi is a self-induced mirage created by wishful thinking. Wishful thinking puts a powerful filter on our "objectivity." When I *want* to believe in something extraordinary, I force myself to be extra skeptical.

    If and when someone can demonstrate actual psi phenomena, it will appear in all the science journals. When I said that particle and string theorists would drop what they're doing, I wasn't kidding. If we validate psi phenomena and Trump said it was "huge," for once he'd be right.

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  128. Unknown wrote: Panpsychism is one such alternative . . . I'm not a panpsychist. I think panpsychism is probably false. But I hope I'll never dismiss it as naive, unscientific, or pointless.

    Let's do a couple of substitutions:

    God is one such alternative. I'm not a theist. I think God probably doesn't exist. But I hope I'll never dismiss it as naïve, unscientific, or pointless.

    If you think there's a significant difference between these two statements, what is it?

    Likewise, if we insert panpsychism into our models, how does that differ from inserting gods into our models?

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  129. Unknown wrote: one cannot have random events in a predetermined universe

    You know that dice are subject to deterministic factors. You know equally well that humans view it as random. You don't seem to understand what random means. You continue to conflate determinism with teleology. As such, you will continue to be confused.

    If anyone else in this discussion disagrees with my points, feel free to speak up. There isn't much point in endlessly arguing with one person.

    Unknown wrote: I continue to bring up emergence because no one can explain how it is possible.

    My take is that you don't understand any of the explanations given to you. I suspect you've been "bringing up" emergence for years and you simply enjoy having the same arguments, sort of like Groundhog Day. You remind me of Sisyphus, except you *volunteered* to push the boulder up the hill for eternity.

    Unknown wrote: The responses here consist of shouting "emergence!" and I don't see how that differs from shouting "abracadabra!"

    Fake news: No one has been shouting "emergence!" Emergence has been painstakingly explained to you. The fact that you can't see the difference between emergence and abracadabra is your problem, not anyone else's.

    Unknown wrote: One last try.

    And here you are, explaining why you continue to bring it up. Are you going to stop trying, or keep trying? Make up your mind.

    Unknown wrote: If one dead molecule becomes alive when combined with another dead molecule then WHY do we have a subsequent living organism instead of two dead molecules?

    Do I really need to remind you that scientists are working on that question? (Your question is poorly stated, but I know what you meant)

    Unknown wrote: I thank Dr. H. for her patience because she spends hours a day on this blog and receives no remuneration. She lets all of us play in her sandbox and I think it only courteous to be grateful.

    When you "thank" Sabine for being patient with *me*, it isn't meant to express gratitude. Do you want to try to sell me a bridge in New Jersey?

    In any case, if we're going to speculate about Sabine's motivations, I doubt that she runs this blog for our benefit. She'll "play" with us as long as it suits her desires, with or without remuneration. And that's as it should be.

    It's funny that you're no longer asking why I get personal after I point out that you get personal. :-)

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  130. Unknown
    And from whence did the physical laws come from ? Are the laws of physics determined ? If so , by what ?

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  131. To: Tim

    I understand that Bell's theorem is practically irrefutable. Bell DID suggest one "way around" and it is that initial conditions of the universe determined where the location of an entangled particle would be when its "mate" is measured. Dr. H. cites this "determinism" as the basis for her belief there is no free will. My point -- several hundred comments ago! -- was that if this determinism is how the universe works then, for example, evolutionary theory -- based on random events -- must be false because random events in a predetermined universe are, by definition, impossible.

    This is a minor point, to be sure, but one that occurred to me as I read the present essay. IMHO, John Bell gave physicists a little more science than they know what to do with.

    But, thank you for your civil and informative observation.

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  132. Reimond wrote: besides emergence and “separation of concerns” (SoC) there is another powerful principle: “dependency inversion”

    I'm not a software engineer, so I'm only casually acquainted with dependency inversion. There are countless approaches to software design and there have been equally countless incremental changes and improvements. Back in the 1980's I had some fun debating microkernel and monolithic kernel pros and cons. If you say that dependency inversion is a powerful principle, I'll take your word for it.

    Nowadays even kids are programming apps. Dependency inversion relates to object-oriented approaches. I've heard that kids should start with a procedural approach and then go to object-oriented. My kids are well into adulthood, so it never came up. If your kids are younger, what approach did you take? (Just curious)

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  133. Reimond wrote: I had a typo here. Instead of 64*20*10 it must be 64*20+20*10, just to be consistent with . . .

    No problem. Your general point was clear. All of us get "lost in math typos" from time to time.

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  134. @Tim Mauldin: Within the momentum representation

    dp/dt = -sum_i∂H/∂q_i = -∇H = -∇(V + Q)

    and I see this just as valid as Ehrenfest's result

    d/dt = + i/ħ.

    We can work in position or momentum representations.

    In put on a Bohmian hat for today, something I have not done in a very long time. In playing with this I found something rather interesting. The quantum potential is Q = -(ħ/2m)∇^2R/R if I write R = e^u then this is

    Q = -(ħ/2m)(∇^2u + (∇u)^2).

    The gradient of this is then

    ∇Q = -(ħ/2m)(∇∇^2u + 2∇u·∇^2u).

    I will reduce this to one dimension for brevity so that

    Q_x = -(ħ/2m)(u_{xxx} + 2u_x u_{xx}).

    Now I do a little trick by adding and subtracting u_t - 6uu_x so that

    Q_x = -(ħ/2m)(u_{xxx} - 6uu_x + u_t - u_t + 6uu_x + 2u_x u_{xx}).

    We then see the first three terms if zero defines the Korteweg deVries equation u_{xxx} - 6uu_x + u_t = 0 and so the pilot wave etc may then be a type of soliton so I will set this to zero to see what happens and so

    Q_x = (ħ/2m)(u_t - 6uu_x - 2u_x u_{xx}).

    There is a hierarchy of solutions to the KdV equation found by prolongations, such as Estabrook & Wahlquist method, but the elementary first solution to this equation is

    u(x,t) = -1/2 v sech^2(x – vt).

    It is then a matter of turning the derivative crank and multiplying and adding terms to get a quantum potential I did a numerical graph of this and it is a rather interesting looking function. Too bad we can't include images here.

    I am not that versed in the literature on putative solutions to the measurement problem. As I have written I am maybe more interested in demolishing such ideas, interpretations and maybe taking the wind out of a lot of sails out there. However, I have not committed to any such program. I am also not that imbibed with the Bohm Koolaid to know a lot in detail. However, I have read nontechnical articles that there are problems with these ideas. Also unless I have been under a rock for a long time I have not heard there is some agreed consensus on a solution to the measurement problem.

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  135. Pascal wrote: It's hard to see how tossing a coin at random is the same thing as making a choice (or "using free will").

    Can you be more specific about what the "apparent contradiction" is? Are you having trouble reconciling "random" and "choice"?

    Even if *everything* is deterministic, humans can still enjoy the illusion of randomness, choice and free will. Even if we are a conglomeration of nonliving, nonconscious particles, we can still enjoy the illusion of life - in the context of regarding life as something super-special and mysterious.

    If the universe doesn't make sense to us and there are contradictions, maybe that's a result of human limitations. Contradictions appear when observations don't match expectations. I'm not cynical, but neither do I think we're smart enough to figure everything out. In other words, I *expect* us to encounter contradictions.

    In the sci-fi novel "The Three-Body Problem," aliens interfere with human physicists conducting experiments on the fundamental nature of matter. The aliens create all sorts of contradictions. They do this to retard our scientific progress.

    Just because the universe appears strange to us, that doesn't mean it's actually strange. Consider this: If it's ridiculously easy for the smarter half of humanity to fool the other half, how much harder could it be to fool the smarter half? If humans were smart enough to completely understand the universe, it probably couldn't exist.

    It's been said that humans are very stupid, but smart enough to know it. In my experience, only a minority of people acknowledge our limitations, even the obvious ones.

    If it turns out that choice and free will are illusions, would that bother you? If it turns out that life and consciousness are not "special" properties of matter, would that bother you? If it turns out that "apparent contradictions" are due to human limitations, would that bother you?

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  136. Castaldo wrote: The fact that atheism is politicized does not make it unnecessary, and does not make it politically motivated.

    Let me clarify that I don't agree with the points Evans made about atheism. It is a necessary and useful term.

    My point was that atheists generally oppose the use of government power to impose religious beliefs on people. That's what I mean by "inherently political."

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  137. Tim wrote: come down to whether *just one* electron can be conscious or whether it takes *at least two"? I think most of the people following this would be pretty shocked that that is the killer objection to panpsychism

    I'd be shocked if anyone thought that described Sabine's objections to panpsychism.

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  138. Sabine wrote (to Tim): at least it seems you now understand my argument.

    I'm not sure why you think Tim "understands your argument" merely because he offered a grossly oversimplified and truncated version of it, but that's your
    prerogative. :-)

    Sabine wrote: if we could at least agree that calling an elementary particle "conscious" is either wrong or meaningless, that would be progress.

    I can see how *that* would be progress.

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  139. Castaldo wrote: If it takes multiple particles for consciousness to exist, then consciousness is necessarily an emergent phenomenon, from interacting particles.

    I suppose someone could posit that it takes the interaction of multiple conscious particles for human consciousness to emerge, for what it's worth. They say two heads are better than one; they also say there's wisdom in crowds. :-)

    Castaldo wrote: Once we admit that, panpsychism is defeated

    I think panpsychists first have to explain how their proposition *might* help explain anything, and it has to be better than tautologies like "we're conscious because we're made from conscious matter." Until then, it can be dismissed without any obligation to "defeat" it.

    Panpsychism strikes me as wishful thinking, a back door approach to making humans special. If humans by themselves can't be special, panpsychists make *everything* special. We're children of a lesser god, but it's better than nothing.

    I'm less ambitious; I try to be special to my family and friends.

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  140. Tam,

    "You ask me to suggest my view on how mind emerges, but I've been pretty clear in arguing that mind does not emerge -- it's always present and associated with matter... They go together, like black and white, front and back. Mind complexifies and becomes more rich as matter complexifies through the processes of biological evolution."

    I still don't know how you think that mind "complexifies" if all you have done is attaching a new word to elementary particles without changing anything about the physical implications. In your theory, for all I can tell, the brain works exactly like physics tells us it works. That's good in that it's not wrong. It's bad in that it doesn't explain anything. Look, suppose I give you a detailed reading of someone's brain activity. Now tell me what your theory says about whether they're conscious or not. In case you forget to answer this question, let me answer it for you: You cannot answer it because your theory doesn't actually tell you anything about reality. It's merely words. It has no explanatory power whatsoever.

    "I'm confused by your statement that there is no explanatory gap with respect to consciousness. Are you now suggesting that the mind-body problem is solved, that we do know how mind emerges from matter?"

    No, of course not, as I have said like a dozen times. I am simply telling you that there is nothing about the question how consciousness emerges that is particularly mysterious and requires anything besides the normal scientific methodology. (I don't know why you are now talking about "mind" - I don't know what you mean by that). I have given examples of how to go about the problem various times above. I do not know what more of an explanation you could possibly be asking for. This is not to say that I think we actually do have a theory of what makes a conscious state or what makes an experience etc. Arguably be do not yet have such a theory.

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  141. Tam,

    Btw, I already said this by email but maybe let me repeat it again. I consider Bohm's "wholeness" to be a type of cosmopsychism, not panpsychism. I think the quote you have illustrates that nicely.

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  142. Ari,

    Because bricks do not have the structural capacity to perform predictive calculations. I have explained this a few times above already. I hope you understand that I do not want to repeat this one more time. The point is that it is very well possible to study and analyze which structures do and do not give rise to consciousness and experiences and to develop theories from those observations using standard scientific methodology. I do not understand why some people think there is anything mysterious going on here.

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  143. Steven Mason said:

    "If humans were smart enough to completely understand the universe, it probably couldn't exist."

    I would say:

    " If the Universe were simple enough for Humans to completely understand, it probably couldn't exist."

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  144. Tam,

    “… ‘particles’ are no longer considered as autonomous and separately existent). Thus, we come to a new general physical description in which ‘everything implicates everything’ in an order of undivided wholeness.”

    Consider a double slit experiment. A particle (photon or electron or even a small molecule) starts and appears somewhere on the screen (SotS). Now move the screen some centimeters further to the back. The next particle will also appear SotS, but now SotS is some centimeters further to the back. Now remove the screen. The next particle will not appear SotS anymore, but maybe at the wall of the room or the trunk of a tree outside the window.
    So, what happens to the particle does not only depend on the particle itself, but on its environment, i.e. other particles and therefore the “overall movement depends on the total experimental arrangement”.

    All I want to say is that this kind of “wholeness” is already accounted for by QM. All that QM does is calculate probabilities for something to happen and this works like a charm. “Reality” is realizing these probabilities.

    Now one can reason about which dice nature uses to realize these probabilities.
    A deterministic dice (Bohm), that depends on how the pilot wave and the positions where set initially.
    Or a more indeterministic one, which I would prefer.

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  145. Steven Mason,

    “… what approach did you take? (Just curious)”
    Start with procedural, then later insert a layer of abstraction, i.e. object orientated (OO).
    And most important - just let them follow their own curiosity.

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  146. Sabine wrote: I do not understand why some people think there is anything mysterious going on here.

    I'm guessing it isn't mystery so much as it's specialness some people desire.

    I'll go to Michael Behe again: He points to the "mystery" of irreducible complexity when he's actually after the specialness of intelligent design. The mystery is presented as a scientific fact.

    Everyone I've encountered who claims that consciousness (or life) can't possibly emerge from inert matter always has a "special" theory waiting in the wings. The mystery is always the warm-up act for the headliner.

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  147. Steve Mason wrote:
    > Pascal wrote: It's hard to see how tossing a coin at random
    > is the same thing as making a choice (or "using free will").
    >
    > Can you be more specific about what
    > the "apparent contradiction" is?
    > Are you having trouble reconciling "random" and "choice"?
    >
    > Even if *everything* is deterministic,
    > humans can still enjoy the illusion
    > of randomness, choice and free will.

    The point is that in the view of John Eccles, free will is not an illusion but a very real thing. Towards the end of his life he developed a dualist (not panpsychist) theory of the brain in which, he claims, mind can influence matter (i.e. brain processes) without violating physical conversation laws. Mind is supposed to achieve this by influencing the probabilities of certain quantum events in the brain. I do not claim to understand this theory in any detail, but it seems to me that this would imply a violation of the rules of quantum mechanics.
    On the other hand, if the probabilities of quantum events are unchanged compared to ordinary QM then making a choice amounts to tossing a coin and free will is an illusion.

    If anyone wants to take a look, his theory is expounded in his last book "How the Self Controls Its Brain" (pdf available online). It includes a chapter written with physicist Friedrich Beck and published in PNAS (https://www.pnas.org/content/pnas/89/23/11357.full.pdf).

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  148. Tam,

    Bell's paper is the first one I am aware of that presents Bohmian mechanics directly as a pair of first-order dynamical equations rather than as a form of classical mechanics with an additional potential term. That not only pedagogically obviates the need to mention any "quantum potential", it actually specifies a slightly different theory from the classical mechanics one, although Bell characteristically takes no credit for the change and clarification. All of the serious technical work on the theory (or which there is a lot) follows Bell's model. It is the right way to think about the theory, as Bohm acknowledges in "The Undivided Universe".

    "On the Impossible Pilot Wave" was written in 1982, "Wholeness and the Implicate Order" was 1980. So no, Bell does not pre-date Bohm.

    There are more extensive presentations of Bohmian mechanics, and generally you want to be reading the work of Shelly Goldstein, Detlef Dürr and Nino Zanghì. But as a pellucidly clear and compact overview, you can't beat Bell. You never can.

    One more point. Of course there is a kind of holism in quantum theory: that is because the "wavefunction" (or rather, the quantum state, the thing the wavefunction represents) is a non-local holistic kind of thing. It (not the "quantum potential) is the "pilot wave" guiding the evolution of the configuration of the particles. So eliminating talk of the quantum potential is not at all the same as eliminating the holism or the dependence of the behavior of one particle on the other particles in the environment. The dependence appears whenever the wavefunction is an entangled state of the system and its environment rather than a product state.

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  149. Unknown,

    "I understand that Bell's theorem is practically irrefutable. Bell DID suggest one "way around" and it is that initial conditions of the universe determined where the location of an entangled particle would be when its "mate" is measured. Dr. H. cites this "determinism" as the basis for her belief there is no free will. My point -- several hundred comments ago! -- was that if this determinism is how the universe works then, for example, evolutionary theory -- based on random events -- must be false because random events in a predetermined universe are, by definition, impossible."

    I know this is opening up yet another can of worms, but there are several misconceptions in this paragraph. Let me just point them out.

    Bell made an unfortunate choice of terminology that has misled some incautious readers who did not pay attention to what he was saying. "Superdeterminism" is not a term describing a theory in which there are strict deterministic physical laws governing the entire universe (including humans). The term for that is just plain old vanilla "determinism". Classical mechanics and Bohmian mechanics and the General Theory of Relativity are all completely deterministic theories—they have no stochasticity in their dynamics and every event can be explained in terms of predetermining causes—but none of the them are "superdeterminstic" theories in the sense of Bell. One cannot get around Bell's conclusion that there is real physical non-locality merely by invoking determinism. Bohmian mechanics is deterministic but not at all "superdeterministic", and it is manifestly non-local.

    "Superdeterminism" refers to a theory that tries to deny Bell's assumption of statistical independence. That is the assumption that if we do experiments over and over using the same preparation operations for the particles being experimented on but varying the experimental arrangements, the sub-ensembles of particles subject to each particular experimental arrangement will be statistically the same as each other. This is the same assumption that underlies all scientific methodology. For example, when we do double-blind random trials of drugs, we use what Bell would call a "physical randomizer" to sort our population of subjects into an experimental group and a control group. The randomizer can be whatever you like: flip a coin, use the parity of the digits of pi, etc. etc. The physical randomizer can itself be a completely deterministic system, such as a pseudo-random number generator calculating the parity of the digits of pi. All that is important is that at the end the experimental group and the control group are statistically similar to each other in all respects, known and unknown. As many people who have, for example, a particular genetic pre-disposition to get cancer end up in each group. If this is the case, then a statistically significant difference between outcomes in the two groups provides the gold-standard evidence for the causal effectiveness of the treatment.

    What the superdeterminist needs to deny is this. It is like a shill for the tobacco industry first saying that smoking does not cause cancer, rather there is a common cause that both predisposes one to want to smoke and also predisposes one to get cancer (this is already pretty desperate), but then when confronted with randomized experiments on mice, where the mice did not choose whether or not to smoke, going on to say that the coin flips (or whatever) somehow always put the mice already disposed to get lung cancer into the experimental group and those not disposed into the control. This is completely and totally unscientific, and it is an embarrassment that any scientists would take such a claim seriously. Bell didn't. Read his paper "free variables and local causality" in Speakable and Unspeakable.

    None of this has a thing to do with "free will", which is a complete red herring and has done nothing but muddy the waters.

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  150. Lawrence Crowell,

    " I am also not that imbibed with the Bohm Koolaid to know a lot in detail. However, I have read nontechnical articles that there are problems with these ideas. Also unless I have been under a rock for a long time I have not heard there is some agreed consensus on a solution to the measurement problem."

    Here is a tip: if you want to have a civil conversation, do not compare a serious and important scientific theory to a cult group that committed mass suicide. Especially when, by your own admission, you do not know what you are talking about.

    You claimed that Bohmian mechanics does not solve the measurement problem, and I have asked repeatedly why it does not. You have yet to give even a vague hint of a reason. The theory solves the problem without remainder. It might not the the right solution, but that is an entirely different matter.

    And the question of a consensus has zero bearing on this question. The fact that you repeatedly bring that up is a sign of desperation. If you don't understand the theory because you have not studied it, then either take the time to learn something about it or refrain from commenting on it at all.

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  151. Steven Mason,

    "I'd be shocked if anyone thought that described Sabine's objections to panpsychism."

    Since Sabine acknowledges that it does, I think that proves you have not been following the discussion.

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  152. @AM Castaldo
    You agree that "a physical description of the brain, down to the atoms, does not duplicate the "experience"".

    Then you probably agree that physics doesn't *explain* that such or such physical state is "felt" in such or such way (that a furtive experience of red is like it is for the person experiencing it), and that adding more and more physical equations will not help. That perhaps something like an *interpretative move* is required.

    And perhaps, you can conceive an imaginary world where the physics is exactly the same but red is experienced as yellow is in *our* world and vice versa. You can say: this world is imaginary, it's science fiction. Yes it is. But the point is: it is conceivable because physical descriptions are not conceptually tied to "what-it's-like-ness". And it's as much conceivable, for that matter, that this "what-its-likeness" is completely absent in another imaginary, science fiction world with exactly the same physics.

    If you accept this science fiction stuff you mainly agree with Chalmers.

    Now you say that the physical state just is the experience. It might be so in *our* world. But this looks like a further postulate beyond what physics tells us , a kind of interpretative move, and one that's not very different from panpsychism to me (recall Philip Goff saying that spin just is a kind of experience).
    Since these various interpretative moves make no difference whatsoever for predictions, we can discuss the other virtues they have. This is what metaphysicians do.

    @Sabine

    That's one thing to assume that a whole academic community can be misguided and try to solve non-problems for a very long time (here a few centuries).
    I would say it's very unlikely but ok it's not impossible...

    That's another thing to assume, as a complete outsider, that community X is misguided on subject Y and that you have figured it out quite easily. In this case I would say it's very *very* likely that you're wrong.

    This has to do with a bias demonstrated by psychologists, that we tend to underestimate what it takes to master a subject we don't know: the less people know about a subject, the more confident they tend to be in their capacities. This phenomenon is found in "crackpot physicists" who think they proved Einstein wrong even though they barely understand special relativity and never took up a physics course.
    I think we, academic, are not completely immune to this bias and that we should be cautious when judging other disciplines. I think the right attitude to have is to grant a priori validity to the consensus on disciplines we don't know well, rather than lecture people their own field.

    So my point was not "the hard problem is accepted as such by most philosophers of mind so it must be a real problem".
    My point was rather "your (and other's in these comments) blunt dismissal of it, as an outsider, is unconvincing, and it's not a fruitful attitude to have, maybe you should question it".
    I think it's a valid point to make at a point in the discussion when more pedagogical attempts were not received with much cooperation from the other camp... But you all are free to stay in your comfort zone of course.

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  153. Sabine,

    "Because bricks do not have the structural capacity to perform predictive calculations."

    I know for sure that I can feel pain. I am curious about whether a lobster feels pain. What in the world could "performing predictive calculations" have to do with that question? One might be motivated by a pain to try to make some predictive calculation (how do I get this pain to stop?) but it might be clear that there is nothing you can do to get it to stop, or you might be so overwhelmed by the pain that you can't make predictive calculations about anything, etc.

    You simply repeat that you see nothing in the way of treating the problem of consciousness like every other scientific question (e.g. why water is liquid at room temperature?). Many of us have repeated in different ways and from different angles why this is not like other questions due to the first-person character of conscious experience. In addition, the hand-wavy gestures you make about "looking for patterns" or now "making predictive calculations" are manifestly inadequate.

    It is one question whether panpsychism solves the mind-body problem (I do not think it does). It is quite another whether there is a mind-body problem (there certainly is).Sometimes you write as if you acknowledge that there is a problem and that it is even insoluble, but then make the peculiar and self-contradictory claim that insoluble problems aren't problems at all.

    If you don't want to worry about the mind-body problem, fine. But if you think that regular methods of scientific procedure are adequate to a address it, then you still don't understand what it is.

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  154. Quentin,

    "This has to do with a bias demonstrated by psychologists, that we tend to underestimate what it takes to master a subject we don't know: the less people know about a subject, the more confident they tend to be in their capacities."

    Like, say, when philosophers talk about psychology?

    Do you realize at all that you are proving my point by trying to make a sociological argument rather than sticking to to subject?

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  155. Tim,

    "You simply repeat that you see nothing in the way of treating the problem of consciousness like every other scientific question (e.g. why water is liquid at room temperature?). Many of us have repeated in different ways and from different angles why this is not like other questions due to the first-person character of conscious experience. In addition, the hand-wavy gestures you make about "looking for patterns" or now "making predictive calculations" are manifestly inadequate."

    I have repeated like a dozen times that I certainly do not claim to know a solution to the problem.

    I have also laid out above very clearly by which procedure to identify what I will continue to call patterns in lack of a better word. You record brain activity in response to certain situation and develop a model for what's going on. You do this the same way you always do science. You'll end up having a notion of pain. Please tell me what you think stands in the way of doing this.

    I have also said already a dozen times that you will never be able to check whether someone else feels the same as you do simply because that someone else is someone else. It's an unanswerable question and I do not see the point in trying to answer it.

    In summary, the issue has an answerable part which science can answer, and an unanswerable part which no one will answer. What do you think is the problem?

    "One might be motivated by a pain to try to make some predictive calculation (how do I get this pain to stop?) but it might be clear that there is nothing you can do to get it to stop, or you might be so overwhelmed by the pain that you can't make predictive calculations about anything, etc."

    I suspect that you did not indeed want an answer to it, but just in case you are indeed interested. A system needs a predictive model to be able to tell what situations to avoid. Evolution benefits those systems for which the predictor works well. Pain is a predictor of trouble to come, it works by getting you (or the lobster) to try and avoid pain. Whether you succeed in avoiding pain isn't of immediate relevance, it's relevant only on evolutionary time-scales (those with bad predictors don't survive). I didn't say those calculations are necessary conscious. Everything that's basic needs of survival tends to be non-conscious.

    Now, look, I want to repeat once again that I am not claiming this is correct. How would I even know. I am merely saying, consider for a moment it was correct. You can very well go and build a model for this and test the model against measurement. Nothing mysterious going on here. Best,

    B.

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  156. @Quentin says You agree that "a physical description of the brain, down to the atoms, does not duplicate the "experience"".
    Then you probably agree that physics doesn't *explain* that such or such physical state is "felt" in such or such way


    WRONG. As an example, I have never been sky-diving. I can read all I want about sky-diving, in principle with enough data and a flawless theory of physics I might compute exactly how a successful sky-diving might affect my brain, create new neural relationships, cause feelings of exhilaration or terror, change my memory and so on.

    But an intellectual prediction of what would happen is not the same as it happening to me. No matter what I know, my neurons did not fire, my memory was not changed, the chemical releases and neural firings of my emotions were not accomplished. Those things cannot be accomplished without all the sensory inputs of actually sky-diving.

    The difference is not mystical, the difference is in the physical interaction of my sensory systems, nerves firing, neurons signaling and synapses being strengthened and memories encoded. All of that is just relatively straightforward electro-chemistry we have studied extensively.

    My feelings are physical. So NO I do not agree that physics does not explain feelings, the feelings are electro-chemical.

    Further, I think trying to distinguish at the particle level between what something "is" and what it "does" is a false dichotomy. The only reason we make a distinction on the macro level is to gain understanding of an object; what a hammer is an what it does can be different, and what it is made of might have predictive value for what else it can do, how durable it is, and so on. Knowing what it is composed of can improve our predictive models.

    But that is not the case at the particle level. As Einstein informed us, ultimately what it "is" is energy, and all that matters at this level is what it does, because that is a complete predictive model.

    So what is "energy"? maybe Sabine can answer that one!

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  157. Tim, thanks for the clarification. A number of Bell's essays in Speakable were written in the 70s so I wasn't sure which one(s) you were referring to. Also good to know that Bohm's 1992 book The Undivided Universe gives a nod to Bell's version of BQM. I'll study this a bit more and be in touch. As for Bohm being a panpsychist (regardless of whether you agree with that aspect of his work or not), consider: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/09515089008573004. Bohm is explicit in his books that Whitehead was a strong influence, and Whitehead was of course perhaps the most prominent 20th C. panpsychist. For Whitehead all actual entities are "drops of experience" that oscillate between mental and physical poles.

    Here's a good quote from Bohm's 1990 paper clarifying that he views all "particles" having some kind of experience but he shies from using the term consciousness for such experience. This distinction is, to me, needless and it makes more sense to say that experience is consciousness and it's just a spectrum of experience from simpler forms to more complex forms as matter evolves in complexity and vice versa:

    "... the quantum theory, which is now basic, implies that the particles
    of physics have certain primitive mind-like qualities which are not possible in terms
    of Newtonian concepts (though, of course, they do not have consciousness). This
    means that on the basis of modern physics even inanimate matter cannot be fully
    understood in terms of Descartes's notion that it is nothing but a substance
    occupying space and constituted of separate objects. Vice versa, it will be argued
    that mind can be seen to have always a physical aspect, though this may be very
    subtle. Thus, we are led to the possibility of a real relationship between the two,
    because they never have the absolute distinction of basic qualities, that was assumed
    by Descartes and by others, such as the emergent materialists."

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  158. Bee, I'm not sure where you're taking your definitions from regarding terms like cosmopsychism or panpsychism (there are no consensus definitions on these after all), but it's pretty clear to me from the passages I've sent you and the paper I just sent to Tim M. that Bohm was indeed a panpsychist in the Whiteheadian mold (he cites Whitehead fairly regularly in his books).

    Whitehead could be viewed as a panpsychist and a cosmopsychist b/c he speculates about an ontological role for "God" as an actual entity, with both a primordial nature (at the base of the ontological chain) and a consequent nature (at the top of the ontological chain). My book, Mind, World, God, explores some of these ideas.

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  159. Tam,

    Well, I consider it rather pointless to debate about terminology. Regardless of what you want to call it, let me just say I don't have a problem with Bohm's philosophy because it's not subject to the issue I raised in my blogpost. I wouldn't call it panpsychism because he is pretty clear in pointing out that he thinks single particles derive meaning only by how they take part in the whole. Hence assigning consciousness to a single particle doesn't even make any sense. (This is not to say that I find much use in this idea.)

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  160. Bee, Bohm, Whitehead, etc., do assign experience/consciousness to single particles but those "particles" are part of a whole, so it's a different notion of particle that is key to the distinctions you and I are discussing. The electron participates, as Bohm makes quite clear, in choices, but is also part of a whole. So all things enjoy small self/big self identity as in Vedanta thought more generally. They are both wave and ocean, just as you and I are both wave and ocean in terms of our identity as humans but also integrally interconnected to the universe around us. Either way, happy to hear that you resonate at least a little with Bohm's notions regardless of whether you agree that his thought should be called panpsychist or not.

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  161. "So what is "energy"? maybe Sabine can answer that one!"
    11:20 AM, January 10, 2019
    Extract from a post by Dr A M Castaldo.

    In an earlier post I asked can a photon think. It is not a question I expect to be answered any more than the same question about an electron. But I would guess that a photon has less chance of thinking than an electron because time passage is not experienced by a photon. And how can one think without time passing? But both possibilities are more remote than me winning the Euromillions lottery top prize every week for one year. Especially as I never buy a lottery ticket.

    Since electrons and photons can, in the Standard Model, be annihilated into and created out of energy, another question is 'can energy think?'
    Which is made all the more difficult as energy levels are not intrinsic but are in relation to an outside reference point or observer.

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  162. Bee, as for my panpsychist approach explaining consciousness beyond pure physical mechanisms, there are three key steps: 1) accept that all matter is associated with some degree of experience/consciousness/mind/subjectivity (all terms for the same thing); 2) accept that all things resonate at various frequencies; 3) explore the notion that it is a shared resonance that allows the microexperience in particles, atoms, etc., to combine into more complex consciousness.

    This is different than a focus just on physical mechanism because of steps 1 and 3, which are omitted in any purely physicalist account.

    We spell this approach out in our new paper, with the following abstract:

    Synchronization, harmonization, vibrations, or simply resonance in its most general sense seems to have an integral relationship with consciousness itself. One of the possible “neural correlates of consciousness” in mammalian brains is a combination of gamma, beta and theta synchrony. More broadly, we see similar kinds of resonance patterns in living and non-living structures of many types. What clues can resonance provide about the nature of consciousness more generally? This paper provides an overview of resonating structures in the fields of neuroscience, biology and physics and attempts to coalesce these data into a solution to what we see as the “easy part” of the Hard Problem, which is generally known as the “combination problem” or the “binding problem.” The combination problem asks: how do micro-conscious entities combine into a higher-level macro-consciousness? The proposed solution in the context of mammalian consciousness suggests that a shared resonance is what allows different parts of the brain to achieve a phase transition in the speed and bandwidth of information flows between the constituent parts. This phase transition allows for richer varieties of consciousness to arise, with the character and content of that consciousness in each moment determined by the particular set of constituent neurons. We also offer more general insights into the ontology of consciousness and suggest that consciousness manifests as a relatively smooth continuum of increasing richness in all physical processes, distinguishing our view from emergentist materialism. We refer to this approach as a (general) resonance theory of consciousness and offer some responses to Chalmers’ questions about the different kinds of “combination problem.”

    https://www.authorea.com/users/61793/articles/346253-the-easy-part-of-the-hard-problem-a-resonance-theory-of-consciousness

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  163. @Sabine
    I'm not telling psychologists what they should think. Not the way you're telling philosophers they're all wrong, with only a vague insight into what they're actually discussing. I had enough with your cheap moves now. Stay with your convictions if you want.

    @AM Castaldo
    I'm not talking about experiencing the thing directly, but about knowing what it's like to experience the thing.
    Now if you're claiming that the only way to know is to experience it by yourself, then again, you're in good company with philosophers arguing that there's a hard problem.

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  164. I see this comment is posted from someone at GtnU ( i went to duke ellington school for arts across the street, but we were not welcome at GU).

    ramanujan is one of the greatest math people---tho treated like trailer trash except by G H Hardy.
    'hardy-ramanujan theorem' 1+2+3+4+ ... = -1/12. try doing that for prime numbers.

    i still think max tegamrck is on track--conscousness is a state of matter. take it or leave it , it dont matter.

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  165. @ Tim Maudlin & Unknown:

    I just noticed Tim utilizing a term that had come to my mind previously when considering how "random" events can occur in a "predetermined" universe.

    The events could be "randomized" at the point of "predetermination".

    For me, however, this becomes harder to swallow than "some big man in the sky set all of this in motion."

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  166. Tim Mauldin said:

    "If you don't want to worry about the mind-body problem, fine. But if you think that regular methods of scientific procedure are adequate to a address it, then you still don't understand what it is."

    What better proof of that than the fact that scientists claim to "know" what was going on 10^-36 seconds after the "Big Bang", but have no idea what is transpiring right now today inside their brains to lead them to seek such knowledge.

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  167. Pascal said:

    "This is reminiscent of the views of John Eccles, another Nobel prizewinner with unorthodox ideas. At least that guy knew a thing or two about the brain: he got his Nobel prize for work on the synapse.
    One problem with this kind of approach, though, is that in QM the results of measurements are random events. It's hard to see how tossing a coin at random is the same thing as making a choice (or "using free will").
    If anyone has an idea how to solve this apparent contradiction, I'd love to hear about it!"

    Well the physicist Henry Stapp has worked out these ideas pretty well. He has two ideas, the first is that consciousness operated by simply varying how frequently it observes a system. If it observes a QM system very frequently, it effectively locks the system into a particular eigenstate. He calls it the quantum Zeno effect. I think this scheme fits entirely within conventional QM.

    Alternatively he does speculate that perhaps a conscious observer can select a given eigenstate among several - effectively breaking the Born probabilistic interpretation of the wave function.

    Can anyone tell me how central to QM the concept of the Born probilistic interpretation of the wave function is? I mean to me the wave equation that defines the evolution of the wave function is central, and thre wave function's interpretation in terms of probabilities of outcome is something of an add-on.


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  168. Pascal wrote: The point is that in the view of John Eccles, free will is not an illusion but a very real thing.

    Okay, but I still don't understand what you think the apparent contradiction is.

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  169. Tim wrote: Since Sabine acknowledges that it does, I think that proves you have not been following the discussion.

    Even Sabine makes mistakes. In any case, I asked Sabine about it. :-)

    Since you're an expert on what Sabine means, what did she mean when she said, "if we could at least agree that calling an elementary particle 'conscious' is either wrong or meaningless, that would be progress."

    To me, it suggests there's been little or no progress in your long discussion. It also implies at least one of you doesn't understand the other, if we assume one of you is right and one is wrong. Even if both of you could be right or wrong, then the two of you should be able to agree as long as you understand each other. So how can you understand and not understand Sabine's argument at the same time? Quantum superposition?

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  170. Sabine wrote (to Tim): I have repeated like a dozen times . . . I have also said already a dozen times . . . what do you think is the problem? . . . I suspect that you did not indeed want an answer to it

    Yep, it sure looks like you understand Sabine's argument. I apologize for my earlier statement. :-)

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  171. Steven,

    As I mention in my book, in a discipline where people are getting paid for discussion, they have no incentive to actually solve problems. I was referring to physicists discussing black hole information loss. I was very proud of my great insight, until I noticed that John Horgan said basically the same thing 20 years earlier, in his case referring to philosophers. I think he's right.

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  172. Sabine,

    "As I mention in my book, in a discipline where people are getting paid for discussion, they have no incentive to actually solve problems."

    Well, you have really reached a low point of slanderous rhetoric.

    No one goes into philosophy for the money. It is one of the most uncertain and perilous professions around, and physics is little better. The only reason anyone pursues the field is for the pure intellectual love of it, and the motivation is to find out the truth—or al least the best-justified view one can attain—on matters of intellectual interest. Which means that the entire psychological motivation is to solve problems.

    You owe an apology to everyone who has ignored their financial prospects to go into philosophy, and into physics as a purely theoretical pursuit for that matter. But I have little expectation you will provide one.

    ReplyDelete
  173. Tam,

    I am not sure what you are asking for now. You want me to debunk your personal theory of panpsychism? Good then, let me give it a try. You write:

    "1) accept that all matter is associated with some degree of experience/consciousness/mind/subjectivity (all terms for the same thing); 2) accept that all things resonate at various frequencies; 3) explore the notion that it is a shared resonance that allows the microexperience in particles, atoms, etc., to combine into more complex consciousness. "

    For all I can see your idea can be summed up with "a lot of things oscillate." That's certainly true. It's also not a theory. Please write down a model for what oscillates. Concretely, what do you mean with "matter" (is a nucleus "matter", are atoms? Or do you only mean only, say, fluids?). Next, what do you mean by "things" (is an electron a thing?). What's the degree of freedom that resonates and what does it resonate with?

    Regardless of what you do, that model will either be identical to the standard model (up to some precision) or not. Take a pick. If the former case, you have not explained anything. In the latter case it's wrong.

    Let me add that we know how resonance work. You cannot just go and proclaim something is resonating, you have to actually calculate that it does so. Nuclei, eg, can resonate. Alas, they resonate at frequencies orders of magnitude above those at which macroscopic objects can resonate. As I explain in my book, what goes on at microscopic scales decouples, so it doesn't help you explain consciousness. And let me emphasize once again that that's an experimental fact, not simply an assumption we make for convenience. The world is structured this way. We don't know why, but it is.

    Hope this helps,

    B.

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  174. Tim,

    "The only reason anyone pursues the field is for the pure intellectual love of it, and the motivation is to find out the truth—or al least the best-justified view one can attain—on matters of intellectual interest. Which means that the entire psychological motivation is to solve problems."

    Yes, I forgot to add. They have no incentives to solve problems, and then they deny that the incentive system is broken.

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  175. @ Steven Mason 3:03 PM, January 09, 2019:

    For independent reasons, I have extremely low credence in the existence of a Berkeleyan God: significantly lower than my credence that some form of panpsychism is true. Anyway, since the Berkeleyan hypothesis entails that some form of panpsychism is true, but not vice versa, it seems reasonable to have less confidence in the Berkeleyan hypothesis than in the claim that some form of panpsychism is true.

    ReplyDelete
  176. Sabine said:

    "Yes, I forgot to add. They have no incentives to solve problems, and then they deny that the incentive system is broken. "

    I think at its best, philosophy can present a valuable overview of a subject, while those actually in that subject get bogged down in the details.

    I think David Chalmers' Hard Problem is an example of such a contribution. Let me try an analogy. You can build a lot of things from little plastic LEGO bricks. However, if someone claimed to create a working radio from LEGO, it is obvious that that can't work - LEGO bricks don't manipulate electric currents.

    Thus the claim that all the intricate chemical and physical interactions in the brain can give rise to consciousness (at least the experiential part of consciousness) is equally suspect - because there has to be some overlap between the thing you are trying to explain and the properties of the matter you are proposing performs the task. I think that is why prominent scientists like Christof Koch feel driven - with extreme reluctance - to assume some proto-consciousness in electrons and presumably protons and neutrons. By analogy, if you could show that LEGO bricks could somehow be coaxed into forming circuits, then conceivably someone could use them to make a working radio.

    Panpsychism seems to him the least disruptive way to incorporate consciousness into science - even though it doesn't seem to work when viewed quantum mechanically. Another, far more disruptive, solution is to view consciousness as fundamental, and matter as being actually a mental phenomenon. This is called Idealism (nothing to do with its normal meaning)

    http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Idealism

    I think it is easy to shoot down panpsychism, but far, far harder to shoot down David Chalmers' argument.

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  177. David,

    Yes, good, let us look at your analogy. If you want to make such an argument, you need to perform the following two steps.

    First, please demonstrate that the system for which you want to build a model indeed contains electric currents and please document exactly what you mean by electric currents.

    Second, please prove that those electric currents cannot be created by the usual methods, in your case the Legos.

    (Seeing how the discussion has been going so far, let me add that in the second step, you are not allowed to assume what you are supposed to prove.)

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  178. To all those who insist that it is obvious that there is a "hard problem of consciousness", I'd like to point out that 200 years ago, it was equally obvious to many people that there is a "hard problem of life" and that for matter to become alive, there needs to be some added thing like a life force (later called "elan vital"). Back then, it seemed inconceivable to many that mere matter (moving atoms) could become alive.

    Similarly (and relatedly) preformationists believed that nothing new could be created during the development of organisms so that each ovum or sperm would contain a full model of a human, because back then it was inconceviable how epigenesis (in the meaning used back then) could create something more complex out of something simpler.

    Which is to say: The fact that some problem seems obviously to be there to experts in the field does not prove that it actually is there.

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  179. @David Bailey, you asked:
    ''Can anyone tell me how central to QM the concept of the Born probilistic interpretation of the wave function is? I mean to me the wave equation that defines the evolution of the wave function is central, and thre wave function's interpretation in terms of probabilities of outcome is something of an add-on.''

    It is pretty central indeed. Take a look e.g. on this new paper:
    https://www.arxiv-vanity.com/papers/1811.11060/

    It is a rather technical paper, but for the overall comprehension you can omit everything strictly technical and read only introduction and conclusion.

    Some small (hopefully helpfull) comments about this paper are here:
    https://scirate.com/arxiv/1811.11060

    It seems we have not much choice but to stay with the Born rule...

    Of course, since the beginning of QM there have been a lot of discussions about how to interpret these probabilities (whether in epistemic or ontic way etc.).
    Physics can give us some formal constraints on the allowed interpretations (,,no-go'' theorems), but importance of such constraints unavoidably inherits from the semantic of the formal reasoning.

    Best regards,
    Wojciech

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  180. @ben6993 says (joking, I think) "... another question is 'can energy think?'"

    I'm not a physicist, I am not clear on how (or if) particle physicists have any model of how energy gets packaged (my word) into a particle. Unless you count the SM. But I am made of particles=energy, so in sufficient quantities and properly packaged and arranged, I think energy can think!

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  181. Quentin,

    Yes, that's right. I'm merely a dumb physicist who has a single point to make: It's really hard to improve on the standard model of particle physics. Must be inconvenient for philosophers.

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  182. Dear Tim,

    I am glad to hear from you again, but dissapointed by the fact that you insist with the „medical test argument” against superdeterminism after I have so thoroughly refuted it.

    Tim:

    "Superdeterminism" refers to a theory that tries to deny Bell's assumption of statistical independence. That is the assumption that if we do experiments over and over using the same preparation operations for the particles being experimented on but varying the experimental arrangements, the sub-ensembles of particles subject to each particular experimental arrangement will be statistically the same as each other. This is the same assumption that underlies all scientific methodology.

    OK, let’s see how your preferred interpretation, Bohm’s theory, is so much better in regards to this very argument. I will try to keep your argument unchanged as much as possible

    Andrei:

    "Non-locality" refers to a theory that tries to deny Bell's assumption of locality. That is the assumption that if we do experiments at one place, no effect will instantly appear at some other distant place. This is the same assumption that underlies all scientific methodology.

    Tim:

    „For example, when we do double-blind random trials of drugs, we use what Bell would call a "physical randomizer" to sort our population of subjects into an experimental group and a control group. The randomizer can be whatever you like: flip a coin, use the parity of the digits of pi, etc. etc. The physical randomizer can itself be a completely deterministic system, such as a pseudo-random number generator calculating the parity of the digits of pi. All that is important is that at the end the experimental group and the control group are statistically similar to each other in all respects, known and unknown. As many people who have, for example, a particular genetic pre-disposition to get cancer end up in each group. If this is the case, then a statistically significant difference between outcomes in the two groups provides the gold-standard evidence for the causal effectiveness of the treatment.”

    Andrei:

    For example, when we do double-blind random trials of drugs, we use the assumption that if you inject a subject with a substance, no other subject will instantly experience an effect of that substance and the subject will not experience effects of different experiments originating at some arbitrarily large distance from the lab.

    To be continued

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  183. Cont:

    Tim:

    „What the superdeterminist needs to deny is this. It is like a shill for the tobacco industry first saying that smoking does not cause cancer, rather there is a common cause that both predisposes one to want to smoke and also predisposes one to get cancer (this is already pretty desperate), but then when confronted with randomized experiments on mice, where the mice did not choose whether or not to smoke, going on to say that the coin flips (or whatever) somehow always put the mice already disposed to get lung cancer into the experimental group and those not disposed into the control. This is completely and totally unscientific, and it is an embarrassment that any scientists would take such a claim seriously.”

    Andrei:

    What the bohmian needs to deny is this. It is like a shill for the tobacco industry first saying that smoking does not cause cancer, rather there is the action of selecting the subject that determines one to get cancer (this is already pretty desperate), but then when confronted with randomized experiments on mice, where the mice did not choose whether or not to smoke, going on to say that when a subject is chosen, this instantly produces cancer in that subject. This is completely and totally unscientific, and it is an embarrassment that any scientists would take such a claim seriously.

    I hope you get the idea. Assuming superdeterminism in regards to medical tests is no more ridiculous than assuming non-local causes taking place in medical tests. So your argument proves nothing.

    A simple disproof of your argument is to observe that while each interpretation is peculiar in some way, no such peculiarities are expected to survive at macroscopic, classical level. So, regardless of one’s interpretation of QM, the expectancy in regards to the results of a double-blind test is the same. So, as long as you accept that QM can account for the results of such a medical test, both a non-local interpretation of QM and a superdeterministic interpretation of QM will expect the same results.

    The failure of your argument orriginates at the point that you assume that the superdeterministic correlations between say, a particle’s spin and the orientation of the detector must necessarily imply that there also exist correlations between a DNA of a mouse (it’s predisposition to cancer) and the act of selecting it for the study. Such assumption is completely unjustified. At most you could say that superdeterminism implies correlations between the spins of electrons and quarks inside the mouse and the particle configuration of the lab, but there is no simple way to get from here to a correlation between their DNA and the selection procedure. Good luck with proving that!

    Regards,

    Andrei

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  184. Andrei,

    As much as I admire your persistence, I lack both the time and patience to suffer through another round of superdeterminism. I will therefore not approve further comments on the topic, including replies to your above comments. I hope that you understand and maybe find another platform.

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  185. MartiinB,

    This entire thread is filled with actual arguments for why the Hard Problem is unlike the problem of life or of the evolution of complex organisms from simpler organisms. Even at the time of Democritus it was clear that the atomic theory could *in principle* handle those sorts of issues, because the atomic theory (like every physical theory) is ultimately a theory of matter in motion, and the capacities that define life and evolution (nutrition, reproduction with or without variation, locomotion, etc.) are ultimately defined in terms of the motion of matter. Maybe the particular laws of physics proposed by Democritus would not be up to the task, but that was not the question. The general conceptual resources of the atomic theory (which can be given a precise articulation in an infinite number of ways) were clearly adequate. Empedocles already sketched out a theory of evolution by random variation and selection.

    But it was equally obvious that the theory of matter in motion, per se, dd not have the resources to bridge the gap between the third-person and the first-person. Many of us have been articulating these arguments over and over, and the only response to far is "Well, I can't even give a toy model of how to get from physical concepts to experience, but it will ignore all these arguments (or—willfully or not—misunderstand them) and naively maintains there there is no problem".

    You proposed analogy to vitalism is such an attempt to simply ignore all of the detailed arguments that have been given. Either engage with the arguments or frankly acknowledge that you can't.

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  186. Sabine,

    Your "theory" of the motivation of academics would predict that the institution of tenure is antithetical to making progress in any field, because once you get tenure you have no financial incentive to do anything at all. Such a thesis is empirically refuted at a glance. Your crank sociology-cum-psychology is an embarrassment to anyone who pretends to scientific thinking, and is clearly some sort of weird motivated thinking completely detached from reality.

    Stick to physics. You are really bad at philosophy and even worse at sociology and psychology.

    ReplyDelete
  187. @Quentin says ...but about knowing what it's like to experience the thing.

    What it's "like" requires analogies, metaphors, comparisons, and other ways of accessing the existing models of experience encoded in your neurons. Thus studying how somebody else's neurons are arranged, even if we understood how their neural models work, is insufficient: You have to know everything about how your neural models are arranged and work, too, in order to find the closest matches to the subjects.

    @Quentin says: Now if you're claiming that the only way to know is to experience it by yourself,

    See, here you conflate two things. Sensory knowledge is not intellectual knowledge, and why anybody would think those are the same is beyond my comprehension; they are two different domains. Intellectual knowledge of a neuron firing does not fire that neuron!

    The only way to acquire sensory knowledge is by activating the neural receptors of those sensations (usually by stimulating the appropriate nerves, but also by manipulating the neurons directly via magnetic, electrical or physical disturbance), so they cause a chain reaction in the network of the brain (or prevent one, I suppose; when transcranial magnetic pulses temporarily disable some neurons).

    And since brains are unique and only similar, when undergoing an experience your wiring is slightly different than anybody else's, so your experience may be unique and only very similar to others. So you can't even be sure you "know what it's like" by experiencing exactly the same external stimulation as somebody else. Some of the models that fire when I see red were trained by and linked to my personal memories of red, blood, cars, Christmases, etc, that nobody else on Earth shares.

    And you definitely cannot translate intellectual knowledge into experiential knowledge. But this leads to no paradox, there is no hard problem. It is all just electricity and chemicals and neurochemicals. Sensations, thoughts, knowledge, memory consciousness and "what it's like" are all completely encoded in how matter is arranged in the brain. There is no evidence to the contrary, only assertions that somehow, consciousness must be different because it feels different.

    But the brain creates that illusion, just like my unshakable illusion that what I see is "out there" and does not feel like neurons interpreting photon frequencies and constructing a useful internal neural model of my environment with a high degree of correlation to my environment.

    Once a person accepts this scientifically supported view then "the hard problem" vanishes; the notion that consciousness is more than brain operations is, like what I see being "out there", just an illusion.

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  188. @Sabine Hossenfelder

    ,,It's really hard to improve on the standard model of particle physics. Must be inconvenient for philosophers.''

    No, I suppose it is not inconvenient, at least not for most (?) of them - they treat standard model of particle physics (and the whole quantum theory and general relativity and standard cosmology etc.) just as a ,,dumb'' tool for predictions of observations (qualitative and quantitative-measurement outcomes).

    Healthy position :)

    We know that these tools are very versatile and precise, so perhaps the math behind them may guide us towards deeper understanding of reality.

    Nonetheless, for me (and I guess for most philosophers), the present form of our scientific tools is hardly a funnel for more general inquiries
    i.e. it is not a very stiff constraint, at least it seems not to be so, having realized the scale of our ignorance

    - the point is, whether we are bold enough to admit that ignorance (and admire that as it makes us out of the funnel).

    Best regards,
    Wojciech

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  189. Sabine, I understand, sorry for going OT.

    I know no place to continue the superdeterminism discussion, but I will always be willing to defend my position. If Tim wants to reply in some other place I will not run.

    Now, let me contribute something to this thread about consciousness.

    I have two main points to address:

    1. The evolutionary advantage of conscious experience - I think that it is not an epi-phenomenon, but an absolute requirement for the evolution of intelligent beings.

    2. The hypothesis of panpsychism - I see it as being nonsense.

    Point 1.

    I think intelligence represents a clear advantage from an evolutionary viewpoint. You can have a very adaptable organism, capable of surviving in difficult situations. This advantage comes with a drawback. It is difficult to pre-program an intelligent organism to do something because it might disregard those hard-codded commands. How could you write a code in the DNA so that the organism avoids a danger? And why should the organism follow that command? The answer seems to be conscious experience (pain, fear are good "arguments" to make an organism obey the commands).

    Point 2.

    I would bring in here Searle's analogy between the brain producing consciousness and the heart pumping blood. It seems to me an absurd hypothesis to say that because a heart can pump blood and the heart is made out of electrons and quarks it means that electrons and quarks should be able to pump blood. It's not a knock-down argument but it shows how poorly the pan-something hypothesis does for situatiations that are fully understood (such as the functioning of a heart).

    Andrei

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  190. Tim,

    "Your "theory" of the motivation of academics would predict that the institution of tenure is antithetical to making progress in any field, because once you get tenure you have no financial incentive to do anything at all."

    I did not speak of financial incentives (neither did, for that matter, Horgan).

    "Such a thesis is empirically refuted at a glance. Your crank sociology-cum-psychology is an embarrassment to anyone who pretends to scientific thinking, and is clearly some sort of weird motivated thinking completely detached from reality."

    Ah, the always well-informed philosopher has spoken. Well, I suggest you read this and this. Or, if you prefer something with higher historical value this.

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  191. Sabine,

    I already directly quoted you:

    "As I mention in my book, in a discipline where people are getting paid for discussion, they have no incentive to actually solve problems."

    Now you claim:

    "I did not speak of financial incentives".

    Perhaps you should reflect on the meaning of the words "are getting paid for", and enlighten us about how that does not mention financial incentives. Or maybe you should stop digging yourself a deeper hole.

    ReplyDelete
  192. @Tim
    " Even at the time of Democritus it was clear"
    No, it was not - if this would have been so clear, why would people have argued these questions. It is only clear in hindsight.


    ""Well, I can't even give a toy model of how to get from physical concepts to experience,"
    The same argument was used 200 years ago against the idea that life could be physical, since back then noone had any idea how something non-living could ever become alive. There was no model of lifes origin etc.

    "Either engage with the arguments"
    I wish I could - but I have not seen any except for something along the lines of "It is obvious that a first-person experience is something special.." To me, that is totally not obvious.

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  193. Tim,

    The obvious thing to say is that you could answer your own question by reading my book. I stress there, very explicitly, that the academic system works differently from a market economy. Alternatively, you could read the references I listed above.

    It matters that people do get paid otherwise they will leave the field. It does not follow from this that people with tenure have no incentive to do anything. That's a faulty conclusion of yours.

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  194. I am the villain who wondered how random events could occur in a deterministic universe. Determinism is part of several schools of physics -- that all things can be traced "backward" in time through a series of causal relationships. This question bears on freewill, evolution, john Bell and many current philosophies. If Dr. H will permit (notice I do not use the word "superdeterminism!") I will ask whether, if all events are strictly "causal," c. 14 billion years ago, prior to our own galaxy being formed, the "universe" in its famous first three minutes "decided" that in our own time railroad lines and railroad stations would always be adjacent to each other?

    If the answer is "No" then the universe must allow for spontaneity, randomness and -- who knows -- levels of awareness that can influence ongoing events regardless of initial conditions.

    ReplyDelete
  195. Dr. A.M. Castaldo wrote...
    @ben6993 says (joking, I think) "... another question is 'can energy think?'" and ".... I am made of particles=energy, so in sufficient quantities and properly packaged and arranged, I think energy can think!"

    ----

    I was being humourous about the lottery tickets. Considering whether or not Standard Model particles can think seems as unrewarding as considering how many angels can stand on a pin head.

    It seems impossible that a photon, which travels at speed c, can think, as a photon does not experience time. But a photon can achieve things in its zero lifetime e.g. it can travel from point A to point B, as it does travel through spacetime, through a non-zero amount of space. But surely it must do this without thinking.

    It also seems impossible that a standard model electron can think as it is an indivisible entity. But a non-standard model could allow an electron to have structure. I know that little or nothing has yet been found beyond the standard model. But at the end of the 1800s all physics was known, or so it was thought.

    Electrons may be thought to be matter, while the photon is kind of insubstantial, and the quantum maths for fermions and bosons are different. But both are made of energy. Creation and annihilation operators create and destroy energy states or even entire electrons and photons. (I am an amateur so please correct as necessary.) SUSY maths however treats fermions and bosons more as bedfellows than does QM/QFT. There is virement between the particles with operators which annihilate fermions and create bosons etc. (Agreed that SUSY is so far a 'no show'.)

    But returning to electrons and photons being created out of energy. Is it the same type of energy for each particle? Why should one type lead to matter and the other type lead to insubstantialness?

    In a chemical reaction the outputs may be a liquid and a gas, c.f. matter and insubstantialness. But I assume the chemical inputs could both be matter. Likewise, if particles were divisible then their components could possibly all be matter. And they could have a structure or at least have the quality of being made of substance=structure.

    In all such non-standard models that I have seen, there is not enough structure in the electron to suppose it can think. However, assuming someone was looking at our solar system from afar, our planet might look (in blurred focus) not to be able to think. But the invisible dross on the surface of our planet can think. Likewise, though no non-standard model had enough structure to suggest intelligence, who knows what else is lurking within the structure.

    So I guess that a non-standard model electron might be able to provide a home for entities which can think. But with zero evidence. In angels on a pinhead territory.

    And, yes, I also realised that people are made of energy and people can think, but I posted anyway. It seems that the important thing is the number of quanta avaiable to rearrange into a structure. One quantum per particle limits the scope for complexity. But if a non-standard model particle could be sub-divided then it could have multiple quanta within it.

    You could use many low energy photons instead of one high energy photon with the same energy. That might be better in building a structure which can think. But don't ask an individual photon to think, as it doesn't have the time.

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  196. Got it!

    Found the answer to the puzzle and the Achilles Heel of Bee's position:

    If electrons couldn't think, they would not be susceptible to excitement!

    Do I win the prize, or did someone else beat me to it?

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  197. Unknown,

    Saying that the universe makes decisions is as meaningless as saying that it's a quantum computer. I'm not sure I understand your question, but in case you are asking how come that entropy locally can decrease while globally it can increase, it's a process mostly driven by gravity. It has been well explained in many books, including Sean Carroll's "Big Picture" and Jim Baggott's "Origins". Superdeterminism doesn't change anything about this. Best,

    B.

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  198. ben6993 said:

    "But returning to electrons and photons being created out of energy. Is it the same type of energy for each particle? Why should one type lead to matter and the other type lead to insubstantialness?"

    I was just staring into a bonfire outside, and thinking:

    "Why does it have to be all or nothing? What if some basic constituents are building blocks of consciousness while others are not?"

    ben6993 also said:

    " However, assuming someone was looking at our solar system from afar, our planet might look (in blurred focus) not to be able to think. But the invisible dross on the surface of our planet can think. Likewise, though no non-standard model had enough structure to suggest intelligence, who knows what else is lurking within the structure."

    WELL, I have often wondered: What if, when we set off fireworks, the little sparks, which are at first are white-hot then rapidly cool into little "globes", go through a rather short-lived "Goldilocks zone" during which civilizations rise and fall on their surfaces before they even hit the ground. Sounds crazy, but...

    Less crazy-sounding is the thought that OUR "Universe" may be but the result of some really big girl's fireworks! To a conscious being of that scale, 13 billion years would literally be a flash in the pan...

    ReplyDelete

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