Sunday, September 08, 2019

Away Note

I'm attending a conference in Oxford the coming week, so there won't be much happening on this blog. Also, please be warned that comments may be stuck in the moderation queue longer than usual.


  1. Oh you'll be visiting the building I work in! Maybe if I recognise you I'll briefly say hi as a fan of the blog :).

  2. Hopefully we will have somewhen other conscious systems, i.e. software running on e.g. silicon hardware - this will refute the muddling of consciousness with QM, like e.g. in “Orch OR” and microtubules in wetware.
    And yes, of course, consciousness is based on QM, but in the same sense as everything else is based on QM - with the exception of GR.
    Classical complex systems just need feedback and non-linearity. My best bet is that once a threshold of complexity (and coupled subsystems) is exceeded, consciousness will emerge – no miracle, but breathtakingly complex.

    1. Complex but not breathtakingly so. The brain consists out of about 130 coupled subsystems. We will be able to replicate this or rough versions or varieties of it someday.

    2. One important system coupled to the brain is the classical environment.
      Why do I say classical? Well, imagine you want to cross a road. You look left and right, nothing in sight and you can be pretty sure that in the time it takes to cross the road no car will show up.
      We rely on a certain speed limit, causality and cause and effect to survive. This is what brought us here.
      In a pure QM world with QM trucks being simultaneously here and there this does not work.
      But of course, QM is the basis, otherwise we would not see a car. The lens in your eye is a device consisting of myriads of QM particles stabilized by interactions in such a form that the probability of a photon leaving the surface of a car is enhanced to arrive at your retina. After myriads of these QM events, i.e. photons depositing energy, receptors and neurons will be activated, spatially correlated to the projection of the car and a hopefully still conscious brain will finally give the command “Legs, you better wait.”

    3. Correction:
      “After myriads of these QM events ...” -> it only needs about 5 photons ℏω to activate a receptor and maybe 10,000 of those pixels for enough spatial resolution. But then the conduction of the action potential to the brain needs a myriad of molecules to cooperate, i.e. QM events.

    4. To do mathematics and QM and to communicate about it, one needs the classical environment coupled to the brain.

  3. I see that Hameroff and Penrose are there. I'm surprised people are still taking their idea seriously. I don't much else about Hameroff. Penrose, of course, has made many valuable contributions to many fields, but in recent years many of his ideas (not just in the field of consciousness, but also in cosmology) have been met with scepticism (rightly, in my view). He does share with Sabine, though, a mistrust of the academic establishment with regard to trends, fashion, and so on.

    Of course, there is nothing wrong with trends and fashion as long as the underlying idea is worth pursuing, as it was during the Golden Age of Relativity. Sit back, relax, get out the popcorn, dim the lights, and enjoy Penrose and others (alas, at least two now dead) reminiscing about the good old days (bonus points if you recognize me or anyone else in the audience):


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