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buzzlightbeer
2005-Aug-09, 02:24 AM
click me! (http://msnbc.msn.com/id/8873364/) to understand why Roger Penrose, a mathematical physicist at Oxford University, believes that if a "theory of everything" is ever developed in physics to explain all the known phenomena in the universe, it should at least partially account for consciousness.

Nereid
2005-Aug-09, 09:30 PM
Originally posted by buzzlightbeer@Aug 9 2005, 02:24 AM
click me! (http://msnbc.msn.com/id/8873364/) to understand why Roger Penrose, a mathematical physicist at Oxford University, believes that if a "theory of everything" is ever developed in physics to explain all the known phenomena in the universe, it should at least partially account for consciousness.
Well, the 'bad' news is that such narcissism and hubris is not limited to one, very bright individual; the 'good' news is that it will be ~30 years before neuroscience can get around to addressing 'consciousness' in a decent scientific way.

In the absence of anything scientific, how about we simply agree to wait? Or is rampant speculation, untrammelled by 'mere facts' more exciting and enjoyable?

buzzlightbeer
2005-Aug-10, 01:32 AM
thx for the reply. i dont mind waiting also dont mind interesting speculation either. :)

cran
2005-Aug-10, 04:42 AM
it's more fun than watching paint dry... :D

jkmccrann
2005-Dec-13, 04:57 PM
Well, the 'bad' news is that such narcissism and hubris is not limited to one, very bright individual; the 'good' news is that it will be ~30 years before neuroscience can get around to addressing 'consciousness' in a decent scientific way.

In the absence of anything scientific, how about we simply agree to wait? Or is rampant speculation, untrammelled by 'mere facts' more exciting and enjoyable?

Rampant speculation fed by gossip and innuendo tends to be what makes the world go by. How else can you explain how certain magazines ever get bought?

TheBlackCat
2005-Dec-13, 05:15 PM
Penrose also believes that quantum mechanics, the rules governing the physical world at the subatomic level, might play an important role in consciousness.
The brain operates at a chemical level, not a quantum one. There is no evidence that I am aware of where quantum mechanics are important to any aspect of biology or biochemistry except interactions with EM and ionizing radiation. There is absolutely no basis for this belief of Penrose's.


Chalmers is best known for distinguishing between the 'easy' problems of consciousness and the 'hard' problem.

The easy problems are those that deal with functions and behaviors associated with consciousness and include questions such as these: How does perception occur? How does the brain bind different kinds of sensory information together to produce the illusion of a seamless experience?

"Those are what I call the easy problems, not because they're trivial, but because they fall within the standard methods of the cognitive sciences," Chalmers says.

The hard problem for Chalmers is that of subjective experience.

"You have a different kind of experience -- a different quality of experience -- when you see red, when you see green, when you hear middle C, when you taste chocolate," Chalmers told LiveScience. "Whenever you're conscious, whenever you have a subjective experience, it feels like something."
Of course these are different problems. However, we have don't have any chance whatsoever to solve the this so-called "complex" problem until after we have solved the "easy" problem. You have to do things one step at a time. You can't understand how the midbrain processes visual information until you understand how the retina processes visual information. You cannot understand how the primary visual cortex processes visual information until you know how the midbrain processes primary visual information. You cannot understand how higher-level visual cortices process information until you understand how the lower levels process information. You can't tell what calculations a certain region of the brain is doing until you know what its inputs are. Likewise, you cannot understand how people percieve the world until you understand how they combine the various senses into a unified experience. You have to learn to crawl before you can walk.


According to Chalmers, the subjective nature of consciousness prevents it from being explained in terms of simpler components, a method used to great success in other areas of science. He believes that unlike most of the physical world, which can be broken down into individual atoms, or organisms, which can be understood in terms of cells, consciousness is an irreducible aspect of the universe, like space and time and mass.
This is one perspective taken by some, but as was stated later in the article is not a scientific perspective. It is trying to prove a negative. Until we know absolutely everything about the nervous system (if that ever happens) and, if at that point, we still can't explain conciousness then he will be proven right. But I do not see a few scientist's opinion on something nobody knows much of anything about sufficient reason to accept it and follow the logical conclusion: stop trying to explain conciousness at all. Saying something is unexplainable by science and should just be accepted as an axiom ends all scientific research on that subject, and I find it very disheartening that any scientist would make such a statement.

trinitree88
2005-Dec-13, 10:59 PM
click me! (http://msnbc.msn.com/id/8873364/) to understand why Roger Penrose, a mathematical physicist at Oxford University, believes that if a "theory of everything" is ever developed in physics to explain all the known phenomena in the universe, it should at least partially account for consciousness.

Partially. I recall an experiment with planaria...those little flatworms with arrow-shaped heads that regenerate so well. A bunch of them were trained to feed in the lit half of a shallow pool. Others were shocked when they ventured into the lit half. The two batches were then ground up and fed to a third group. Third group members eating shocked-trained bits, exhibited that behavior: third group members eating lit-half feed zone bits, searched that half of the pool for food. All without "training". At least part of behavior is chemically induced.......now if we grind up Einstein's brain, who gets the sweetmeats??:naughty: :shifty: :think: :sad: :boohoo:

Van Rijn
2005-Dec-13, 11:11 PM
The brain operates at a chemical level, not a quantum one. There is no evidence that I am aware of where quantum mechanics are important to any aspect of biology or biochemistry except interactions with EM and ionizing radiation. There is absolutely no basis for this belief of Penrose's.


I absolutely agree.



Of course these are different problems. However, we have don't have any chance whatsoever to solve the this so-called "complex" problem until after we have solved the "easy" problem.


Except it is unclear what are the "easy" problems and what are the "hard" problems.

I look at this from the AI point of view. In the early days ('50s and '60s) programmers were finding that a number of things that were "hard" for people were "easy" for computers (math tricks and so forth). Therefore, they reasoned, things that were easy for us should be even easier for computers (it is amazing to listen to some of their early predictions on old TV shows). So they set out to look for "magic algorithms" for vision, speech recognition, and so forth.

After some time it became clear that these processes are far from easy. They only seem to be easy because we are not conscious of what our brain is doing. The things we found "hard" were hard because our brain wasn't specialized to do these things - it is impressive that it is flexible enough to do them at all.

What we call "conscious" thought has a very narrow scope. It seems to be somewhat analogous to a computer's operating system. It seems to help coordinate other brain functions and helps them interact with the outside world. The "mystery" of consciousness is that we aren't usually conscious of how or why we think things or how or why we do things.

Frankly, I don't think there is much more to conscious thought than a conversation or coordination between different parts of the brain, and the "mystery" is no more than the type of effect when two people use a ouija board. I don't think there is anything particularly special about consciousness. It is just another specialized brain function.

TheBlackCat
2005-Dec-14, 01:59 AM
Partially. I recall an experiment with planaria...those little flatworms with arrow-shaped heads that regenerate so well. A bunch of them were trained to feed in the lit half of a shallow pool. Others were shocked when they ventured into the lit half. The two batches were then ground up and fed to a third group. Third group members eating shocked-trained bits, exhibited that behavior: third group members eating lit-half feed zone bits, searched that half of the pool for food. All without "training". At least part of behavior is chemically induced.......now if we grind up Einstein's brain, who gets the sweetmeats??:naughty: :shifty: :think: :sad: :boohoo:
First of all, we are not planaria. Planaria do not even have brains, they extremely simple cerebral ganglia like insects and other arthropods (but far simpler than that of arthropods). They have extremely basic nervous systems. Claiming that this experiment has any applicability even to other invertebrates, not to mention humans, is a huge leap and is definitely not warranted based on our understanding of more complex nervous systems. Human memory does not operate that way, I can tell you that much.

Of course, this is all acadmeic because the experiment was flawed, the later planaria were following chemical trails left by their predocessors.

TheBlackCat
2005-Dec-14, 02:01 AM
Except it is unclear what are the "easy" problems and what are the "hard" problems.
I was using the definitions used in the article

trinitree88
2005-Dec-14, 05:18 PM
First of all, we are not planaria. Planaria do not even have brains, they extremely simple cerebral ganglia like insects and other arthropods (but far simpler than that of arthropods). They have extremely basic nervous systems. Claiming that this experiment has any applicability even to other invertebrates, not to mention humans, is a huge leap and is definitely not warranted based on our understanding of more complex nervous systems. Human memory does not operate that way, I can tell you that much.

Of course, this is all acadmeic because the experiment was flawed, the later planaria were following chemical trails left by their predocessors.
BlackCat...the Einstein part was obviously a joke on my part....the other part was not. It was not a pheremone trail, like ants finding water on the pheromone trails of their scouts that had......it was ingestation, followed by insertion into the original environment where the training had taken place. The "learning" was ingested, assimilated, exhibited. Pretty famous study from my early teaching years...circa 1970-72. The kids in class ( we would always talk current research ) wanted to know if they could grind up people brains for the same effect, saving them from studying. :shifty: There was no work of course in that area. Ciao. Pete

Ken G
2005-Dec-14, 06:02 PM
Frankly, I don't think there is much more to conscious thought than a conversation or coordination between different parts of the brain, and the "mystery" is no more than the type of effect when two people use a ouija board. I don't think there is anything particularly special about consciousness. It is just another specialized brain function.
Now we've heard informed opinions that consciousness is too profound to be accessible by the scientific method, and that it is so transparent it is hardly worth study. It is useful to share opinions and collide them into one another, but like TheBlackCat, I remind that we certainly don't want the upshot to be the discouragement of inquiry. Personally I think the first step is a clear definition of what it is that we are inquiring about. If we had that, we could begin to assess the validity of these opinions. I think Chalmers and Van Rijn are talking about two separate elements of consciousness-- Chalmers is talking about the subjective experience of consciousness-- conscousness is as consciousness feels like it is. The question being asked is, how can someone be conscious of their own consciousness? The self-referential character is a profound problem (and that's also a motivator of Penrose). Van Rijn, it seems to me, is talking about an operational definition of consciousness-- consciousness is as consciousness does. That element may indeed be far less profound. Along these lines, I must confess that I personally am not conscious, I am just very adept at passing a Turing test.

Nereid
2005-Dec-14, 06:26 PM
Jolly good to have you here Black Cat! :)

For those interested, the 'memory chemical' studies with those poor worms (were they 'conscious'? did they possess 'consciousness'?) achieved minor celebrity status in HPS (History and Philosophy of Science) circles - they provide good examples of several aspects of this thing we call 'science'.

On another aspect of the (non-scientific) study of 'consciousness' - it is a binary thing (you either have it or you don't)?

If it is, do chimps have it? babies? people in comas? could a computer (or a program) ever have it?

If not, then how can we measure the degree of 'consciousness' which various living (or dead!) things have? Does the average Homo sap. have (say) 23456 units of 'consciousness' (and some have as much as 65432, while others only 2345)? Does the amount of 'consciousness' vary during the day? How much do we have while we sleep? How about chimps? wombats? lizards? sparrows? ants? lice? trees? kelp? coral? sponges? amoeba? bacteria? viruses??

Or perhaps 'consciousness' is multi-dimensional - there's 'mammal consciousness' and 'anthropod consciousness' and 'plant consciousness' and so on, and each can exist in varying degrees?

TheBlackCat
2005-Dec-14, 09:50 PM
BlackCat...the Einstein part was obviously a joke on my part....the other part was not. It was not a pheremone trail, like ants finding water on the pheromone trails of their scouts that had......it was ingestation, followed by insertion into the original environment where the training had taken place. The "learning" was ingested, assimilated, exhibited. Pretty famous study from my early teaching years...circa 1970-72. The kids in class ( we would always talk current research ) wanted to know if they could grind up people brains for the same effect, saving them from studying. :shifty: There was no work of course in that area. Ciao. Pete
I do not think you quite understand. It was a famous study, and those were the conclusions they drew from it, but the conclusions were refuted by later experiments. Hartry, et al (http://adsabs.harvard.edu/cgi-bin/nph-bib_query?bibcode=1964Sci...146..274H&db_key=GEN&d ata_type=HTML&format=) found that when planaria were fed ground up untrained planaria they performed better than regular planaria and just as well as those fed ground-up trained planaria, so the training did not seem to have any impact. According to Neurobiology (http://books.google.com/books?ie=UTF-8&hl=en&id=zr4WRMw0xRQC&pg=PA621&lpg=PA621&dq=planaria&prev=http://books.google.com/books%3Fq%3Dplanaria%2Bmemory&sig=AY7HuyPy7P84LLLfkffahH-tCUU) by Gordon M. Shepherd the effect was due to increased arrousal levels that improved learning, not any molecular basis for memory. Wikipedia claims it is due to chemical traces. Another book, The Undergrowth of Science (http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0198604351/104-7956733-9606329?v=glance&n=283155) claims bias on the part of the scientists or accidentally influencing the experiments were the cause. Whatever the case, everything I have read agrees that, despite some successes, experiments that failed to replicate the results ultimately far outweighed the few successes and no chemicals that could transfer memory were ever isolated. Ultimately, we may never know what exactly went wrong with the experiments because all the failures showed that memories could not be transfered in this way and the research was abandoned. The reason the experiments did not work, nowadays, is clear. We now know such a molecular basis for memory does not exist, and in fact there is no chemical used by life forms on Earth that has the properties needed to act as the basis for memory. Memory is formed by increasing and or/decreasing the strength of connections between neurons. Grinding up an organism will destroy those connections, be it a human or a planaria. Although feeding the extract to another organism my have effects on their ability to learn, it does not actually transfer the memories themselves. This does not keep sci-fi authors and movie makers from using the planaria experiment today, and it is still commonly mentioned in discussions by people, but that does not mean the conclusions were correct it simply means that some people like the idea.

Van Rijn
2005-Dec-14, 09:56 PM
I do think what we call "consciousness." like all brain function, is very much worth study. However, I feel too many people put it on a pedestal, and assume it as being fundamentally different from all the other things the brain does. Most people really don't seem to realize that most of the things they do proceed without conscious thought and that they can't explain in any detail the process behind those thoughts. So, certainly, let's study it, but we have to be careful about what assume about the process. And to really learn how we think, we will need to discern the processes behind unconscious thought.


Van Rijn, it seems to me, is talking about an operational definition of consciousness-- consciousness is as consciousness does. That element may indeed be far less profound.

Essentially, yes. I'm concerned about the process, the hardware and software, behind consciousness. Whether it is profound or not is up to you.

Ken G
2005-Dec-14, 10:02 PM
I'm pretty sure I heard about doing something similar with mice brains, in puzzles looking for cheese. I don't know if experiments like that were actually done, and suffered from some of the control problems TheBlackCat was talking about, or it the whole business is just an urban legend that sprung up from the planaria experiment.

Ken G
2005-Dec-14, 10:11 PM
Most people really don't seem to realize that most of the things they do proceed without conscious thought and that they can't explain in any detail the process behind those thoughts. So, certainly, let's study it, but we have to be careful about what assume about the process. And to really learn how we think, we will need to discern the processes behind unconscious thought.

I agree that conscious thought is probably only a small fraction of the important things our brains are doing, but there is something special about consciousness from the deeper perspective of intangibles like morality. By that I mean right and wrong in some absolute sense, not social conventions. I realize that a perfectly passable operational definition of morality is the social contract of a group that is undertaken to improve the survival chances of their gene pool. I'm talking about morality as a philosophical exercise, based in something deeper than materialism. If that is possible (and I'm sure many argue it isn't, but there we have that negative argument again), I think it will be rooted in the simple fact that "pain hurts". This is also very much the spirit of what I heard in Chalmers' comments. There may be something transcendent about consciousness, that a robot programmed entirely to pass a Turing test with tremendous acuity would simply not have. Even if this is not the most complex or important thing our brains do from the point of view of survival, it is the most profound from the point of view of whether or not there is really anything special about higher intelligence.

Kullat Nunu
2005-Dec-14, 10:18 PM
Bah, yet another of my favorite mysteries busted. Maybe I should stop reading this forum. ;)

TheBlackCat
2005-Dec-14, 10:22 PM
I'm pretty sure I heard about doing something similar with mice brains, in puzzles looking for cheese. I don't know if experiments like that were actually done, and suffered from some of the control problems TheBlackCat was talking about, or it the whole business is just an urban legend that sprung up from the planaria experiment.
They did, and there were some initial successes, but the results could not replicated with any sort of reliability (some could replicate it but far more were unable to) and they were unable to isolate the molecule that actually contained the memories, so people gave up and tried other mechanisms, one of which is now known to be the correct one.

suntrack2
2005-Dec-15, 12:42 PM
the consciousness is inbuilt in the intelligence ? buzzlight.

Ken G
2005-Dec-15, 02:16 PM
so people gave up and tried other mechanisms, one of which is now known to be the correct one.
So a control problem again? Reminiscent of cold fusion. Apparently it's not just the behavioralists.

ASEI
2005-Dec-15, 09:41 PM
I agree that conscious thought is probably only a small fraction of the important things our brains are doing, but there is something special about consciousness from the deeper perspective of intangibles like morality. By that I mean right and wrong in some absolute sense, not social conventions. I realize that a perfectly passable operational definition of morality is the social contract of a group that is undertaken to improve the survival chances of their gene pool. I'm talking about morality as a philosophical exercise, based in something deeper than materialism. What do you mean by transcendant, exactly? Our conciousness exists. We know that much from firsthand experience. But as to how it exists, what it exists in terms of, the mechanisms by which it works, ect, why look for that mechanism elsewhere than in the brain? (We've ruled out pretty much everywhere else in the body).
Our minds do work, so they have to work somehow, by some process. Why does that process have to be in terms of immaterial things? (contradiction? a thing that is not a thing?). And how do these immaterial things come to influence the material aspects of our brain?

A thought process generated by some immaterial object has to find a way to alter the material aspects of the brain before it is expressed and executed by our nervous system. It would have to change electrical potential in neuron dendrites, ect. Hence, it couldn't be "immaterial" to begin with - something that doesn't have electrical potential itself can't alter the electrical potential of a physical system, and so on for other physical quantites. Nor, if this thing is functioning as a mind, could it exist unaffected by the physical world - the fact that it takes inputs means that the physical world is influencing it somehow, by some process. I don't see how conciousness could be other than material.

trinitree88
2005-Dec-15, 09:49 PM
?bibcode=1964Sci...146..274H&db_key=GEN&data_type= HTML&format=]Hartry, et al[/url] found that when planaria were fed ground up untrained planaria they performed better than regular planaria and just as well as those fed ground-up trained planaria, so the training did not seem to have any impact.

Fair Enough BlackCat. Refutation is Refutation. Pete.

Ken G
2005-Dec-15, 10:07 PM
What do you mean by transcendant, exactly?

I mean that it might require going outside the thought process of our mind to understand it. Like the way the experimenter trancends the experiment. Take for example a study on the reactions to pain-- if an experimenter tries this on someone else, it could be unethical, but objective. If he tries it on himself, it might be ethical, but give very different results. Science is about understanding, and so it may require the application of consciousness to really do it right. If so, it may preclude usingg science to understand consciousness in the usual way. We may need a whole new approach to science to get at it.


Our conciousness exists. We know that much from firsthand experience.

(Actually, you may know that, but as I said, I am merely pretending to be conscious, and I'm good at it.)


But as to how it exists, what it exists in terms of, the mechanisms by which it works, ect, why look for that mechanism elsewhere than in the brain?

I'm not sure the issue is about where it resides, or whether it is material or not. I haven't used any of those terms. To me, the interesting question is, do we have the biology to attack this issue? The physics? Note that Penrose is saying he doesn't think we even have the physics yet, so it might be tough to get the biology for it. Van Rijn thinks we have both, we just haven't addressed it yet. The main point is, scientists are always making the mistake of thinking they have all the pieces in place to understand something that they currently have no idea about. They are usually wrong when they think that. For example, note that in the year 1900, physicists thought they understood pretty much all the physical processes that could happen. After the next 100 years, virtually none of that understanding was left intact, and most of it was profoundly altered.

Kurt
2005-Dec-17, 10:42 PM
From Aristotle to Socrates to the above mentioned individuals, questions and answers to the meaning of life have been bantered about till even the ridiculous can be interpretted as plausable.

For instance, in the post by Van Rijn it is asked,


I say there is an invisible elf in my backyard. How do you prove I am wrong?
I prove you wrong by stating the illogical position of the statement itself. Through your five senses (sight, sound, taste, smell, touch) how do you determine the existence of the elf? If through your five senses you can determine the existence of an elf in youir backyard, acknowledge that sensory perception. If you cannot acknowledge how you sense the elf, than it is all concoction of the mind.:wall:

All the theories and models of conciousness are nice and interesting to learn and to think and discuss. I personally like Kant and his idea of space and time as intrinsic to the cognition.

None of it is worth more than the pencil and paper to write it all down though if it isn't practical. And by practical I'm referring to application. Supposing all the knowledge and ideas of conciousness derived over the last two millenia were used to build something real and practical. If all the knowldge and ideas of conciousness were to be brought together to ...? let's say to build a robot that mimics the cogniton of a praying mantis, or a spider, in the course of designing such a model prototype computer that will mimic the cognition of a spider, as time went on what theories or ideas would be used and what theories and talk over the last two thousand years would not be used to build this computer cognition of a spider? I don't have the answer, and I don't pretend to. But until this kind of research towards bringing something practical takes place, all this talk about what is real, what is not, the Mind is Buddha, no it's Jesus, all this kind of talk will go on until finally, someday, maybe a thousand years from now people then will be in a position to say with more certainty and with much more clarity because what works is real. If any idea of consciousness doesn't function and be brought to the design towards a system of arachnid cognition, it goes to the "trash" of history.

We in the West should start gearing up our schools and culture, ours social goals should seek to bring such a computer mimicking biological life into existence ..., before let's say communist China, or the North Koreans, any Islamic nation does ...

The West will recieve one mighty and insulting backhand to the face if "they" do it before us ... in the future. Like "yeah, ... yeah" we're so great with our 1960's 70's men on the moon prestige. If anyone besides the West brings machines like what I'm talking about into existence first, we'll never live down the humiliation.

ASEI
2005-Dec-17, 10:50 PM
(impolite political content removed by author)

Suppose someday that we invent a parralel processor large enough to run a simulation of a brain - a neural network large enough and complex enough, and it begins reacting to the world in an intelligent (or at least animal-intelligent) manner. Then we may have managed to copy whatever the mechanism of conciousness is along with the neural network architecture.

If it is acting concious by carrying out all the same operations by which we are concious, or animals are concious, rather than, say, reading from a database to fool people into thinking it's concious, then would that be enough to say that it is?

Kurt
2005-Dec-18, 05:02 PM
I was going to add that no Islamic nation could organize a bunch of their people together to then do things like NASA. French wine, Arabian stallions and women is all the wealthy Islamics spend time and money on, hedonistic bums. To me, NASA is a pride and joy to the United States; those guys are great, flaws or not with their organizational structure.

I wish I had the ear of a President of the United States for awhile ...

The Bad Astronomer
2005-Dec-18, 08:20 PM
Kurt, that sweeping generalization brings up politics, religion, and is an ad hominem. Therefore it breaks three of the forum rules. I strongly urge you to edit it.

This is a very strong formal warning. Another post like this and you will be permanently banned.

Ken G
2005-Dec-18, 08:54 PM
I would echo the hope that those posts get edited to remove the offensive component, but let me also comment on the historical inaccuracy. In my view, one of the brightest jewels in the crown of science is the openness by which it has been shared between cultures, like passing the torch of the Olympic flame, if you will. Many of the tools of science show this clearly, such as the many German words used in physics, or the Arabic used in astronomy, or the Mesopotamian influences on how we measure angles. The Islamic world was the keeper of the flame during periods when science came almost to a standstill in Europe, and slamming them is not just offensive, but also short-sighted and an erroneous way to think of how science works. Science works best when it is a cooperative human endeavor, not a means of competition in the battle to justify one's culture. When it becomes the latter, it runs the risk of introducing evils that could undo many, or all, of its benefits to humanity.

The Bad Astronomer
2005-Dec-19, 03:58 AM
Kurt has been banned. See here (http://www.bautforum.com/showpost.php?p=629304&postcount=20).

Neverfly
2009-Oct-05, 04:04 PM
Reality doesnt wait for You.



Heck, the bus doesn't even wait for me...

Hlafordlaes
2009-Oct-05, 04:17 PM
I would echo the hope that those posts get edited to remove the offensive component, but let me also comment on the historical inaccuracy. In my view, one of the brightest jewels in the crown of science is the openness by which it has been shared between cultures, like passing the torch of the Olympic flame, if you will. Many of the tools of science show this clearly, such as the many German words used in physics, or the Arabic used in astronomy, or the Mesopotamian influences on how we measure angles. The Islamic world was the keeper of the flame during periods when science came almost to a standstill in Europe, and slamming them is not just offensive, but also short-sighted and an erroneous way to think of how science works. Science works best when it is a cooperative human endeavor, not a means of competition in the battle to justify one's culture. When it becomes the latter, it runs the risk of introducing evils that could undo many, or all, of its benefits to humanity.

:clap::clap::clap:

Hlafordlaes
2009-Oct-05, 04:33 PM
I do think what we call "consciousness." like all brain function, is very much worth study. However, I feel too many people put it on a pedestal, and assume it as being fundamentally different from all the other things the brain does. Most people really don't seem to realize that most of the things they do proceed without conscious thought and that they can't explain in any detail the process behind those thoughts. So, certainly, let's study it, but we have to be careful about what assume about the process. And to really learn how we think, we will need to discern the processes behind unconscious thought.

Essentially, yes. I'm concerned about the process, the hardware and software, behind consciousness. Whether it is profound or not is up to you.

I tend to agree with your line of thinking here and in earlier posts (in spite of the overly speculative freedom tainting my posts here on BAUT).

I think apart from the specific subprocesses that bring elements to bear on conscious thought, we will need to then go through what it means to have a focal point (awareness), conscious intent (decision), and an awareness of the history of both (self-awareness). The last two seem to be more exclusively human, although studies of other species increasingly contradict that. But before we get there, we will need to get up to speed in the basics. These are really early days.

Unconscious thought will include not only instinctive reactions, faster-than-awareness decisions, and generic compilers (eg universal grammar) but things like the "threads" our conscious needs can send for "parallel" processing to the unconscious part of the mind (think eg of the last time you struggled to remember something and it came to you days later).

Interesting, too, in all this, will be the role the feedback connections to sensory organs play, as they have been shown to be as abundant and active as those coming into the brain. Aside from the evolutionary advantage of suggesting shortcuts to the senses to lessen the interpretative burden of massive sense data, it would appear they also play a strong role in confirmation bias (eg, just saw a UFO!)

Neverfly
2009-Oct-05, 04:37 PM
"
SEEing with ordinary functional senses...
"

"
eyes that see...
"
-- the teacher jc
.
The ability to see is often touted as a means to understand something with clarity.
However, I am one that often thinks that sight is too limited a function- that sight is more often clouded by desire to see what you want to see more than what is.

Something else then becomes necessary to act as unbiased eyes.

Personally, I think there is more to life than seeing or hearing. There is the ability to remove oneself from the picture far enough to allow investigation to compliment conclusions.
To remove a bias.
Human consciousness is not necessarily beyond conscious understanding nor explanation. Perhaps we do not yet understand it and will not for some time. But the beauty of science is that one step leads to the next. Each step checks itself.

Using these techniques, we may not need to have a mind 'capable' of understanding the odd bits of the Universe. Consciousness, singularities, dimensions more than three, etc.
Using the framework of investigation, we can accurately create models that can describe them to us.

Swift
2009-Oct-05, 04:48 PM
meL,
First, welcome to BAUT.

Second, I hope you realize that this is a four year old thread, and so a lot of the original participants may be long gone.

Third, religious discussions are not allowed on BAUT. I strongly suggest you take a look at the rules.

Neverfly
2009-Oct-05, 04:53 PM
Neverfly is GOOD !

My friend, you are sadly mistaken...

Neverfly
2009-Oct-05, 06:50 PM
There is the ability to remove oneself from the picture ....
"

YES ! ! ! !

You are NOT tied to Your body-brain-dead memories that move.

IT is a simple PHYSICAL fact.

Define "fact" please.

You seem to be indicating that the body and the mind are separate.

Evidence indicates that the brain is essential and crucial to the existence of the mind.
There is zero, none, no evidence that the mind can exist without the brain.

I could be completely misunderstanding your rather cryptic posts.

Neverfly
2009-Oct-06, 06:01 AM
"
...your rather cryptic posts
"
THAT is a fact... sorry... words dont work well.

i repeat... the surround is Consciousness... the Surround is conscious.

WE always point at the chest/head.

We point to what is real. Thought takes place only in the head. Consciousness, as a state of mind, only takes place within the brain.

Unless you have compelling evidence of otherwise, your statement of a surrounding consciousness carries no more weight than a statement of the "Surround of Dragons devouring innocent cheese-stuffed gnomes."


Try to SEE past this word... prio-pre-conceptive.

You are already doing THAT... You have no choise.
Pre-conceptions are the basis of bias.


The problem is:

thought blocks/masks/over-rides the SEEN ... in real-*time... the NOW... the moment... ALL that there IS.
This, too, is bias.

QM experts know about the time issue.

The SEEN has value by ITs-Self... That Self is the real Self.

THAT Self that isnt tied to You body ... i call THAT Your soul.
Unless you have compelling evidence to demonstrate that there is such a thing as a soul that exists and that it exists outside of the brain, your statement carries no more weight than "Chocolate fairies live in the Cheesecake Forest."


when You SEE IT, You wont have any use for my words(secondary to the seen)
One cannot see what does not exist.

MeL, there is much more to "seeing" than the attempt to justify or rationalize a non falsifiable belief.


i was just thinking.. it only takes 17 seconds(or 0) to get into

SEEing ?state.

i returned to my computer and
then...

NOW the surround picked(IS) the song on my TV music Channel
"
17 Seconds To Anywhere
"

followed by the next song

NOW
"
High-String Mania
"

i dont pick the songs.. that wont work.

Enough songs have been created.
The surround just picks one for

the moment.. NOW

Check IT out... dont let You expectations(thought) block the View.

THIS is for everyOne.


The surrounding consciousness is communicating to you through MTV?

Ok, admit it- Are you Bumblebee in Disguise?



NOW ! ! !
"
Show Me The Way
"

Frampton is NOT singing..... THE SURROUND IS.

Frampton is NOT in my TV music channel.

.... something tells me... He... Frampton... is Awake ! !

WE are spread so thin no one notices.

Do you have any compelling evidence that a surrounding consciousness exists and is communicating with you by playing carefully chosen recordings on MTV?

The act of wanting to believe is called "Rationalizing."
A word for you to Google..


.... the *danger of reporting this stuff.
.
.
brb if it's still ok here.
.
.

You cannot pretend that you would be Moderated on the basis of silencing you.
There are ways to discuss what you are trying to discuss without having to bring up a hot debate topic.

It may belong in its own thread in ATM forum.

Neverfly
2009-Oct-06, 06:04 AM
Interesting wikipedia suggestions meL; here is one in return:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Confirmation_bias

Daffy
2009-Oct-06, 02:35 PM
When truly self aware AI is created, I will accept that consciousness is purely a chemical/electrical by-product of the brain. Until then, Von Neumann's Chain seems to indicate otherwise to me.

Since no one (that I know of, I hasten to add) has yet given any solid evidence as to exactly how consciousness arises, it is all speculation. Or, to paraphrase Dylan, there is something going on here, but we don't know what it is. But it is fun to think about.

grant hutchison
2009-Oct-06, 02:52 PM
When truly self aware AI is created ...How will you know?

Grant Hutchison

Cougar
2009-Oct-06, 02:56 PM
I think the first step is a clear definition of what it is that we are inquiring about.

Yes.

Daffy
2009-Oct-06, 04:30 PM
How will you know?

Grant Hutchison

Important question. Someone much more intelligent than me will have to come up with that one. How do I know anyone else in the world is self aware (resisting political jokes here)?

Still, however one comes up with a test, in my wildly unqualified opinion (based on much reading, but still wildly unqualified) I think Non Neumann showed that a truly self aware AI is probably impossible. If one is created, VN was wrong. The next few decades should be very, very interesting indeed...because either outcome is awe inspiring.

mugaliens
2009-Oct-06, 04:35 PM
The ability to see is often touted as a means to understand something with clarity.
However, I am one that often thinks that sight is too limited a function- that sight is more often clouded by desire to see what you want to see more than what is.

Exactly, as has been relentlessly proven with the "count the ball throws between the people" experiments where no one sees the guy in the gorilla-suit walk straight through the experiment.


Using the framework of investigation, we can accurately create models that can describe them to us.

None of us wish to admit how biased we are, yet we all, because we're humans, with human brains that work as human brains to, inherently, and quite seriously, biased.

grant hutchison
2009-Oct-06, 04:49 PM
Important question. Someone much more intelligent than me will have to come up with that one. How do I know anyone else in the world is self aware (resisting political jokes here)?Well, one "knows" that merely by analogy with oneself. If my meat brain supports consciousness, then I imagine that in all likelihood very similar meat brains which evince behaviour that seems familiar to me are also supporting consciousness.
Trouble is, consciousness (and its associated experiences) is uniquely something we identify by being it, not by seeing it. So the problem of the "philosophers' zombie" will loom rather large if I we ever make a device that is able to tell us that it is conscious.


Still, however one comes up with a test, in my wildly unqualified opinion (based on much reading, but still wildly unqualified) I think Non Neumann showed that a truly self aware AI is probably impossible.How did he do that? You know I'm uncompelled by von Neumann's "chain", and it would be tedious to rehearse that argument. But if, for the sake of a thought experiment, I accept von Neumann's reasoning about the wavefunction and its alleged collapse by consciousness, I don't see why that necessarily leads to the impossibility of AI. Or are you referring to some other aspect of von Neumann's work?

Grant Hutchison

Ken G
2009-Oct-06, 06:11 PM
(Watching to see how convoluted and disconnected the discussion becomes as people use many different meanings of "consciousness" and fail to recognize they are using different meanings.) To all: prove me wrong, and don't use the word without saying what you mean by it. Possible choices include but are not limited to:
1) consciousness is as consciousness does, it is judged by how it performs (Turing test, etc.)
2) consciousness is a self-perception, it is judged by whatever it sees itself as being (Penrose's self referentiality, etc.)
3) consciousness is a biomechanical function of the combined action of neurons, it is judged by the processes that generate it (neurology, etc.)
4) consciousness is a prescription for deciding information, it is judged by how it selects actuality from possibility (the collapse of the wavefunction, Von Neumann chain, etc.)
5) consciousness is the unsupported assumption that all of these, and others, are all the same thing, they represent the same core ontology despite all the vastly different epistemologies represented.

And if you choose #5, beware of the Tower of Babel. In my experience, crossed epistemologies can produce gobbledy-gook, not always a unified and workable ontology.

grant hutchison
2009-Oct-06, 06:24 PM
Possible choices include but are not limited to:I've already quite clearly declared for your option 2), though I hesitate to get involved with any definition of consciousness to which you've attached Penrose's name. :lol:

Grant Hutchison

Daffy
2009-Oct-06, 07:28 PM
Well, one "knows" that merely by analogy with oneself. If my meat brain supports consciousness, then I imagine that in all likelihood very similar meat brains which evince behaviour that seems familiar to me are also supporting consciousness.
Trouble is, consciousness (and its associated experiences) is uniquely something we identify by being it, not by seeing it. So the problem of the "philosophers' zombie" will loom rather large if I we ever make a device that is able to tell us that it is conscious.

As I said, I have no answer. Can I prove that everyone else is not just a figment of my imagination? Nope. That doesn't mean someone smarter might not be able to. Your example indicates likelihood, I agree, but not proof. The same way that life on Earth indicates a probability of life elsewhere, but not proof.




How did he do that? You know I'm uncompelled by von Neumann's "chain", and it would be tedious to rehearse that argument. But if, for the sake of a thought experiment, I accept von Neumann's reasoning about the wavefunction and its alleged collapse by consciousness, I don't see why that necessarily leads to the impossibility of AI. Or are you referring to some other aspect of von Neumann's work?

Grant Hutchison

Please understand that I don't have the math, and cannot argue the validity of his point. But the Chain requires a statistical ghost in the machine, so to speak, something of the system, but different. And that something has to have existed from the Big Bang, until the end of forever. His answer to that was consciousness, or, point conscious perspective. And since (in this view) the universe is the sum total of all point conscious perspectives, they all have to have always existed, and continue to exit.

Again, I NOT claiming this is true (I know, personally, some physicists who say it's possible, but that is beside the point). I am saying that (again, in my highly unqualified opinion) evidence for this would be if no true AI is ever created. If a true AI is created---a genuinely new point conscious perspective---then it would seem to me that the whole idea would fall to the ground. And, seriously, I have no idea which is true. I suspect no one else does at this point, either. If there is a consensus about how matter becomes aware of itself, I have never seen or heard it.

But please DON'T ask me to defend Von Neumann's Chain. I am merely, in my own inept way, trying to lay out the concept---I find it fascinating---but I am NOT trying to defend it. How could I?

grant hutchison
2009-Oct-06, 07:51 PM
Well, I've no wish to press you, and certainly it is not my purpose to seek an argument.
I'm just genuinely curious as to why you see the "conscious collapse" interpretation as being logically incompatible with conscious AI. It's not an idea I've encountered before, and I would like to hear more. But not if the discussion would make you feel uncomfortable, or take us into regions that might conflict with BAUT's content rules. :)

Grant Hutchison

Daffy
2009-Oct-06, 08:22 PM
Well, I've no wish to press you, and certainly it is not my purpose to seek an argument.
I'm just genuinely curious as to why you see the "conscious collapse" interpretation as being logically incompatible with conscious AI. It's not an idea I've encountered before, and I would like to hear more. But not if the discussion would make you feel uncomfortable, or take us into regions that might conflict with BAUT's content rules. :)

Grant Hutchison

Not at all...I just can't defend "conscious collapse." It makes sense to me, but so do other theories on the subject. The one thing I have never heard is a convincing argument about how matter becomes aware of itself. The creation of a true AI would, I imagine, require the answering of that question...and unless that answer includes the notion that the AI's consciousness always existed, it would seem to refute the Chain. This, I admit, is my own speculation...I wish I had the math to prove or disprove it.

Hmmmm...unless the AI's consciousness changed the very nature of reality by simply existing. In which case, how would we know? Ah, conundrums... :)

nauthiz
2009-Oct-06, 08:36 PM
The one thing I have never heard is a convincing argument about how matter becomes aware of itself. The creation of a true AI would, I imagine, require the answering of that question...

I'm inclined to think the same thing, but it may not necessarily be true. There are ways of creating software that can perform complex tasks where the authors understand all the basic mechanisms behind the system but don't really understand how all of that comes together to produce the program's high-level behavior well enough to give a rigorous explanation. Artificial neural networks are a common example.

That said, just because you don't immediately know how it works doesn't mean you can't figure it out, and an intelligent computer would probably be easier to study than anything neuroscientists currently have to work with. So I wouldn't say that I think it's something we can't figure out or that work on artificial intelligence won't play a large part in figuring it out. More that I'm not prepared to wager any cash on whether the cart or the horse will be the first to cross the finish line.

HenrikOlsen
2009-Oct-06, 08:45 PM
I always understood that consciousness collapse is the result of muddy thinking applied to a bad choice of words when QM talks about the wave function collapsing because it's "observed", since it's a verb that presupposes someone doing the observing, which QM doesn't actually have except in the sense of a system entering one of several macroscopic states as a result of the quantum interaction.
That event of entering a specific macroscopic state is what they talk about as "observing" the wave function so it collapses.

There's not any consciousness stuff that makes us magically able to make wave functions collapse at a glance, consciousness does not enter into it at all.

Daffy
2009-Oct-06, 08:48 PM
I'm inclined to think the same thing, but it may not necessarily be true. There are ways of creating software that can perform complex tasks where the authors understand all the basic mechanisms behind the system but don't really understand how all of that comes together to produce the program's high-level behavior well enough to give a rigorous explanation. Artificial neural networks are a common example.

That said, just because you don't immediately know how it works doesn't mean you can't figure it out, and an intelligent computer would probably be easier to study than anything neuroscientists currently have to work with. So I wouldn't say that I think it's something we can't figure out or that work on artificial intelligence won't play a large part in figuring it out. More that I'm not prepared to wager any cash on whether the cart or the horse will be the first to cross the finish line.

I agree, although with the caveat that I imagine self awareness may be different from merely completing tasks, however complex. Then again, it may not be. Fun to think about, though.

grant hutchison
2009-Oct-06, 09:00 PM
The one thing I have never heard is a convincing argument about how matter becomes aware of itself. The creation of a true AI would, I imagine, require the answering of that question...Not necessarily. Rudy Rucker, for instance, has suggested that one could set up an ecosystem of moderately smart, autonomously reproducing machines, and simply let them evolve consciousness for themselves. Rucker is generally being serious and satirical at the same time, but his point is that if the Universe managed to evolve consciousness at least once, there's no reason it couldn't happen again, and still without us understanding how. (Ironically for our present discussion, intelligence would evolve among von Neumann machines.)


... and unless that answer includes the notion that the AI's consciousness always existed, it would seem to refute the Chain.Would the truth of von Neumann's chain compel us to believe that human consciousness has always existed? Would it even compel us to believe that consciousness has always existed? It seems to me it can't assert much more than that human consciousness samples the quantum Universe in a particular way.

Grant Hutchison

Daffy
2009-Oct-06, 09:06 PM
Not necessarily. Rudy Rucker, for instance, has suggested that one could set up an ecosystem of moderately smart, autonomously reproducing machines, and simply let them evolve consciousness for themselves. Rucker is generally being serious and satirical at the same time, but his point is that if the Universe managed to evolve consciousness at least once, there's no reason it couldn't happen again, and still without us understanding how. (Ironically for our present discussion, intelligence would evolve among von Neumann machines.)

Unless consciousness did not evolve at all, and always existed at a quantum level. True? I dunno.




Would the truth of von Neumann's chain compel us to believe that human consciousness has always existed? Would it even compel us to believe that consciousness has always existed? It seems to me it can't assert much more than that human consciousness samples the quantum Universe in a particular way.

Grant Hutchison

Well, the notion holds that the universe is a result of all point conscious perspectives, not the other way around...therefore they always existed. Something caused all other probabilities to collapse into what is...what that something is remains the debate among physicists, yes? Not that it didn't happen.

grant hutchison
2009-Oct-06, 09:18 PM
Well, the notion holds that the universe is a result of all point conscious perspectives, not the other way around...therefore they always existed. Something caused all other probabilities to collapse into what is...But why does that have to happen at the start of the Universe? Why can't it be just a big uncollapsed wavefunction until some "consciousness" turns up to "collapse" it? Are you suggesting that every bit of the Universe is being (and always has been) observed by consciousness? And couldn't we just recruit AI consciousness into the mix if and when it appeared? The Universe has been accommodating the new consciousness of human babies for some time now, after all.

We now seem to be talking now about an interpretation of an interpretation of quantum mechanics. A metainterpretation. :)

Grant Hutchison

Daffy
2009-Oct-06, 09:54 PM
But why does that have to happen at the start of the Universe? Why can't it be just a big uncollapsed wavefunction until some "consciousness" turns up to "collapse" it? Are you suggesting that every bit of the Universe is being (and always has been) observed by consciousness? And couldn't we just recruit AI consciousness into the mix if and when it appeared? The Universe has been accommodating the new consciousness of human babies for some time now, after all.

We now seem to be talking now about an interpretation of an interpretation of quantum mechanics. A metainterpretation. :)

Grant Hutchison

Metainterpretation. I like that.

In any case, I am not suggesting anything. The idea suggests that, yes, all point conscious perspectives existed at the point of the Big Bang. The AI's and the babies' (according to this notion) consciousnesses were there, too. Or the AI wasn't, which, as I say throws the whole thing to the ground (a quantum ground with infinite probabilities, of course!). I am making the assumption that by creating an AI with self awareness, we would likely have some idea of how matter becomes aware of itself.

Or everything will remain a mystery. Or not. Like I would know?

Ken G
2009-Oct-06, 10:32 PM
I've already quite clearly declared for your option 2), though I hesitate to get involved with any definition of consciousness to which you've attached Penrose's name.I don't mean to imply that if one chooses #2, then one has to be a follower of Penrose-- merely that this is the type Penrose was interested in. That's why objections like TheBlackCat's that started this out are actually ill posed-- one cannot rule out Penrose's model on the grounds that it is not brain chemistry (which is all that was done above), as it wasn't trying to be brain chemistry. Statements like "consciousness is brain chemistry" are choices, not conclusions.

To clarify, there's no harm in looking at the connections between the types, but there is no proof that the connections are one-to-one and onto, which is the source of potential disconnects. In other words, one can always say "I wonder what my neurochemistry is doing as I perceive such-and-such", but asserting that the neurochemistry must be the same thing as what you are perceiving is where we can get into trouble. Just like I can ask what my fingers are doing while I type these words, but if I imagine that my fingers are writing them, I may run into problems connecting with other ways of analyzing the words.

Ken G
2009-Oct-06, 10:38 PM
I always understood that consciousness collapse is the result of muddy thinking applied to a bad choice of words when QM talks about the wave function collapsing because it's "observed", since it's a verb that presupposes someone doing the observing, which QM doesn't actually have except in the sense of a system entering one of several macroscopic states as a result of the quantum interaction.Actually, I think it's fair to say that consciousness collapse is not muddy thinking-- it is more a model of consciousness than it is a model of quantum mechanics. The idea is connected with the "many worlds" interpretation of QM-- evolution is unitary, but information processing is not, because the processing our brain is doing is not the whole universe, it's just a piece of it-- "one world" out of many. The brain processes its way into a single corner of the many worlds, that's the collapse-- so it is a model of the particular thing that consciousness is doing, the quantum mechanics is doing everything, it's being "unitary." I'd place it in type #4 of my list.


There's not any consciousness stuff that makes us magically able to make wave functions collapse at a glance, consciousness does not enter into it at all.The problem with that statement is that it requires the universe evolve in a non-unitary way, when QM says it must evolve in a unitary way. Bohr and co. say QM is just an effective theory that we should not take so seriously, but many-worlds folks say we should take its ontology quite seriously-- and look for the non-unitary elements as an illusion of consciousness, or a ramification of the way we look at things that forces us to see only one possibility out of the unitary array of many worlds.

I don't particularly like many-worlds as science, but I think it's fine philosophy, so is not muddy thinking if it is viewed as philosophical thinking. It might also generate useful ways of thinking about consciousness.


It seems to me it can't assert much more than that human consciousness samples the quantum Universe in a particular way.I think you are saying something similar here. Note also that it may stem more from our need to use a macro epistemology to do science, than anything mystical that consciousness is made of. We are macro entities, doing quantum mechanics, and that's a contradiction that creates the wavefunction collapse.

grant hutchison
2009-Oct-06, 11:06 PM
To clarify, there's no harm in looking at the connections between the types, but there is no proof that the connections are one-to-one and onto, which is the source of potential disconnects. In other words, one can always say "I wonder what my neurochemistry is doing as I perceive such-and-such", but asserting that the neurochemistry must be the same thing as what you are perceiving is where we can get into trouble. Just like I can ask what my fingers are doing while I type these words, but if I imagine that my fingers are writing them, I may run into problems connecting with other ways of analyzing the words.Hence the usefulness of that trusty cog-sci initialism, NCC: Neural Correlates of Consciousness. I think I've previously remarked that the word "correlates" should routinely be written in underlined bold italics.


I think you are saying something similar here.I am. Von Neumann's chain doesn't really do anything but point at the difference between the computational world of quantum mechanics and the subjective world of human experience and say: "That's surprising!"

Grant Hutchison

grant hutchison
2009-Oct-06, 11:13 PM
In any case, I am not suggesting anything. The idea suggests that, yes, all point conscious perspectives existed at the point of the Big Bang. The AI's and the babies' (according to this notion) consciousnesses were there, too.Ah.
A theologian friend of mine coined the adjective "tiplest" for this sort of idea. It's the superlative in the sequence "tipple", "Tipler (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frank_J._Tipler)", "tiplest". ;)

Grant Hutchison

Daffy
2009-Oct-07, 01:20 AM
Ah.
A theologian friend of mine coined the adjective "tiplest" for this sort of idea. It's the superlative in the sequence "tipple", "Tipler (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frank_J._Tipler)", "tiplest". ;)

Grant Hutchison

There was a point in my life when I was a major tippler. :)

Neverfly
2009-Oct-07, 01:26 AM
"
I think the first step is a clear definition...
"

and use THAT to SEE ... it wont work.

the surround is Consciousness ... before thought moves to block the View.
Is belief in a surrounding consciousness a thought that blocks your view?


WE think to create a problem that doesnt exist.
.
.
.
Truueeee....

Ken G
2009-Oct-07, 05:11 AM
Hence the usefulness of that trusty cog-sci initialism, NCC: Neural Correlates of Consciousness. I think I've previously remarked that the word "correlates" should routinely be written in underlined bold italics.Then we are in total agreement. My comments were directed more at some early remarks by TheBlackCat along the lines that any discussion of consciousness outside of neurochemistry was automatically pointless. I know he hasn't been here in years, but he managed to get a pass the first time around, and now that Penrose has been brought up again, it is worth rescinding TheBlackCat's pass posthumously, as it were.

Ken G
2009-Oct-07, 05:18 AM
I am. Von Neumann's chain doesn't really do anything but point at the difference between the computational world of quantum mechanics and the subjective world of human experience and say: "That's surprising!"We agree again, indeed that is what my more cryptic sig means.

Jetlack
2009-Oct-07, 09:09 AM
But why does that have to happen at the start of the Universe? Why can't it be just a big uncollapsed wavefunction until some "consciousness" turns up to "collapse" it? Are you suggesting that every bit of the Universe is being (and always has been) observed by consciousness? And couldn't we just recruit AI consciousness into the mix if and when it appeared? The Universe has been accommodating the new consciousness of human babies for some time now, after all.

We now seem to be talking now about an interpretation of an interpretation of quantum mechanics. A metainterpretation. :)

Grant Hutchison

Gosh how you've changed your tune Grant.

Above you are suggesting(or atleast not ruling out) Wheeler's PAP interpretation, which i believe you ridiculed only a couple years ago when i was discussing "quantum enigma". Your previous opinion was that the idea of biological consciousness collapsing a comological superposition was "mystical".

But leaving that aside, how does one recruit ai consciousness when we dont even know its possible? And we dont even understand consciousness in ourselves regardless of whether its an emergent property or not.

grant hutchison
2009-Oct-07, 10:02 AM
Gosh how you've changed your tune Grant.Not in the slightest.


Above you are suggesting(or atleast not ruling out) Wheeler's PAP interpretation, which i believe you ridiculed only a couple years ago when i was discussing "quantum enigma". Your previous opinion was that the idea of biological consciousness collapsing a comological superposition was "mystical".Which is still my opinion.
Daffy proposed that "conscious collapse" and AI were incompatible, which is something I haven't heard before, so I was exploring the detail of that with him. I was careful to state clearly:
You know I'm uncompelled by von Neumann's "chain", and it would be tedious to rehearse that argument. But if, for the sake of a thought experiment, I accept von Neumann's reasoning about the wavefunction and its alleged collapse by consciousness, I don't see why that necessarily leads to the impossibility of AI. I think Daffy and I both know the details of Wheeler's tongue-in-cheek hypothesis, and I'm interested to know how Daffy relates to it.

Grant Hutchison

Jetlack
2009-Oct-07, 11:49 AM
Grant,

You commented to Daffy:

"Why can't it be just a big uncollapsed wavefunction until some "consciousness" turns up to "collapse" it? Are you suggesting that every bit of the Universe is being (and always has been) observed by consciousness?

Above you have described the cosmological quantum mechanism which was proposed by Wheeler. So you are contradicting yourself, because if its so whacky why are you referring to it as a reasonable alternative to the idea of conciousness being necessary from the moment of the BB?

And if your opinion is its still a "mystical" interpretation why are you putting it forward?

"I think Daffy and I both know the details of Wheeler's tongue-in-cheek hypothesis"

Where is your evidence that Wheeler suggested PAP was a toungue-in-cheek hypothesis? Or do you mean you and Daffy think its tongue-in-cheek?

And does Daffy really think Wheeler's PAP is tongue-in-cheek? If I remember correctly Daffy was one of the few people on this forum who agreed with me on this issue - to some extent. maybe he has changed his mind but if he has I'd prefer to hear it from him, rather than you making assumptions on behalf of everyone else including John Wheeler.

I'll want a reference to support your comment about Wheeler putting forward PAP purely as some tongue-in-cheek theory.

grant hutchison
2009-Oct-07, 11:59 AM
I'll say adieu, folks. :)

Grant Hutchison

Daffy
2009-Oct-07, 02:17 PM
Hi, guys,

I am familiar with John Wheeler and his PAP hypothesis (also his thoughts on quantum foam, which are along the lines of Von Neumann's). But I can't really comment on its validity or lack of! I will say that I kinda doubt he was being tongue-in-cheek about it since (IIRC), he seriously proposed the possibility of designing an experiment to prove/disprove the notion. I don't think he ever designed such an experiment, but merely suggested it should be possible to do so.

Boy, will I be embarrassed if I am remembering this wrong.

Overall, my opinion (for what it's worth) has not changed particularly. The logic of Von Neumann's Chain makes sense to me...and I haven't really seen convincing evidence that it can't be accurate. But I don't have the math, and my opinion is probably worth about the same as my vinyl recording of Bing Crosby singing "Hey Jude." i.e., of value only to fellow cranks and space travelers. :)

That said, I remain fairly convinced that creation of a true, self aware AI would be pretty substantial evidence that Von Neumann got it wrong. Or not. The important thing is I just wrote all this without my morning caffeine.

edited to add:
I just Googled Wheeler and found this quote from a radio interview: "We are participators in bringing into being not only the near and here but the far away and long ago. We are in this sense, participators in bringing about something of the universe in the distant past and if we have one explanation for what's happening in the distant past why should we need more?"

At the least he seems to have been a very interesting fellow. Of course, he may just have been reviewing "Star Wars!"

Jetlack
2009-Oct-07, 02:35 PM
Grant,

As far as I am concerned you've not provided one iota of support for your claim that Wheeler's PAP was meant "tongue-in-cheek" and if you cannot support it then a retraction is in order, not for my sake, but at least as respect to the recently deceased Wheeler, one of the greatest scientists of the 20th century.

Of course, its only right that people who propose ATM theories are expected to support them with logical argument and evidence if its available. I don't see why the same rules should not apply if one wants to impugn Wheeler's motives behind PAP.

Jetlack
2009-Oct-07, 03:13 PM
Daffy,

"I am familiar with John Wheeler and his PAP hypothesis (also his thoughts on quantum foam, which are along the lines of Von Neumann's). But I can't really comment on its validity or lack of! I will say that I kinda doubt he was being tongue-in-cheek about it since (IIRC), he seriously proposed the possibility of designing an experiment to prove/disprove the notion. I don't think he ever designed such an experiment, but merely suggested it should be possible to do so."

I agree about the non-falsifiability of PAP, at least for now. After all its just an interpretation.

However where did this idea come from that Wheeler was joking? Many current qm specialists refer to it all the time, either positively or negatively, but never have i seen it described as a "tongue-in-cheek" theory.

"That said, I remain fairly convinced that creation of a true, self aware AI would be pretty substantial evidence that Von Neumann got it wrong. Or not. The important thing is I just wrote all this without my morning caffeine."

""We are participators in bringing into being not only the near and here but the far away and long ago. We are in this sense, participators in bringing about something of the universe in the distant past and if we have one explanation for what's happening in the distant past why should we need more?"

Yes and that doesnt sound like a man who is kidding :-)

grant hutchison
2009-Oct-07, 03:19 PM
I am familiar with John Wheeler and his PAP hypothesis (also his thoughts on quantum foam, which are along the lines of Von Neumann's). But I can't really comment on its validity or lack of! I will say that I kinda doubt he was being tongue-in-cheek about it since (IIRC), he seriously proposed the possibility of designing an experiment to prove/disprove the notion. I don't think he ever designed such an experiment, but merely suggested it should be possible to do so.

Boy, will I be embarrassed if I am remembering this wrong.Since you're interested, Daffy, I'll give a bit of background.
The experiment you're recalling was probably Wheeler's proposed extension of the delayed choice experiment to cosmological distances. (Using photons that have been gravitationally lensed by a distant galaxy.) This was all part of what he called the "Participatory Universe". He suggested that the Universe was in an indeterminate state until parts of its wavefunction underwent what Bohr called an "irreversible act of amplification": the amplification process thereby determining how the Universe had been.
Now, Wheeler coined the phrase Participatory Anthropic Principle in the mid-seventies, in imitation of Brandon Carter's newly minted Strong and Weak Anthropic Principles. Carter subsequently regretted the word "Anthropic", and Wheeler also moved on to using the phrase "Participatory Universe", for reasons I hope will become clear. Barrow and Tipler meanwhile perpetuated the usage "Participatory Anthropic Principle" in their book The Anthropic Cosmological Principle (1986).
Wheeler, in his pithy and gleeful way, often spoke about the Universe needing "us" to define it. He even sketched a famous little image, often called "U and eye (http://what-buddha-said.net/Pics/participant_observer.jpg)", in which an (apparently) human eye looks back from one limb of a large U representing the Universe, observing the other limb. (The original caption is "The Universe as a self-exciting circuit.")
So why do I think he has his tongue in his cheek about human consciousness being necessary to the Universe in some way? Because in his more careful writing, he specifically distances himself from that view. He is careful to distinguish between the Participatory Universe and the question of what constitutes an "observation" in QM.
There is a strange sense in which this is a "participatory universe".
...
We cannot speak in these terms without a caution and a question. The caution: "Consciousness" has nothing whatsoever to do with quantum processes. We are dealing with an event that makes itself known by an irreversible act of amplification, by an indelible record, an act of registration. Does that record subsequently enter into the "consciousness" of some person, some animal or some computer? Is that the first step in translating the measurement into "meaning"--meaning regarded as "the joint product of all the evidence that is available to those who communicate"? Then that is a separate part of the story, important but not to be confused with "quantum phenomenon".

Law without Law, in Quantum Theory and Measurement (Princeton University Press, 1983)The above appears, notably I think, in the very same text which includes the original of his "U and eye" diagram. So when Wheeler said "Anthropic" (but dropped the usage), when Wheeler made "us" the critical observers, when Wheeler sketched a characteristic little diagram containing a human eye bringing the Universe into existence, he was deviating from his carefully articulated thoughts on the matter. Was he too dumb to notice? Like hell he was. Did he have a sense of glee and a love of the pithy provocative phrase or image? He sure did.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I really do need to disengage myself from this thread. :)

Grant Hutchison

Daffy
2009-Oct-07, 03:33 PM
I can't really argue the point, Grant. Did he feel consciousness was required for the collapse of waveform? I dunno...as you point out sometimes he seemed to think no. OTOH, sometimes times he seemed to think yes. When he wrote things out he was apparently more cautious...does that mean he was being flip other times? Or more speculative? How would I know?

The point is, I didn't know the man, haven't studied his life, and all I could do is throw quotes back and forth. I just know I find the subject fascinating (how could one not?) and far from settled. John Wheeler's thoughts on the matter are definitely interesting, even if self contradictory.

Then again, I also have a huge collection of Warner Brothers cartoons. :)

Jetlack
2009-Oct-07, 04:47 PM
Grant,

"So why do I think he has his tongue in his cheek about human consciousness being necessary to the Universe in some way? Because in his more careful writing, he specifically distances himself from that view. He is careful to distinguish between the Participatory Universe and the question of what constitutes an "observation" in QM."

Well I suppose thats reasonable though Wheeler was always careful to caveat his reponses or claims regarding these foundational issues. However one can find many comments of his directly correlating qm, reality and consciousness. I still dont see how it can be ascertained from your example that he proposed PAP with tongue firmly in cheek.

My problem with characterising anyone elses theory as being "tongue-in-cheek" is it sort of delegitmises it from the start as in why should anyone take it seriously if even the originator thought it was a joke.

Ken G
2009-Oct-08, 03:24 AM
Much as I stand in awe of Wheeler's great and pithy insights, equalled only by the likes of Feynman, I would imagine that he shares our human tendencies to be occasionally wrong, or at least incomplete, and indeed I would point out certain difficulties with several of his points from the above quote:

"Consciousness" has nothing whatsoever to do with quantum processes. Here Wheeler is guilty of extrapolating his own choices of meaning in a way that makes them sound absolute, much like TheBlackCat does early in the thread. Certainly, there are ways to ask questions about consciousness, ways of thinking about what consciousness might be, that are utterly divorced from quantum mechanics. But that is not quite the same thing as saying the concept of consciousness cannot, in any of its useful manifestations, have any connection with quantum mechanics. Specifically, it seems likely that quantum mechanics itself is inextricably coupled to consciousness-- because quantum mechanics is science and so far, science is completely reserved for conscious beings. Indeed, if someone ever devised a machine that could do quantum mechanics (not just spit out a number, but actually undertake the scientific process we call quantum mechanics), I might tend to make the case that this is not a counterexample to my claim, as we may have there a conscious machine!

Is that the first step in translating the measurement into "meaning"--meaning regarded as "the joint product of all the evidence that is available to those who communicate"? Then that is a separate part of the story, important but not to be confused with "quantum phenomenon".Here I give Wheeler due credit for clearly defining his meaning of "meaning" (not a joke), but I find fault in his conclusion. To claim that translating measurement into meaning should not be confused with the phenomenon itself makes what I would tend to see as an artificial distinction between a phenomenon and the meaning we translate that phenomenon into. Indeed, I feel it is quite clear that everything we label a "phenomenon" represents a physical event after said translation, none before. Hence, I can't see how one could avoid "confusing" the two-- they are exactly the same. What's more, I feel this is quite an important thing to recognize about "quantum phenomenon"-- they exist entirely post-processed by our ability to interpret and translate said phenomenon. I believe I hold there a very Bohr-esque view.

Jetlack
2009-Oct-08, 11:36 AM
Ken G,

"Much as I stand in awe of Wheeler's great and pithy insights, equalled only by the likes of Feynman, I would imagine that he shares our human tendencies to be occasionally wrong, or at least incomplete, and indeed I would point out certain difficulties with several of his points from the above quote"

Or maybe he just hedged (for various reasons) some of his more "radical" ideas about the nature of qm and its relationship with conciousness. I am speculating here but i would suggest when he ruled out a connection between consciousness and qm he was doing so in order not to cause a huge kerfuffle. However his quantum cosmological theory based on a self-referential universe in which observers are also partiticpators in creating reality itself, is necessarily making a further statement about qm and conciousness.

So there is a contradiction in his different comments, however my opinion is that he had to temper some of his comments in order to placate the mainstream.

"Here I give Wheeler due credit for clearly defining his meaning of "meaning" (not a joke), but I find fault in his conclusion."

Agreed and one can only wonder why he came to such a public conclusion.

"What's more, I feel this is quite an important thing to recognize about "quantum phenomenon"-- they exist entirely post-processed by our ability to interpret and translate said phenomenon. I believe I hold there a very Bohr-esque view"

In that case, could one argue that reality itself is a post-processed phenomenom, hence it did not exist prior to its registration, or interpretation of some event? Isnt that what qm appears to do? It seems to me its a mechanism for creating reality from various optional histories. That's why - regardless of Wheeler's caveats - i believe qm is symbiotically linked to our consciousness, and enables reality to unfold in a consistent manner.

I also suspect (and i am just stating my opinion here) that Darwinism is not only the basis for biological evolution but that the inanimate universe itself is Darwinian and evolves in paralell to the biological sensory progress of its inhabitants-obervers. ie: if by chance a biological system evolves with the ability to see the colour blue, which came first the objective colour or the ability to define it? Perhaps they evolved together?

I know thats rather far out there but i dont see any evidenceto rule it out.

Ken G
2009-Oct-08, 06:29 PM
I am speculating here but i would suggest when he ruled out a connection between consciousness and qm he was doing so in order not to cause a huge kerfuffle.You may certainly be right, what we have here is only one single remark with no context and no reference to the greater body of all that he said. I'm not standing in judgement of his life's philosophy, I'm merely pointing out potential ways that that particular remark could be intepreted in a way that I would characterize as flawed. If I am taking him out of context, then I am defending him from others who might do the same and take those words literally for what they say.

However his quantum cosmological theory based on a self-referential universe in which observers are also partiticpators in creating reality itself, is necessarily making a further statement about qm and conciousness.
Yes, it sounds like he is sort of pandering to the mainstream tendency to separate what a "process" is from our efforts to understand said process. What I'm saying is, I don't think scientists should be placated in that prejudice-- instead, they should see it as a prejudice, one they get away with in a lot of places but perhaps not when pondering the ramifications of quantum mechanics.

In that case, could one argue that reality itself is a post-processed phenomenom, hence it did not exist prior to its registration, or interpretation of some event?I would put it not that "reality" is that, but rather that scientific reality is that. I see science as a particular internal language for making sense of reality, an epistemology if you like, which generates an ontological sense of "what is real" that can be taken either literally and seriously or totally figuratively and ambivalently, depending on taste. It is that latter sense of what is real (particles, waves, etc.) that I would call scientific reality, and would place it firmly in the "post-processed" arena.


Isnt that what qm appears to do? It seems to me its a mechanism for creating reality from various optional histories.I would say that's what conscious intelligence does, which then determines what quantum mechanics is, rather than saying it's what qm does. But I think I'm basically agreeing.


That's why - regardless of Wheeler's caveats - i believe qm is symbiotically linked to our consciousness, and enables reality to unfold in a consistent manner. I pretty much agree, though I'd put it that QM is a prescription that allows us to see reality as unfolding in a consistent manner.


I also suspect (and i am just stating my opinion here) that Darwinism is not only the basis for biological evolution but that the inanimate universe itself is Darwinian and evolves in paralell to the biological sensory progress of its inhabitants-obervers. ie: if by chance a biological system evolves with the ability to see the colour blue, which came first the objective colour or the ability to define it? Perhaps they evolved together?This gets tricky, I would say it depends on the means one uses to identify the color blue, its operational definition. If it is defined as a way of organizing a perception, then it did not exist prior to the evolution of both that perception and the intelligence to organize it. That is more of a biological definition though-- in physics, we would tend to define blue by any experiment capable of establishing the frequency of light. Note also that the experiment need not be carried out on purpose by some intelligence-- we are free to think of the intelligence that interprets the experiment as being separate from the experiment itself. This latter approach I would define as "scientific realism", and although one might imagine science without it, in practice one never sees science being done without it.

Jetlack
2009-Oct-08, 07:57 PM
Ken G,

"I'm merely pointing out potential ways that that particular remark could be intepreted in a way that I would characterize as flawed. If I am taking him out of context, then I am defending him from others who might do the same and take those words literally for what they say."

You're right its very problematic for us to try to figure out what he really thought. However i suspect, Wheelers's published theories offer a more unguarded insight into his thoughts on the matter. Perhaps he changed his mind a few times like anyone else. Someone pointed out to me once that he had also been actively involved in helping Everett with MWI. Which would be interesting as it's such a different interpretation to PAP.

"What I'm saying is, I don't think scientists should be placated in that prejudice-- instead, they should see it as a prejudice, one they get away with in a lot of places but perhaps not when pondering the ramifications of quantum mechanics"

Well there does appear to be a major conflict between the subjectivity attached to qm and classical needs for objectivity. It seems that an extraordinary amount of interpretations have been developed since Copenhagen, with the sole purpose of making qm classically objective one way or another.

Maybe our deepset bias towards copernican reasoning may be hindering our understanding of qm. I dont mean that from a human point of view, but from the pov of any biological system in the universe that defines, and experiences the post-processed environment.

"That is more of a biological definition though-- in physics, we would tend to define blue by any experiment capable of establishing the frequency of light."

And is there a universal defintion for that frequency of light which we would describe as "blue"? For instance is there some neutral way to describe that frequency which we could be assured would be interpreted by another intelligence as "blue"? Personally i have no idea.

I once remember reading something about how it would be next to impossible to explain the difference between our "left" and "right" symmetries, to an alien over radio communications. Which just seems odd.

Ken G
2009-Oct-08, 10:10 PM
Someone pointed out to me once that he had also been actively involved in helping Everett with MWI. Which would be interesting as it's such a different interpretation to PAP. Maybe not so surprising-- I would say PAP is what you get when you take MWI and insert consciousness. Copenhagen says MWI tells more of a story than is really there, PAP says MWI tells more of a story than can be read by the consciousness.

Well there does appear to be a major conflict between the subjectivity attached to qm and classical needs for objectivity. It seems that an extraordinary amount of interpretations have been developed since Copenhagen, with the sole purpose of making qm classically objective one way or another. That's what they imagined they were doing, but they forgot that objectivity does not mean you don't need an observer, it just means you can use any observer. There's a difference between observer-independent and observer-unnecessary.


Maybe our deepset bias towards copernican reasoning may be hindering our understanding of qm. I dont mean that from a human point of view, but from the pov of any biological system in the universe that defines, and experiences the post-processed environment. I think there's truth to that-- indeed I just gave a colloquium in which I claimed that there is a tendency to over-interpret Copernican thinking. Saying that we are not in a unique place is saying less than the claim that we are not in a special place. In other words, if you are in a mountain range, you can get a better view by climbing to the top of one of them-- it can be any of them (not unique), but it still involves climbing (a special process of some kind). Intelligent processing can be done from any reference frame, but it is still quite a special process, and we should expect it to have special ramifications.

And is there a universal defintion for that frequency of light which we would describe as "blue"? Sure, something like "enough energy to ionize a particular atom but not enough to ionize some other atom."


I once remember reading something about how it would be next to impossible to explain the difference between our "left" and "right" symmetries, to an alien over radio communications. Which just seems odd.Right, that's because left/right is a symmetry that is spontaneously broken (people have to learn by convention how to break that symmetry from someone who can show them how it is broken, a parent or teacher), but color does not exhibit a symmetry that must be spontaneously broken, it can ionize some atoms but not others.

eburacum45
2009-Oct-09, 11:29 AM
...left/right is a symmetry that is spontaneously broken (people have to learn by convention how to break that symmetry from someone who can show them how it is broken, a parent or teacher)
I was under the impression that this was a question to do with parity, and by using the weak interaction it would be possible to instruct a remote alien the absolute difference between left and right. This is from a quite old book by Martin Gardner I read many decades ago, so may be out of date.

Ken G
2009-Oct-09, 03:39 PM
I was under the impression that this was a question to do with parity, and by using the weak interaction it would be possible to instruct a remote alien the absolute difference between left and right. This is from a quite old book by Martin Gardiner I read many decades ago, so may be out of date.Yes, there are processes involving the weak interaction that could be used, but the point is it would be quite difficult. We have a nearly unbroken symmetry that has to be broken by a convention that is so arbitrary it requires direct instruction from someone else who has already broken the symmetry. Of course, we also have other ways, like which side your heart is on, but that's hard for a person to tell (and useless for an alien, or course). In most cases, we rely on the fact that the human brain tends to spontaneously break the left/right symmetry and start favoring one hand or the other-- so we say things like "right is the hand you write with", although it doesn't work for everyone! Those simple ways would be of no use to aliens, that's the issue there.

Jetlack
2009-Oct-09, 04:36 PM
Ken G,

"That's what they imagined they were doing, but they forgot that objectivity does not mean you don't need an observer, it just means you can use any observer. There's a difference between observer-independent and observer-unnecessary"

Wouldnt one need some sort of "consciousness" in order to be an observer which can process reality? I know it is argued in some interpretations that a particle can "measure" or "observe", hence it can independently collapse the proverbial wave-function. But I don't see how that can happen when the particle has no processing capabilties or memory in order to create a history.

I dont get the whole "decoherence" argument at all. Please correct me if i am mistaken, but I dont see how its compatible with a quantum cosmological theory in which our early universe evolved from a superposition of many other possibilties. If decoherence is correct that quantum states decohere through the slightest of interactions with their inanimate environment; then the universal wave function must have decohered immediately post BB from all that racket going on?

"Intelligent processing can be done from any reference frame, but it is still quite a special process, and we should expect it to have special ramifications."

Yes biology is special and in my view far more special than anything else in the universe. I know this is a cliche but i dont see the point of a universe without life. If there is nothing to experience/process reality then can it be said to have occured as a physical thing?

"Sure, something like "enough energy to ionize a particular atom but not enough to ionize some other atom."

Ya thats pretty good :-) What i mean is their "blue" might still look different just because of their optical sensory organs. So you might be able to characterise our "blue" as the ionisation of a certain atom and even if they understood that they might still never experience the colour "blue" as we do.

Jetlack
2009-Oct-09, 04:39 PM
I was under the impression that this was a question to do with parity, and by using the weak interaction it would be possible to instruct a remote alien the absolute difference between left and right. This is from a quite old book by Martin Gardiner I read many decades ago, so may be out of date.

Thats the book, now i remmber it was Gardiner but I can't remember the title.

Ken G
2009-Oct-09, 05:51 PM
Wouldnt one need some sort of "consciousness" in order to be an observer which can process reality?I would say you need a consciousness to process an observation, but not to conduct an observation. The conducting of the observation has more to do with "actualizing" information than it does with "registering" that information. For example, I would say that scientific realism normally imagines that the universe actualized information, and so conducted observations, prior to the appearance of the conscious intelligence that registered/correlated/interpreted it. This is closely related to the concept of "decoherence"-- quantum coherences are destroyed when a quantum system interacts with a macro system, so there's no "Shroedinger cat paradox." The macro interaction destroys the coherences, not the registering of that information by a consciousness.

Thus I do not feel it is correct to say that the consciousness collapses the wavefunction, but rather, the decohering interaction collapses the wavefunction, and the conscious processing decides it for that consciousness (which is what I think Wheeler means by "registers" it). Then the key issue that separates Bohr and many-worlds approaches is, when something is decided by a consciousness, can there be other consciousnesses that decide something else? To me, this question becomes, does science happen before consciousness, or after it? I say after, and side with Bohr, but it is a philosophical stance-- I do not support it with evidence, I say it is more consistent with what science can actually be claimed to be doing.


I know it is argued in some interpretations that a particle can "measure" or "observe", hence it can independently collapse the proverbial wave-function. But I don't see how that can happen when the particle has no processing capabilties or memory in order to create a history.
It's not the particle that does that, it is the noise in the macro system. That's what destroys the coherences. Now, in literal quantum mechanics, you never "destroy" a coherence, you simply bury it in more complicated correlations that you could never hope to extract. This means evolution is always "unitary", but in a way that is no help to science, as science is all about what you can extract. I then say, it is inconsistent to use science to establish an ontology that science is useless at extracting. Hence, the destruction of the coherence is as real as anything else science talks about, and thus, a macro system can carry out an observation even if there is strictly no observer. This is also connected to the concept of a "hypothetical" observer, which is also a core idea behind objectivity. Objectivity is then the statement that any hypothetical observer would get the same answer from the post-processing, but it is not the statement that we can omit having an action that the post-processing can successfully interpret as decohering the quantum state.

I dont get the whole "decoherence" argument at all. Please correct me if i am mistaken, but I dont see how its compatible with a quantum cosmological theory in which our early universe evolved from a superposition of many other possibilties.Decoherence does not remove a superposition, it couples it to something larger. If you are already talking about the whole universe, you can't decohere it, but you also can't make any sense of it. Quantum mechanics involves post-processing of decohered information, that's part of what quantum mechanics is (see my sig). You can't do quantum mechanics on "the universe," that's what I meant by not pandering to the prejudices of scientists who have not confronted that basic fact.


If decoherence is correct that quantum states decohere through the slightest of interactions with their inanimate environment; then the universal wave function must have decohered immediately post BB from all that racket going on? The "racket" would certain have very rapidly created hopelessly complicated coherences and correlations that any effort to do science on would instead throw up its hands and conclude "it decohered." This is a bit like stirring cream into coffee in the absence of any turbulence in the coffee-- you wouldn't actually mix the molecules of cream and coffee, there'd still be clear boundaries on the molecular scale long after you would see the cream and coffee as fully mixed. But the actuality doesn't matter, the post-processing is science.

I know this is a cliche but i dont see the point of a universe without life. If there is nothing to experience/process reality then can it be said to have occured as a physical thing? The old tree falling in the woods issue.

So you might be able to characterise our "blue" as the ionisation of a certain atom and even if they understood that they might still never experience the colour "blue" as we do.How do "we" experience the color blue? We each speak only for ourselves on that issue, and no language serves.

Jetlack
2009-Oct-10, 09:32 AM
Ken G,

"This is closely related to the concept of "decoherence"-- quantum coherences are destroyed when a quantum system interacts with a macro system, so there's no "Shroedinger cat paradox." The macro interaction destroys the coherences, not the registering of that information by a consciousness."

Okay I understand how you are distinguishing the two events, the interaction with a macro system, and then there is the registration of that event which is down to "consciousness" if its around and available. Then my question would be which of the two events cause reality? Can the first event, without there being a conscisouness to process it, be considered a reality before having been registered?

"Then the key issue that separates Bohr and many-worlds approaches is, when something is decided by a consciousness, can there be other consciousnesses that decide something else? To me, this question becomes, does science happen before consciousness, or after it? I say after, and side with Bohr, but it is a philosophical stance-- I do not support it with evidence, I say it is more consistent with what science can actually be claimed to be doing."

Yes I'd agree with that philosophical stance. However there must have been a "consciousness" which evolved first, the originator, and its initial experience of reality - no matter how primitive - would sort of force the universe into a configuration of laws consistent with the existence of that first "consciousness".

Its interesting you bring up "consistency" in regards to science because it would seem as if "consistency" is vital for any type of ordered and shared reality to occur among multiple sets of "conscisouness". Entanglement appears to fulfill that role as it could be interpreted as keeping history and reality consistent for all of us.

"I then say, it is inconsistent to use science to establish an ontology that science is useless at extracting."

That's a wonderful line!

"Decoherence does not remove a superposition, it couples it to something larger. If you are already talking about the whole universe, you can't decohere it, but you also can't make any sense of it. Quantum mechanics involves post-processing of decohered information, that's part of what quantum mechanics is (see my sig). You can't do quantum mechanics on "the universe," that's what I meant by not pandering to the prejudices of scientists who have not confronted that basic fact."

That makes it sound like you think qm is a science of "consciousness" because you focus on the post-processing which i believe you feel is where "consciousness" becomes necessary. And i apologise in advance if i have misunderstood you.

"The old tree falling in the woods issue."

Yes, but i dont see it as a problem in the same way you pointed out earlier about the Shrodinger's cat experiment, which is sort of flawed because of the macroscopic effect. There's going to be other living things in a forest correlated and entangled with us and our shared reality, so they will experience the tree falling, but their version of it would be completely different than ours - if we had been there to see it.

Also if entanglement occurs at FTL who would ever notice that the moon is not there when no-one or anything is observing it, or being effected by it? There would be no way to prove it one way or another because we dont have the physical capability to see anything occur that fast. I'm not saying the moon is not there or a tree does not make a noise etc, but just that if we accept the spooky action at a distance phenomenom, and we accept its happening FTL, then we have to accept that the moon really might not be there when no-one is looking.

On the other hand, If we are all entangled here on earth there would never be a moment when the moon is not effecting our consciousness in one way or another, hence it could always be there because of entanglement enforcing consistency on all our shared realities.

"How do "we" experience the color blue? We each speak only for ourselves on that issue, and no language serves."

Very true.

Ken G
2009-Oct-11, 12:32 PM
Okay I understand how you are distinguishing the two events, the interaction with a macro system, and then there is the registration of that event which is down to "consciousness" if its around and available. Then my question would be which of the two events cause reality? That, my friend, all depends on how one defines reality. Indeed, my personal view is that we delude ourselves if we imagine there is only one kind of reality-- we are simply forgetting that reality is a word, not a thing. In science, common use of the term is along the lines of "objective reality", which requires the potential for registering but not necessarily the actuality of registering, as it must allow contrafactual potentialities to support the requirement that any observer would register the same thing. This creates a significant problem in quantum mechanics, which is why a more sophisticated definition of reality is needed there. So I'd say you are really asking, "should the definition of reality that is most useful in quantum mechanics be applied before or after registering?" Then it depends on how literally you want to take the wave function. The Copenhagen school places the definition after registering, the many-worlds school places it before registering. I think the Copenhagen approach is truer to the philosophies of empiricism and positivism, but many-worlds is truer to the philosophy of rationalism. Perhaps we do well to simply keep track of both possible definitions.

However there must have been a "consciousness" which evolved first, the originator, and its initial experience of reality - no matter how primitive - would sort of force the universe into a configuration of laws consistent with the existence of that first "consciousness". We have the universe, and we have the universe according to each consciousness within it. Those are a bunch of different universes. The only requirement is consistency between them-- not identity.


Its interesting you bring up "consistency" in regards to science because it would seem as if "consistency" is vital for any type of ordered and shared reality to occur among multiple sets of "conscisouness". Entanglement appears to fulfill that role as it could be interpreted as keeping history and reality consistent for all of us. You have anticipated my next point. Then one can ask, "does the universe exhibit consistency because it is a logical requirement from the start, or is that simply the criterion we apply when we decide what our intelligence will count as objective reality?" The former stance is purely a choice to adopt so struggles with arbitrariness, the latter struggles with how come what is consistent is so far-reaching and powerful.

That makes it sound like you think qm is a science of "consciousness" because you focus on the post-processing which i believe you feel is where "consciousness" becomes necessary.Yes, that is a fair characterization of where I see consciousness/intelligence as fitting in. I'd say it is demonstrably true that science is a post-processed phenomenon, whose goal is to apply in a meaningful or powerful way to pre-processed reality, despite the fact that the latter is not what actually passes through the filter of science. (One of my sigs was that physics doesn't predict the future, it predicts the past before it happened, so now you can see what I meant by that-- to benefit from physics, it helps to imagine that it applies to the future, which is something not yet registered, but physics is actually only testable when applied to the past, to things that have been registered). It is an unavoidable paradox, and is the core of the never-ending debate between scientific empiricism and scientific rationalism. I don't think it has an answer, our job is merely to be aware of it and keep track of how each new discovery informs that core debate.
Yes, but i dont see it as a problem in the same way you pointed out earlier about the Shrodinger's cat experiment, which is sort of flawed because of the macroscopic effect. There's going to be other living things in a forest correlated and entangled with us and our shared reality, so they will experience the tree falling, but their version of it would be completely different than ours - if we had been there to see it.Yes, you are thinking along the same lines of the "not inconsistent but not identical" realities. This is the physical analog of Wittgenstein's linguistic observation that "if a lion could talk, we wouldn't understand it."


Also if entanglement occurs at FTL who would ever notice that the moon is not there when no-one or anything is observing it, or being effected by it?That's another inescapable paradox-- to test if something is there even when you are not seeing it, you'd have to look, thereby invalidating the hypothesis. You can certainly test that the Moon does not permanently cease to exist if no one is looking at it at a particular time (it had to predate intelligent life on Earth), but both entanglement and relativity point out that "looking" and "at a particular time" are incommensurate concepts. Whatever the construct we call "Moon" is organizing and unifying, it is something that has a complex relationship with time in any reference frame, and conscious processing in that frame.


I'm not saying the moon is not there or a tree does not make a noise etc, but just that if we accept the spooky action at a distance phenomenom, and we accept its happening FTL, then we have to accept that the moon really might not be there when no-one is looking. Rationalism versus empiricism, the debate never ends.


On the other hand, If we are all entangled here on earth there would never be a moment when the moon is not effecting our consciousness in one way or another, hence it could always be there because of entanglement enforcing consistency on all our shared realities.
Yes, you are saying it is impossible "not to look", because we look with more than our eyes, we look with everything that happens to us. Also, you are saying that we are always looking "now", even though there is a finite time of flight of light, because entanglement implies there are correlations between what is happening to us now and what is happening to the Moon now (and in the future, basically "now" is inclusive of any observing frame). Of course, to test the presence of those correlations you still have to look at the Moon. That latter issue is something that people often forget about entanglement-- because entanglement only shows up after you compare correlations, it does not escape the need for quantum mechanics to be a description of processed information, not "raw" information, if the latter can even be said to exist (to me it is something of an oxymoron).

Jetlack
2009-Oct-12, 11:33 AM
Ken G,

"That, my friend, all depends on how one defines reality. Indeed, my personal view is that we delude ourselves if we imagine there is only one kind of reality-- we are simply forgetting that reality is a word, not a thing. In science, common use of the term is along the lines of "objective reality", which requires the potential for registering but not necessarily the actuality of registering, as it must allow contrafactual potentialities to support the requirement that any observer would register the same thing. This creates a significant problem in quantum mechanics, which is why a more sophisticated definition of reality is needed there."

Yes I guess the key point is whether there exists anything but our individual and shared realities. I understand your point that we need to define reality before one could claim that outside of the biologically induced realities nothing actually exists.

But that seems to be where the disagreement on measurement in qm stems from. Earlier i assumed you were sort of saying that qm is a science of consciousness, but maybe its also a science of how reality unfolds, though one also may assume that "reality" needs bioloigcal consciousness in order to exist. So maybe its biology=consciousness=reality. I know many disagree with that statement because it makes biological systems a central if not primary engine for reality.

"So I'd say you are really asking, "should the definition of reality that is most useful in quantum mechanics be applied before or after registering?" Then it depends on how literally you want to take the wave function. The Copenhagen school places the definition after registering, the many-worlds school places it before registering. I think the Copenhagen approach is truer to the philosophies of empiricism and positivism, but many-worlds is truer to the philosophy of rationalism. Perhaps we do well to simply keep track of both possible definitions."

yes the Copenhagen approach is itself sort of a paradox because on the one hand it sticks to the principle that we cannot say anything about the physicality of a quantum state prior to its being processed (which i think is pretty objective) but then it says that before measurement/observation that thing does not exist in physical format which is sort of contradictory.

"Then one can ask, "does the universe exhibit consistency because it is a logical requirement from the start, or is that simply the criterion we apply when we decide what our intelligence will count as objective reality?" The former stance is purely a choice to adopt so struggles with arbitrariness, the latter struggles with how come what is consistent is so far-reaching and powerful."

Thats a good question. If i were to speculate i would suggest maybe there is a direct correlation between the consistency of usable energy available to the universe at any given moment (based on the sort of borrowing/repaying of energy that seems to apply to quantum fluctuations), and the consistency (entanglement) necessary for our shared reality. Maybe they are the same consistency and that might indicate that there is a finite amount of energy available in our universe, and our reality. If energy/information is finite then it would make logical sense that there needs to be a final consistency, otherwise if there was infinite energy/information available to the universe then we could all spend it like drunken sailors and reality would be unbounded (so to speak).

"That's another inescapable paradox-- to test if something is there even when you are not seeing it, you'd have to look, thereby invalidating the hypothesis. You can certainly test that the Moon does not permanently cease to exist if no one is looking at it at a particular time (it had to predate intelligent life on Earth), but both entanglement and relativity point out that "looking" and "at a particular time" are incommensurate concepts. Whatever the construct we call "Moon" is organizing and unifying, it is something that has a complex relationship with time in any reference frame, and conscious processing in that frame."

Thats interesting about the time reference because i dont see how we can actually claim that time even exists for quantum phenomenom before processing of that information occurs. Yes it exists for us as we process the information, and Shrodinger's equation involves the wave function evolving in time, but if we go back to Copenhagen's principle that the wave function is an abstract before its been processed, and we take entanglement seriously (which appears to have no need for time as we know it) then i think its very questionable to assume quantum mechanics ever experiences time.

Correct me if im wrong but i think this idea about "quantum time" was questioned when Wheeler and De Witt first came up with their quantum cosmological equation sort of based on Shrodingers equation. Didnt they notice that a universal wave function does not evolve in time but instead evolves in steps or increments?

I also question our concept of time related to qm because if the BB occured because of a quantum fluctuation as some suggest, and we insist on applying time to the evolution of a wave function as we do with Shrodingers equation then that would suggest time existed before the universe appeared, which i thought was a no-no. Isn't there a paradox there?

Of course, I'm not arguing that time existed before the BB, Im suggesting that no time reference is involved in qm, until reality occurs which requires biological systems to process.

"That latter issue is something that people often forget about entanglement-- because entanglement only shows up after you compare correlations, it does not escape the need for quantum mechanics to be a description of processed information, not "raw" information, if the latter can even be said to exist (to me it is something of an oxymoron)."

Yes and that (entanglement) seems to enforce the consistency required for all of us to share a finite reality which is based on finite energy/information resources.

I agree with you about the idea of "raw" information being somewhat redundant for processing reality. How is it possible to have information that is not defined or can not be differentiated from any other information. Can it even be classed as information? I dont think so.

So maybe a universe full of energy can exist without consciousness to process reality but what kind of universe would it be? Everything would be exactly the same, and symmetrical to the point of non-existence. This is why i firmly believe in the more radical conclusions made about qm interpretations and the necessity of conscious observers for any sort of objective reality to occur.

Ken G
2009-Oct-14, 06:44 AM
Earlier i assumed you were sort of saying that qm is a science of consciousness, but maybe its also a science of how reality unfolds, though one also may assume that "reality" needs bioloigcal consciousness in order to exist. I would say that even before we wonder about the existence of something, we have to ascertain if that something actually has any meaning. In that light, "reality" is a word whose definition requires a conscious intelligence. That intelligence will also define "exist" in some way, and so the existence of reality is entirely a function of the working of that intelligence. Nevertheless, different intelligences will find overlaps in their conclusions, so there seems to be some underlying consistency that transcends the various language about reality. To what extent is reality a kind of intersection of these concepts, and to what extent is it a union? Is reality what everyone can agree on, or can it include every different opinion? I'd say we need at least two different words, perhaps many different words, to talk about reality. It's a delusion that we can just throw out the word "reality" and have a precise or unique idea what we are talking about.


So maybe its biology=consciousness=reality. I know many disagree with that statement because it makes biological systems a central if not primary engine for reality. I don't know if intelligence has to be biological, but so far it certainly is. I do agree that the meaning of "reality" used in science is basically a post-processed meaning, that does require a biological conscious intelligence, so far as we have seen.

yes the Copenhagen approach is itself sort of a paradox because on the one hand it sticks to the principle that we cannot say anything about the physicality of a quantum state prior to its being processed (which i think is pretty objective) but then it says that before measurement/observation that thing does not exist in physical format which is sort of contradictory.I think it's consistent if one requires that only intelligence can define a concept of reality. A rock has no idea if it is real or not, so it is neither, the concept has no meaning for a rock, or for a universe containing only rocks. Nothing exists in physical format for such a universe, though neither does it not exist. The question is moot, like asking "what color is love?" So I would say that if a tree falls and no one sees it fall, but someone sees a similar tree in similar circumstances, the reality of the tree falling is dependent on the conscious processing of the similar event, and the conscious recognition of the similarity. So the first tree can be said to have fallen by analogy to the other tree, which did involve being observed. Otherwise, no one would have the vaguest idea what "if a tree falls in the woods" even means, it would be gibberish.

Thats a good question. If i were to speculate i would suggest maybe there is a direct correlation between the consistency of usable energy available to the universe at any given moment (based on the sort of borrowing/repaying of energy that seems to apply to quantum fluctuations), and the consistency (entanglement) necessary for our shared reality. Maybe they are the same consistency and that might indicate that there is a finite amount of energy available in our universe, and our reality. If energy/information is finite then it would make logical sense that there needs to be a final consistency, otherwise if there was infinite energy/information available to the universe then we could all spend it like drunken sailors and reality would be unbounded (so to speak). Yes, I think there is sense to that position. Consistency would seem to speak to some kind of limitation, perhaps viewable as a kind of limited information-like resource of some kind. The quantity has perhaps not yet been identified, or maybe Shannon entropy has something to say about it.

Thats interesting about the time reference because i dont see how we can actually claim that time even exists for quantum phenomenom before processing of that information occurs. Yes it exists for us as we process the information, and Shrodinger's equation involves the wave function evolving in time, but if we go back to Copenhagen's principle that the wave function is an abstract before its been processed, and we take entanglement seriously (which appears to have no need for time as we know it) then i think its very questionable to assume quantum mechanics ever experiences time. QM has an interesting relationship with time. In QM, time is not actually an observable, it is a parameter of the theory. So what does a clock measure? It measures an observable that in any situation is performing the same function as time, it is an observable that will give you the action of that parameter in that situation, but it is not a globally definable observable. There is no "time operator" in QM, time parametrizes mappings between operators but is not itself an operator. This may be the mathematical equivalent of what you are saying here.


I also question our concept of time related to qm because if the BB occured because of a quantum fluctuation as some suggest, and we insist on applying time to the evolution of a wave function as we do with Shrodingers equation then that would suggest time existed before the universe appeared, which i thought was a no-no. Isn't there a paradox there? One can imagine hypothetical clocks that might be able to function in the early moments of the Big Bang, but I'd say it's hard to imagine a clock that can function prior to the Big Bang. If not, then time was not an observable before the Big Bang. But since time is not really an observable in QM anyway, it's just a parameter, one might imagine that the parameter still has meaning pre-BB, it just does not correspond to anything a clock would do, so does not correspond to anything we'd recognize as time.


Of course, I'm not arguing that time existed before the BB, Im suggesting that no time reference is involved in qm, until reality occurs which requires biological systems to process. The trouble is, the processing can be applied to things that have already happened. That's important to physics-- we need to make sense of things that happened before we were here, so the processing can be post facto without leading to contradictions. When intelligence gave meaning to reality and time, the concept had to be able to be extrapolated both backward and forward to create the causal chain that physics relies on, that's a core assumption and it seems to work for some reason. The way I might put it is, time is a parameter in QM, but the perception of time has to be a valid operator that corresponds to the time parameter over any period where said perception was in play. The time parameter is then abstracted from the perception operator, without having to be the same thing, and it might act rather differently in some situations-- such as pre-BB. If no sentient being could have perceived time pre-BB, does that mean time started then? In the standard meaning of the word, I'd say yes, but for QM applications, it's not so clear.

Yes and that (entanglement) seems to enforce the consistency required for all of us to share a finite reality which is based on finite energy/information resources. Yes this is that interesting idea again, which I find reasonable. I might not say that entanglement enforces the consistency, I'd say entanglement is a manifestation of that consistency, which is in turn enforced by this limited information-like resource we are talking about, but it's basically the same thing you are saying.

So maybe a universe full of energy can exist without consciousness to process reality but what kind of universe would it be?One that can only see terms like "exist" and "reality" as meaningless gibberish.

This is why i firmly believe in the more radical conclusions made about qm interpretations and the necessity of conscious observers for any sort of objective reality to occur.I agree, though I'd replace "occur" with "have meaning as such." Not a big difference, the modification just works better when you introduce conscious intelligence later on.

Jetlack
2009-Oct-15, 07:55 PM
Ken G,

"I think it's consistent if one requires that only intelligence can define a concept of reality. A rock has no idea if it is real or not, so it is neither, the concept has no meaning for a rock, or for a universe containing only rocks. Nothing exists in physical format for such a universe, though neither does it not exist. The question is moot, like asking "what color is love?"

Isn't that an argument against "multiple universe" theories? :-)

"I might not say that entanglement enforces the consistency, I'd say entanglement is a manifestation of that consistency, which is in turn enforced by this limited information-like resource we are talking about, but it's basically the same thing you are saying."

In that sense qm does appear to behave as a law of conservation, or a framework for doling out what resources are required when and where in order to process "reality". Is it not logical to assume that nature would extend that thriftness throughout all universes in the "multiverse"?

If so, then i cant see why the infinite number of universes without "consciousness" would be physical in any sense whatsoever.

Ken G
2009-Oct-15, 08:25 PM
Isn't that an argument against "multiple universe" theories?When those can really be called "theories", I will pay attention to them. Not before.


In that sense qm does appear to behave as a law of conservation, or a framework for doling out what resources are required when and where in order to process "reality". Is it not logical to assume that nature would extend that thriftness throughout all universes in the "multiverse"?
Anything is "logical" when it comes to the multiverse, that's the problem with it. Want the logic of our universe to apply? Assert that. Want different logic to apply? Assert that, and say our logic is "anthropically selected" or some such thing. Why have a multiverse of different parameters in the laws, and not a multiverse of different laws too? Shouldn't Wonderland, of Alice fame, be in there too? Intelligence wouldn't appear in a universe that had no use for it, so why should we imagine that the multiverse has any use for our intelligence? And if it doesn't, how can our intelligence possibly use the concept for anything useful?


If so, then i cant see why the infinite number of universes without "consciousness" would be physical in any sense whatsoever.You've got company.

Daffy
2009-Oct-15, 10:12 PM
When those can really be called "theories", I will pay attention to them. Not before.

Ummm...wow. I can understand why you might choose to regard them as hypotheses rather than theories...but the cavalier rejection of the very notion seems a bit capricious at this stage, to say the least.

Jetlack
2009-Oct-16, 01:34 PM
Ken G,

"Anything is "logical" when it comes to the multiverse, that's the problem with it. Want the logic of our universe to apply? Assert that. Want different logic to apply? Assert that, and say our logic is "anthropically selected" or some such thing. Why have a multiverse of different parameters in the laws, and not a multiverse of different laws too? Shouldn't Wonderland, of Alice fame, be in there too? Intelligence wouldn't appear in a universe that had no use for it, so why should we imagine that the multiverse has any use for our intelligence? And if it doesn't, how can our intelligence possibly use the concept for anything useful?"

Thank heavens i'm not the only person that thinks this! And as you rightly point out theories (or hypothesis) which utilise the concept of a multiverse as a way of normalising or explaining away our own universe, have much to explain:

a) why are all the universes of a quantum mechanical variety?

b) And if they are quantum mechanical, why don't the laws of conservation apply to those universes also?

And to bring back a previous point we were discussing; the "multiverse" syndrome appears to be based on an extreme form of Copernican dogma. What started off as a reasonable assumption that earth (humanity) does not sit at the centre of the universe has morphed into an ideology which is hampering progress in areas such as qm, because of the crazy lengths it will go to in order to ignore the elephant in the room - biology.

Of course none of this is proof that qm is a science of "consciosuness" and i suppose that idea seems as outlandish as that of a physical "multiverse" I guess it all boils down to philosophical preferences.

Ken G
2009-Oct-19, 05:23 PM
Ummm...wow. I can understand why you might choose to regard them as hypotheses rather than theories...but the cavalier rejection of the very notion seems a bit capricious at this stage, to say the least.I'm not sure I'd even say reject, if "reject" means "establish as wrong." I put it more in the "not even wrong" camp, which I suppose is a kind of rejection but of a different kind. Scientists have enough science to track to bother with wild speculation. Indeed, it is not even accurate to call it a hypothesis-- the most important thing a hypothesis can do is to guide testing of some idea. The multiverse is closer to a theory than it is to a hypothesis, but it is neither-- not the first because it unifies nothing (it adds), and not the latter because it guides no testing. Capricious? I'd just say it is holding science to a standard of science.

Ken G
2009-Oct-19, 05:29 PM
What started off as a reasonable assumption that earth (humanity) does not sit at the centre of the universe has morphed into an ideology which is hampering progress in areas such as qm, because of the crazy lengths it will go to in order to ignore the elephant in the room - biology.

Of course none of this is proof that qm is a science of "consciosuness" and i suppose that idea seems as outlandish as that of a physical "multiverse" I guess it all boils down to philosophical preferences.Yes, I'm in full agreement, except I don't see QM as being any different on this score than any other subfield of physics. That describes all of it.

Daffy
2009-Oct-19, 07:13 PM
I'm not sure I'd even say reject, if "reject" means "establish as wrong." I put it more in the "not even wrong" camp, which I suppose is a kind of rejection but of a different kind. Scientists have enough science to track to bother with wild speculation. Indeed, it is not even accurate to call it a hypothesis-- the most important thing a hypothesis can do is to guide testing of some idea. The multiverse is closer to a theory than it is to a hypothesis, but it is neither-- not the first because it unifies nothing (it adds), and not the latter because it guides no testing. Capricious? I'd just say it is holding science to a standard of science.

A lot of things started out as being considered outlandish. I get your point, I think, except that you seem to be saying it is a waste of time even to consider the question. Just because you and I can't come up with tests, doesn't mean someone else won't.

I recall reading a statement by a scientist in the 19th century (someone help me with the name!) who bemoaned the fact that all important questions had been answered. I realize you are not saying that, but until certain aspects of consciousness and QM are answered, it seems premature to reject (or whatever word is appropriate) these notions out of hand.

Jetlack
2009-Oct-20, 10:11 AM
Daffy,

"A lot of things started out as being considered outlandish. I get your point, I think, except that you seem to be saying it is a waste of time even to consider the question. Just because you and I can't come up with tests, doesn't mean someone else won't."

I dont think any qm interpretations can be ruled out because as you rightly say none can currently be tested.

Problem is there is a tendency for the mainstream to decide which of those interpretations are more or less likely. So its all opinion in the end, hence i get irritated by folks claiming one or another is "mystical" purely because they dont agree with it.

I think the whole "multiverse" concept is logically flawed but i wouldnt demean those adherents by calling it "mystical". Though one could argue that its a fanciful idea that we need an infinite number if universes just to explain the coincidences within our own.

"I recall reading a statement by a scientist in the 19th century (someone help me with the name!) who bemoaned the fact that all important questions had been answered. I realize you are not saying that, but until certain aspects of consciousness and QM are answered, it seems premature to reject (or whatever word is appropriate) these notions out of hand."

For instance i recall on this forum a discussion about SETI, and our assumptions about how far our communications reach into interstellar space. I suggested an interstellar probe mission designed to listen to ourselves from 1 or 2 ly out because we've never actually done that. Sure we are told our signals are supposedly strong enough to be picked up 500 ly out (SETI faq). Has it ever been tested? No.

Apparently we knew everything about the heliosphere and the boundary edge of our solar system and interstellar space. Oops, IBEX results now show us that we knew less than we had assumed about the physics of the heliosphere.

So our science is constantly updated and it is only right to question areas we claim to have all sewn up.

But back to the multiverse; its got to be the most lazy theory ive heard in a long time :-) hehehehe

Ken G
2009-Oct-21, 04:13 AM
I get your point, I think, except that you seem to be saying it is a waste of time even to consider the question. Just because you and I can't come up with tests, doesn't mean someone else won't. But what is the question here? If I posit that invisible unicorns run the universe, can I then claim that it's up to you to come up with tests that show I'm wrong, or else I can accuse you of closing a door that should remain open? The multiverse idea is scientifically sterile expressly because there is no scientific question there. What's the scientific question, and how does it differ from the unicorn question? All I see is a means to what I would call a "warm fuzzy feeling" about why we are here, and goodness knows there are plenty of other ways of achieving that. The problem goes a lot deeper than just not offering any tests, it offers nothing scientific whatsoever (no unification, no hint at the next experiment, no falsifiable hypothesis, nothing).

I realize you are not saying that, but until certain aspects of consciousness and QM are answered, it seems premature to reject (or whatever word is appropriate) these notions out of hand.I reject no notions that have anything to do with QM or consciousness, I merely point out that the multiverse idea doesn't. There is nothing about either QM or consciousness that makes sense in a multiverse that cannot also make sense in a single universe. To me, the whole issue gets to the very heart of the extreme importance of what is a properly formulated scientific question, and what isn't. I see the ultimate irony in how many of the proponents of the multiverse idea (say, Weinberg) use it as a club to bludgeon what they call improper answers to scientific questions, without even noticing that they themselves have failed to pose such a question.

Incidentally, there may be some confusion about the multiverse and the many-worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics. The former is about universes with different parameters in them, the latter is about the same universe but with different actualizations or different conscious processing in them. The multiverse literally claims the existence of many (many!) universes, while many worlds merely claims the existence of many (many!) corners and eddies in our one universe. They are cut from the same wildly untestable and useless core ontology, but are quite different ideas.

Warren Platts
2009-Oct-21, 04:54 AM
The multiverse idea is scientifically sterile expressly because there is no scientific question there. What's the scientific question, and how does it differ from the unicorn question? All I see is a means to what I would call a "warm fuzzy feeling" about why we are here, and goodness knows there are plenty of other ways of achieving that. The problem goes a lot deeper than just not offering any tests, it offers nothing scientific whatsoever (no unification, no hint at the next experiment, no falsifiable hypothesis, nothing).
Well, if universes can split apart into different branches, then couldn't such branches be grafted into each other or bend back on themselves, thus avoiding some time travel paradoxes entailed by the view that the universe consists of one, single, unbranched space-time worm?

The point is that perhaps there are some perhaps radical, empirical differences between many-worlds vs. other systems.

That there are some metaphysical systems that can be refuted by empirical predictions seems hard to deny (within a particular scientific POV; e.g., young-Earth creationism as a metaphysical system is falsified by evolution science--at least within the scientistic linguistic framework systems that prevail on this board).

The practical point is that what you call "warm fuzzy feelings", other people would call a productive framework system from within which to develop new empirical hypotheses. Surely, you're not arguing that "cold slimy feelings" are the route to academic success in physics.

Bottom Line: The reason so-called "great minds" can't grasp consciousness is because they tend to be dogmatic. They tend to have a "god's eye" view of reality that automatically entails a Cartesian Theatre picture of the mind. Therefore, they can't look at consciousness itself because--to them--consciousness is a metaphysical construct, rather than the biological construct that it is.
___________________
"Say what you want about long dresses, but they cover a multitude of shins."--Mae West

Ken G
2009-Oct-21, 12:03 PM
Well, if universes can split apart into different branches, then couldn't such branches be grafted into each other or bend back on themselves, thus avoiding some time travel paradoxes entailed by the view that the universe consists of one, single, unbranched space-time worm? Anything "could be", including invisible unicorns. The issue is, where is the scientific value in asking a question that does not stimulate an experiment? That question is the 500 pound elephant in the living room of the multiverse. The "spacetime worm" view motivated millions of experiments and much of modern science. That doesn't make it true, but it does make it science.


The point is that perhaps there are some perhaps radical, empirical differences between many-worlds vs. other systems. There are perhaps all kinds of things. But what is science is something more than perhaps what is.


The practical point is that what you call "warm fuzzy feelings", other people would call a productive framework system from within which to develop new empirical hypotheses.And as I said before, just as soon as they feel like developing those empirical hypotheses, I'll be all ears. Not before.


Bottom Line: The reason so-called "great minds" can't grasp consciousness is because they tend to be dogmatic. They tend to have a "god's eye" view of reality that automatically entails a Cartesian Theatre picture of the mind. Therefore, they can't look at consciousness itself because--to them--consciousness is a metaphysical construct, rather than the biological construct that it is.That's an interesting dogma you prescribe to there.

Daffy
2009-Oct-21, 02:21 PM
But what is the question here? If I posit that invisible unicorns run the universe, can I then claim that it's up to you to come up with tests that show I'm wrong, or else I can accuse you of closing a door that should remain open?

The multiverse theory at least has mathematics to show it's possible; it is taken seriously by respected physicists. With all due respect, you are carrying your argument too far.

I would discuss it more but have not slept...apologies.

Ken G
2009-Oct-21, 04:42 PM
The multiverse theory at least has mathematics to show it's possible; it is taken seriously by respected physicists. What is this mathematics that shows that the multiverse is possible, an equation with several possible unknown parameters? That shows what? Or a better question, what mathematics could you imagine that could possibly show a multiverse is not possible? This is my point, it is why this is not science. And of course, great physicists over the course of history have taken seriously all kinds of things, including the role of an omnipotent creator. That doesn't make that science either. It has nothing to do with what is true, for in many situations that is a frame-dependent (and personal) issue, it just has to do with what is science-- and what isn't.

All I'm saying is that it is quite important for science to know what it is, or it gets itself into all kinds of backwaters that do not advance the course of knowledge. On the other hand, what physicists want to use for their own personal motivation for doing science, or for their own personal "warm fuzzy feelings" about their universe, is entirely up to the individual. This attitude must be applied consistently, across all science, or science becomes a kind of collusion between people with a similar personal philosophy. That has happened many times in the history of science, and never with improved results.

Daffy
2009-Oct-21, 09:10 PM
What is this mathematics that shows that the multiverse is possible, an equation with several possible unknown parameters? That shows what? Or a better question, what mathematics could you imagine that could possibly show a multiverse is not possible? This is my point, it is why this is not science. And of course, great physicists over the course of history have taken seriously all kinds of things, including the role of an omnipotent creator. That doesn't make that science either. It has nothing to do with what is true, for in many situations that is a frame-dependent (and personal) issue, it just has to do with what is science-- and what isn't.

All I'm saying is that it is quite important for science to know what it is, or it gets itself into all kinds of backwaters that do not advance the course of knowledge. On the other hand, what physicists want to use for their own personal motivation for doing science, or for their own personal "warm fuzzy feelings" about their universe, is entirely up to the individual. This attitude must be applied consistently, across all science, or science becomes a kind of collusion between people with a similar personal philosophy. That has happened many times in the history of science, and never with improved results.

Well, I don't have the math..and unless you do, neither one of us is really qualified. I only know that physicists I do know personally (2), tell me the equations support the idea, but that, as you said, there is (as yet) no way to verify or disprove the notion. As such, I stand by my opinion that comparing the idea to unicorns is inappropriate; there are no unicorn equations at all.

If means are found to test the idea, it won't be by someone who says we shouldn't even be asking the question, ya know?

Ken G
2009-Oct-21, 09:17 PM
I only know that physicists I do know personally (2), tell me the equations support the idea, but that, as you said, there is (as yet) no way to verify or disprove the notion. Newton felt his equations supported an omnipotent creator, it doesn't make it true, false, or science. Tell me what equations could be imagined that could falsify the multiverse, and I'll accept that the ones we actually have support it.


As such, I stand by my opinion that comparing the idea to unicorns is inappropriate; there are no unicorn equations at all.There are no multiverse equations either. In string theory, there is a problem with there being too many possible theories-- there does not appear to be anything inherent or required in reality to pick one version over another. So what? Reality picks one (or none) anyway. The multiverse stems from a desire for things to be a certain way-- an inherent and rationally constrained way. This desire says, if the universe itself does not appear to have to be a certain way, entirely because of some seemingly inescapable logical principle, then we need more universes to "solve" that ambiguity. I argue that any example of forcing the universe to be a certain way just because we would like to imagine it is that way is classic pseudoscience. Make a prediction, or stop pretending it is science.


If means are found to test the idea, it won't be by someone who says we shouldn't even be asking the question, ya know?My point is that it is still complete wild speculation until there is a way to test it. It is perfectly appropriate to label something as nonscientific when it is not testable, the idea that it "might become" testable is not enough to call something science. Ergo the unicorns, or the flying spaghetti monsters. If they want to call it science, they need to make it science. They have failed to do that, and it is just plain nonscientific to pretend otherwise.