Quantum Mechanics and Consiousness

For the discussion of the sciences. Physics problems, chemistry equations, biology weirdness, it all goes here.

Moderators: gmalivuk, Moderators General, Prelates

TGGeko
Posts: 36
Joined: Thu Mar 13, 2008 2:33 am UTC

Quantum Mechanics and Consiousness

Postby TGGeko » Sat Mar 22, 2008 2:15 pm UTC

Think about it. According to quantum mechanics, a wavefront will only colapse when we observe it. With that being said, if consiousness never existed, then the entire universe would still be in quantum flux. Thus our existence forced the entire universe to become what it is.

But here is the problem, Our brains are just a series of cells playing telephone, right materialist? :P And all the cells are made up of particles which are still governed by QM. So when did this complex bundle of particles go from just sending signals to causing wavefronts to collapse? Unless there is something besides our brain causing them to collapse, like our mind.

I suppose this could all be explained away with the many worlds idea. But thats no fun. :P
"She's hot and funny, what more could you want?"
"A sammich, thats what"

Robin S
Posts: 3579
Joined: Wed Jun 27, 2007 7:02 pm UTC
Location: London, UK
Contact:

Re: Quantum Mechanics and Consiousness

Postby Robin S » Sat Mar 22, 2008 2:43 pm UTC

Have you read The Emperor's New Mind, by any chance? There's a fair amount of information on the "quantum mind" hypothesis in Wikipedia. I believe most scientists ridicule the idea. I personally have not seen any scientific evidence for it, and the "logical" arguments fail to convince me (they seem too intuition-based, akin to many theological arguments that I have seen). Essentially it is yet another argument for a mystical "vital force".

A particular misconception that you appear to have:

With that being said, if consiousness never existed, then the entire universe would still be in quantum flux.
No. Even in formulations of quantum mechanics where wavefunctions need to collapse at all, the requisite "observation" does not generally mean "by a conscious observer". Why should it?
This is a placeholder until I think of something more creative to put here.

User avatar
Sir_Elderberry
Posts: 4206
Joined: Tue Dec 04, 2007 6:50 pm UTC
Location: Sector ZZ9 Plural Z Alpha
Contact:

Re: Quantum Mechanics and Consiousness

Postby Sir_Elderberry » Sat Mar 22, 2008 2:55 pm UTC

To my knowledge, "observed" does not imply "measured". It simply means "affected by something else". In a sense, any time when the object interacts with something, it has to interact somehow, and thus has to choose a state. When we measure it, all we do is interact with it and see how it interacts back. The fact that at the controls is something conscious does not affect the situation.
http://www.geekyhumanist.blogspot.com -- Science and the Concerned Voter
Belial wrote:You are the coolest guy that ever cooled.

I reiterate. Coolest. Guy.

Well. You heard him.

User avatar
Durandal
Posts: 659
Joined: Thu Nov 08, 2007 12:12 am UTC

Re: Quantum Mechanics and Consiousness

Postby Durandal » Sat Mar 22, 2008 3:46 pm UTC

Wasn't there something about this in that movie What the Bleep do We Know?

I thought next to everything in that movie was based on new-age nonsense.

Man in awe-struck voice wrote:If that happens when we only use 10% of our brains, imagine what could happen if we use all of it...
*voice trails off, leaving the viewer to contemplate the unimaginable power he wields that can shake the very foundation of the universe*

The 10% myth is, of course, just that. A myth. The film then lost all scientific credibility (since they can't seem to get basic facts right) and I stopped watching.

Robin S
Posts: 3579
Joined: Wed Jun 27, 2007 7:02 pm UTC
Location: London, UK
Contact:

Re: Quantum Mechanics and Consiousness

Postby Robin S » Sat Mar 22, 2008 3:53 pm UTC

While I basically agree with you, that is really an ad hominem argument. Just because that film says x (and also says many things which are not true), that does not mean x is not true. It might, however, reduce my belief in x if the film were my only source for the claim that x was true.
This is a placeholder until I think of something more creative to put here.

User avatar
Durandal
Posts: 659
Joined: Thu Nov 08, 2007 12:12 am UTC

Re: Quantum Mechanics and Consiousness

Postby Durandal » Sat Mar 22, 2008 4:05 pm UTC

True, it was an ad hominem argument. I was more intending to poke fun at the movie (and I suppose by extension new-age stuff in general), but I nonetheless personally discounted pretty much all the other points that movie tried to make. Blargh.

Robin S
Posts: 3579
Joined: Wed Jun 27, 2007 7:02 pm UTC
Location: London, UK
Contact:

Re: Quantum Mechanics and Consiousness

Postby Robin S » Sat Mar 22, 2008 4:14 pm UTC

I haven't seen it yet, so I'll have to wait and see how I react to it.
This is a placeholder until I think of something more creative to put here.

nevskey1
Posts: 257
Joined: Sat Oct 27, 2007 2:12 am UTC

Re: Quantum Mechanics and Consiousness

Postby nevskey1 » Sat Mar 22, 2008 7:15 pm UTC

In that Wiki on Quantum Mind, they mention Stuart Hammerhoff. I think he was involved in Bleep, which, I agree, is 99.99% crap. Most importantly, you can't draw moral imperatives from scientific facts. Science says "this is how the world is." Morality says, "this is how you ought to behave." Any effort to draw one from the other is crap. And, yeah, not to mention all the other new-age crap. But I digress....

Anyway, as mentioned in the article, this Hammerhoff character (he's actually an anesthesiologist and professor at U Arzona) has been doing interesting work with Penrose regarding the brain's harnessing quantum collapse to cause consciousness. Something to the effect that microtubules in neurons can fit a photon. They are all systematically arranged in the brain, so that each microtubule's conscious moment is linked to that of all the other to give what we experience as human consciousness. Obviously I'm not too well-versed on the details, but it sounds interesting. Related (sort of): I saw in Discover not too long ago that plant photosynthesis uses quantum computation to determine the best way to distribute the energy, or something (link).

In any case, my gut instinct is that looking at QM for the basis of consciousness is probably a step in the right direction pretty much for reasons of the OP. Also, David Bohm has some interesting things to say on the issue.
"Personally, I'd never want to be a member of any group where you either have to wear a hat or you can't wear a hat." --George Carlin.

Tchebu
Posts: 564
Joined: Thu Feb 22, 2007 12:42 am UTC
Location: Montreal

Re: Quantum Mechanics and Consiousness

Postby Tchebu » Sat Mar 22, 2008 7:36 pm UTC

The "observer" in QM has nothing at all to do with consciousness. The "observer" might as well be an electron catching a photon and switching orbitals. Not to mention that you don't get to choose what state the object of your observation collapses so no... you don't get magic powers from using "all of your brain" even if we did use only 10%.
Our universe is most certainly unique... it's the only one that string theory doesn't describe.

maxxrox
Posts: 20
Joined: Mon Mar 17, 2008 6:57 am UTC

Re: Quantum Mechanics and Consiousness

Postby maxxrox » Sat Mar 22, 2008 8:39 pm UTC

Oooh! Oooh! I know this one!

The answer is simple: what do you have to do to observe something? You have to bounce something off of it and see where it goes. Light, electrons, whatever, you can't observe something without some feedback. With electrons, for example, bouncing a photon off of one (if you could actually hit an electron with a photon, you usually can't since a photon's wavelength is too long) would excite the electron, making it jump up an energy level in whatever atom it's in. Therefore, by the time the photon gets back to you, the electron will be in a different place than it was when you observed it.

This theory has a name: Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle.

The same idea (if not exactly) extends to wavefronts: a wavefront will collapse when it has to be in a specific place and time, i.e. when you bounce something off of it. Whether whatever you bounced off of it gets picked up by some sensors, whether they be biological or artificial, is inconsequential.

User avatar
diotimajsh
Posts: 658
Joined: Wed Nov 14, 2007 7:10 am UTC
Contact:

Re: Quantum Mechanics and Consiousness

Postby diotimajsh » Sat Mar 22, 2008 9:44 pm UTC

maxxrox wrote:what do you have to do to observe something? You have to bounce something off of it and see where it goes.

One of my favorite things any of my professors has ever said was something like, "This is how science works: you bounce shit off stuff."

Regarding the OP's point: as others have pointed out, the observation does not need to be made by a conscious entity. While it's true that there are theorists who try and make consciousness an irreducible component of the universe, I believe that they're currently in the minority.
Osha wrote:Foolish Patriarchy! Your feeble attempts at social pressure have no effect on my invincible awesomeness! Bwahahahaa


Blog type thing

nevskey1
Posts: 257
Joined: Sat Oct 27, 2007 2:12 am UTC

Re: Quantum Mechanics and Consiousness

Postby nevskey1 » Sun Mar 23, 2008 1:12 am UTC

Here's a link for a video interview with Stuart Hamerhoff where he explains his work. Now, I have to say that it is associated with Bleep. Please, please, please get past the introduction with the annoying lady at the beginning, the strange bald dude, with a weird goatee and earring, so that you can form a valid opinion. I realize how off-putting that all is, but he actually knows what he's taking about and tries to avoid the new-age crap that the interviewer pushes. I just finished reading Seth Lloyd's The Computational Universe, and if that's to be trusted, then this guy is in complete agreement with it.

Link: http://www.consciousmedianetwork.com/members/shameroff.htm

diotimajsh wrote:Regarding the OP's point: as others have pointed out, the observation does not need to be made by a conscious entity. While it's true that there are theorists who try and make consciousness an irreducible component of the universe, I believe that they're currently in the minority.
Penrose is of a minority of that minority. He claims that consciousness arises as a result of self-collapse, once the superposed particle reaches a critical threshold. He also believes that this is the mechanism whereby quantum gravity is generated. So, gravity and consciousness, if not the same, are, according to Penrose, at least both produced in the exact same way. Hamerhoff claims that this self-collapse occurs in microtubules, which are integral to the structure of neurons, amongst much else.
"Personally, I'd never want to be a member of any group where you either have to wear a hat or you can't wear a hat." --George Carlin.

User avatar
Gelsamel
Lame and emo
Posts: 8237
Joined: Thu Oct 05, 2006 10:49 am UTC
Location: Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Re: Quantum Mechanics and Consiousness

Postby Gelsamel » Sun Mar 23, 2008 3:32 am UTC

First of all, Consciousness Causes Collapse is total unfalsifiable untestable BS. You can believe it if you want - but it's not science. For the exact same reason that God and Religion aren't science.


Second, I'm not sure Consciousness Causes Collapse is even a valid interpretation, how does it explain weak measurements?
"Give up here?"
- > No
"Do you accept defeat?"
- > No
"Do you think games are silly little things?"
- > No
"Is it all pointless?"
- > No
"Do you admit there is no meaning to this world?"
- > No

Generic Goon
Posts: 18
Joined: Sun Jan 27, 2008 5:20 pm UTC

Re: Quantum Mechanics and Consiousness

Postby Generic Goon » Sun Mar 23, 2008 4:16 am UTC

maxxrox wrote:With electrons, for example, bouncing a photon off of one (if you could actually hit an electron with a photon, you usually can't since a photon's wavelength is too long) would excite the electron, making it jump up an energy level in whatever atom it's in. Therefore, by the time the photon gets back to you, the electron will be in a different place than it was when you observed it.

This theory has a name: Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle.


I have only a VERY basic understanding of quantum mechanics, but as I understand it the uncertainly principle isn't that we can't observe a given particle's momentum and location simultaneously, but rather that a particle doesn't have a momentum and location at the same time. I believe what is described here is called the observer effect or something to that effect.

Of course I might be completely wrong.

User avatar
Gelsamel
Lame and emo
Posts: 8237
Joined: Thu Oct 05, 2006 10:49 am UTC
Location: Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Re: Quantum Mechanics and Consiousness

Postby Gelsamel » Sun Mar 23, 2008 5:17 am UTC

It depends on what interpretation you take on QM as to whether it's part of the observer affect or something intrinsic to the universe.

From Wiki:
The uncertainty principle is related to the observer effect, with which it is often conflated. In the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics, the uncertainty principle is a theoretical limitation of how small this observer effect can be. A precise position measurement must alter the momentum by a large indeterminate amount, and vice-versa.

While this is true in all interpretations, in many modern interpretations of quantum mechanics (many-worlds and variants), the quantum state itself is the fundamental physical quantity, not the position or momentum. Taking this perspective, while the momentum and position are still uncertain, the uncertainty is an effect caused not just by observation, but by any entanglement with the environment.


I do remember hearing that even Interaction Free Measurements give rise to Heisenberg uncertainty. I may be wrong.
"Give up here?"
- > No
"Do you accept defeat?"
- > No
"Do you think games are silly little things?"
- > No
"Is it all pointless?"
- > No
"Do you admit there is no meaning to this world?"
- > No

TGGeko
Posts: 36
Joined: Thu Mar 13, 2008 2:33 am UTC

Re: Quantum Mechanics and Consiousness

Postby TGGeko » Sun Mar 23, 2008 3:41 pm UTC

Well, if collapse happens when we bounce a photon off of an electron, who is to say that both particles arn't in superpostition before we see them? All we know is that when we do observe them, the particle collapses into a single state. Quantum mechanics should say that not only the moon is and isnt there, but the ENTIRE univarse is and isnt there when were not looking at it. How are we supposed to know if it collapses at other times? The thing is, we wouldn't know.

There is no way to know if wave fronts collapse when we dont look at it.
"She's hot and funny, what more could you want?"
"A sammich, thats what"

Tchebu
Posts: 564
Joined: Thu Feb 22, 2007 12:42 am UTC
Location: Montreal

Re: Quantum Mechanics and Consiousness

Postby Tchebu » Sun Mar 23, 2008 5:34 pm UTC

Well, if collapse happens when we bounce a photon off of an electron, who is to say that both particles arn't in superpostition before we see them? All we know is that when we do observe them, the particle collapses into a single state. Quantum mechanics should say that not only the moon is and isnt there, but the ENTIRE univarse is and isnt there when were not looking at it. How are we supposed to know if it collapses at other times? The thing is, we wouldn't know.


If YOU close your eyes, I will not see the Universe disappear. But how are you supposed to know if it's still collapsing into the states I observe?

Besides what about the interactions that you aren't consciously aware of? I bet your ass got used to the chair you're sitting on (if you're not sitting down, just play along), and you were not consciously aware of the fact that it's pushing up on you anymore until I just mentioned it. That didn't cause you to fall through your chair because your consciousness stopped collapsing the chair into the bunch of "it's pushing me up with virtual photons" states. And noone else has to be in the room staring at your chair collapsing it for you either.
Our universe is most certainly unique... it's the only one that string theory doesn't describe.

nevskey1
Posts: 257
Joined: Sat Oct 27, 2007 2:12 am UTC

Re: Quantum Mechanics and Consiousness

Postby nevskey1 » Sun Mar 23, 2008 6:19 pm UTC

This is true. But I think that this argument is mistakenly conflating the quantum and the classical levels.
TGGeko wrote:All we know is that when we do observe them, the particle collapses into a single state.
Agreed.
TGGeko wrote:Quantum mechanics should say that not only the moon is and isnt there, but the ENTIRE univarse is and isnt there when were not looking at it. How are we supposed to know if it collapses at other times? The thing is, we wouldn't know.
Here is where I see the problem. Once something is "upgraded" from quantum to classical, once it decoheres, then the coherent superposition stuff no longer applies. Who knows what happens to the other possibilities? Different interpretations say different things. But the point is that consciousness is not required to maintain the calssical world. Only to reach the classical world.

As I see it, there are three arguments. 1. Consciousness is not needed. Any interaction will cause collapse. This seems to be Tchebu's view. But then, as TGGeko points out, how do we know that that interaction isn't in fact just another superposed entanglement? Which leads to 2. the familiar consciousness-causes-collapse view. Finally there's the least popular 3. self-collapse-causes-consciousness view, as per Penrose. At present I guess it's about as tenable as string-theory, but this is the one that I favor.

I hope that's a fair assessment. I find sumarries like that helpful. Anyway, carry on with the debate.
"Personally, I'd never want to be a member of any group where you either have to wear a hat or you can't wear a hat." --George Carlin.

Tchebu
Posts: 564
Joined: Thu Feb 22, 2007 12:42 am UTC
Location: Montreal

Re: Quantum Mechanics and Consiousness

Postby Tchebu » Sun Mar 23, 2008 6:59 pm UTC

3. self-collapse-causes-consciousness view, as per Penrose. At present I guess it's about as tenable as string-theory, but this is the one that I favor.

That seems a bit like:

-Why are we conscious?
-EVERYTHING is conscious... there we go... problem solved...
Our universe is most certainly unique... it's the only one that string theory doesn't describe.

nevskey1
Posts: 257
Joined: Sat Oct 27, 2007 2:12 am UTC

Re: Quantum Mechanics and Consiousness

Postby nevskey1 » Sun Mar 23, 2008 8:01 pm UTC

Yeah, by all means. I will unabashedly admit that intuitively I am inclined to side with that sort of more mystical view of Platonism and Spinozist pantheism, not to mention Hinduism and Buddhism. If you keep up with the philosophical discussion this is also what David Chalmers puts forward - under cumbersome the title of "protopansychism" - on logical grounds. I've been grappling with his 2-D semantics for some time now and find it appealing. Clearly Penrose is getting at the same idea, but from the standpoint of theoretical physics, though he does heavily rely on Godel.

Anyway, I understand that it's almost taboo these days, particularly in scientifically-minded areas (such as this forum), to express my gnostic predilections, but I don't think that they should be a barrier to intelligent debate based on known and accepted facts. And that's the effort I support, rather than just simply dismissing the issue with "everything is conscious." But yeah, the bottom line of any Platonic line of thinking, such as Chalmers's and Penrose's, is basically that consciousness if fundamental.
"Personally, I'd never want to be a member of any group where you either have to wear a hat or you can't wear a hat." --George Carlin.

Tchebu
Posts: 564
Joined: Thu Feb 22, 2007 12:42 am UTC
Location: Montreal

Re: Quantum Mechanics and Consiousness

Postby Tchebu » Sun Mar 23, 2008 10:22 pm UTC

But isn't that just surcumventing the problem? The reason consciousness is something that we want to figure out is really because we seem to exhibit it more than a rock. Saying, "nah, actually that rock experiences the world around just as much as you do" is not enough for a multitude of reasons.

Also, consciousness really becomes even worse defined that it was before. Is each individual neuron conscious?... well according to you, yes. What about the atoms constituting them? Are they the same consciousness? Is the neuron's consciousness just the result of the combination of the consciousnesses of the atoms? If so, why do we only experience consciously the stuff that comes through our sensory organs, and even not all of that either (see example with ass on chair)?
Our universe is most certainly unique... it's the only one that string theory doesn't describe.

Gauss
Posts: 8
Joined: Thu Aug 02, 2007 1:51 pm UTC
Location: On the long arm of the milkyway
Contact:

Re: Quantum Mechanics and Consiousness

Postby Gauss » Sun Mar 23, 2008 10:35 pm UTC

Why do philosophers (or meta-physicists) get to take a dumbed down layman-ized version of Quantum mechanics, totally misunderstand it and try to warp it into a philosophy? I hate to be so negative, but seeing physics distorted so makes me sad.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Consciousn ... s_collapse (Quantum Mysticism, article on wiki)

1. Consciousness is not needed. Any interaction will cause collapse.

Since the observer is only the thought experiment's name for another interacting object (in the original thought experiment observer was a scientist poking a quantum particle with a measurement), this is the only correct interpretation of quantum theory.

2. the familiar consciousness-causes-collapse view. Finally there's the least popular
3. self-collapse-causes-consciousness view, as per Penrose. At present I guess it's about as tenable as string-theory, but this is the one that I favor.

These misuse and abuse the idea of quantum physics, the loudest proponents are anaethesiologists or philosophers who have no real math or physics background in a field where you need huge amounts of both. Unfortunately the flash video kept messing up on me so I couldn't evaluate what he was saying past the rubbish of Bleep, but I am sure it's no more ingenious than anything else coming from the "meta-physics" community. (BTW, I don't mean to knock either of those professions but you definitely wouldn't want me giving you any knock-out gas or coming up with next iteration of philosophical thought)

The most accurate thing said here was:
Bleep, which, I agree, is 99.99% crap.

I would add a couple nines to that though. As someone who has a Bachelor's in physics at the end of the movie all I wanted was my 2 hours back.
To iterate is human, to recurse, divine.

nevskey1
Posts: 257
Joined: Sat Oct 27, 2007 2:12 am UTC

Re: Quantum Mechanics and Consiousness

Postby nevskey1 » Sun Mar 23, 2008 11:25 pm UTC

Tchebu wrote:But isn't that just circumventing the problem? The reason consciousness is something that we want to figure out is really because we seem to exhibit it more than a rock. Saying, "nah, actually that rock experiences the world around just as much as you do" is not enough for a multitude of reasons.
Actually there's an interesting and somewhat unexpected consequence of what I've been proposing. If you grant that consciousness is fundamental in nature, then that actually makes it a more objective and, thus, amenable to scientific analysis. Such a prospect actually would allow for the measurement of consciousness in the same way that we measure the "amount" (i.e., strength) of gravity or the electric charge of a particle. Thus, saying that consciousness is fundamental actually makes it less difficult to work with and makes it easier to objectively differentiate between a rock's level of consciousness, a fly's, and a human's. This is a point that Chalmers makes and I think it's quite an important one.

@Gauss: I recommend that you hear Hammeroff out. As I said, he thankfully avoids all the Bleepish nonsense that the interviewer keeps insisting on. He is in complete agreement with mainstream physics, as well as biology. And his work is a collaboration with Roger Penrose, who, albeit controversial, is a very well-respected name in physics proper, if that makes makes such a large difference. Also, to earn an M.D. one has to know, at the very least, enough math and science to maintain an intelligent conversation about their philosophical implications, if not the specific consequences for within the fields themselves.
"Personally, I'd never want to be a member of any group where you either have to wear a hat or you can't wear a hat." --George Carlin.

Robin S
Posts: 3579
Joined: Wed Jun 27, 2007 7:02 pm UTC
Location: London, UK
Contact:

Re: Quantum Mechanics and Consiousness

Postby Robin S » Sun Mar 23, 2008 11:26 pm UTC

As I see it, this thread is split between those who say "it feels right" and those who say "well, then, find some evidence for it".
This is a placeholder until I think of something more creative to put here.

nevskey1
Posts: 257
Joined: Sat Oct 27, 2007 2:12 am UTC

Re: Quantum Mechanics and Consiousness

Postby nevskey1 » Sun Mar 23, 2008 11:39 pm UTC

Of course, the same can be said for string theory, black holes, and much else. Actually, to me the issue of consciousness seems more similar to friction: we have the evidence, but we can't quite explain it. IIRC, the binding molecules explanation is the current vogue, but it's never really been explained satisfactorily and is still a much debated issue.
"Personally, I'd never want to be a member of any group where you either have to wear a hat or you can't wear a hat." --George Carlin.

User avatar
yy2bggggs
Posts: 1261
Joined: Tue Oct 17, 2006 6:42 am UTC

Re: Quantum Mechanics and Consiousness

Postby yy2bggggs » Sun Mar 23, 2008 11:42 pm UTC

nevskey1 wrote:If you grant that consciousness is fundamental in nature, then that actually makes it a more objective and, thus, amenable to scientific analysis.
One doesn't infer the other.
Such a prospect actually would allow for the measurement of consciousness in the same way that we measure the "amount" (i.e., strength) of gravity or the electric charge of a particle.
Gravity and electric charge yield forces, which can be measured for example by using devices that resist forces by known quantities (such as scales).

What sort of device would you use to measure consciousness?
This is a point that Chalmers makes and I think it's quite an important one.
Chalmers was a pioneer of the concept of the hard problem of consciousness, which basically spells out that consciousness is more difficult to study on a fundamental level than such other phenomenon. An implication of the hard problem of consciousness is that it just might be possible that consciousness is fundamentally unaddressable.

I think you need to name drop someone else for this one.
Image

nevskey1
Posts: 257
Joined: Sat Oct 27, 2007 2:12 am UTC

Re: Quantum Mechanics and Consiousness

Postby nevskey1 » Mon Mar 24, 2008 12:34 am UTC

yy2bggggs wrote:I think you need to name drop someone else for this one.
Well, I guess the line between name-dropping and citing sources is much finer than I thought. My mistake. I'll try to tread more carefully.

yy2bggggs wrote:
nevskey1 wrote:If you grant that consciousness is fundamental in nature, then that actually makes it a more objective and, thus, amenable to scientific analysis.
One doesn't infer the other.
Why? If all that the first claim is saying is that consciousness is not supernatural or divine, or anything like that. It's a perfectly normal aspect of the world like anything else that science studies. Only, rather than the more popular popular view that it's an emergent property, this one says that it's more basic than that. (But then, on Bohm's interpretation, moving from implicate to explicate order, is quite similar to emergent properties on the more conventional scale.)
yy2bggggs wrote:What sort of device would you use to measure consciousness?
Patent pending! :P No, but I really don't know. Granted some way of generating measurable "friction" between consciousness and the device is needed. I'm not sure, but I suspect that quantum computers would have to be involved. But that's about as much as I can say.

yy2bggggs wrote:Chalmers was a pioneer of the concept of the hard problem of consciousness, which basically spells out that consciousness is more difficult to study on a fundamental level than such other phenomenon. An implication of the hard problem of consciousness is that it just might be possible that consciousness is fundamentally unaddressable.
This is true. But that is not the only implication. Chalmers's main reason for the easy/hard probelem distinction is to show that no marialist or dualist view solves the hard problem. Thus he proposes protopansychism. He suggests that any instance of information processing is an instance of consciousness. Of course, the more information, the more consciousness. (But then, perhaps information "depth" and integration should also be taken into account.) On this basis he also suggests that consciousness may indeed be a measurable phenomenon.
"Personally, I'd never want to be a member of any group where you either have to wear a hat or you can't wear a hat." --George Carlin.

Robin S
Posts: 3579
Joined: Wed Jun 27, 2007 7:02 pm UTC
Location: London, UK
Contact:

Re: Quantum Mechanics and Consiousness

Postby Robin S » Mon Mar 24, 2008 1:11 am UTC

nevskey1 wrote:
yy2bggggs wrote:What sort of device would you use to measure consciousness?
Patent pending! :P No, but I really don't know. Granted some way of generating measurable "friction" between consciousness and the device is needed. I'm not sure, but I suspect that quantum computers would have to be involved. But that's about as much as I can say.
More importantly, how would you know it was consciousness you were measuring? Gravity, for example, is defined as that phenomenon which causes an attractive force to be exerted between two masses. The electromagnetic force is defined similarly. However, consciousness is defined, inasmuch as it is defined at all, as a subjective experience. Even if you demonstrate a correlation between (assumed) consciousness - such as your own and that of other people / animals - and some measurable quantity, that doesn't necessarily mean that there is consciousness wherever that quantity is measured.
This is a placeholder until I think of something more creative to put here.

Tchebu
Posts: 564
Joined: Thu Feb 22, 2007 12:42 am UTC
Location: Montreal

Re: Quantum Mechanics and Consiousness

Postby Tchebu » Mon Mar 24, 2008 1:18 am UTC

I recommend that you hear Hammeroff out


I saw a video of him talking at Beyond Belief 2006. He really comes across like "Hey, I'm an anaesthesiologist, I make people unconscious by interfering with london forces acting between neurons, therefore consciousness must be quantum in nature. And look, it overlaps with so many mystical ideas from all sorts of cultures... cool"

Tell me, how do the people working on this stuff define consciousness? When they'll be measuring it, what exactly do they expect to measure?
Our universe is most certainly unique... it's the only one that string theory doesn't describe.

User avatar
yy2bggggs
Posts: 1261
Joined: Tue Oct 17, 2006 6:42 am UTC

Re: Quantum Mechanics and Consiousness

Postby yy2bggggs » Mon Mar 24, 2008 1:21 am UTC

nevskey1 wrote:
yy2bggggs wrote:
nevskey1 wrote:If you grant that consciousness is fundamental in nature, then that actually makes it a more objective and, thus, amenable to scientific analysis.
One doesn't infer the other.
Why? If all that the first claim is saying is that consciousness is not supernatural or divine, or anything like that. It's a perfectly normal aspect of the world like anything else that science studies.
But once again you're making the same incorrect assumption. X is objective, Y is objective, X is amendable to scientific analysis, therefore Y is? That's not necessarily the case.

Being objective in itself doesn't make something amendable to scientific analysis. It has to be, well, analyzable. It has to be something that's in essence preserved when you phrase hypotheses about it, even if you have to change it slightly to phrase those hypotheses. It has to be something you can poke at and get a result from, or at least something you can observe multiple pokings of and get a result from.

There are many aspects of consciousness, and quite a few of them--the "easy" ones as Chalmers calls them--actually are quite amendable to scientific analysis. Things like intelligence, for example, are simply behaviors--reactions and stored states. But this one tiny aspect--experience--defies any straightforward analysis, and may even defy addressability.
I'm not sure, but I suspect that quantum computers would have to be involved. But that's about as much as I can say.
Chalmers makes fun of this, calling it the Law of Minimization of Mystery. After all, consciousness is mysterious, and quantum mechanics is mysterious--maybe they are related? None of the problems Chalmers points out, however, are really addressable by Yet Another Physics. There may be easy problems of consciousness that QM could help with, but just adding Hilbert spaces and vectors, and even infinite numbers of things that cancel out, don't really help you at all to understand why some thing that isn't necessary to be there in the first place, is.
Chalmers's main reason for the easy/hard probelem distinction is to show that no marialist or dualist view solves the hard problem.
Which should be separated from the speculative aspect, which is:
Thus he proposes protopansychism.
...which is still, essentially, an untestable theory. Given a lack of scientific analysis, you simply have the tools you have left to attack a problem. If those tools perform poorly on other problems, we should realistically expect them to perform just as poorly on this one.

I prefer a model given in another thread. Abstracting out, it's reasonable to assume that there is some sort of metaphysical mechanism that yields consciousness. Given this, all we can reasonably say is that the closer a system we make is to this system, metaphysically speaking, the greater chance we have of happening upon the metaphysical mechanism yielding consciousness, and thus, producing consciousness.

But if that's as far as we can go, that's it. Producing things that wind up being conscious doesn't really help us, if we can't distinguish conscious entities from p-zombies, to divine what it is about these metaphysical systems that gives rise to consciousness. Coming up with "theories" about what it is, IMO, is equivalent to merely guessing what the metaphysical structures are that yield consciousness. And again, unless some sort of preference is established for these systems, these guesses are simply just that--guesses.

Now I don't mind speculation as a tool for guessing--at least it could be based on something (i.e., saying something like, "experience requires some level of processing and awareness, and that implies that we probably need senses and the ability to categorize things on at least a high level"), but I don't think the problem at heart goes away because someone assumes that objective things should be analyzable because, say, I <3 science or something (not claiming this is your reason, but treat this as a prototype of whatever reasons you're applying).

(And for the record, I <3 science).
Image

nevskey1
Posts: 257
Joined: Sat Oct 27, 2007 2:12 am UTC

Re: Quantum Mechanics and Consiousness

Postby nevskey1 » Mon Mar 24, 2008 2:36 am UTC

Robin S wrote:More importantly, how would you know it was consciousness you were measuring? Gravity, for example, is defined as that phenomenon which causes an attractive force to be exerted between two masses. The electromagnetic force is defined similarly. However, consciousness is defined, inasmuch as it is defined at all, as a subjective experience. Even if you demonstrate a correlation between (assumed) consciousness - such as your own and that of other people / animals - and some measurable quantity, that doesn't necessarily mean that there is consciousness wherever that quantity is measured.
But couldn't one just as well say that just because we measure a value for G*m1*m2/r^2, that doesn't mean that we're measuring gravity? (Indeed, Newton was himself actually quite troubled by this question.) And same for Coulomb's law. I think the problem here is a lack of belief in inference. Basically, does correlation imply causation? We see that the law correlates to experience. But does it REALLY explain experience (e.g., gravity)? I think correlation is the best that science can due, and we can trust that it progressively approaches the correct explanation, even if only asymptotically.

yy2bggggs wrote:But once again you're making the same incorrect assumption. X is objective, Y is objective, X is amendable to scientific analysis, therefore Y is? That's not necessarily the case.
Why not? I mean, science studies that which is objective. I'm not saying anything about how difficult the subject may prove to be to investigate. I'm just saying that consciousness is approachable, and that it's neither an illusion nor a divine, ineffable wisp of wonder.
yy2bggggs wrote:Being objective in itself doesn't make something amendable to scientific analysis. It has to be, well, analyzable.
Again, I just don't see how this follows. I'm just trying to think of an example of something, anything, that is objective and yet is unapproachable by science, but I can't. Unless you despair from the extreme pessimism about correlation and explanation that I just outlined. In that case everything that science addresses is just such an example. But I think that's just a matter of taste. I understand our objectivity is limited, but limitations don't imply utter futility.

yy2bggggs wrote:It has to be something that's in essence preserved when you phrase hypotheses about it, even if you have to change it slightly to phrase those hypotheses. It has to be something you can poke at and get a result from, or at least something you can observe multiple pokings of and get a result from.
I take you're point, but I don't see where or why consciousness disappears when you poke it with hypotheses and other blunt instruments. Well, I see how it can turn into an endless, elusive cat and mouse game, but, again, so can gravity, friction, electricity.

yy2bggggs wrote:
Thus he proposes protopansychism.
...which is still, essentially, an untestable theory.
As is currently any theory that addresses phenomena beneath the Plank scale.
yy2bggggs wrote:Given a lack of scientific analysis, you simply have the tools you have left to attack a problem. If those tools perform poorly on other problems, we should realistically expect them to perform just as poorly on this one.
Can you specify what those tools and what those other problems are? I can see how a priori argument can fail on both fronts. Saying the sun will rise does not make it true. The sun rising (and maybe our seeing it happen) makes it true. But science will either confirm or disconfirm testable hypothesis. All I'm trying to do is give strong, logical support for favoring one hypothesis over various others (that the sun will rise rather than not). And I'm saying that it is a testable one. How so? I will admit that I simply don't know. I'm not trying to put on any airs here. But if you'll allow me to indulge in some freewheeling speculation....

Once again, I favor Penrose's self-collapse theory. Also, as I said before, moving from quantum to classical levels is, on Bohm's interpretation, quite similar to emergent properties. Only, oddly, in his view, higher levels of order emerge as you move further down into the implicate level. Finally, I want to mention quantum thermodynamics, which I'd love to hear someone's views on whose more knowledgeable. With all that in mind, I propose that consciousness is an emergent property on the Plank scale just as it is on the classical. On the hidden variables view, the Plank scale is just as (or more) interconnected as the microtubules within neurons, and neurons within the brain. So maybe consciousness is like a scale-invarient emergent property that arises at various levels of information processing. Electrons register information form other particles, microtubules register other microtubules, neurons register other neurons and nurotransmiters, and brains register thoughts (their own and others). It just increases in a way similar to how gravity increases when mass accumulates. What increases here, though, is computational complexity.

Now, I grant that that's just very dilettantish speculation to which the best response is probably, "yeah... well that's just like you're opinion, man." But let it be known that I never claimed it to be anything more than that. But I would be glad to here you guys tear it apart, but only if it's done intelligently :) .
"Personally, I'd never want to be a member of any group where you either have to wear a hat or you can't wear a hat." --George Carlin.

Robin S
Posts: 3579
Joined: Wed Jun 27, 2007 7:02 pm UTC
Location: London, UK
Contact:

Re: Quantum Mechanics and Consiousness

Postby Robin S » Mon Mar 24, 2008 2:57 am UTC

Why not? I mean, science studies that which is objective.
Maths studies a subset of that which is objective, but is not itself a subset of science. Therefore, science does not study all which is objective.
This is a placeholder until I think of something more creative to put here.

Tchebu
Posts: 564
Joined: Thu Feb 22, 2007 12:42 am UTC
Location: Montreal

Re: Quantum Mechanics and Consiousness

Postby Tchebu » Mon Mar 24, 2008 3:08 am UTC

But couldn't one just as well say that just because we measure a value for G*m1*m2/r^2, that doesn't mean that we're measuring gravity? (Indeed, Newton was himself actually quite troubled by this question.) And same for Coulomb's law. I think the problem here is a lack of belief in inference. Basically, does correlation imply causation? We see that the law correlates to experience. But does it REALLY explain experience (e.g., gravity)? I think correlation is the best that science can due, and we can trust that it progressively approaches the correct explanation, even if only asymptotically.


Wow... I... Can't believe you said that...

You do realze that we measure gravity of stuff BEFORE we determine the mass of objects involved... A balance measures weight, not mass, and THEN you determine the gravitational mass, which is DEFINED as the quantity that we can attribute to an object such that two objects will attract eachother with a force described by with that relation. And then through experimentation we start to see a perfect correlation between that absract quantity and the OTHER equally abstract quantity known as inertial mass, which is also defined simply as the coefficient of proportionality between a force on an object and the acceleration. We NEVER actually MEASURE GmM/R2.

Same for coulombs law. Charge is an abstract quantity that is assigned to things AFTER you notice and measure that after you rub a baloon with cat fur it sticks to the wall.
Our universe is most certainly unique... it's the only one that string theory doesn't describe.

nevskey1
Posts: 257
Joined: Sat Oct 27, 2007 2:12 am UTC

Re: Quantum Mechanics and Consiousness

Postby nevskey1 » Mon Mar 24, 2008 4:30 am UTC

Robin S wrote:
Why not? I mean, science studies that which is objective.
Maths studies a subset of that which is objective, but is not itself a subset of science. Therefore, science does not study all which is objective.
You may not be aware of it, but this is quite a loaded claim. If math studies something objective, i.e., not invented, then that (whatever it studies) has to exist somewhere outside our heads. But, as Mandelbroit said, "mountains are not cones, and trees are not cylinders" (or something like that). So where do these "math things" exist if they're objectively real. If you go down this path you're inevitably lead to the Platonic realm. But then how can we know about it, if not through some supernatural contact/gnosis/revelation/whatever? And if you want to maintain both objectivity and non-Platonism then welcome to a very old and very heated philosophical debate. Refreshments are in the back. Otherwise, you can take the constructivist view, wherein the "math things" are invented, not discovered. But, if so, then why do they correspond to reality so well and allow science to work? As you may guess, I take a Platonist view. But in any case, the issue is not quite as simple as you make it out to be.

Tchebu wrote:And then through experimentation we start to see a perfect correlation between that abstract quantity and the OTHER equally abstract quantity
Yes. And that hits the nerve of my very point. I was trying to exaggerate a scenario to absurdity in order to point out that Robin S's worry over the validity of such a correlation in the area of consciousness is just as unnecessary as it is in the area of gravity or anywhere else. There may be philosophical reasons to doubt that correlation, but in real practice it would be ridiculous to do so. I see I was wrong about the specifics as to how gravity is measured, but that doesn't effect the general point of my argument, which merely aimed to show that such a measurement is reliable, however it may be carried out, and both for the case of consciousness as well as gravity.
"Personally, I'd never want to be a member of any group where you either have to wear a hat or you can't wear a hat." --George Carlin.

User avatar
yy2bggggs
Posts: 1261
Joined: Tue Oct 17, 2006 6:42 am UTC

Re: Quantum Mechanics and Consiousness

Postby yy2bggggs » Mon Mar 24, 2008 5:14 am UTC

nevskey1 wrote:
yy2bggggs wrote:Being objective in itself doesn't make something amendable to scientific analysis. It has to be, well, analyzable.
Again, I just don't see how this follows. I'm just trying to think of an example of something, anything, that is objective and yet is unapproachable by science, but I can't.
This sounds like argument from personal incredulity. In addition, it begs the question, since:
  • You can't think of a counterexample
  • Therefore you conclude there isn't one
  • Therefore you conclude there necessarily isn't one
  • Then you consider consciousness
  • But you admit you don't know how it can be addressed
  • Therefore, you conclude, the problem must be that science isn't advanced enough
And for that matter, it sounds like you're demanding going about the problem backwards. Instead of honestly investigating the limits of your epistemological method in achieving knowledge of external systems (the direct approach), you're going to draw from your personal experiences (through tinted glasses, demonstrated in above listing) a conclusion about its limitless nature.
Unless you despair from the extreme pessimism about correlation and explanation that I just outlined.
And what pray tell are you going to correlate things against?
I take you're point, but I don't see where or why consciousness disappears when you poke it with hypotheses and other blunt instruments. Well, I see how it can turn into an endless, elusive cat and mouse game, but, again, so can gravity, friction, electricity.
Is this a straw-man? You seem to be comparing this falsely to something like, say, a religious claim that prayer works, except when subjected to statistical analysis at which case it disappears.

Gravity, charge, friction--what are they? Gravity is the stuff that makes apples fall. Charge is that thing that makes these two balls attract and these repel. Friction is that thing that allows me to walk and start fires with sticks. What do they have in common? They are all theories that explain specific observations about matter--observations which are necessarily measurable. And even if a theory is wrong--gravity turns out for example to be caused by gravitons and not warped space--when we change the theory, we're still fundamentally talking about that thing that makes apples fall.

Experience is different. Experience doesn't make anything do anything observable (objectively, and I admit I like that loophole of subjective observability, but don't have much hope for exploiting it). It's simply that thing that breathes psychic being into our existence. It refers to that thing it is like to be us, as opposed to all of the complicated things we can do to measuring devices. It really makes me cry from lack of hope to hear you tout Chalmers's name so much about the subject, and yet to triumphantly declare that the problem of consciousness is equivalent to the problem of gravity without even an inkling of a proposal about some remote idea of how to build an experientometer or what sort of physical properties it would even measure.

Please humor me, for I'm curious. Tell me, if you will, why materialism or determinism is in so much trouble as tools to address the hard problem. And tell me how adding Hilbert spaces and vectors to your list will resolve that problem.
Image

User avatar
Gelsamel
Lame and emo
Posts: 8237
Joined: Thu Oct 05, 2006 10:49 am UTC
Location: Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Re: Quantum Mechanics and Consiousness

Postby Gelsamel » Mon Mar 24, 2008 5:18 am UTC

Gelsamel wrote:Second, I'm not sure Consciousness Causes Collapse is even a valid interpretation, how does it explain weak measurements?


So I guess noone knows?
"Give up here?"
- > No
"Do you accept defeat?"
- > No
"Do you think games are silly little things?"
- > No
"Is it all pointless?"
- > No
"Do you admit there is no meaning to this world?"
- > No

Tchebu
Posts: 564
Joined: Thu Feb 22, 2007 12:42 am UTC
Location: Montreal

Re: Quantum Mechanics and Consiousness

Postby Tchebu » Mon Mar 24, 2008 5:47 am UTC

Yes. And that hits the nerve of my very point. I was trying to exaggerate a scenario to absurdity in order to point out that Robin S's worry over the validity of such a correlation in the area of consciousness is just as unnecessary as it is in the area of gravity or anywhere else. There may be philosophical reasons to doubt that correlation, but in real practice it would be ridiculous to do so. I see I was wrong about the specifics as to how gravity is measured, but that doesn't effect the general point of my argument, which merely aimed to show that such a measurement is reliable, however it may be carried out, and both for the case of consciousness as well as gravity.


My point is that when we measure gravity, we actually measure gravity. We define gravity as the force of attraction between objects, and that's exactly what we measure. In the case of consciousness, we don't even have an idea of what it is that we're measuring. RobinS' point remains valid. How DO we know that the number that pops up on your measuring device with quantum computers or whatnot is actually the magnitude of that thing that is responsible for my ability to have an internal life with feelings and experiences?
Our universe is most certainly unique... it's the only one that string theory doesn't describe.

User avatar
Gelsamel
Lame and emo
Posts: 8237
Joined: Thu Oct 05, 2006 10:49 am UTC
Location: Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Re: Quantum Mechanics and Consiousness

Postby Gelsamel » Mon Mar 24, 2008 6:17 am UTC

Lets assume that there is a device that can ACTUALLY measure this mythical spiritual consciousness you're talking about.

One day we invent, or find this device and we want to know what it does. Now, tell us how we're supposed to figure out that this device DOES measure it?
"Give up here?"
- > No
"Do you accept defeat?"
- > No
"Do you think games are silly little things?"
- > No
"Is it all pointless?"
- > No
"Do you admit there is no meaning to this world?"
- > No

User avatar
antonfire
Posts: 1772
Joined: Thu Apr 05, 2007 7:31 pm UTC

Re: Quantum Mechanics and Consiousness

Postby antonfire » Mon Mar 24, 2008 6:48 am UTC

Again, I just don't see how this follows. I'm just trying to think of an example of something, anything, that is objective and yet is unapproachable by science, but I can't.
I don't really want to join this discussion, but I do want to point out that this is easy. Something that only happens once, and doesn't leave a trace, can be objective, yet unapproachable by science. If my Rubik's cube lifts itself off the table and drops back down, all by itself, and never does it again, and doesn't leave a trace that it did it, the explanation is not directly approachable by science.

You could argue that it's not objective either, that I probably imagined it. I would agree, I probably imagined it. However, I refuse to simply completely reject the idea that it's possible, just once, for a Rubik's cube to jump up and down, and leave no trace as to how it did it. I can't be sure that I imagined it.

So, no, you can't say that something objective HAS to be approachable by science. It's certainly true that, in our experience, objective things are approachable by science. I think that's largely because the things we think of as "objective" are the things that have been scientifically explained. To say that everything that happens objectively is approachable by science is to say that everything objective happens more than once, or leaves an understandable trace (depending on your definition of "science"). I'm not fully prepared to make that assumption.

Real examples are easy to write off as "not objective". Ghost sightings, various religious experiences, UFOs, Jesus, etc. Under the notion of "objective" that nevskey uses (fundametal in nature -> objective), there's no reason to assume that they aren't, though.


It just really bothers me when people equate what science studies with real life. It feels.. unscientific.
Jerry Bona wrote:The Axiom of Choice is obviously true; the Well Ordering Principle is obviously false; and who can tell about Zorn's Lemma?

Gauss
Posts: 8
Joined: Thu Aug 02, 2007 1:51 pm UTC
Location: On the long arm of the milkyway
Contact:

Re: Quantum Mechanics and Consiousness

Postby Gauss » Mon Mar 24, 2008 1:05 pm UTC

@Gauss: I recommend that you hear Hammeroff out. As I said, he thankfully avoids all the Bleepish nonsense that the interviewer keeps insisting on. He is in complete agreement with mainstream physics, as well as biology. And his work is a collaboration with Roger Penrose, who, albeit controversial, is a very well-respected name in physics proper, if that makes makes such a large difference. Also, to earn an M.D. one has to know, at the very least, enough math and science to maintain an intelligent conversation about their philosophical implications, if not the specific consequences for within the fields themselves.


If you provide me a peer reviewed paper published in major physics journal or conference, I'd be happy to evaluate it, but as I said the flash video messes up part way through for me. The reason I ask for a paper that has specifically been reviewed by physicists is because the math is well beyond that which an M.D. is required to learn in order to treat people. I am not saying that it's impossible for him to learn, but that he should be checked by the people who came up with theories he is trying to use, and not by you or even me who has been out of the field of physics for a few years now.

I would agree that Penrose is an interesting character and obviously has done some good for the community. However, I think most physicist roll their eyes at his quantum consciousness theories. A while ago, when I was in undergrad and doing in an independent study on quantum computation, the two smartest professors in the department recommended me The Emperor's New Mind mentioning that it had some interesting ideas about computation until you got to the consciousness stuff which is a bit wacky. I think that about sums up how the community in general looks at Penrose's thoughts on quantum consciousness.

I would again point you to another detracting view of Hammeroff's:
http://www.sustainedaction.org/Explorat ... theory.htm
(unfortunately I can't find a public listing of the paper they mention), but basically it says that quantum processes occur on a timescale not compatible with the brain.
To iterate is human, to recurse, divine.


Return to “Science”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 13 guests