The Other Simulation Hypothesis

The simulation hypothesis is mostly associated with Nick Bostrom and his paper Are You Living in a Computer Simulation? Bostrom argues that we likely are living in a simulation and Elon Musk agrees with him. Frankly I think it is unlikely we are living in a simulation in the way Bostrom’s means it, but at any rate, it is impossible to prove or know and, as far as I can tell, would make no practical difference. In the end, if reality is a simulation, then being in a simulation or not being in one becomes for all practical purposes the same. There is a different way from Bostrom’s that we might be living in a simulation. This way could account for the occasional unreality of things most of us sometimes experience. It could account in a deeper way for why Bostrom might have thought about arguing we are living in a simulation.

Xerxes D. Arsiwalla, a physicist in Spain, was the lead author on a paper Are Brains Computers, Emulators or Simulators? In the paper, he draws a contrast between the brain as a computer vs the brain as a simulator. If the brain is a computer, he argues that “all cognitive processes can be described by algorithms running on a universal Turing machine”. This implies that consciousness is computational. On the other hand, if consciousness is non-computational, then it would be based on what he terms “non-classical logic”. He goes on to state:

Machines implementing non-classical logic might be better suited for simulation rather than computation (a la Turing). It is thus reasonable to pit simulation as an alternative to computation and ask whether the brain, rather than computing, is simulating a model of the world in order to make predictions and guide behavior. If so, this suggests a hardware supporting dynamics more akin to a quantum many-body field theory.

The paper goes on to discuss the limitations of computationalist view. He cites the Turing Halting problem and the Penrose tiling problem which can’t be solved by computation. Then he provides a “third example of a non-computable problem is the collapse of the wave-function or the measurement problem in quantum physics, which evades an algorithmic description”. Not mentioned here is another class of problem. This would be a type of problem that might be solved computationally but one that requires so much computer resources that it cannot be solved in any given amount of time.

An emulator “can be defined as any machine that can be used to specify dynamical states transitions of another system”. Computers can do emulations; however, a computer emulation would be subject to the limits of computation. Emulators can also be what the paper terms “dynamical systems-based simulations” which are not computational. The difference between the two is:

The difference of say computing an explicit solution of a differential equation in order to determine the trajectory of a system in phase space versus mechanistically mimicking the given vector field of the equation within which an entity denoting the system is simply allowed to evolve thereby reconstructing its trajectory in phase space. The former involves explicit computational operations, whereas the latter simply mimics the dynamics of the system being simulated on a customized hardware. For complex problems involving a large number of variables and/or model uncertainly, the cost of inference by computation may scale very fast, whereas simulations generating outcomes of models or counterfactual models may be far more efficient.

We finally reach the key argument of the paper. Brains are not computers. They are simulators.

Beyond this example of the motor system, if the brain is indeed tasked with estimating the dynamics of a complex world filled with uncertainties, including hidden psychological states of other agents… then in order to act and achieve its goals, relying on pure computational inference would arguably be extremely costly and slow, whereas implementing simulations of world models as described above, on its cellular and molecular hardware would be a more viable alternative. These simulation engines are customized during the process of learning and development to acquire models of the world. The simulated dynamics of these models lead to predictions as well as counterfactual hypotheses, which can then be passed through feedback control loops to correct for prediction errors. Note that these dynamics-based simulations differ from computer simulations. In the former, no specific function is being computed. Instead, as in control engineering, a model of the process is encoded (or learnt) in the network’s connectivity and is used to generate subsequent state transitions. More complex models require more complex network architectures and multi-scale biophysical dynamics, rather than heavy computational algorithms, which is presumably not what we see the brain to be designed for.

This explains much about the evolutionary origin of consciousness. Compared to actual computers, the brain and nervous systems must make the best with a relatively small amount of energy and a relatively slow computational speed. In simple organisms those limitations may not be fatal. However, the evolution of greater adaptive capability, the integration of more sensory data, and the development of broader repertoire of behaviors would eventually hit a computational barrier. The brain could not compute quickly enough to provide an selection advantage if it relied solely on a computational approach. The evolutionary response would be development of a simulation on top of a computational base. Unsurprisingly , our consciousness feels occasionally exactly like a simulation, although for the most part we think the simulation is real.

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46 Responses to The Other Simulation Hypothesis

  1. Steve Ruis says:

    My argument against the simulation hypothesis is that there is absolutely no reason to make the simulation so bloody complicated. Consider what we have learned about the inner structure of protons for example. None of that knowledge has appreciable effects upon us and how we live, so in a simulation you would save process power by just making the proton a charged pebble of ur-stuff.

    I imagine you could think of myriad more examples of unneeded complexity were this a simulation, so I won’t bore you with more examples.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. On a humorous side: If we live in a simulation, then that simulation was launched by somebody (The Simulator). My question is, why is The Simulator so antisemitic?

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Cody White says:

    If Bostrom’s simulation theory could be proved true, it would have practical impacts depending on where shortcuts were taken in processing. If I found out that 95% of all humans were empty avatars (p-zombies) running behavioral algorithms without any inner experience, it would be hard to see a reason to give them ethical consideration. They would suddenly become a mere means, and I would focus my energies on devising a method for discerning the 5%ers who had a robust inner (though simulated) consciousness.

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  4. You know my stance. Certainly part of what the brain does involves simulations, but using that word for everything seems like it’s papering over a lot of details. The simulations and other functionality are implemented with neural signaling, signaling that involves selection and looping. I think “computation” is the right word, as do most neuroscientists.

    Everyone is clear that this is very different from the computation that happens in your phone or laptop, but apparently people still get upset about the word. I’d say maybe if another word were found it might make them feel better, but then engineers would start using that word for their increasingly neuromorphic systems and we’d be right back where we started.

    Liked by 2 people

    • James Cross says:

      I guess something similar could be said for using the word “computation” for everything is papering over a lot of details. At some level, perhaps low level, the brain and neurons may be doing something that resembles computation. The argument in the paper which I agree with is computation on a biological, neural base has limits and doesn’t scale well as more difficult problems need to be addressed. Simulation not only addresses scalability but also explains the Hoffman and Masland “what you think you see is not the world that actually exists”.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Lee Roetcisoender says:

        “what you think you see is not the world that actually exists”.

        That’s a great argument for idealism but I don’t think it really captures the experience of the Cartesian Me. I’m not so sure about the opinion of “most neuroscientists” on this matter. If I were to trust anyone, it would definitely have to be Kim Kardashian. How can anyone go wrong with that position?

        Liked by 2 people

        • James Cross says:

          The idealists, of course, like Hoffman a lot. It actually isn’t too much of a surprise that Masland and probably a good many other neuroscientists think that consciousness is just a representation of external reality and it may have some difficult to determine amount of fidelity to the real world. There might be some disagreement over the amount. If the brain is simulating the external world, then the simulation itself would only need enough fidelity to be of adaptive value, which I think is more or less Hoffman’s position.

          I imagine everything is real for Kim Kardashian, 🙂

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  5. Lee Roetcisoender says:

    On a more serious note: This notion that information processing is an end in itself and that this “end” is responsible for our multifaceted field of experience is grossly misdirected. Even Philosopher Eric’s model of a non-conscious computer giving rise to a conscious computer falls prey to this misleading concept. Computation and information processing per se are only a small percentage of that united field of experience known as consciousness. Isolating, then selectively cherry picking one feature and then asserting that our multifaceted, wide field of experience reduces to that one feature is not only short sighted, it’s absurd.

    I really do not understand the reluctance to entertain the idea that the brain is a very complex “classical system”, one that gives rise to an even more complex “quantum system”. Is not the notion of subjectivity, the grounding premise of our own field of experience the very definition of “superposition”?

    Liked by 1 person

    • James Cross says:

      I agree with you on most of that for sure. Did you notice this part of the paper?

      “If so, this suggests a hardware supporting dynamics more akin to a quantum many-body field theory”.

      He specifically is comparing the dynamics to quantum complexity. McFadden thinks the same dynamics can be achieved with an EM field.

      To me, some kind of wave/field dynamics seems to be involved. I don’t see how that sort of dynamics can emerge from digital information processing. So you are left with either EM field, something quantum, or something else unknown or undiscovered unless you make the argument that wave dynamics is somehow embedded in the digital information processing itself without any actual wave or field to carry it.

      I think perhaps similar dynamics could be done without a wave or field if it were done with a fast enough actual computer with the right inputs and programming. But then we are talking about processors, burning a lot of energy, generating a lot of heat, and moving information at electron speed. If you ask whether nature and evolution would more likely have developed in a brain an actual computer or a pragmatic simulation that runs on organism energy and at organism speed, the answer seems almost a no-brainer to me. No matter how useful the brain is to an organism, it can’t outstrip the metabolic limitations of organic life or it would go extinct.

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      • Lee Roetcisoender says:

        You might want to check out Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy “Quantum Approaches to Consciousness”: Section 3.2 Stapp: Quantum State Reductions and Conscious Acts. This section offers some interesting insights into what we are talking about here.

        With the brain being a classical system and the mind (Cartesian Me) being a separate and distinct emergent quantum system, it’s going to be hard locating the actual interface mechanism that makes the leap from classical dynamics to quantum dynamics. I don’t think there is any question that the quantum system of mind works as a pragmatic simulator, so I’m in full agreement that this assessment is a no-brainer.

        Liked by 1 person

        • James Cross says:

          I think Kastrup is a fan of Stapp and may have even written some things with him. It goes straight down the idealism rabbit hole in my opinion.

          I may have mentioned it before but Pockett argues in some speculation at the end of her book that there might be a sort of Universal EM Field and the individual EM fields in our brain are connected to it in some way. I have also argued in some thing sthat I have specifically acknowledged being speculation (that means I am doubtful even what I am writing is right) that a sort of EM field may be behind the evolution of the universe and accounting for timeline for life and consciousness. I could perhaps also see these same sort of arguments applied to a kind of Universal Quantum Field.

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        • Lee Roetcisoender says:

          Yeah, Pockett’s speculation is very similar to the Zen Buddhist tradition that there is a single “field of consciousness” which again reduces to idealism.

          The quantum world is a mystery to us because we cannot see it, measure it or test it with any type of classical instruments without altering or destroying what the instruments measured. There is definitely a classical/quantum divide which cannot be bridged, and that divide exists equally at the classical brain and the emergent quantum system the Cartesian Me.

          Since the substrate of the Cartesian Me is quantum, this quantum system has the intrinsic capacity to utilize a priori and synthetic a priori analysis in order to come to accurate conclusions without relying upon a posteriori evidence. For all practical purpose, a priori would be quantum evidence whereas a posteriori would be classical evidence. If that makes any sense to you?

          Personally, I don’t think the quantum realm, no matter how one chooses to express it is the irreducible imperative, nor where the story begins. My own speculation is that the quantum realm itself is an emergent property of the “thing-in-itself”. This emergent property for all practical purposes is a physical reality, a substrate where all possibilities exist and that over an extended period time, these possibilities cycle back unto themselves. I’m not an idealist, so imagine a physical universe that starts out as an unlimited quantum system through which the process of emergence returns to a discrete quantum system once again, a quantum system which not only can perceive of a posteriori phenomena, but the a priori phenomena of itself.

          Like the idea or not, an emergent, discrete physical reality makes the perfect containment structure. The idea of such a scenario is what makes the idealist grind and gnash their teeth.

          Liked by 1 person

        • James Cross says:

          Have you ever looked at Bohm, Pribram, and some of the holographic theories?

          I’ve been reading a book, which I can’t totally recommend, but it surveys electromagnetic theories of the brain and also seems to throw some other stuff into the mix. Those names came up with some others.

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        • Lee Roetcisoender says:

          Yes, I am familiar with Bohm and his take on holographic theory. Santeria over at Kastrup’s blog is a big fan. I can’t speak about Pribram because I’m not familiar with his work, but Bohm’s take on idealism is anthropocentrism on steroids with grandiose visions of humans being integral to the future of this mental world.

          The experiential evidence of our own consciousness demonstrates that our field of experience is localized and discrete. What the idealist refuses to recognize is that this discrete localized field of experience is derived from a material, classical brain. According to this synthesis, matter comes first in that hierarchy. The only real question that is left on the table, one that will resolve the infamous hard problem of consciousness is; “what is matter”?

          The easiest answer to that question and the one that makes the most sense is that matter, beginning with the quanta that underwrites that classical material is an emergent property of “some thing” and at the heart of this structure we call matter is sentience. And since sentience is an intrinsic property of structure, this structure responds to valences which are “non-conceptual” representations of value. Once the emergent quantum system of mind arrived on the scene, this quantum system no longer responds to valences, it responds to “conceptual”, intellectually structured representations of value. The common denominator in both of these scenarios is this thing we call value, non-conceptual representations and conceptual representations.

          The compelling question is not whether reality is material or mental, but whether value is an objective state of the world, a subjective state of mind or a singularity that underwrites the material and mental world of representations.

          Liked by 1 person

  6. santacruzred says:

    Y’all should play more basketball. If you pay attention you will see that no simulation could possibly keep up with all of the details, and your opponents responses. Of if you prefer, reread what Karl Popper says about simplicity, and how the simplest hypothesis is the most falsifiable, and therefore the best. The simplest hypothesis is that what we perceive in this moment IS WHAT IS. All the rest is just mental masturbation.

    Liked by 2 people

    • James Cross says:

      I’m not sure whether you are talking about Bostrom’s theory or Arsiwalla’s. At any rate, I doubt there would be a problem with enough computer power. In the case of a non-computational simulation, you wouldn’t need to keep up with all of the details. You would keep up with only a relevant subset.

      BTW, a lot of people may not realize it but Popper was a proponent of an electromagnetic theory of mind.

      “Like Libet, Karl Popper felt that minds and brains differ irreducibly,
      yet interact. These perennial ideas in Popper’s thought were extended
      by his dualist field theory (Popper et al., 1993) in which minds are
      non-physical correlates of electromagnetic fields in brains.”

      Click to access JONETO.pdf

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  7. The simulation argument as I interpret it is Scientism entering the Religious realm where it can’t be proved or disproved. I don’t glean from the interviews of Nick that he argues that it’s likely we are living in a simulation. On the contrary. Unless I’m mistaken he seems to make a strong case that it is highly unlikely a civilisation so advanced to make it beyond disappearing and becoming extinct, that morally they would entertain (or even be permitted to enact on) the idea of creating a simulation of conscious creatures. By the way I’m indebted to your fantastic articles. Always a wonderful read. Thank you.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Academia has things so screwed up here that it seems to continually work itself even deeper as it tries to escape. I’ll put this simulator proposal in that category. If anyone today had a sensible way to straighten this business out, who’d realize it given all the politics involved? Hopefully a rising new breed of thinker.

    If consciousness exists by means of the brain, and if the brain is computational, then does this mean that consciousness must exist as information processing alone? That’s a popular misconception which seems easy to dismiss. Consider the computer screen that you’re now looking at. If its function exists by means of a computer, does this mean that this product of computation must exist by means of information processing alone? Of course not. Your screen seems to exist as a machine which is merely animated by computational information processing. That’s what computers “do”.

    Much trouble in modern cognitive science might have been averted if John Searle would have formally observed that consciousness may also exist as a machine output which is animated by a computational brain. When he instead went “anti computation” on the brain the mainstream seems to have decided that because the brain/computer analogy happens to be so effective, consciousness must exist as nothing more than information processing in itself. They also seemed not to grasp that there might be mechanisms in the brain which are animated by a computational brain.

    Rather than a competing simulation classification I think what’s needed today is to not only help the mainstream grasp that consciousness might exist as a physics based output of the brain (as McFadden theorizes for example), but to emphasize that their current presumption is not only non-falsifiable, but non-worldly. This is implied somewhat by Searle’s Chinese room and other thought experiments, though if widely considered I think my own might be simple enough to hit this association home, or at least for a newer sort of theorist who thus hasn’t been so tainted by past thinking.

    Notice that from the premise that consciousness exists as information processing alone, if the right information on paper were accepted by a machine that was then able to produce the right second set of information on paper, then something here should experience what you do when your thumb gets whacked!

    Why should the notion that consciousness exists as information processing alone be considered so ridiculous? Because no output (computational or otherwise) should exist without associated animation mechanisms in a natural world. So not only would the carrot reward of a sensible potential solution be provided, but the threat of a whipping punishment (or being branded “substance dualists”) for supporting consciousness as merely generic information that’s processed into more such information.

    Liked by 1 person

    • James Cross says:

      I may be grasping your point in this argument you are making for a while.

      The question not only is one of output but, if computation, what kind of computation.

      To me this paper is making an argument in favor of some sort of complex network/wave dynamics for simulation which it contrasts with Turing computation. One could, I suppose, also make the argument that this complex network/wave dynamics also is computational, although it might not be in the Turing sense. Whether it is or isn’t computational, it certainly isn’t computational in a conventional computer sense.

      If the EM field is consciousness and is the output, then it also at the same time would be the complex network/wave mechanism, wouldn’t it in McFadden’s theory?

      Liked by 1 person

      • James,
        I didn’t read the paper. Maybe I’m not doing it right but the link that I get says they want $30 for the pdf. Anyway from the first of the abstract:

        “There has been intense debate on the question of whether the brain is a computer.”

        Right. And I think a great case can be made that the brain does function as a non-conscious computer. For example it surely causes the heart to beat as it does by means of algorithmic rules.

        “If so, that challenge is to show that all cognitive processes can be described by algorithms running on a universal Turing machine.”

        Wrong. Just as the brain uses computation (in the form of neural function) to animate a heart, I believe that the brain uses computation to animate cognitive mechanisms, and theoretically in the form of electromagnetic radiation. So here a standard computer animates cognitive mechanisms somewhat like your computer animates your screen.

        “By extension that implies consciousness is a computational process.”

        Well yes, I do like to reduce “consciousness” down to a kind of computational process even still. I consider it to be a very different teleological variety. And yes I also consider it to run simulations for its processing. I guess that I do get to a similar place as the authors do in the end, though with the presumption that EM radiation gets the job done rather than the quantum dynamics implied at the end of the abstract.

        In any case I suspect that straight Turing machine algorithms tend to fail for organism instruction as environments open up. Thus the human for one harbors a vast supercomputer non-conscious brain which functions in parallel, and it services as well as takes cues from the tiny serial purpose driven computer by which each of us perceive existence.

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        • James Cross says:

          This link in the post

          https://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/978-3-319-95972-6_3

          has the full article. There is download for a PDF for the entire book but even that doesn’t seem paywalled to me.

          A lot depends upon what you mean by computational process. The article defines it as “algorithms running on a universal Turing machine.” Since even you admit Turing algorithms will fail then it sounds like you are agreeing with the article.

          I imagine some may use a broader definition -maintaining a bunch of states that can change. Unfortunately that would include just about everything in the world so begs the question about what it is that makes consciousness special from everything else.

          Liked by 1 person

        • I’m not sure about the paper. I tried my wife’s computer as well but came up with the same screen. I noticed that Research Gate has the paper too, though the best I found there was to ask the authors to email it to me. Maybe they will. I guess you might do so as well James. I’m still at thephilosophereric@gmail.com

          Anyway yes, I do seem to be in relative agreement with the authors, pending definitions. Well except that I doubt I’d go quantum as they seem to at the end of the abstract.

          I’m not entirely clear on the formal definition for a Turing computer, though as you imply I doubt it effectively describes my perception of consciousness itself. And here I mean “consciousness” as the medium through which existence may be perceived. I theorize the mechanics such that a perceiver interprets its inputs (essentially senses and memory), simulates scenarios about what seems likely to happen, and ultimately chooses its perception of what will feel best to it. Furthermore this is influenced by hopes that feel good presently about future rewards from a given scenario, and worries that feel bad presently about future penalties from a given scenario. So they seem to add extra complexity to behavior.

          I can see how some wouldn’t want to refer to this as “computation”. It’s merely a word so I am open to suggestions for better ones. Actually I guess the paper suggests calling consciousness a simulator rather than a computer. I’ve got no problem with that.

          In any case this sort of function is different from other function in the sense that here purpose exists, or a punishment/reward dynamic (pace Lee of course who considers that universal). I consider this to be the most amazing element of reality and suspect it’s instantiated by means of certain varieties of electromagnetic radiation.

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        • So what are my thoughts on the paper now that I’ve read read it? First it should be noted that I am on their general team. This is to say that we see the status quo position, commonly known as “computationalism” (which I consider too generous and instead call “informationism”), to be problematic. From here they note that certain things are documented to not be computable, though human consciousness does seem potentially able to grasp them. Thus they suggest that human consciousness must not be computable. I doubt that many will be sufficiently convinced by this logic.

          Next they discuss “emulators” which can exist as computer simulators, or also as dynamical system simulators which aren’t computers. From the work of Penrose they decide that this second kind should require quantum mechanics and term them “simulators”, with the brain theoretically functioning this way. That assessment seems even less convincing to me.

          I argue the case in a different way which does acknowledge the brain as “a computer”. This should help disarm those who note that its neural processes seem to function in “AND”, “OR” and “NOT” ways. Furthermore I theorize that all examples of functional computation depend upon physics based mechanics in order for them to be realized. Thus everything that the computers we build, as well as brains, (as well as all else, actually), cannot affect a natural world by means of information processing in itself. To be natural something should instead require information processing to be animated by appropriate mechanisms, such as a heart, a computer screen, an so on. No one has ever found a way to contradict me here, which is to say provide an example of computation that does something in this world without the animation of appropriate mechanisms. I’d love for more of the status quo to match their belief in the power of information processing alone against the ridiculousness of my “thumb pain” thought experiment.

          In practice identifying quantum mechanics as a consciousness mechanism seems like a stretch to me. I consider the EM radiation associated with neuron function far more plausible. Furthermore the mechanistic nature of this makes it falsifiable while the non-mechanistic nature of the information processing alone proposal can never be falsified. So that’s my latest argument. I’m trying to figure out how McFadden’s theory might effectively be tested, and so potentially dismiss any non natural proposals. Here our long suffering mental and behavioral sciences might at least get straightened out in this way.

          Liked by 1 person

        • James Cross says:

          ” From the work of Penrose they decide that this second kind should require quantum mechanics and term them “simulators”, with the brain theoretically functioning this way”.

          The only time they mention Penrose is in the limits to computationalism section. He isn’t mentioned in the emulator/simulator discussion. I’m not seeing where are they saying that a simulator requires quantum mechanics. Reread this section:

          “And if so, what are the kind of simulators that might be relevant for consciousness? The answer to the first question has to do with the difference of say computing an explicit solution of a differential equation in order to determine the trajectory of a system in phase space versus mechanistically mimicking the given vector field of the equation within which an entity denoting the system is simply allowed to evolve thereby reconstructing its trajectory in phase space. The former involves explicit computational operations, whereas the latter simply mimics the dynamics of the system being simulated on a customized hardware. For complex problems involving a large number of variables and/or model uncertainly, the cost of inference by computation may scale very fast, whereas simulations generating outcomes of models or counterfactual models may be far more efficient”.

          No mention of quantum mechanics. Such a simulator might use QM but there is no requirement that it must in their paper.

          Liked by 1 person

        • James Cross says:

          Notice this in the abstract.

          ” such a program would have to be based on non-classical logic (either semi-classical or quantum)”

          Quantum is a possibility but so would be semi-classical logic. I’m not an expert in this area but it seems to me that consciousness takes an approach that approximates and is practical rather than having exact answers.

          I think you are arguing against a position that is not expressed in the paper.

          Liked by 1 person

        • James Cross says:

          What’s more I think the position of the paper blends extremely well with McFadden’s theory. The EM field is the simulator.

          Liked by 1 person

        • James Cross says:

          One last thought. I’m not sure they are really suggesting any definite sort of implementation mechanism. Rather they are discussing about what is the best way to describe – what paradigm to use – how the brain behaves. In that case, they say simulation is a better description than computation.

          At the end of the abstract,

          “If so, this suggests a hardware supporting dynamics more akin to a quantum many-body field theory”.

          They are not suggesting a specific type of “hardware” but rather “hardware” that supports something similar to dynamics of many-body systems.

          “While the underlying physical laws that govern the motion of each individual particle may (or may not) be simple, the study of the collection of particles can be extremely complex. In some cases emergent phenomena may arise which bear little resemblance to the underlying elementary laws”.

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Many-body_theory

          Liked by 1 person

        • James,
          I seem to have come off more negatively on this paper than I meant to. I’d actually love for it to succeed, but suspect its opposition is currently able to consider it without fear or concern. And I hope you’re right that it provides more of a conceptual than mechanistic answer. I have psychological theory of my own that seems to correspond with the simulation idea. (If purely psychological however then mentioning Penrose and QM at all seems like a mistake, or a reason for quick dismissal from some.)

          Though I would love for this paper to succeed, it does strike me that it’s trying to do so with arguments that haven’t succeeded in the past. That doesn’t make those arguments wrong, though shouldn’t be enough to embarrass an opposition which has grown accustomed to them. Remember that these are the rulers today, and so may even brand us as crackpots!

          I personally would like various prominent people from our side to fully embrace the brain as a non-conscious computer, since it clearly accepts input information and processes it by means of scientifically verified algorithmic function. Attempting to argue the contrary should have put our side in a deep hole. Instead of the sensible “computationalist” term we could rebrand them with an unfalsifiable “informationist” title — information beyond substrate remains perfectly amorphous since only mechanisms can render information as such. This position mandates “two kinds of stuff”, or a worldly kind which involves causal dynamics, and a non worldly kind which lets them sidestep worries about the natural creation of phenomenal experience.

          Beyond high minded theory however, in practice people should need simple demonstrations of what we believe versus our opposition. So we could make it widely known that from their position if certain information on paper were properly converted into the right other set of information on paper, then something here would thus experience what normal people do when their thumbs get whacked! The more down to earth we can make this, the better we should fare.

          Liked by 1 person

  9. Lee Roetcisoender says:

    Not to rain on anybodies parade, but I have a short comment on McFadden: If the Cartesian Me is indeed a quantum system emerging from the classical system of the brain, one could manipulate that classical system and expect to alter the experience of the Cartesian Me. And this is exactly what we observe with anesthesia, chemical compounds, shock therapy and the less invasive localized electromagnetic therapies.

    If your thinking is to come up with an experiment, one that will directly impinge on the quantum system of the Cartesian Me, we do not possess that type of technology. That roadblock is called the “measurement problem”.

    Liked by 1 person

    • James Cross says:

      “If the Cartesian Me is indeed a quantum system emerging from the classical system of the brain, one could manipulate that classical system and expect to alter the experience of the Cartesian Me. And this is exactly what we observe with anesthesia, chemical compounds, shock therapy and the less invasive localized electromagnetic therapies”.

      But couldn’t you expect the same from a non-quantum system?

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    • Lee Roetcisoender says:

      Absolutely Jim. But I guess the fundamental question to ask ourselves is whether the Cartesian Me is a separate and distinct system, a united whole that emerges from the brain. If it is not, them we must conclude that the Cartesian Me is not unified but a fragmentation of the classical brain and therefore an illusion as Daniel Dennett insists.

      Liked by 1 person

      • James Cross says:

        It could be a distinct system but not necessarily a quantum one. It wouldn’t be an illusion if it has causal efficacy. That is McFadden’s argument – it’s an EM field – that arises from firing of neurons. If you affect the underlying neurons you would affect the field.

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        • Lee Roetcisoender says:

          “… it’s an EM field – that arises from firing of neurons.”

          If Fadden is correct, then this EM field is the only classical system in the known universe that has the capacity to be in a superposition. But then again, maybe it’s the classical brain that is in a superposition and not the classical EM fields. Either way, the theory is fundamentally exclusive and contains built in contradictions and paradoxes.

          Whenever the Cartesian Me comes on line, this “united field of experience” is in a superposition until an intellectual measurement is made, a measurement that collapses all of the possibilities that are held in that superposition. “Am I dreaming, or am I awake, am I experiencing pain or was that a dream, am I hallucinating or did I take some LSD, etc, etc, etc.” All of this takes place in a nano second.

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        • James Cross says:

          Why is superposition required? If you google classical, quantum, and emerge, the hits that come back are discussion of how the classical world emerges from the quantum. You posit the opposite – that the quantum emerges from the classical but I haven’t seen you explain how that happens.

          Did you read McFadden’s paper I discuss here?

          https://broadspeculations.com/2020/10/21/em-field-integrates-information-spatially-in-brain/

          “Further insights into why we need EM fields to encode integrated conscious information can be gained directly from consideration of the physics of matter and energy. Matter is particulate whereas EM energy, such as light, is composed of waves. Nevertheless, the foundational experiments of quantum mechanics demonstrated that particles have wave-like properties and waves have associated particle properties. The information encoded in a particle is then also encoded in the wave associated with the particle. Physically unified integrated information could then potentially be encoded in matter, if their associated matter waves overlap.”.

          “However, the situation is very different if, instead of the particles themselves, we consider the EM fields generated by charged particles, such as electrons. The EM field particle, the photon, has zero mass (photons do possess ‘relativistic mass’ but this is irrelevant to this argument.) so has no de Broglie wavelength. Instead, its wave potentially extends to infinity. The EM field of charged particles consist of virtual photons whose waves similarly extend to infinity, though decreasing in intensity according to an inverse square and cube laws (Fig. 4). Therefore, information encoded in charged particles of the brain, such as the ions involved in generating action potentials, is integrated, unified and bound within the overlapping EM fields generated by their motion”.

          There is this slide that illustrates but you should (re)read the article.

          https://academic.oup.com/view-large/figure/227499977/niaa016f4.tif

          An EM field from moving electrons behaves mathematically much like quantum field in that it can encode enormous amounts of information. Plus, it doesn’t have the problem of explaining how it comes about in the brain since we already have plenty of evidence that it exists.

          Like

      • Lee Roetcisoender says:

        I get it that if one is insistent that mind is a classical system, then an elaborate schema will need to be crafted in order to justify that claim and McFaddens EM fields is a theory that fit that billing. But at the end of the day, EM fields is a whitewash job.

        You can google classical, quantum and emerge all day long but at the end of that tedious endeavor, nobody can explain how the classical world is derived from the quantum reality that underwrites it. All we have are ornate bullshit stories of one form or another, none of which can be verified. So pick your poison…..

        “An EM field from moving electrons behaves mathematically much like quantum field in that it can encode enormous amounts of information. Plus, it doesn’t have the problem of explaining how it comes about in the brain since we already have plenty of evidence that it exists.”

        The only thing that mathematics proves is the mathematics and likewise; we do not have the problem of explaining how the emergence of a quantum system could come about since we already have the evidence that quanta is intrinsic to the structure of matter. And it just so happens that the classical brain is the most complex structure in the universe.

        The Cartesian Me will always be a mind fuck for us, but we really do need to start thinking outside the box of conventional wisdom. Because as it stands right now, that conventional wisdom is just a large sandbox where adult children play.

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        • James Cross says:

          Talk about elaborate schema! Have you read what has to be done in quantum computing and the amount of error correction involved? And that is all to get a few usable qubits?

          “Qubits are prone to errors. All sorts of environmental factors—thermal fluctuations, electromagnetic radiation, magnetic fields—can knock a qubit out of its intended state. That degradation of information is known as decoherence and can occur in a fraction of a second. Despite the use of refrigeration to reduce thermal fluctuations, decoherence eventually creeps in and produces hardware errors, like accidentally flipping a qubit’s state from ∣0〉 to ∣1〉. (The commonly used refrigeration systems, like the one shown above from IBM, are what many people picture when they imagine a quantum computer.) The number of operations that can be performed with a qubit is limited by the qubit’s decoherence time. Moreover, every set of qubit hardware has its own unique deviations from ideal performance”.

          Yet you seem to be asserting that the brain is regularly doing this across the entire brain.

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        • Lee Roetcisoender says:

          Your rationality is still in the realm of classical physics Jim.

          “Yet you seem to be asserting that the brain is regularly doing this across the entire brain.”

          No, what I’m asserting is that as a “united” complex system that is classical, the brain gives rise to a separate and distinct system that is quantum, and that this Quantum system does all of the things you described without all of the energy constraints associated with a classical system. Just give me one good reason why this could not be the case.

          This entire notion that mind is a quantum system a is ground breaking thesis, one that has the potential to reconcile the millennial old mind/matter dichotomy. Asserting that mind is a classical system is untenable, leading to ad hoc theories that defy the notion of unity. Furthermore, asserting that the brain and mind are the same thing is ridiculous. As a system, the brain is 100% objective whereas the system of mind is subjective. Objectivity and subjectivity do not mix; that singular point of and by itself ought to turn a light build on in our head that the institutions of neuroscience and philosophy are barking up the wrong tree by continuing to insist that mind is a classical system.

          Like

        • James Cross says:

          Huh?

          You are asserting exactly what I said you were asserting. The brain is a classical system that gives rise to a quantum system.

          How does the brain do that? You haven’t explained how it can do that. You have a coherence/decoherence problem. That is why McFadden, who has written a book on quantum biology, rejects the idea that consciousness has a quantum foundation.

          Of course, if your hypothesis is true, it could explain all sorts of things in a marvelous way. But you don’t have any evidence or even a potential explanation of how it could work.

          There are some ideas floating around. One of the more promising probably is the Fisher phosphorous idea. But even that has problems to overcome:

          “Fisher’s hypothesis faces the same daunting obstacle that has plagued microtubules: a phenomenon called quantum decoherence. To build an operating quantum computer, you need to connect qubits — quantum bits of information — in a process called entanglement. But entangled qubits exist in a fragile state. They must be carefully shielded from any noise in the surrounding environment. Just one photon bumping into your qubit would be enough to make the entire system “decohere,” destroying the entanglement and wiping out the quantum properties of the system. It’s challenging enough to do quantum processing in a carefully controlled laboratory environment, never mind the warm, wet, complicated mess that is human biology, where maintaining coherence for sufficiently long periods of time is well nigh impossible”.

          https://www.quantamagazine.org/a-new-spin-on-the-quantum-brain-20161102/

          It wouldn’t be surprising to me at all that there would be quantum processes operating at a small scale in parts of the brain. But that is quite a bit different from proposing the entire brain gives rise to quantum system.

          So I haven’t heard your explanation of how it works.

          I don’t totally rule out the idea. There is a lot that is not even understood about electromagnetism. I wouldn’t be completely surprised if eventually it turned out EM itself has some quantum counterpart. In that case, EM and quantum theories could both be correct.

          Like

        • Lee Roetcisoender says:

          “…McFadden, who has written a book on quantum biology, rejects the idea that consciousness has a quantum foundation.”

          We need to get past these kind of mental blockades. Of course consciousness has a quantum foundation; there isn’t a single system in the universe that doesn’t has a quantum foundation. We seem to think that there’s this quantum world which is one thing, then we have this classical world which is another thing. Quanta and classical phenomena are the properties that underwrite the concept of a “united whole”. Nevertheless, we insist upon hacking reality into parts and then try to explain how the parts work as a united whole.

          You know as well as I do Jim that physics cannot solve the hard problems because a posteriori empiricism is limited to classical reality, whereas a priori empiricism “only” exists in the mind; and that “only” raises some very interesting questions If we accept the premise that everything in our universe is physical then one has to account for the a priori representations that “only” exist in the mind. One has to consider: Are those representations quanta? And likewise, are the a posteriori representations that also exist in our minds quanta as well? If not, then one must default to idealism for an explanation…….

          To me, it seems apparent that one would need a quantum system in order to relate with quantum phenomena, aka, the mind. Having fun yet?

          Like

        • James Cross says:

          The mental roadblock is that there is no science for it., which is a pretty big roadblock if you’re a scientist.

          If you are in the realm of science, then you need a scientific explanation for how the quantum brain emerges from the classical brain. And if you are invoking physics, then you’re in the realm of science.

          It seems you want to invoke the quantum, but then explain it has to be the way you want it with philosophy, skipping the science.

          The hard problem, as I written before, is a philosophical problem so, if there is any solution for it, it will come from philosophy. I think the premise that everything in the universe is physical (or mental) is nonsensical. Neither premise tells us anything new. There are no a priori representations. It is an illusion that there might be any. Every representation has developed from evolution or learning.

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        • santacruzred says:

          Well there is always John Archibald Wheelers’s comment on Penrose’s quantum speculations. “Roger thinks consciousness is weird and quantum mechanics is weird so they must have something to do with each other.”

          Liked by 1 person

  10. Pingback: 26/4 – 2/5/21 incl. Meaning 3.0, Simulation & Corrupted Science | Observation Blogger

  11. Lee Roetcisoender says:

    James,

    It puzzles me that you reject the notion of a priori knowledge. Here is a quote form Wikipedia; Critique of Pure Reason:

    “Knowledge independent of experience Kant calls “a priori” knowledge, while knowledge obtained through experience is termed “a posteriori.” According to Kant, a proposition is a priori if it is necessary and universal. A proposition is necessary if it could not possibly be false, and so cannot be denied without contradiction. A proposition is universal if it is true in all cases, and so does not admit of any exceptions. Knowledge gained a posteriori through the senses, Kant argues, never imparts absolute necessity and universality, because it is always possible that we might encounter an exception.”

    The key words are “necessary and universal, cannot possibly be false, cannot be denied without contradiction, universal and does not contain any exceptions.” Therefore, a priori knowledge (representations) becomes the substrate for solving the hard problems that a posteriori knowledge cannot because it is necessary. And it is necessary because the world that is intellectually constructed by the empirically dependent sciences is a world of exclusion, contradictions and paradoxes. And likewise, the world that is intellectually constructed by the empirically dependent idealists is a world of exclusion, contradictions and paradoxes.

    Denying the existence of a priori representations closes the door to possibilities and at the end the day, that is my main point of this post.

    Be at peace my friend

    Liked by 1 person

    • James Cross says:

      I’m just not crazy over the distinction.

      I believe what we think and the mechanisms we use for thinking arose from either evolution or learning. Both of these are forms of experience.

      Much of what I seen as examples for a priori are either definitional or axiomatic. As such they are just examples of some part of the human mental infrastructure. They don’t exist for a purpose by themselves. They exist for the purpose of understanding experience. They can’t be used to understand anything until they are applied to our experiences in the world. It’s ironic you would write they are the substrate for solving the hard problems. I would argue they are the source of the hard problems, not the solution for them.

      Like

      • Lee Roetcisoender says:

        “They exist for the purpose of understanding experience. They can’t be used to understand anything until they are applied to our experiences in the world.”

        I totally agree Jim. A priori intuitions are not a means in and of themselves, they are used to make original, novel propositions. String theory is a good example of an priori proposition. It was a really good idea that just didn’t work out. Let me give you an example of what I’m talking about:

        According to the science of a posteriori analysis, one can garner a steady pay check, stumble along making boring observations until an anomaly is detected like Copernicus did back in the 1500s or, one can begin with an a priori proposition that the earth is not the center of the universe and then look for the empirical evidence in the night sky to verify whether that proposition is correct. Of those two examples, which method do you think would garner the fastest results?

        Here is the fundamental problem as I see it: Philosophy and neuroscience are trying to understand consciousness based upon the original proposition that mind is some how a classical system. As a direct result of that original grounding assumption, neither discipline will be looking for anything other than classical correlations and classical explanations. The very notion that mind “could” be a quantum system does not conform to the original proposition, is never even taken into consideration and therefore, will be rejected for no other reason than it does not conform to the original proposition.

        As a metaphysician, all I’ve done is introduced the a priori proposition that mind might be a quantum system. And as a direct result of that proposition I, or anyone else who is genuinely interested can look for the evidence that would verify or falsify the original hypothesis utilizing the tools of a posteriori analysis, a priori analysis and synthetic a priori analysis. A priori intuitions introduce new, original and novel propositions, and that is the reason why I consider a priori intuitions to be the substrate for solving the hard problems.

        Liked by 1 person

        • James Cross says:

          Yeah, mind, because of its attributes and behaviors, seems a lot different from the physical brain. I can understand some sort of jump is needed. This understanding is behind a lot of debates I have with Mike on this. Neurons firing and moving information around by themselves just doesn’t seem to fit as sufficient explanation for what we experience.

          The question is what sort of leap. You have chosen a quantum solution. I am tending toward a electromagnetic one. I’m open to other ideas too, including the quantum one. I’m even open to the information/neuron explanation too if it could do a better job explaining some basic things like how does the brain integrate experience, why are synchronous firings in certain frequencies tied to cognition, why is so much processing unconscious and how does consciousness arise from it, These, along with some others, are in McFadden’s “seven clues” paper.

          https://www.researchgate.net/publication/226078423_The_CEMI_Field_Theory_Seven_Clues_to_the_Nature_of_Consciousness

          An a priori leap of some sort is fine for jump starting the search for explanation. But we still need evidence. If evidence comes along with the quantum explanation, I won’t rule it out arbitrarily based on a preconceived notion that it can’t work.

          Like

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