Total Posts:21|Showing Posts:1-21
Jump to topic:

If the universe grew a brain,

DanneJeRusse
Posts: 12,609
Add as Friend
Challenge to a Debate
Send a Message
5/14/2016 4:14:54 PM
Posted: 6 months ago
At 5/14/2016 3:56:28 PM, Accipiter wrote:
what would it look like?

A monolith with the dimensions of 2x3x4 that was filled with stars.
Marrying a 6 year old and waiting until she reaches puberty and maturity before having consensual sex is better than walking up to
a stranger in a bar and proceeding to have relations with no valid proof of the intent of the person. Muhammad wins. ~ Fatihah
If they don't want to be killed then they have to subdue to the Islamic laws. - Uncung
Without God, you are lower than sh!t. ~ SpiritandTruth
Accipiter
Posts: 1,163
Add as Friend
Challenge to a Debate
Send a Message
5/14/2016 5:41:48 PM
Posted: 6 months ago
At 5/14/2016 4:14:54 PM, DanneJeRusse wrote:
At 5/14/2016 3:56:28 PM, Accipiter wrote:
what would it look like?

A monolith with the dimensions of 2x3x4 that was filled with stars.

I first saw that movie when I was in fourth grade and saw it five times over the next year. I thought it was the most beautiful and graceful thing I had ever seen, I was mesmerized, but I'm looking for something a bit less fictional.
Accipiter
Posts: 1,163
Add as Friend
Challenge to a Debate
Send a Message
5/14/2016 7:17:47 PM
Posted: 6 months ago
At 5/14/2016 6:51:14 PM, RuvDraba wrote:
At 5/14/2016 3:56:28 PM, Accipiter wrote:
what would it look like?

It has grown many. Some look like ours. :)

That is exactly what I was looking for!

Now, as the brain(s) that grew out of the universe what would you say is one of our fundamental responsibilities?
RuvDraba
Posts: 6,033
Add as Friend
Challenge to a Debate
Send a Message
5/14/2016 8:36:30 PM
Posted: 6 months ago
At 5/14/2016 7:17:47 PM, Accipiter wrote:
At 5/14/2016 6:51:14 PM, RuvDraba wrote:
At 5/14/2016 3:56:28 PM, Accipiter wrote:
what would it look like?
It has grown many. Some look like ours. :)
That is exactly what I was looking for!
Oh, good. You're welcome. No charge! :D

Now, as the brain(s) that grew out of the universe what would you say is one of our fundamental responsibilities?
We can't impute teleology from ontology, Accipiter. Existence does not imply purpose, and if we conjecture that it does, then there are some rather nasty refutations awaiting that line of thought.

On the other hand, given the brains we have, how our species uses them, and the kinds of results that produces, we could work out how to make our lives kinder, happier and more just, regardless of whether our existence is purposeful or not.
Accipiter
Posts: 1,163
Add as Friend
Challenge to a Debate
Send a Message
5/14/2016 9:35:18 PM
Posted: 6 months ago
At 5/14/2016 8:36:30 PM, RuvDraba wrote:
At 5/14/2016 7:17:47 PM, Accipiter wrote:
At 5/14/2016 6:51:14 PM, RuvDraba wrote:
At 5/14/2016 3:56:28 PM, Accipiter wrote:
what would it look like?
It has grown many. Some look like ours. :)
That is exactly what I was looking for!
Oh, good. You're welcome. No charge! :D

Now, as the brain(s) that grew out of the universe what would you say is one of our fundamental responsibilities?
We can't impute teleology from ontology, Accipiter. Existence does not imply purpose, and if we conjecture that it does, then there are some rather nasty refutations awaiting that line of thought.

On the other hand, given the brains we have, how our species uses them, and the kinds of results that produces, we could work out how to make our lives kinder, happier and more just, regardless of whether our existence is purposeful or not.

We send our children to school to learn things that we think are important and one of those things is science. Carl Sagan once said that we are a way for the cosmos to know itself and I feel that is important enough to say that we all have a responsibility to at least try to do that even if all you have time for is to watch the television series Cosmos.
RuvDraba
Posts: 6,033
Add as Friend
Challenge to a Debate
Send a Message
5/14/2016 10:14:27 PM
Posted: 6 months ago
At 5/14/2016 9:35:18 PM, Accipiter wrote:
At 5/14/2016 8:36:30 PM, RuvDraba wrote:
At 5/14/2016 7:17:47 PM, Accipiter wrote:
At 5/14/2016 6:51:14 PM, RuvDraba wrote:
At 5/14/2016 3:56:28 PM, Accipiter wrote:
what would it look like?
It has grown many. Some look like ours. :)
That is exactly what I was looking for!
Oh, good. You're welcome. No charge! :D
Now, as the brain(s) that grew out of the universe what would you say is one of our fundamental responsibilities?
We can't impute teleology from ontology, Accipiter. Existence does not imply purpose, and if we conjecture that it does, then there are some rather nasty refutations awaiting that line of thought.
On the other hand, given the brains we have, how our species uses them, and the kinds of results that produces, we could work out how to make our lives kinder, happier and more just, regardless of whether our existence is purposeful or not.
We send our children to school to learn things that we think are important and one of those things is science.
Yes. I strongly agree.

Carl Sagan once said that we are a way for the cosmos to know itself and I feel that is important enough to say that we all have a responsibility to at least try to do that even if all you have time for is to watch the television series Cosmos.
With no disrespect to poetry of Dr Sagan, there is no evidence that any part of the universe will ever take a decision based on human knowledge, except the human part.

I agree with your conclusion in principle, Acc. I simply disagree with using hyperbolic poetic argument for practical needs, because that way lies superstition and manipulation, and our species has seen enough of that already.

In my view, science does two critical things:
* It lets us recognise and amend our ignorance; and
* It gives us tools to wisely and effectively engineer our futures.

Consequently, I believe that the principal beneficiaries of science are humanity, and any species humanity elects to bring with it. So there are more urgent and important reasons to pursue science than the poetic conceit of the universe knowing itself.

On our planet alone, over 99% of the species that have ever existed are now extinct. They're not extinct because they failed to suffer and strive. They're extinct because the tools they had for adaptation were inadequate when compared to the vast natural changes they had to adapt to.

We are not the first smart, language-using, tool-using, abstract-thinking, wide-ranging species to ever walk the planet.

We're just the last one standing. The others all died out.

To do justice to the legacy we've inherited, we have to do our best to understand, work with and alter the universe in which we live to make it more habitable than it presently is.

And if our species is to survive for millions of years or beyond, we have to do better than we presently are.
Axonly
Posts: 1,802
Add as Friend
Challenge to a Debate
Send a Message
5/14/2016 11:18:23 PM
Posted: 6 months ago
At 5/14/2016 3:56:28 PM, Accipiter wrote:
what would it look like?

It has, I count at least 8 billion.
Meh!
DanneJeRusse
Posts: 12,609
Add as Friend
Challenge to a Debate
Send a Message
5/15/2016 2:38:14 PM
Posted: 6 months ago
At 5/14/2016 5:41:48 PM, Accipiter wrote:
At 5/14/2016 4:14:54 PM, DanneJeRusse wrote:
At 5/14/2016 3:56:28 PM, Accipiter wrote:
what would it look like?

A monolith with the dimensions of 2x3x4 that was filled with stars.

I first saw that movie when I was in fourth grade and saw it five times over the next year. I thought it was the most beautiful and graceful thing I had ever seen, I was mesmerized, but I'm looking for something a bit less fictional.

Well, that's the thing, a universal brain is going to be fiction, so one example will be just as good as the next and equally valid.
Marrying a 6 year old and waiting until she reaches puberty and maturity before having consensual sex is better than walking up to
a stranger in a bar and proceeding to have relations with no valid proof of the intent of the person. Muhammad wins. ~ Fatihah
If they don't want to be killed then they have to subdue to the Islamic laws. - Uncung
Without God, you are lower than sh!t. ~ SpiritandTruth
user13579
Posts: 822
Add as Friend
Challenge to a Debate
Send a Message
5/15/2016 2:40:00 PM
Posted: 6 months ago
At 5/14/2016 3:56:28 PM, Accipiter wrote:
what would it look like?

It would look like a universe asking itself what the universe would look like if it grew a brain.
Science in a nutshell:
"Facts are neither true nor false. They simply are."
"All scientific knowledge is provisional. Even facts are provisional."
"We can be absolutely certain that we have a moon, we can be absolutely certain that water is made out of H2O, and we can be absolutely certain that the Earth is a sphere!"
"Scientific knowledge is a body of statements of varying degrees of certainty -- some most unsure, some nearly sure, none absolutely certain."
Axonly
Posts: 1,802
Add as Friend
Challenge to a Debate
Send a Message
5/17/2016 11:08:39 PM
Posted: 6 months ago
At 5/14/2016 11:18:23 PM, Axonly wrote:
At 5/14/2016 3:56:28 PM, Accipiter wrote:
what would it look like?

It has, I count at least 8 billion.

Bump
Meh!
Mhykiel
Posts: 5,987
Add as Friend
Challenge to a Debate
Send a Message
5/18/2016 12:29:29 AM
Posted: 6 months ago
At 5/14/2016 10:14:27 PM, RuvDraba wrote:
At 5/14/2016 9:35:18 PM, Accipiter wrote:
At 5/14/2016 8:36:30 PM, RuvDraba wrote:
At 5/14/2016 7:17:47 PM, Accipiter wrote:
At 5/14/2016 6:51:14 PM, RuvDraba wrote:
At 5/14/2016 3:56:28 PM, Accipiter wrote:
what would it look like?
It has grown many. Some look like ours. :)
That is exactly what I was looking for!
Oh, good. You're welcome. No charge! :D
Now, as the brain(s) that grew out of the universe what would you say is one of our fundamental responsibilities?
We can't impute teleology from ontology, Accipiter. Existence does not imply purpose, and if we conjecture that it does, then there are some rather nasty refutations awaiting that line of thought.
On the other hand, given the brains we have, how our species uses them, and the kinds of results that produces, we could work out how to make our lives kinder, happier and more just, regardless of whether our existence is purposeful or not.
We send our children to school to learn things that we think are important and one of those things is science.
Yes. I strongly agree.

Carl Sagan once said that we are a way for the cosmos to know itself and I feel that is important enough to say that we all have a responsibility to at least try to do that even if all you have time for is to watch the television series Cosmos.
With no disrespect to poetry of Dr Sagan, there is no evidence that any part of the universe will ever take a decision based on human knowledge, except the human part.


I think Sagan was illustrating a purpose from the Anthropic principle. When the reality of quantum iterations was worded as being "observed" rather than measured, it was postulated that the whole of the universe was in flux, to include past and future, until a mind came along to observe it and the universe's overall wave function collapsed.

I agree with your conclusion in principle, Acc. I simply disagree with using hyperbolic poetic argument for practical needs, because that way lies superstition and manipulation, and our species has seen enough of that already.

In my view, science does two critical things:
* It lets us recognise and amend our ignorance; and
* It gives us tools to wisely and effectively engineer our futures.

Consequently, I believe that the principal beneficiaries of science are humanity, and any species humanity elects to bring with it. So there are more urgent and important reasons to pursue science than the poetic conceit of the universe knowing itself.

On our planet alone, over 99% of the species that have ever existed are now extinct. They're not extinct because they failed to suffer and strive. They're extinct because the tools they had for adaptation were inadequate when compared to the vast natural changes they had to adapt to.

We are not the first smart, language-using, tool-using, abstract-thinking, wide-ranging species to ever walk the planet.

We're just the last one standing. The others all died out.

To do justice to the legacy we've inherited, we have to do our best to understand, work with and alter the universe in which we live to make it more habitable than it presently is.

And if our species is to survive for millions of years or beyond, we have to do better than we presently are.
Mhykiel
Posts: 5,987
Add as Friend
Challenge to a Debate
Send a Message
5/18/2016 12:33:41 AM
Posted: 6 months ago
At 5/14/2016 8:36:30 PM, RuvDraba wrote:
At 5/14/2016 7:17:47 PM, Accipiter wrote:
At 5/14/2016 6:51:14 PM, RuvDraba wrote:
At 5/14/2016 3:56:28 PM, Accipiter wrote:
what would it look like?
It has grown many. Some look like ours. :)
That is exactly what I was looking for!
Oh, good. You're welcome. No charge! :D

Now, as the brain(s) that grew out of the universe what would you say is one of our fundamental responsibilities?
We can't impute teleology from ontology,

Why not? Form follows function and if we see a fork we can infer the fork purpose is to secure softer stuff with prongs to be manipulated by an extended handle.

We know the purpose of a moths long tongue so it can eat the nectar recessed deep in a tulip.

There is a purpose to things. Do you suggest that things that exist have no purpose and the pressures and causes to their existence bear no resemblance to the functionality of said thing?

Accipiter. Existence does not imply purpose, and if we conjecture that it does, then there are some rather nasty refutations awaiting that line of thought.

On the other hand, given the brains we have, how our species uses them, and the kinds of results that produces, we could work out how to make our lives kinder, happier and more just, regardless of whether our existence is purposeful or not.
Mhykiel
Posts: 5,987
Add as Friend
Challenge to a Debate
Send a Message
5/18/2016 12:39:53 AM
Posted: 6 months ago
At 5/14/2016 3:56:28 PM, Accipiter wrote:
what would it look like?

What makes a brain a brain? Is it interaction between multi valued gates?

Then maybe the Universe is a brain.

http://sprott.physics.wisc.edu...

"The results of a computer simulation suggest that "natural growth dynamics" " the way that systems evolve " are the same for different kinds of networks " whether its the internet, the human brain or the universe as a whole." -http://themindunleashed.org...
RuvDraba
Posts: 6,033
Add as Friend
Challenge to a Debate
Send a Message
5/18/2016 7:15:00 AM
Posted: 6 months ago
At 5/18/2016 12:33:41 AM, Mhykiel wrote:
At 5/14/2016 8:36:30 PM, RuvDraba wrote:
At 5/14/2016 7:17:47 PM, Accipiter wrote:
At 5/14/2016 6:51:14 PM, RuvDraba wrote:
At 5/14/2016 3:56:28 PM, Accipiter wrote:
what would it look like?
It has grown many. Some look like ours. :)
That is exactly what I was looking for!
Oh, good. You're welcome. No charge! :D

Now, as the brain(s) that grew out of the universe what would you say is one of our fundamental responsibilities?
We can't impute teleology from ontology,
Why not?
How do you falsify it without knowing the design context in which it appeared?

You can do it with archaeological artefacts because you know what kind of organism made them (e.g. from burial sites), roughly how they lived (e.g. from studies of midden-piles and other refuse), and therefore what they'd need (e.g. from anthropological studies of people who live that way.) The design context falsifies incorrect teleological conjectures, but often you'll still be left with multiple telological conjectures for one object: there are a lot of archaeological artefacts whose purpose is still contested.

But if you impute the teleology with no other purpose than to justify some presuppositional design context, while insisting that the design context justifies the presuppositional teleology, then you're engaging in circular reasoning. There's neither transparency nor accountability in it.

It's pseudoscience.

By contrast, that isn't what happens with evolution. We know from observation that functional advantage benefits survival and reproduction. We also know that advantages can be inherited. We can falsify advantage by comparing form to environment, and can falsify inheritance genetically and morphologically. So if some function persists despite conveying significant disadvantage, then we know we're ignorant of some element of function, environment or behaviour; while if some function appears without suitable antecedents then we're either missing intermediates, or we've got the wrong model.
RuvDraba
Posts: 6,033
Add as Friend
Challenge to a Debate
Send a Message
5/18/2016 7:48:53 AM
Posted: 6 months ago
At 5/18/2016 12:29:29 AM, Mhykiel wrote:
At 5/14/2016 10:14:27 PM, RuvDraba wrote:
At 5/14/2016 9:35:18 PM, Accipiter wrote:
Carl Sagan once said that we are a way for the cosmos to know itself and I feel that is important enough to say that we all have a responsibility to at least try to do that even if all you have time for is to watch the television series Cosmos.
With no disrespect to poetry of Dr Sagan, there is no evidence that any part of the universe will ever take a decision based on human knowledge, except the human part.
I think Sagan was illustrating a purpose from the Anthropic principle. When the reality of quantum iterations was worded as being "observed" rather than measured, it was postulated that the whole of the universe was in flux, to include past and future, until a mind came along to observe it and the universe's overall wave function collapsed.

That's very beautiful, Mhykiel. I haven't ever seen Sagan quoted as saying that, and don't myself believe it, since any sufficiently intrusive event can collapse a wave function, and it seems to be conflating Erwin Schroedinger with George Berkeley. But it's most poetic, and I'd enjoy writing (or reading) a SF story from it. :D
matt8800
Posts: 2,077
Add as Friend
Challenge to a Debate
Send a Message
5/18/2016 3:56:28 PM
Posted: 6 months ago
At 5/18/2016 7:48:53 AM, RuvDraba wrote:
At 5/18/2016 12:29:29 AM, Mhykiel wrote:
At 5/14/2016 10:14:27 PM, RuvDraba wrote:
At 5/14/2016 9:35:18 PM, Accipiter wrote:
Carl Sagan once said that we are a way for the cosmos to know itself and I feel that is important enough to say that we all have a responsibility to at least try to do that even if all you have time for is to watch the television series Cosmos.
With no disrespect to poetry of Dr Sagan, there is no evidence that any part of the universe will ever take a decision based on human knowledge, except the human part.
I think Sagan was illustrating a purpose from the Anthropic principle. When the reality of quantum iterations was worded as being "observed" rather than measured, it was postulated that the whole of the universe was in flux, to include past and future, until a mind came along to observe it and the universe's overall wave function collapsed.

That's very beautiful, Mhykiel. I haven't ever seen Sagan quoted as saying that, and don't myself believe it, since any sufficiently intrusive event can collapse a wave function, and it seems to be conflating Erwin Schroedinger with George Berkeley. But it's most poetic, and I'd enjoy writing (or reading) a SF story from it. :D

Ruv, for my own curiosity, are you aware of any experiments which demonstrate conclusively that a wave function collapse is not necessarily related to a conscious observer? I ask because it is a subject that interests me and I would like to research it.
RuvDraba
Posts: 6,033
Add as Friend
Challenge to a Debate
Send a Message
5/18/2016 9:19:11 PM
Posted: 6 months ago
At 5/18/2016 3:56:28 PM, matt8800 wrote:
At 5/18/2016 7:48:53 AM, RuvDraba wrote:
At 5/18/2016 12:29:29 AM, Mhykiel wrote:
At 5/14/2016 10:14:27 PM, RuvDraba wrote:
At 5/14/2016 9:35:18 PM, Accipiter wrote:
Carl Sagan once said that we are a way for the cosmos to know itself and I feel that is important enough to say that we all have a responsibility to at least try to do that even if all you have time for is to watch the television series Cosmos.
With no disrespect to poetry of Dr Sagan, there is no evidence that any part of the universe will ever take a decision based on human knowledge, except the human part.
I think Sagan was illustrating a purpose from the Anthropic principle. When the reality of quantum iterations was worded as being "observed" rather than measured, it was postulated that the whole of the universe was in flux, to include past and future, until a mind came along to observe it and the universe's overall wave function collapsed.

That's very beautiful, Mhykiel. I haven't ever seen Sagan quoted as saying that, and don't myself believe it, since any sufficiently intrusive event can collapse a wave function, and it seems to be conflating Erwin Schroedinger with George Berkeley. But it's most poetic, and I'd enjoy writing (or reading) a SF story from it. :D

Ruv, for my own curiosity, are you aware of any experiments which demonstrate conclusively that a wave function collapse is not necessarily related to a conscious observer? I ask because it is a subject that interests me and I would like to research it.

Good question, Matt!

Short answer: no. Longer answer: I reckon it doesn't matter.

Some context and a waffly explanation of the longer answer follows, all under the disclaimer that this isn't my field of expertise.

For context, I believe what we're talking about is the von Neumann-Wigner interpretation of quantum mechanics. [https://en.wikipedia.org...]. It dates from the early to mid 20th century.

In 1932 von Neumann pointed out that the point where the wave function collapsed along the causal chain was ambiguous -- it could lie anywhere from the act of measuring itself to the subjective perception of a human observer. Several theorists, culminating in Nobel laureate Eugene Wigner in the 1960s, conjectured that the demarcation could be consciousness itself. It's a pretty and poetical position to take, though not a terribly constructive one, I think.

The problem is, if consciousness were part of the mechanism, it still needs to be defined so it can be tested and falsified, and in this theoretical physics sense (as opposed to neurologically or psychologically), so far as I know it never has.

It's okay for scientific conjectures to hang around like that, not fully defined but seeking further development, yet if they're taught as a scientific theories then they become pseudoscience (and I object to that morally and not just philosophically, because it helps feed charlatans like Deepak Chopra.) So no, I'm not aware of a definitive experiment debunking the von Neumann-Wigner interpretation, but here's why nevertheless, I still don't think it gets us far:

Wigner may have declined to define consciousness, yet its definition has come a long way in neurology and psychology since the 1960s. For example, we've proven that certain other animals are self-aware [https://en.wikipedia.org...], and now have automated systems that can model themselves to a fine degree of detail and adapt to changes in their own nature [http://science.sciencemag.org...].

So suppose 'conscious observation' really were the line of demarcation between probabilistic potential and observed behaviour. I think it's fair to ask: is there any substantive component of consciousness not covered by self-aware, self-adaptive behaviour? Is any element of subjectivity not covered by the limits of a mind's model of its own cognition? Is any rigorous empiricist really willing to conjecture that self-aware chimpanzees and adaptive robots cannot collapse a wave function, yet human minds somehow can?

If so, then how does that reconcile with the fact, that at any moment, some human minds are suffering organic damage, intoxication or dysfunction? Are we really suggesting that they're experiencing a different reality unless and until a sane, sober healthy person arrives? And does their subjective experience suddenly change when sanity walks in the door? Schizophrenics and mushroom-chewers certainly don't experience that.

Yet if all three can collapse a wave-function, then what is the minimum observational mechanism (i.e. the dumbest, least intelligent observation) needed to do so? In the very worst case, that'd still be my 'sufficiently intrusive event' under a fully fleshed-out von Neumann-Wigner interpretation: the observation of a clanking robot with a neural network. :D

And as you may know, there are four other popular QM interpretations, each currently more popular than von Neumann-Wigner (in the sense of seeing active research):
1) Copenhagen: the wave function collapses in consequence of measurement rather than consciousness;
2) Many-worlds: there is no wave-function collapse -- we're just navigating a multiverse choice-tree;
3) Pilot-wave theory: in additional to a probabilistic wavefunction, there's an actual configuration that exists, guided by the wave function, even when unobserved;
4) Quantum decoherence: our apparent observation of wave-function collapse arises from information being transferred (lost) from a system into its environment

A sufficiently intrusive event under Copenhagen is just the measurement. Under many-worlds, it's whatever event induces a world-choice, but that's still an objective event, and not a subjective apprehension -- else wishes and delusions would permanently change world history Under pilot-wave it's whatever exposes the underlying configuration and again, that's objective and mechanistic. Under quantum decoherence, the question of consciousness is moot since the observation of collapse is only apparent.

Hence my cryptic dismissal. What I should have said is that I have not seen and cannot conceive of a falsifiable circumstance under which quantum wave collapse (where valid), occurs only in consequence of the subjective apprehension of a conscious mind, but not in consequence of a sufficiently intrusive objective event, and this is why I don't believe the von-Neumann-Wigner interpretation.

I hope that may interest, help, incite or confuse -- or several at once in superposition, as is appropriate for any QM discussion. :D
matt8800
Posts: 2,077
Add as Friend
Challenge to a Debate
Send a Message
5/18/2016 11:37:29 PM
Posted: 6 months ago
At 5/18/2016 9:19:11 PM, RuvDraba wrote:
At 5/18/2016 3:56:28 PM, matt8800 wrote:
At 5/18/2016 7:48:53 AM, RuvDraba wrote:
At 5/18/2016 12:29:29 AM, Mhykiel wrote:
At 5/14/2016 10:14:27 PM, RuvDraba wrote:
At 5/14/2016 9:35:18 PM, Accipiter wrote:
Carl Sagan once said that we are a way for the cosmos to know itself and I feel that is important enough to say that we all have a responsibility to at least try to do that even if all you have time for is to watch the television series Cosmos.
With no disrespect to poetry of Dr Sagan, there is no evidence that any part of the universe will ever take a decision based on human knowledge, except the human part.
I think Sagan was illustrating a purpose from the Anthropic principle. When the reality of quantum iterations was worded as being "observed" rather than measured, it was postulated that the whole of the universe was in flux, to include past and future, until a mind came along to observe it and the universe's overall wave function collapsed.

That's very beautiful, Mhykiel. I haven't ever seen Sagan quoted as saying that, and don't myself believe it, since any sufficiently intrusive event can collapse a wave function, and it seems to be conflating Erwin Schroedinger with George Berkeley. But it's most poetic, and I'd enjoy writing (or reading) a SF story from it. :D

Ruv, for my own curiosity, are you aware of any experiments which demonstrate conclusively that a wave function collapse is not necessarily related to a conscious observer? I ask because it is a subject that interests me and I would like to research it.

Good question, Matt!

Short answer: no. Longer answer: I reckon it doesn't matter.

Some context and a waffly explanation of the longer answer follows, all under the disclaimer that this isn't my field of expertise.

For context, I believe what we're talking about is the von Neumann-Wigner interpretation of quantum mechanics. [https://en.wikipedia.org...]. It dates from the early to mid 20th century.

In 1932 von Neumann pointed out that the point where the wave function collapsed along the causal chain was ambiguous -- it could lie anywhere from the act of measuring itself to the subjective perception of a human observer. Several theorists, culminating in Nobel laureate Eugene Wigner in the 1960s, conjectured that the demarcation could be consciousness itself. It's a pretty and poetical position to take, though not a terribly constructive one, I think.

The problem is, if consciousness were part of the mechanism, it still needs to be defined so it can be tested and falsified, and in this theoretical physics sense (as opposed to neurologically or psychologically), so far as I know it never has.

It's okay for scientific conjectures to hang around like that, not fully defined but seeking further development, yet if they're taught as a scientific theories then they become pseudoscience (and I object to that morally and not just philosophically, because it helps feed charlatans like Deepak Chopra.) So no, I'm not aware of a definitive experiment debunking the von Neumann-Wigner interpretation, but here's why nevertheless, I still don't think it gets us far:

Wigner may have declined to define consciousness, yet its definition has come a long way in neurology and psychology since the 1960s. For example, we've proven that certain other animals are self-aware [https://en.wikipedia.org...], and now have automated systems that can model themselves to a fine degree of detail and adapt to changes in their own nature [http://science.sciencemag.org...].

So suppose 'conscious observation' really were the line of demarcation between probabilistic potential and observed behaviour. I think it's fair to ask: is there any substantive component of consciousness not covered by self-aware, self-adaptive behaviour? Is any element of subjectivity not covered by the limits of a mind's model of its own cognition? Is any rigorous empiricist really willing to conjecture that self-aware chimpanzees and adaptive robots cannot collapse a wave function, yet human minds somehow can?

If so, then how does that reconcile with the fact, that at any moment, some human minds are suffering organic damage, intoxication or dysfunction? Are we really suggesting that they're experiencing a different reality unless and until a sane, sober healthy person arrives? And does their subjective experience suddenly change when sanity walks in the door? Schizophrenics and mushroom-chewers certainly don't experience that.

Yet if all three can collapse a wave-function, then what is the minimum observational mechanism (i.e. the dumbest, least intelligent observation) needed to do so? In the very worst case, that'd still be my 'sufficiently intrusive event' under a fully fleshed-out von Neumann-Wigner interpretation: the observation of a clanking robot with a neural network. :D

And as you may know, there are four other popular QM interpretations, each currently more popular than von Neumann-Wigner (in the sense of seeing active research):
1) Copenhagen: the wave function collapses in consequence of measurement rather than consciousness;
2) Many-worlds: there is no wave-function collapse -- we're just navigating a multiverse choice-tree;
3) Pilot-wave theory: in additional to a probabilistic wavefunction, there's an actual configuration that exists, guided by the wave function, even when unobserved;
4) Quantum decoherence: our apparent observation of wave-function collapse arises from information being transferred (lost) from a system into its environment

A sufficiently intrusive event under Copenhagen is just the measurement. Under many-worlds, it's whatever event induces a world-choice, but that's still an objective event, and not a subjective apprehension -- else wishes and delusions would permanently change world history Under pilot-wave it's whatever exposes the underlying configuration and again, that's objective and mechanistic. Under quantum decoherence, the question of consciousness is moot since the observation of collapse is only apparent.

Hence my cryptic dismissal. What I should have said is that I have not seen and cannot conceive of a falsifiable circumstance under which quantum wave collapse (where valid), occurs only in consequence of the subjective apprehension of a conscious mind, but not in consequence of a sufficiently intrusive objective event, and this is why I don't believe the von-Neumann-Wigner interpretation.

I hope that may interest, help, incite or confuse -- or several at once in superposition, as is appropriate for any QM discussion. :D

Ruv, I find that very interesting and appreciate your response.

Regarding consciousness, you may have seen other posts where I have stated that I find NDE and reincarnation anecdotal accounts interesting. On the flip side, the idea of consciousness surviving death has to be reconciled with observed personality changes from brain trauma, unique MRI scans in psychopaths showing brain physicality can affect empathy/morality, etc. I don't know if the two can be reconciled.
RuvDraba
Posts: 6,033
Add as Friend
Challenge to a Debate
Send a Message
5/19/2016 1:19:50 AM
Posted: 6 months ago
At 5/18/2016 11:37:29 PM, matt8800 wrote:
At 5/18/2016 9:19:11 PM, RuvDraba wrote:
At 5/18/2016 3:56:28 PM, matt8800 wrote:
At 5/18/2016 7:48:53 AM, RuvDraba wrote:
At 5/18/2016 12:29:29 AM, Mhykiel wrote:
At 5/14/2016 10:14:27 PM, RuvDraba wrote:
At 5/14/2016 9:35:18 PM, Accipiter wrote:
Carl Sagan once said that we are a way for the cosmos to know itself and I feel that is important enough to say that we all have a responsibility to at least try to do that even if all you have time for is to watch the television series Cosmos.
With no disrespect to poetry of Dr Sagan, there is no evidence that any part of the universe will ever take a decision based on human knowledge, except the human part.
I think Sagan was illustrating a purpose from the Anthropic principle. When the reality of quantum iterations was worded as being "observed" rather than measured, it was postulated that the whole of the universe was in flux, to include past and future, until a mind came along to observe it and the universe's overall wave function collapsed.
That's very beautiful, Mhykiel. I haven't ever seen Sagan quoted as saying that, and don't myself believe it, since any sufficiently intrusive event can collapse a wave function, and it seems to be conflating Erwin Schroedinger with George Berkeley. But it's most poetic, and I'd enjoy writing (or reading) a SF story from it. :D
Ruv, for my own curiosity, are you aware of any experiments which demonstrate conclusively that a wave function collapse is not necessarily related to a conscious observer? I ask because it is a subject that interests me and I would like to research it.

Good question, Matt!

Short answer: no. Longer answer: I reckon it doesn't matter.
I have not seen and cannot conceive of a falsifiable circumstance under which quantum wave collapse (where valid), occurs only in consequence of the subjective apprehension of a conscious mind, but not in consequence of a sufficiently intrusive objective event, and this is why I don't believe the von Neumann-Wigner interpretation.

Ruv, I find that very interesting and appreciate your response.

Regarding consciousness, you may have seen other posts where I have stated that I find NDE and reincarnation anecdotal accounts interesting.
I think nearly the whole of humanity finds such ideas interesting, Matt. :) Whether or not it does, there's huge psychological comfort in imagining that our agency, values, perceptions and affinities might survive death.

On the flip side, the idea of consciousness surviving death has to be reconciled with observed personality changes from brain trauma, unique MRI scans in psychopaths showing brain physicality can affect empathy/morality, etc. I don't know if the two can be reconciled.

NDEs already have quite good neurological models, Matt. [http://www.scientificamerican.com...] And depending on which version you mean, reincarnation may be too vague to handle scientifically -- especially when our notion of identity is pretty subjective to start with.

But sure... if subjective experience really did collapse wave functions, that might create an argument for subjective experience being more than just a product of objective function. On the other hand, people mightn't like the full range of implications of a world where consequence somehow follows biases and unchallenged prejudices, yet nevertheless produces the history we share.