No Many-Worlds Consciousness


Consciousness is not part of science… Yet. Science will be complete, when it is. Except, and that is a huge ‘except’, possibly, most people would have to admit, consciousness may already haunt the foundations of Quantum Physics: this is what the ‘Schrodinger Cat’ paradox is all about (the lives of cats depends upon what we think!). And, indeed, I believe consciousness has to do with the Quantum.

But first I have to dispose of those who claim that consciousness is a non-problem. The famous academic philosopher Dennett asserts that consciousness has to do with brain parallelism. My friend Karen Eilbeck, a ‘biomedical informatics’ professor: “I never was satisfied with [Dennett’s] explanation of consciousness”. Indeed. Consciousness and ‘multimodal parcellationare completely unrelated.

It is now considered that there are around 180 different areas of the cortex, per hemisphere, each doing different things (it used to be 83 different “areas”). 

The Brain Is An Orchestra With More Than 180 Players

The Brain Is An Orchestra With More Than 180 Players, Per Hemisphere

As the authors of  “A multi-modal parcellation of human cerebral cortex” (August 11, 2016), have it:

Understanding the amazingly complex human cerebral cortex requires a map (or parcellation) of its major subdivisions, known as cortical areas. Making an accurate areal map has been a century-old objective in neuroscience. Using multi-modal magnetic resonance images from the Human Connectome Project (HCP) and an objective semi-automated neuroanatomical approach, we delineated 180 areas per hemisphere bounded by sharp changes in cortical architecture, function, connectivity, and/or topography in a precisely aligned group average of 210 healthy young adults. We characterized 97 new areas and 83 areas previously reported using post-mortem microscopy or other specialized study-specific approaches. To enable automated delineation and identification of these areas in new HCP subjects and in future studies, we trained a machine-learning classifier…”

Thus the science of finding regions in the brain is more than a century old, it was not viewed as, nor has anything to do with trying to make a theory of consciousness . Yet, Dennett confuses brain activity here, there, and every way, with consciousness. 

Dennett observes that there are “various events of content-fixation occurring in various places at various times in the brain”. (everybody knows this: reach synapse, each neuron, even each axon and dendrite, etc.) The brain consists of a “bundle of semi-independent agencies“; when “content-fixation” takes place in one of these, its effects may propagate so that it leads to the utterance of sentences that make up the story in which the central character is one’s “self”.

A pretty useless ‘explanation’, dear Dennett, and not the problem of consciousness: consciousness is a feeling we all have, not just an utterance. If consciousness were an utterance, the speaking robots we are now interacting with, would be conscious. They are not. They are just algorithms. An algorithm does not have any more consciousness than a canal system. (Philosophers love to pontificate by calling what Dennett did, a ‘category error’; namely one confuses unrelated categories.)

Dennett followers claim that “subjectivity” can NEVER be made a subject to objective inquiry. That is a contradiction with the entire history of science, ever since the first Homo made the first fire.

What do I mean by this? ANY scientific theory started from a subjective experience. The first hominid who realized he could generate sparks with flints was subjectively engaged. So was the first who realized rubbing sticks could also generate incandescence. So the entire history of science, in the last three million years, has consisted, again and again and again, into turning subjectivity into objective inquiry.

When Dennett’s followers claim to have discovered that ‘subjectivity’ can never turn ‘objective’, they fail to understand that science rests precisely on this. In other words, they think as if they did not know that science is possible. Sorry to ask them to jump three million years.

Dennett looks a bit like Socrates with a big bushy beard, he is paid to utter statements viewed as philosophical, and has no doubt many other duties to attend to his enthusiastic following. So much thinking to produce, so little time, drowning in an ocean of fame. Can’t be easy.

How can fame and mental depth coincide? They are adverse to each other. It would be like getting money from oligarchs or financial monopolists, while claiming to want to help average people.

Is there really no connection whatsoever between the brain’s cortex working in plenty of little areas (brain parallelism) and consciousness? I did not say that. Dennett identifies consciousness and parallelism. That’s wrong. But that does not mean that consciousness did not evolve to make arbitrage between all these little areas, being the conductor of that otherwise discordant orchestra.

So Dennett confuses one evolutionary advantages of consciousness and the nature of consciousness. That nature probably has to do with the nature of the Quantum, and the difference between vegetal and animal. “Animal” comes from anima (soul in Latin). The soul is Quantum, this is what the Schrödinger(-Einstein) Cat thought experiment says.

Why the allusion to the “Many Worlds” Interpretation of Quantum Physics in the title? It is more than an allusion. The Many Worlds interpretation of the Quantum consists into sweeping the difficulty of how one goes from many possible outcomes to just a single one, under the rug of formalism. Instead of figuring out what is really going on, Many Worlders of physics say basically that everything and anything goes (all outcomes are ‘real’). One can say that Many World physicists shrug and answer the way Valley Girls do:”Whatever!“. Dennett does just the same. And this is not just a meta-analogy. If I am correct, and consciousness is intrinsically Quantum, the reason is exactly the same: evading a serious attempt at a deeper explanation… of the same phenomenon.

I don’t really expect celebrity physicists and celebrity philosophers to acknowledge that their cute little reasonings are shallow cope-outs, and popular, precisely because they are shallow and cute. However, the last nail in their coffins consist in pointing out that they offer an endearing, yet really terrible example of superficiality to the rest of debating society. Civilization rots by its head.

Patrice Ayme’  

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9 Responses to “No Many-Worlds Consciousness”

  1. ianmillerblog Says:

    I am reminded of Descartes: “I think, therefore I am”. The important point of this is that it is internally generated. There is no external input that generated this, and I do not believe a computer could ever come up with this because it starts with an “if input . ..” and if there is no input, it does nothing. But to understand consciousness, I rather fancy we need to know more about exactly how neurones work.


    • Patrice Ayme Says:

      Each neuron is itself its own Quantum computer. “Computer” is a fact, Quantum my little reasoning, in no way far-fetched, as my next essay will show.
      Indeed ‘I think therefore I am’ was the conclusion of said (future) essay…
      I used to make fun of Descartes for “I think…”
      Guess I have to review my dismissive attitude…


  2. SDM Says:

    We have the conscious and the unconscious mind. What occurs at the unconscious level appears to drive much of human activity. Perhaps much more so than the conscious mind? Neuroscience has gone far in investigating this aspect of our brains.

    At what level of brain activity do we determine that we arrive at consciousness? It would appear that there is a dividing line such as, for the lack of a better term, “awareness”? It would appear that many animals have a sense of awareness, especially mammals. Can this help to at least define the term?

    Is consciousness material? Without our brain, we would not have it. Does that make it a quantity? A substance? A chemical reaction? Energy is what drives it, so is it a chemical process such as say photosynthesis?


    • Patrice Ayme Says:

      In an orchestra, the conductor is not aware of what all the players are doing at all times: the why of consciousness being only partial: that’s its role. Does not mean the subconscious is really subconscious: just ask Zen masters…


    • Paul Handover Says:

      Not unexpectedly the question of awareness, of consciousness, in animals grabbed my attention. I have long sensed, in a subjective way, that dogs are animals with a consciousness and the recent findings of research scientists in Hungary regarding the brains of dogs offers some tantalizing hints.

      Those scientists discovered that the brains of dogs have left and right hemispheres that process language similarly to humans. Ergo, dogs understand both meaning and intonation. I.e. emotion.

      It strikes me that the complex intelligence of the dog, molded over thousands of years of being bonded to the complex intelligence of humans, indicates brains that are homes to consciousness.


  3. Gmax Says:

    Down with Dennett. Dennett confuses what consciousness DOES versus what it IS. Is it what you are saying?
    Could you elaborate on your Quantum thing


    • dominique deux Says:

      I have to concur with your query.

      The question of consciousness is not only very old but arising in every conscious mind. My son was three and still mastering speech when he asked his mother “Mom, why do I think?”. The precocious philosopher never pursued that line of inquiry, having better things to do, but this shows how this question is both universal and, basically, unsolved. Hence the temptation to say it is not open to reasoned inquiry, which allows speculation to run free and philosophers to earn a living.

      The almost universal explanation has long been that of a separate entity called “the soul”, which “explained” (or rather, accounted for) many known characteristics of consciousness, with the added advantage of allowing all kinds of comforting notions such as the immortality of the soul to be spread around. Very useful for social control, and most religious systems have a heaven/hell contraption to that very effect.

      We have left that kind of flat-earther approach more or less behind, but current approaches are not much more enlightening, the introduction of new words often bordering on tautology abuse. And this is where I am with you in asking Patrice to be patient with us laymen and develop his views of the relationship between consciousness and what he calls (with a somewhat worrying capital letter) “the Quantum”. As far as I am concerned, this is a word which sounds more “scientific” than “soul”, but my understanding stops there.


  4. swamibvt Says:

    Umm, the ‘flat-earther approach” is physicalism.


    • Patrice Ayme Says:

      the doctrine that the real world consists simply of the physical world.
      [On a serious note, “physical” has to be defined first.]


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