Archive for November 22nd, 2019

BRAIN MODULARITY, NONLOCALITY, CONSCIOUSNESS, QUANTUM

November 22, 2019

MANY BRAINS NEED ONE MIND…

Abstract: Brain modularity makes consciousness mandatory to enable motor neural command. Consciousness thus has to act as one, but nonlocally. The analogy with the Quantum Effect, how the whole gets to the point, is absolute. Thus it is compelling to suggest both physical phenomena are actually one.

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It is known that the human mind consists of many specialized units designed by the process of natural selection. For example, there are auditory, visual, equilibrium, fear, language systems (Broca area, Wernicke area)… There is for example a system to detect motion (to spot predators, dangers and prey). Balance is processed in the cerebellum, short term memory in the hippocampus, etc.

While these modules often work together seamlessly, they don’t always, resulting in impossibly contradictory beliefs, or, more fundamentally contrary desires (or watch what happen when patients have Parkinson). A little sound in the bush can mean delicious prey, dangerous snake, or a calmly waiting leopard (the latter happened to me in Africa, for real. Twice.) The possibilities are connected to wildly different e-motions: move to grab, move to flee. Thus several contradictory systems can get pre-activated (amygdalia for fear, hunting systems).  

The modular view of the mind evolved, starting in the Nineteenth Century with the discovery of various localizations in the brain (some even overdid it, and confused brain and shape of the skull).

That the brain is made of brains is not a new discovery. But I claim the consequence is mandatory consciousness. That’s new.

A contemporary author makes moralistic conclusions from the observed modularity. Modularity would cause “vacillations between patience and impulsiveness, violations of our supposed moral principles, and overinflated views of ourselves”. 

Modularity suggests to the same author that there is no “I”, no “self”. Instead, he insists that each of us is a contentious and debating “we”—a collection of discrete, interacting systems whose constant exchanges shape our interactions with one another and our experience of the world. This sort of revelation is not new: it’s already found in Freud, following the French neurology professor of Freud, Jean-martin Charcot, and Nietzsche… And originally Sade, or even Socrates and his famous “demons”. 

Verily, while brain modularity is known to be true, that doesn’t imply there is no “I”. Just the opposite. Come to think of it.

Consciousness exists, just to fabricate that “I”. To fabricate an executive agent, the “I”. The “I” engages the neuromotor system, and, or the hierarchy of modules within. One authority to decide is necessary, so the “I” is necessary.

So what is this consciousness made of, how does it work? Many of the brightest minds have considered the question. I, in turn, question what they questioned, and the little they knew. 

Descartes, contrarily to what Demasio assumed, was no fool, and more penetrating a mind that Demasio… three centuries earlier. Descartes’ observations on the nature of mathematical reasoning were so deep, I was really surprised (as I thought only yours truly was capable of them, being a mix of the bold, the deep and the obvious).

Descartes, of course, had no idea of Quantum Mechanics. QM was hard to produce: Planck was amazing that way, and then came a flurry of geniuses: Einstein, Bohr, Bose, De Broglie, Heisenberg, Dirac, Pauli… (Among others.)

Francis Crick came up with what he grandiloquently called “the astonishing hypothesis”. It posits that “a person’s mental activities are entirely due to the behavior of nerve cells, glial cells, and the atoms, ions, and molecules that make them up and influence them.” Crick claims that scientific study of the brain during the 20th century led to acceptance of consciousness, free will, and the human soul as subjects for scientific investigation. Of course none of this is new, except for the detailed machinery: Descartes proposed the soul was in the Pituitary gland, and asserted animals (hence, implicitly, humans) were machines… 

Meanwhile the notion of machines has now been completely changed in something nonlocal and quirky, thanks to Quantum Mechanics, which has blown up laboratory reality into something… cosmic. Thus Crick and all others miss one point: the brain is not a classical machine, it’s a Quantum one. How do I know this? In the simplest way: the universe is Quantum, not classical. Quantum is complex, first of all, because it’s nonlocal. That means reality is entangled at a distance: that’s the entire challenge of the Quantum computer. Recently a baby Quantum computer entangled ten photons: that was viewed as a great success. In a brain, at least trillions of trillions of particles get entangled, each microsecond…

Guess what? To treat all these brain modules as one, to bring them to cooperate, one conductor, consciousness too, has to be nonlocal. 

Right, a sort of classical non locality in the brain is not just imaginable, but a fact: why else all those long connections (axons) throughout the brain? But the brain is involved in zillions of zillions of Quantum processes every microsecond (zillions is a tech term meaning more than any known number; just kidding but not really). 

Some will say QM is not room temperature, not long range at room temperature, etc. But they don’t know anything, they just talk like they know they are supposed to. In truth, High Temperature Superconductivity is a fact… And NOT explained. The only thing clear is that long range, non local Quantum effects are involved (the efficiency is 100%). If, out of a trillion Quantum processes in the brain in one microsecond, one such processes delocalize enough to cover the brain, that’s enough to create a plausible Quantum substrate for Quantum epistemology.

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Don’t sneer that Quantum effects would be too small, involve too few particles. A few Quantum particles (“Lichtquanten” of Einstein) can have a big effect: when a probe passing Pluto at an infernal clip shot photons towards Earth, very few of these were received. Actually, Voyager I, launched decades ago, and now out of the heliosphere is an even better example [1]. We get just one photon from Voyager every few seconds, but that’s enough.

Quantum Mechanics computes by being all over simultaneously. The brain does the same, because being all over the place, in all localities simultaneously, enables contextual computing. Consciousness then tries to put some order, to result in action items.

 

The exact same thing happens in Quantum Mechanics: the fabrication of order in Quantum Mechanics is from singularization (also known as “collapse of the wave packet” which happens after “decoherence”, a distinction of no difference…)… Which is equivalent to CONSCIOUSLY firing a particular module in the brain by connecting to the action neurology (the neuromotor cortex and sub-systems such as the intestine, with its 35,000 neurons…). 

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In conclusion, that the brain was made of modules was already obvious to Descartes, and amply confirmed by 1900 CE. What is new is that now we have a candidate to use as a  medium for consciousness: what underlays Quantum Physics itself, with its nonlocal, and non-measurable nature.

Philosophically, the Brain and the Quantum exist to steer globally according to local conditions [2]. The Quantum is the solution to the same problem the Brain has: how to steer the general, from local conditions.

Suggesting that consciousness is a Quantum phenomenon from the preceding is not foolhardy. There is a precedent. After Maxwell found that electromagnetic waves were going at the speed of light, he suggested to identify both. The situation here is not as clear, and we don’t have a few equations and one speed. Instead we have the need for brain nonlocality, from brain modularity. Right, it is classically achieved with axons. But it is tempting to suggest the feeling of existence is achieved through the Quantum.

Patrice Ayme

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[1] Passing Jupiter Voyager I sent photons towards an antenna which received around 700 of them per second. Now it’s roughly 20 billion kilometers away, 40 times further, so the same antenna would receive only 700/(40^2) ~ one photon every two seconds. We still can get a correct information flow from that. Point is we don’t need to many event to picture a higher signal.

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[2] This is the famous two-slit experiment. What is local (a slit) is having a global effect (the global interference pattern). Similarly a Brain has to take into account what is found locally to establish a general, adaptable model of reality