Archive for the ‘Brain’ Category

SUBCONSCIOUS (Theory Thereof!)

June 18, 2017

SUBCONSCIOUSNESS AS HIGHER DIMENSIONAL SPACES OF INCARNATED POTENTIALITIES:

I suggest the following: thesubconscious“, “unconscious”, or “preconscious” (“Vorbewusste”, Freud)  is, partly, the set of all weak synaptic (“Hebbian”) activity (in other words, all weak neural networks; yet, not only!). Thus, I propose that much of the so-called “subconscious” does not differ in nature from normal neuronal activity. The subconscious is not that… subconscious. A difference between conscious and subconscious is in intensity, the facility, of the neuronal pathways, not their nature.

(If you ask where I got this inspiration from, my own brain is a full lab at night, and not just at night; for example hard mountain running causes divided consciousness, but it also shuts down part of the brain, while opening others: thinking about the Foundations of Quantum Physics or Economics, or History, while running, or indulging in another passionate activity, gives completely different insights, contexts, and moods than when cuddling with one’s computer, precisely because parts of the brain shut down, including inhibitory regions… Introspection stays the main engine of philosophy, after all these years; see De La Mettrie’s fever, and his “machine man“, below)

The conscious would be where neuronal connections are strong, well-known. The subconscious would be WHERE connections are weak, and known only occasionally, during sleep, say. Thus the subconscious would be made, in part, of neuronal circuitry which got activated from UNUSUAL CIRCUMSTANCES, thus sparsely, rarely, occasionally, and thus established WEAK connections.

In Its Simplest Form, A Subconscious Connection Is Just A Little Used Neuronal Connection. There are more tentative engrams, and some just potential.

Where Are Consciousness & Subconsciousness Located? Configuration Spaces, Just As Quantum Spaces! 

Amusingly, yet deeply, some may ask where is this “WHERE“, I am talking about where the subconscious would be, in my opinion, somehow, somewhat located. They may sneer: ‘isn’t it all in the brain anyway? how can the conscious be in the same 3 dimensional space as consciousness?

So where is this “WHERE“? This “WHERE” is a mathematical space! Hey, why did you think Riemann invented high dimensional geometry for? Interestingly, tellingly, and somewhat connected, the same exact objection has been made when the likes of yours truly have claimed that “Quantum Waves Are Real“: some physicists haughtily sneered back that Quantum Waves couldn’t possibly be real, because they would have to be not just objects in three-dimensional space, like the average tsunami, but in so-called “configuration space“. No, seriously, guys, with Quantum Fields in zillions of dimensions superposed on top of each other, and an omnipresent non-zero “Higgs” field interacting with all other quantum fields, to give them mass, and an all too real as far as the LHC in Geneva has it?… Well, as far as I am concerned, configuration space is space, just like three-dimensional space, is space, it’s real… I am not a mathematician for no good reason!

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Why Sentient Animals Sleep: So That They Can Think Creatively!

This little theory of part of the subconscious as weak neuronal connections explains in part why animals sleep. Indeed, how were those weak connections which end up constituting most of the subconscious  activated? How come they are not activated in normal, conscious life? Sleep! A trick to do so is by shutting down parts of the brain, and thus forcing connectivity in other parts and pathways. How to shut down part of the brain? With sleep or heavy exercise, or passion, including abject fear and mad hunger, tourism, etc…Shutting down part of the brain, including inhibitory circuitry and organs, forces the Will to Connect to use unusual pathways. If those make sense, they get pre-established, and should some real world situations INPUT resemble what was encountered previously in the inner brain, those networks, that means those logics, those solutions, will get activated…

The usual advantages of sleep are considered to be housecleaning and reviewing, and reinforcing the neurological pathways experienced during the day. What I am saying here is that sleep forces unusual neuronal activity, thus the imagination. It’s an essential way of obtaining creative intelligence.

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Homme Machine, the Machine Man With A Twist: 

Julien Offray de La Mettrie (1709-1751), a physician born in Saint Malo, France, made observations on himself, during a feverish illness, referring to the action of quickened blood circulation upon thought, which led him to the conclusion that mental processes were to be accounted for as the effects of organic changes in the brain and nervous system. De la Mettrie argued that the organization of humans was done to provide the best use of complex matter as possible (this may have influenced Lamarck, and is as modern as possible: Quantum Field Theory find local minima of Lagrangians which depict energy; in a way a form of generalized economics…)

Julien Offray de la Mettrie, l’ Homme Machine! Obviously a Modern Psychology Animated Julien, But He Lived Only 42 Years (Same as his contemporary, Émilie Du Châtelet, discoverer of energy, infrared, etc.)

Most reasonable  Austrian-British philosopher cum physicist Karl Popper discussed de la Mettrie’s claim that man is a machine in relation to evolution and quantum physics:

“Yet the doctrine that man is a machine was argued most forcefully in 1751, long before the theory of evolution became generally accepted, by de La Mettrie; and the theory of evolution gave the problem an even sharper edge, by suggesting there may be no clear distinction between living matter and dead matter. And, in spite of the victory of the new quantum theory, and the conversion of so many physicists to indeterminism de La Mettrie’s doctrine that man is a machine has perhaps more defenders than before among physicists, biologists and philosophers; especially in the form of the thesis that man is a computer.”

From my point of view, this is not surprising. Indeterminism does not contradict the machine man. Far from it: it makes it possible. Indeterminism, the fuzziness of waves, smooths out and enriches everything, including in the brain: mechanics now does not mean wheels with teeth activating each other, but nonlinear waves crashing and interfering, a greater wealth of logic.

So, in my view, there is programmation, to generate pre-established connections but it’s self-generated, and those connections become self evolved… That’s a situation quite similar to what happens in biological evolution of the phenotype itself… And it’s related; namely lots of “instincts” are just evolved neurocircuitry. Evolved during one’s lifetime, even in a bee’s brain…

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The Subconscious Is Not Reduced to Alternative Neuronal Networks: Influential Geometries and Topologies Are Crucial Too:

Are potential Hebbian networks all there could be to the unconscious? No. Some of the unconscious is of an even weaker nature. In that case the full neuronal connections were not made yet, but pathways still potentially exist, from the physical proximity of elements of potential paths…

The unconscious is the domain of possibilities and potentialities. The unconscious is a theoretician of the possible, the imaginable… So neuronal, glial, logical, emotional neighborhoods topologically close can well lead to unexpected, never experienced before connections. Those potentialities are also part of the unconscious. So the unconscious is not just (mini or pre-) Hebbian, about weak electric connections, but also about more subtle topologies (in the mathematical sense!). In particular emotional topologies. Thus the subconscious goes from weak Hebbian connections (what dreams are greatly made of) to topological conspiracies.

Take an example: why plutocrats love art so much; they will tell you that they have a sense of beauty, and I will tell you they have a sense of tax evasion; the plutocrats’ subconscious about art is that it enables tax evasion, by creating an untaxable, untaxed currency and store of value; but of course nothing a plutocrat in good standing will want to have pointed out in the plutocratically owned media. Nor anything that a plutocrat who wants to think highly about himself, or herself, would like to see pointed out, anywhere.

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Consciously Connecting With Socrates’ Daemon, Monism, and the like:

Historically, the subconscious was defined as the part of consciousness that is not currently in focal awareness. The mechanisms I evoked above explain how that work. “Consciousness” is, first of all, an efficient administrator, not forgetting that the brain consumes up to an astounding 43% of the energy that a human uses. Thus “focal awareness” will favor networks with strong synapses bringing action readily. You can’t hesitate when those saber tooth lions come around, lest you want to become dinner. Hesitation, inaction, will surely kill you. Errors may be survivable (and the source of instruction).

The word “subconscious” is an anglicized version of the French subconscient as coined by the psychologist Pierre Janet (1859-1947), who argued that underneath the layers of deliberative, and critical thought functions of the conscious mind lay a powerful awareness that he called the subconscious mind. In my vision that awareness which lays waiting is an enormous construction zone of potential logics. (Logics in the widest meaning of the term, not just mathematical, or neuronal logic, but also emotional logics and even what viciously spiteful “philosophers” tend to call “pseudologia fantastica“; once Professor John Searle qualified me that way, to give him an excuse to censor me; now Searle is the object of various prosecutions…)

That continual attempted construction of all sorts of new logics, that is, of new circuitry, and new geometry (dendrites!) and topology, of course, uses an enormous amount of energy, as construction sites tend to. This is what the brain does most of the time (and, as most of this activity is not spurred by “focal awareness”, most of the time, this explains why neuroscience does not know (yet) what the brain is spending so much energy doing, most of the time).

There is a big difference between the unobserved brain, trying to establish new logics, and the brain in a social, and in particular, in a war mode. Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) as enabled some progress in envisioning how complex the brain is. The brain evolved as a social interface, not just as an efficient advanced calculus mathematician in charge of trajectories. As Wired UK put it in “Why does the brain uses so much energy?“: “Scans showed the inferior parietal cortex (IPC), an area that helps us control the amount of energy we use, became deactivated when people felt they were being observed. The IPC works with the posterior superior temporal sulcus (pSTS) to form what researchers called the “action-observation network” (AON). This area of the brain helps people infer what others are thinking based on facial expressions, body language and gaze.

In any case we are now able to figure out what that “daimon (demon)” who advised Socrates was made of: logical potentialities writ into various material connections and entanglements.

In Plato’s Symposium, the philosophical priestess Diotima teaches Socrates that love is not a deity, but rather a “great daemon”. She explains that “everything daemonic is between divine and mortal” and describes daemons as “interpreting and transporting human things to the gods and divine things to men; entreaties and sacrifices from below, and ordinances and requitals from above…” In Plato’s Apology of Socrates, Socrates claimed to have a daimonion (literally, a “divine something”) that frequently warned him… The Platonic Socrates, however, never refers to the daimonion as a daimōn; it was always referred to as an impersonal “something” or “sign”. Thus Socrates seems to indicate that the true nature of the human soul is pertaining to self-consciousness.

Regarding the various charges brought against Socrates in 399 CE, Plato surmised that “Socrates does wrong because he does not believe in the gods in whom the city believes, but introduces other daemonic beings…” Well those daemonic beings were all potentialities in his head.

Notice that the preceding turns around the problem of the traditional opposition made in philosophy between “monism“(the mind is material) and dualism (body and soul dichotomy). This is true, even without evoking quantum physics, because, even without slipping the ephemeral and ubiquitous Hilbert Spaces of quantum physics in the debate, the argument above implies that the brain geometrodynamics, and topological dynamics are extremely high dimensional objects, always fluctuating (quite a bit in the mood of Quantum Field Theory, and probably, ultimately, for the same underlying reason…)

Also notice that the overall mood of the explanation above is that logical and emotional potentialities are embodied in the brain, and that the brain’s main activity is to further them ever more through imaginable twists and turns (in several manners, including, but not limited to weak Hebbian connections). This is very similar to the potentialities which arise in quantum physics experiments. I believe that’s not coincidence, and that it corresponds to even tighter identification deep down inside, namely that consciousness, which has a lot of characteristics in common with the quantum, originates there; the machine man is quantum mechanical. Or Sub Quantum Real (SQPR!) more exactly.

“Gnosis”, the knowledge of spiritual mysteries, was, for millennia, mostly in the eye of the beholder. Science is now excavating some, spearheaded by the philosophical method. For the longest time, the likes of Joan of Arc, Muhammad, Jesus, Socrates, claimed to have heard voices in their heads, or get otherwise in contact with entities not pertaining to their own consciousness. Maybe, but now we have explanation we can all understand. We also understand why we should take the subconscious seriously: it’s a sort of pre-explanation of whatever may unfold later. It’s both clairvoyance, and exploratory explanatory genius of whichever logics fit best the reality out there

Run-of-the-mill knowledge should also be considered on the ground of synaptic capability. Thus “gnosis”, knowledge, and beliefs, should be evaluate according to the strength of synaptic connections, integrating Hebb theory…. Thus I am saying that knowledge is more or less known, belief more or less held, on the ground of how neurology works… Electronic circuits, the way we have electronics now either work, or they don’t (electronics is not yet quantum, and, presently, more akin to make water circulate in canal networks). Neurological networks works more or less. So do knowledge and beliefs then. When those networks work very well, consciousness. When they are barely there, subconsciousness…

Patrice Ayme’

Artificial Consciousness?

March 14, 2017

Move over, Artificial Intelligence! Artificial Consciousness, while not exactly around the corner, is in sight, as a human creation. I have already advocated, on very general philosophical grounds, that “Consciousness Is Quantum“. Now an article in Aeon argues, reproducing rather murkily Heidegger-like Zeitgeist, that “The body is the missing link for truly intelligent machines“. I will argue a bit more precisely, and it is not the first time, that machines are embodied self-creating intelligent designs. When brains learn from the environment, they self-create accordingly. (The details will probably involve a better knowledge of Quantum Physics than what we presently enjoy.)

Well before his famous parrots (Husserl, Heidegger, etc.) the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche was saying that we think with our gut. Expressions such as “take heart”, “from the heart”, “gut feeling”, and countless others show that the body was long thought to be the source of emotion.

Indeed, neurology extends over the body: there are neurons, dozens of thousands of them, in the heart, guts, spinal cord.

One may view the rise of animals as the rise of organized intelligence. It is likely that, even before DNA, the sort of teleological intelligence Quantum Physics deploys was hijacked by biology (teleo means: at a distance, this comes from the nonlocality of Quantum Physics; “intelligence”, because all and any Quantum Process proceeds as an intelligent choice between various possibilities, encompassing all, thanks to said nonlocality!)

Innards of an Eukaryotic Cell. We are made of trillions of them. Each has hundreds of organs, each functioning as a Quantum Computer. Such cells appeared 2.5 billion years ago. They are vastly more complex than bacteria, and remarkable by their mastery of Quantum Computing.

This natural selection of intelligent self-design, by the way, is the missing piece of evolutionary theory: consciousness, from bio-engineered intelligent design.

Inside the thinking organism, the same propensity towards higher intelligence should be at work (haphazard selection being bound to find, in the end, the best system). Sleep is mostly flight simulation, where plausible scenarios are self-run, memorized, and meditated upon. The “Meta” function is known to be plausibly activated by new dendrites, new synapses, new neurons, and neurons which control myelination along axons (making them more or less conductive, here or there).

This means that software activation in the brain brings hardware modifications, and even gigantic hardware creation. Through intelligent (self-)design. We were looking for Intelligent Design, in their silliness. And it was us, all along!

Throughout, Quantum Processes are run, more or less haphazardly thanks to whatever stimulation the cosmos brings.

Cosmic rays modify the behavior of smart phones and computers… although those do not, yet, operate Quantum Mechanically (aside from a few prototype Quantum computers), and are larger by orders of magnitude than the smallest biological scale.  Whereas it is known in the case of a few biological systems, that Quantum Physics is central and essential for their functioning (for example chlorophyll). One can guess it is the same all over the finest biology, even for the genetic code (the hydrogen bonds therein are fragile Quantum devices, very sensitive to the environment surrounding the DNA; they will change if said environment changes)

Thus brains are embodied Quantum computers, constantly running, constantly self-recreating, and body-building according to what they perceive out there 

The day we can have Quantum hardware endowed with the same nature, capable of the same feats, we will not just have created Artificial Intelligence. We will have created AC, Artificial Consciousness. The ethical and security consequences will be many.

Patrice Ayme’

WE ARE MATHEMATICS

January 25, 2017

Mathematically Built Brain: The Example of Grid Cells, Incarnating Algebraic Geometry.

Understanding how the cognitive functions of the brain arise from its basic physiological components has been the final frontier in logic and rational science for thousands of years. (As I tried to explain yesterday, the superstitious religious fanatics tried their best to bury all of science, and the scientific mindset, the essence of humanity; they nearly succeeded!)

The 2014 Nobel was given to John O’Keefe (a “half”!), the rest jointly to May-Britt Moser and Edvard I. Moser “for their discoveries of cells that constitute a positioning system in the brain.” I will develop here the philosophical viewpoint, which is broader (O’Keefe’s career was steered by the influence of Hebb, the famous psychologist, who got the idea of the outside patterns imprinting the neurocircuitry of the brain).

Here is Hebb: “Let us assume that the persistence or repetition of a reverberatory activity (or “trace”) tends to induce lasting cellular changes that add to its stability.[…] When an axon of cell A is near enough to excite a cell B and repeatedly or persistently takes part in firing it, some growth process or metabolic change takes place in one or both cells such that A’s efficiency, as one of the cells firing B, is increased.”

Well it turns out that evolution has had even more imagination than that. I will even propose Patrice’s Neural Theory, a vast generalization.

Galileo famously said the language of nature was written in mathematics. It turns out that it is much more than that. Our brain is mathematically organized. What Descartes consciously discovered, a coordinate frame in which to set-up calculus, is automatically generated in the brain. This is the meaning of grid cells.

Grid cells are neurons that fire when an animal moving of its own free will traverses a set of small regions (firing fields) which are roughly equal in size and arranged in a periodic triangular array that covers all of the available environment. They were discovered in 2005 by a couple (literally) of Norwegian researchers, the Mosers, and rewarded by the Nobel Prize in 2014 (shared with O’Keefe, from London, who invented the basic experimental technique, and discovered “place cells)

Once set, navigation can be done in the dark, blinded. Scientists’ discovery that rodents, bats and nonhuman primates have a system in the brain for so-called “dead reckoning navigation”… “Dead reckoning” refers to the ability to navigate without external cues. The term comes from ship navigation. A crew will “take a sighting” via cues such as the stars or landmarks to determine where the ship is on a map. Then, when the ship moves, ‘dead reckons’ to update location on the map paying attention to speed and direction. The Greco-Romans already had such systems, with little paddled wheels counting the distance covered over the sea. It turns out that ‘dead reckoning’ is enabled by the grid cell system, inside the brain. 

Recording Of Grid Cells Activity Inside Rat Brain (Jeffery Lab and others.)

Recording Of Grid Cells Activity Inside Rat Brain (Jeffery Lab and others.)

Kate Jeffery, a professor of behavioural neuroscience at University College London puts it this way:

“The importance of grid cells lies in the apparently minor detail that the patches of firing (called ‘firing fields’) produced by the cells are evenly spaced. That this makes a pretty pattern is nice, but not so important in itself – what is startling is that the cell somehow ‘knows’ how far (say) 30 cm is – it must do, or it wouldn’t be able to fire in correctly spaced places. This even spacing of firing fields is something that couldn’t possibly have arisen from building up a web of stimulus associations over the life of the animal, because 30 cm (or whatever) isn’t an intrinsic property of most environments, and therefore can’t come through the senses – it must come from inside the rat, through some distance-measuring capability such as counting footsteps, or measuring the speed with which the world flows past the senses. In other words, metric information is inherent in the brain, wired into the grid cells as it were, regardless of its prior experience. This was a surprising and dramatic discovery. Studies of other animals, including humans, have revealed place, head direction and grid cells in these species too, so this seems to be a general (and thus important) phenomenon and not just a strange quirk of the lab rat.”

We should have looked for Plato’s cave. It turned out that this cave has been built, is being built inside our heads all along! This cave is built-in two ways: automatically (grid cells) and as a response to the environment, by.us, from the outside, from the environment, in.

(So it matters what our brain experienced before to mold afterwards what comes in anew from the outside! No experience is a neutral experience!)

That cave is both a topology (what’s near and what’s not, the logic of place), and a basic geometry (the grid and its grid cells). To have a grid built automatically is the equivalent of having a reference frame in mathematics. It makes sense if one wants to make mathematics!

And not just mathematics, but even Infinitesimal Calculus! It is indeed clear that animals such as dogs have a mastery of calculus: experiences have shown this, and anybody with a dog throwing a stick sideways in water will see the dog running along the shore a bit, and then jump in the water, so as to minimize the time to reach the stick, a typical calculus problem. Dogs can do calculus, because they can make algebraic geometry in their brains, having a reference frame made of these grid cells! (If they had no grid cells, they would not be able to do calculus.)

Thus Descartes rediscovered, consciously, something which had been found, evolved and calculated by evolution half a billion years ago (or more!). The reference frame, also known now as the neuronal grid cell system, is basic to all of mechanics, even Poincare’-Lorentz Relativity.  (An open question: Quantum Physics uses even more general reference systems, Hilbert spaces; I will therefore predict that the brain has also that sort of organization!)

The world is not as astonishingly understandable, as Einstein would have it. Neuronal grid cell studies show that we are the world. Understanding the world is understanding ourselves.

The world is not just written in mathematical language, as Galileo found out. We are made mathematically. We think mathematically, because we are made of math. We are mathematics.

We are not just looking at shadows in a cave, as Plato would have it. And the cave was not given to us by the gods, as Socrates had it. We are the cave, we, and our personal history, built it.

Any new experience, idea or emotion, taught or experienced, is another brick in that wall of perception and analysis, we better consider it carefully, before indulging in it. Call that the Principle of Mental Precaution But that Principle extends also to what we chose NOT to experience, which can be just as bad, if not worse.

You are not just what you think. You mentally are what you were submitted to, and what you decided to submit to. Fate is written in mathematical patterns, one theorem made out of neurons, their axons, dendrites and supporting glial cells, at a time.

Such theorems are written with the physics of minds, just as sturdy as the physics of stars. Just as hopeful, just as ominous.

Plato thought mathematics were “forms”, out there, outside of the physical world. This is not what science is finding. There are not “forms” out there, and physics, nature, somewhere else. Our minds are literally made of math.

So here is my theory:

Whatever exists in mathematics exists in the brain. And reciprocally.”

Patrice Ayme’

 

Bees Learn From Culture & Experience

October 25, 2016

When “INSTINCT” IN BEES:TURNS OUT TO BE LEARNING JUST AS HUMANS DO. Bees Practice The Experimental Method, Observe Others & Transmit Knowledge To Others!

Bumblebees can experiment and learn to pull a string to get a sugar water reward and then pass that skill on to other bees.

This comforts a long-held opinion of mine. See: https://patriceayme.wordpress.com/2013/10/02/instinct-is-fast-learning/.

There I claimed that:

“Innate Knowledge” is a stupid idea. The truth is the exact opposite: LEARNING IS EVERYWHERE, OUT THERE. Learning is the opposite of innate. This insight has tremendous consequences on our entire prehension of the world.

My reasoning was typical philosophy: well-informed general reasons. Now there is increasing evidence that not only big brained vertebrates, but smaller brained invertebrates learn.

Conclusion: we humans do not differ from other animals, even insects, in kind, but in the amount of capability we enjoy. Thus, if we want to be truly human as much as we cannot just lay there like cows.  If we want to be fully human we must learn more of what is significant, and learn how to learn it. We cannot just sit on our hands and do as Barack Obama, the do-not much not-so-funny clown in chief, did, obsess about easy one liners and sport scores.

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Intelligence Is A Fact, Instinct Just A Vague Theory:

For years, cognitive scientist Lars Chittka was intimidated by studies of apes, crows, parrots, and other brainy giants. Crows make tools. And they obviously talk to each other (my personal observation in the mountains). From the latest research in Brazil, parrots seem to have advanced language among themselves (which we don’t understand yet, as it too fast and high pitch for humans to hear it, and there is too much “austerity” around to pay scientists to understand the world as much as they could).

Chittka worked on bees, and almost everyone assumed that the insects acted on so-called instinct, not intelligence. Instinct? Come again.

As Bumblebees Can Learn To Pull Strings, So Can Plutocrats. Thus We Need To Outlaw Such Pluto Strings

Hillary Pulling Out Her Reward? As Bumblebees Can Learn To Pull Strings, So Can Plutocrats. Thus We Need To Outlaw Such Pluto Strings

Sophisticated behavior from “instinct” is a rather stupid assumption, because it is a superfluous assumption: Who needs instinct to explain an animal’s behavior, when we have simple, old fashion intelligence to explain it? Well, speciesists! (Same as who needs the Big Bang, a theory, when we have Dark Energy, a fact, to explain the expansion of the universe.)

Indeed we know of intelligence (some people, and certainly children, can be observed to have it). We can observe intelligence, and roughly understand how it works (it works by establishing better neurology, that is, neurology which fits facts better).

We can define intelligence, we cannot define instinct. But what is an instinct? We can neither observe “instinct”, for sure, instead of learning. Nor can we give a plausible mechanism of how “instinct” would generate complex behaviors (DNA does not code for “instinct”).  

When carefully analyzed, complex behaviors turn out to be learned. In humans, social motivations such as the Will to Power, are primary, thus Chitkka was motivated by : “…a challenge for me: Could we get our small-brained bees to solve tasks that would impress a bird cognition researcher?”

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Einstein Bumblebees & Their Superstrings:

Now, it seems his team has succeeded in duplicating, with insects, what many birds and mammals are famous for. It shows that bumblebees can not only learn to pull a string to retrieve a reward, but they can also learn this trick from other bees, even though they have no experience with such a task in nature. Christian Rutz, a bird cognition specialist at St. Andrews university in Scotland concludes that the study “successfully challenges the notion that ‘big brains’ are necessary for new skills to spread”.  

Chittka and his colleagues set up a clear plastic table barely tall enough to lay three flat artificial blue flowers underneath. Each flower contained a well of sugar water in the center and had a string attached that extended beyond the table’s boundaries. The only way the bumble bee could get the sugar water was to pull the flower out from under the table by tugging on the string.

The team put 110 bumblebees, one at a time, next to the table to see what they would do. Some tugged at the strings and gave up, but two actually kept at it until they retrieved the sugar water: two Einstein bees out of 110! In another series of experiments, the researchers trained the bees by first placing the flower next to the bee and then moving it ever farther under the table. More than half of the 40 bees tested learned what to do with the strings. See: .Associative Mechanisms Allow for Social Learning and Cultural Transmission of String Pulling in an Insect.

Next, the researchers placed untrained bees behind a clear plastic wall so they could see the other bees retrieving the sugar water. More than 60% of the insects that watched knew to pull the string when it was their turn. In another experiment, scientists put bees that knew how to pull the string back into their colony and a majority of the colony’s workers picked up string pulling by watching one trained bee do it when it left the colony in search of food. The bees usually learned this trick after watching the trained bee five times, and sometimes even after one single observation. Even after the trained bee died, string pulling continued to spread among the colony’s younger workers.   

But pulling a string does not quite qualify as tool use, because a tool has to be an independent object that wasn’t attached to the flower in the first place. Yet other invertebrates have shown they can use tools: Digger wasps pick up small stones and use them to pack down their burrow entrances, for example.

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Bees: New Aplysias For Intelligence & Culture?

Nobel laureate Eric Kandel, following a mentor of his in Paris, worked on the brain of the giant California sea snail, Aplysia Californica with its 26,000 neurons. This enabled to progress in the understanding of basic learning and memory mechanisms. However, Aplysias are not into tools and culture. Bees are. Bees have a million neurons, and a billion synapses.

[The bee brain is only .5 mm; whereas the human brain is ~ 400 larger, thus 4x 10^2 larger, its volume is thus ~ 10^2 x 10^6 = 10^8 larger than that of the bee brain; thus scaled up, with the same neuronal density, the human brain should have 10^14 neurons! Which is the number of synapses in the human brain. The density of the bee brain Thus we see, in passing, that human neurons pack up much more power than bee neurons! That has got to be a quantitative difference…]

The discovery of bee culture involved almost 300 bees, documenting how string pulling spread from bee to bee in multiple colonies. Cognitive studies of vertebrates like birds and monkeys typically involve smaller tribal units (30, not 300). Thus the bee studies on culture, more broadly based, show better propagation (at least at this point). .

Clearly bees are equipped, psychobiologically, for the meta behavior known as creative culture: learning from others, while experimenting on one’s own. Thinkers of old used to believe these behaviors were exclusively humans: animals were machines (Descartes) and only man used tools (Bergson, who called man ‘Homo Faber”, Homo Worker)

That insect can learn and experiment, and have culture was obvious all along, according to my personal observations of wasps’ intelligence: when I threaten a wasp. It gets the message, and flies away (I have done the experiment hundreds of times; it does not work with mosquitoes). Reciprocally, if I try to get a wasp out from behind a window, it somewhat cooperates, instead of attacking me. Whereas if I come next to a nest, I will be attacked when my intent is deemed aggressive (reciprocally if a nest is established in a high traffic area, the culture of the local wasps makes it so that they will not attack).   

What is the neural basis for these “smarts”? Some say that the insects might not be all that intelligent, but that instead, “these results may mean that culture-like phenomena might actually be based on relatively simple mechanisms.” Hope springs eternal that, somehow, human intelligence is different.

Don’t bet on it. Studying how bees think will help us find how, and why, we think. And the first conclusion is that it matters what we do with our brains. If we want to rise above insects, we cannot mentally behave as if we were insects all day long. Being endowed with human intelligence is not just an honor, but a moral duty. (Learn that, clown in chief!)

Patrice Ayme’

No Many-Worlds Consciousness

September 2, 2016

OFF WITH DENNETT’S CONFUSED THEORY OF 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’  

I Feel, Therefore I Think

June 17, 2015

It has been discovered recently that bilingualism helped with setting up a theory of mind in children, and also that physical exercise helps the brain.

It’s not surprising: in both cases, the brain is forced to exercise more. In a way, the brain is asked to do something, a particular task belong to a new category of tasks, and, when tested about that category of tasks, test higher than if it had never engaged in these tasks.

Exercise forces much of the brain to get active, and at a sufficient performance level (otherwise one crashes).

An Aspect Of My Personal Alps, Where I Frequently Run

An Aspect Of My Personal Alps, Where I Frequently Run

Bilingualism forces to realize that the logos depends upon generalized semantics, that is what one means by a particular word, and which emotion a particular concept is supposed to connect two. Having two versions of semantics and truth, forces one to practice arbitrage, hence higher mental functions. Maybe the Jews of Central and Western Europe, were so smart because they learned both the local language and Yiddish. Similarly for children of upper classes learning Greek and Latin on top of their language (Caesar learned Greek before Latin).

Are there other activities which force our minds to expand?

Facing lions and killing mammoths comes to mind. Neanderthals did this, and their brains were significantly larger than those of Homo Sapiens Sapiens. (Racist Homo SS having been trying to insult Neanderthals about this, ever since the first one was identified in 1856 as a “ricketty Cossack“).

More generally I favor the racist explanation that, living in much harder circumstances, Neanderthals were actually smarter, and their domestication of wolves proves it.

Confronting bears with bare hands, is an interesting activity. Bears hate stones, as they are familiar with the fact stones are dangerous, and when stones start flying, that’s strong magic which gives them an enticing excuse to retreat.)

Short of confronting bears with bare hands, what can we do? To improve mental performance?

What should we do?

Well, go to nature. Real nature, complete with wasps (another big black flying insect trying to sting me since my wasps adventure, but got tangled in my hairdo several times, instead; amusingly it was less than 1,000 feet from where I got attacked by wasps, but this time on a standard fire road, which allowed me to escape more readily; I am going to ned up believing in genies like the Muslim god, if they keep coming at me in the same place…).

Real nature activates, I believe, the proper neurohormones.

Making love makes the Rolling Stones’ Keith Richard happy, because it’s a strong passion.

However nature, wild, savage nature, provides with even stronger passions. A sex maniac such as the famous navigator Olivier de Kersauzon, admits that, when he sails around the world, he thinks about sex not once for one second, being too worried by survival, or crushed with fatigue. John Muir climbed a tall conifer during a storm in the Sierra, to appreciate the passions nature provides with, even more.

Nature feels beautiful: it evokes in us the neurohormonal states we call beauty. How are we going to experience beauty otherwise? Love? Yes, sometimes, somewhat, somehow, love is beautiful. But love is tied either to family, children, or where they all come from, the desire to unite with some other(s). It’s a bit too contingent upon others.

But give a human a desert, with grand vistas: even with no one else around, beauty will be had, aplenty.

Appreciating the beauty of the universe, its cosmicity, is related, in humans, no doubt, to many deep emotions we, humans, are made to leverage, to use our minds to their full capabilities. Not just scanning for prey, water, or enemies. But also contemplating what we humans created, because we are stewards of the Earth. We are of this world (that’s what “cosmic, kosmikos” means, in Greek). This world we created (as the Earth has become a vast human garden, complete with totally modified ecology, from pole to pole).

The Beatles insisted: All we need is love!

Well, sometimes we can’t get love, just from the circumstances. Where is love, walking alone under the starry sky, surrounded by darkness? If you are on a barren island, where is love going to come from?

Well, even in the desert, there is always the beauty of nature, love for the beauty of nature, of which love for other human beings is a particular case. Love for nature is not just a faithful companion, it’s a teacher of love and hope.

I think therefore I am, said the other one. But to think better, thus to be better, we have enjoy more the teacher no one can eschew, nature itself. And all the emotions, all the neurohormones, all the mind it can endow us with.

Go to the woods, or the woods will come to you.

Making fun of “I think, therefore I am” dates back at least to Wittgenstein. However, my point is serious. Whereas robots can walk, robots do NOT have sensations. Worms do. So worms feel, and decide what to feel: they are unpredictable, as I pointed out in “Three Neurons, Free Will“.

I would suggest that consciousness is more basic than the impression of “thinking”. And that unpredictability is a symptom of consciousness. Yes, consciousness has a feel to it, and that varies… Hence the unpredictability, both of sentient beings, and of the thinking process itself (and the Quantum Computer will confirm that!)

Patrice Ayme’

Are Creative Thinkers Crazy?

May 25, 2015

John F. Nash Jr., a famous mathematician, who got the Nobel in economics, died in a car crash on Saturday at age 86. He was coming back from receiving the Abel Prize in Norway. That’s one of several Nobel-like prizes for mathematics.

The taxicab driver lost control of his vehicle, and collided with a guard rail and then a car frontally. Nash and his wife of sixty years or so, apparently did not wear seat belts. They were ejected, and died. Others survived. Conclusion: don’t be so crazy as not to wear seatbelts.

Nash was famous for contributions to game theory and other mathematics. He found something called the “Nash Equilibrium” in a type of games he studied. I will further here a bit what Nash said about mental illness, and its connection with mathematics.

Establishment Keen To Burn Green Fairy, Lest Too Many Ideas Blossom

Establishment Keen To Burn Green Fairy, Lest Too Many Ideas Blossom

“Economists” were no doubt delighted to have still a new abstruse field of mathematics behind which to hide their complete sell-out to plutocracy. Nash Equilibrium probably could be invoked to explain why High Finance should get all the money in the world, and ten times more. Hence the Nash idolatry?

Just another crazy idea of mine? Not so sure. In the period 1950-1955, John Nash volunteered to work for the NSA, and a correspondence exists (declassified on 2012). One can observe a mind anxious to please the establishment (just the type of minds the establishment loves).

Nash became most widely known because of his mental illness, as portrayed in the book and film “A Beautiful Mind.” Nash said he regained his health by simply rejecting irrational thought… and the neurohormonal changes due to aging (something I explained was at the root of the Dark Side).

However, Nash dared to reveal that an irrational mood could not be separated from mathematical ability. I will dare say that this is a general phenomenon: to be mentally creative means to become mentally disturbed, so that one can be mentally disturbing. Please don’t get disturbed by this perspective.

Nash: “Even when I was mentally disturbed, I had a lot of interest in numbers. I began to think more scientifically as to the years like the 80s, and maybe the later 70s. And so there’s a transition from really having more of an enthusiasm for the numbers, like maybe magical or representing a divine revelation, and just a more scientific appreciation of numbers, and these are not necessarily entirely far apart.” [PBS documentary “A Brilliant Madness.”]

Nash: “The ideas I had about supernatural beings came to me the same way that my mathematical ideas did. So I took them seriously.”

[“A Beautiful Mind,” by Sylvia Nasar.]

Patrice Ayme: Most of my social experience, outside of family, has been with mathematicians. A striking fact, with the latter, is the quasi-divine status they confer to the (extremely theoretical) entities they work on. To most mathematicians, mathematical entities become like divinities to them, and mathematics the only universe worth knowing. It may be necessary to be as involved with something so abstruse.

Nash: “I would not dare to say that there is a direct relation between mathematics and madness, but there is no doubt that great mathematicians suffer from maniacal characteristics, delirium and symptoms of schizophrenia.”

[In “The Riemann Hypothesis: The Greatest Unsolved Problem in Mathematics,” by Karl Sabbagh.]

Patrice Ayme: I would not dare say they are crazy, but, no doubt, they are? Once again, to progress in math, one has to attach extravagant importance to extreme subtleties, make them come to life.

Nash: “I can see there’s a connection between not following normal thinking and doing creative thinking. I wouldn’t have had good scientific ideas if I had thought more normally.”

[“Glimpsing Inside a Beautiful Mind,” The Irish Times.]

Nash: “I seem to be thinking rationally again in the style that is characteristic of scientists. However this is not entirely a matter of joy as if someone returned from physical disability to good physical health. One aspect of this is that rationality of thought imposes a limit on a person’s concept of his relation to the cosmos.”

[“Les Prix Nobel: The Nobel Prizes 1994,” edited by Tore Frangsmyr.]

How do new thoughts appear? According to me, thoughts are elements of brain geometry. New thoughts are new geometry. The more complex the thoughts, the more extensive the change of geometry. Thus brains which generate new thoughts are different, and the deeper the new thinking, the greater the difference.

The “green fairy”, absinthe, was excellent apparently to bring brains to operate under different “laws”. There is little doubt that it brought a lot of innovation in thinking, as particularly well illustrated by Van Gogh. Absinthe drove people a little bit too crazy, and became a threat to the establishment. Or, at least, that the way it was perceived.

New ideas, when able to explain, that is approximate, elements of reality, are contagious (through culture). They can change brains, thus society, ultimately making The Establishment unstable, or crazy. It fights back by pointing out that the new ideas are, obviously crazy (as it has interest to perceive them to be crazy, it makes sense).

Any really new idea is, or will be perceived, to be crazy. Thus insanity, this explorer of different laws, has to be respected (as long as it is not outright dangerous, that is injurious in a way which can be legally defined, and is not just a matter of trampled spirits).

So freedom of expression is not just about saying whatever, it is also about thinking whatever, as long as it is innocuous enough.

Absinthe was reauthorized in France recently (at lower concentration). Are creative thinkers crazy? They have to be. Any really true logic is not found in yesterday’s world. By yesterday’s standards, it’s completely crazy.

An example which made it to official science? The Lorentz-Poincare’ theory of “Local Time” (advertised by Einstein). Before 1900 CE, that would have been viewed as sheer insanity. But the philosophically motivated logic of Poincare’ is now viewed by theoretical physicists as simple common sense.

Crazy yesterday, obvious tomorrow: a metric to measure progress.

Patrice Ayme’

Why Insist On The DARK Side?

May 23, 2015

The First Thing That Studying The Dark Side Reveals, Is That:

Individuals, Operate According To Different Neurological “LAWS”, So, Instead Of being One, As One Naively Expects, The INDIVIDUAL IS MANY. Ex Uno Plures.

We have met the Multiverse, and it’s us…

So why to study the Dark Side, besides generating confusion? Well, precisely because it is dark. And when we throw a light on it, we see all what our simplified lives have hidden. Instead, if one wants to understand what we are capable of, we have to bring the Dark Side to the light. How does one do that? One tries to understand one’s own reasons and motivations.

Some will sneer that this insight is not knew. Some will point out at Socrates’ “Know Thyself”. However, Socrates picked up what was the Delphi Oracle’s motto. Delphi was an interesting consortium managed by women. Nor was Delphi first. The Greeks apparently traded silk with China as early as the Sixth Century BCE. And they certainly traded philosophical and mathematical ideas with India. They may have heard of Lao Tzu. As traditionally related, custom officials prevented Lao Tzu to leave China, heading West, before he wrote down some of his ideas. Many of those were strikingly modern:

Lao Tze 600 BCE, Deep. But We Don't Want To Eliminate Ourselves. Sympathy For The Devil

Lao Tze 600 BCE, Deep. But We Don’t Want To Eliminate Ourselves. Sympathy For The Devil

Dark and negative? Sometimes circumstances call for dark negativism. When Sparta marched an army into Athens to eject tyrants who had succeeded to the enlightened democracy shepherded by Solon, it was dark, and negative, but necessary. From that promptly rose Athens’ Direct Democracy, a beacon to this day. World War Two was another famous example of diabolical negativism unleashed for the best reasons.

Is man rational? Some say yes, some say no. Pascal uttered that there were two sorts of reasons: one of them from “the heart, which has its reasons which reason does not have”.

So what’s reason? Generally that question is interpreted as: is man logical? The Logos, one of three deities or avatar of the deity, of Christianism (!) is about simple “logical” rules. Say:

(A-> B & B->C) -> (A->C). More generally, the old fashion logos can be generalized as diagram chasing as in Category Theory.

Logic, as traditionally envisioned, and Category Theory are all describable point to point and digitally. As both Quantum Mechanics and Non-DNA genetics point out, this is not how the world works, in full.

(Digitally is how the Abacus, and our Twentieth Century computers work; but that’s not saying much: that’s precisely their shortcoming; the Quantum Computers use Quantum mechanics, hence the continuously differentiable nature of the world.)

So it’s not surprising our brains act continuous differential. Just the opposite of neurons’ most spectacular antics. That consist in firing long range electric potential impulses down axons.

Continuously differential brainy means the EMOTIONAL, NEUROHORMONAL system.

How do we control that?

Well, that’s straining a bit out of the traditional approach to wisdom. Kama Sutra (truly a good life and family manual) and Tantric Texts come to mind (digging in the Tantra reveals a lot of analogy with what I preach, or what De Sade observed, namely that embracing nature is often the best teaching).

But one is better off observing how famous leaders of humanity, those who imparted momentum to civilization, lived. Well, they lived, mostly dangerously, and more strikingly, in various behavioral modes. Most monarchs were hard lovers and warriors, while appreciating the arts, and even science (contemplate the Duke of Normandy and Conqueror of England, asking pointed question about the state of motion of the Earth, of Ptolemy, the Marshall of Alexander (“the Great”) establishing Alexandria as a capital of knowledge, or Francois I, Louis XIV, and Napoleon pushing the sciences; contemplate Muhammad, warrior and philosopher).

And don’t forget Socrates’ military exploits, including, among other things killing four hoplites in hand to hand combat, and helping a wounded comrade survive in an harrowing retreat after a heavy defeat of the Athenian army.

What is going on here? What has hunting all day long, and skirt chasing to do with governance? Just as Catherine The Great, after she got her husband killed, and took as lovers many of the alpha males she detected. As Vlad The Putin would point out, that manly, adventurous attitude got her army a few miles from Berlin, and all over Ukraine.

What is going on is that varied behaviors lead to varied neurohormonal regimes, various moods, thus varied sets of mental laws. In the same “individual”.

This, in turn, leads to operating the brain under different “LAWS”. I borrowed the expression from Airbus, an airline company based in Toulouse, France. Airbus and its ancestors invented Fly By Wire (FBW), inaugurated with Concorde, (adopted for the Space Shutle,) and exclusively used in the Airbus 320 (now all serious aircraft makers have followed). When a plane flies normally it is in “normal law”. When things get abnormal, the computerized brain of the plane change “laws”, with the idea to put the pilots in charge. (The system has worked very well, for decades, up to two weeks ago when a brand new A400 M transport plane crashed because of a computer bug.)

The situation with human brains is that neurohormonal regimes put brains in different laws, that is, in different logics. This cannot be denied. It was intuitively understood, for a long time: hence the avice to not get angry, and that anger, or fear, are bad advisers, etc.

Well, maybe that’s the wrong approach. Maybe anger, fear, love, instead of being eschewed, have to be embraced, to explore the world under a different law.

Let’s go back to the aeronautical analogy. That A400M which crash was flown in a TEST, as a TEST aircraft (it was its first flight), by TEST pilots and engineers. As it turned out that was also the TEST of a new software to enable some specific military operations (acting on fuel and what is called “trimming”, a displacement of center of mass related to fuel, inaugurated on Concorde, nearly fifty years ago).

Well, the tests ended catastrophically: three engines cut-off, and the plane, badly trimmed, banked abnormally, and crashed.

It would have been better to run the whole thing as a thought, rather than test experiment. But for aircraft, there is no choice. Just as, for the Earth, there is no choice: we cannot run the Earth as a TEST SPACESHIP, doing whatever, and see what happens.

Because, whereas one crashed plane can be replaced, the Earth cannot.

So we have to make the most thorough thought experiments, much more thorough than we ever did before.

Why?

Because we want to understand our minds, or, more exactly, the minds of the oligarchy of a few thousands, dominated by Xi, Putin, Obama, Merkel, Hollande, and a few hundreds associated top plutocrats of, fully equipped with herds of minions, all the way down to academic critters producing the requested logic (plutocratic law).

Look back down at history. Consider FDR, a president of the USA at a time when, to avoid a holocaust, he had to make a united front with the French Republic. Instead, FDR did the opposite, pronouncing, ten years later, when they holocaust had been already unleashed, and millions were already dead, that the USA was the “Arsenal of Democracy”.

What motivated FDR in weakening and opposing France, while arguing with Hitler, when at the same time replacing his ambassador (Dodd) precisely because he was antagonistic to the Nazis, and tolerating a massive policy of investment with the Nazis that violated neutrality, and so on? One has to go to psychoanalysis.

My explanation? FDR was actually a plutocrat. His family had a (self-created) coat of arms (mine too, but it’s the fault of the king of Aragon, 12 centuries ago).

However, a half paralyzed Roosevelt had to impose an anti-plutocratic policy as candidate and president. And then FDR got the French government in his face, telling him he was all wrong. Indeed, then wrong FDR did, by being all too friendly to Hitler, and refusing Jewish refugees. In the end, FDR lived in denial.

The ultimate was when, although from an institutionally racist USA, FDR had to fight to death the racist-in-chief, Adolf Hitler, and make in a sense its bed for the Liberty-Equality-Fraternity Republic (never mind that France was not really that; FDR was furious he was pulled in the wrong direction; indeed, soon, under the pressure of the war, the U.S. army pushed for desegregation.

Notice that then one has to interpret emotions, such as FDR’s rage against the French, or his de facto friendliness to enemies of France such as Stalin. Texts, the digital thing, are insufficient.

To get to know ourselves, we have to know, not just our logic (roll over Socrates), or what we know (as a library of facts and demonstrations). We also have to know our emotions, and where they came from. More than that, we have to know what they are, or could be, capable of.

Thus we have not just to cultivate our garden (Voltaire), but also cultivate our emotional system, and especially its potential character. Don’t just imagine the Light. Imagine also the Dark.

Patrice Ayme’

Neurons, Axons, Axioms

March 30, 2015

(Second Part of “Causality Explained”)

Axiomatic Systems Are Fragile:

Frege was one of the founders of mathematical logic and analytic philosophy. Frege wrote the Grundgesetze der Arithmetik [Basic Laws of Arithmetic], in three volumes. He published the first volume in 1894 (paying for it himself). Just before the second volume was going to press, in 1903, a young Bertrand Russell informed Frege of a dangerous contradiction, Russell’s paradox (a variant of the Cretan Liar Paradox). Frege was thrown in total confusion: a remedy he tried to apply reduced the number of objects his system could be applied to, to just ONE. Oops.

Frege was no dummy: he invented quantifiers (Second Order Logic, crucial to all of mathematics). It is just that logic can be pitiless.

If  Those Neurons Evolved Independently From Ours, Neurons Solve Thinking

If Those Neurons Evolved Independently From Ours, Neurons Solve Thinking

Neurons are (part of) the solution to the problem of thinking, a problem so deep, we cannot conceive of it. A second independent evolution of neuronicity would certainly prove that.

Truer Axiomatics Is Simpler, More Powerful:

Russell and Whitehead, colossal mathematicians and philosophers, decided to demonstrate 1 + 1 = 2. Without making “Cretan Liar” self-contradictions.

They wrote a book to do so. In the second volume, around page 200, they succeeded.

I prefer simpler axioms to get to 1 + 1 =2.

(Just define the right hand side with the left.)

It would be interesting that philsophers define what “causing” means, and what “causality” is, for us. Say with explicit examples.

I want to know what cause causes. It’s a bit like pondering what is is.

Some creatures paid as philosophers by employers know 17th century physics, something about billiards balls taught in first year undergraduate physics. (I know it well, I have taught it more than once.) Then they think they know science. All they know is Middle-Ages physics.

These first year undergraduates then to explain the entire world with the nail and hammer they know so well.

They never made it to Statistical Mechanics, Thermodynamics, etc. And the associated “Causality” of these realms of knowledge.

***

Axiomatics Of Causality With The Quantum:

How does “causality” work in the Quantum Mechanics we have?

You consider an experiment, analyze its eigenstates, set-up the corresponding Hilbert space, and then compute.

“Billiard Balls” is what seems to happen when the associated De Broglie wave has such high frequency that the eigenstates seem continuous.

So Classical Mechanical “causality” is an asymptote.

***

Know How To Dream… To Bring Up New Axiomatics

Human beings communicate digitally (words and their letters or ideograms), and through programs (aka languages, including logic and mathematics).

All of this used conventions, “rules”, truths I call axioms, to simplify… the language (this is not traditional, as many of these axioms have had names for 25 centuries).

So for example, I view the “modus ponens” (if P implies Q and P happens, then Q) as an axiom (instead of just a “logical form” or “rule of inference”).

The reason to call basic “logic forms” “axioms” is that they are more fragile than they look. One can do with, or without them. All sorts of non-classical logics do without the “excluded third law” (for example fuzzy set theory).

With such a semantic, one realizes that all great advances in understanding have to do with setting up more appropriate axioms.

***

Buridan’s Revolution, Or An Axiomatics Revolution:

In the Fourteenth Century, the intellectual movement launched by Buridan, included Oresme and the Oxford Calculators. They discovered inertia, momentum (“impetus”), graphs, the law of falling bodies, the heliocentric system (undistinguishable from the geocentric system, said Buridan, but we may as well stick to the latter, as it is in Scripture, said Buridan, wryly).

Buridan’s revolution is little known. But was no accident: Buridan refused to become a theologian, he stuck to the faculty of arts (so Buridan did not have to waste time in sterile debates with god cretins… differently from nearly all intellectuals of the time). Much of Buridan is still in untranslated Medieval Latin, that may explain it, after centuries of Catholic war against him.

http://www.encyclopedia.com/topic/Jean_Buridan.aspx

These breakthroughs were major, and consisted in a number of new axioms (now often attributed to Galileo, Descartes, Newton). The axioms had a tremendous psychological effect. At the time, Buridan, adviser to no less than four Kings, head of the University of Paris, was untouchable.

The philosopher cum mathematician, physicist and politician, died in 1360. In 1473, the pope and king Louis XI conspired to try to stop the blossoming Renaissance.

More than a century after his death, Buridan’s works, his new axioms, were made unlawful to read. (However Buridan was mandatory reading in Cracow, and Copernic re-published the work, as soon as he was safely ensconced within the safety of his death bed).

The mind, the brain, is quite fuzzy (in the sense of fuzzy set theory; the dreaming part; think of dendrites, prominences within synapses, starfish-like astrocytes, neurotransmitters, etc.). Axioms, and axons enable to code it digitally. So mathematization, and programmation are intrinsic human mental activities.

***

We Are All Theoretical Scientists Of The Mathematical Type:

Human beings continually draw consequences from the axioms they have, through the intermediary of giant systems of thought, and systems of mood (mentality for short).

When reality comes to drastically contradict expected consequences, mentality is modified, typically in the easiest way, with what I call an ANTI-IDEA.

For example when a number of physics Nobel laureates (Lenard, Stark) were anxious to rise in the Nazi Party, they had to reconcile the supposed inferiority of the Jews with the fact that Einstein was a Jew. They could not admit either that Poincare’ invented Relativity, as he was also of the most hated nation (and of the most anti-German fascism family in France!).

So they simply claimed that it was all “Jewish Science” (this way they did not have to wax lyrically about why they had collaborated with Einstein before anti-Judaism).

When brute force anti-ideas don’t work after all (as became clear to Germans in 1945), then a full re-organization of the axiomatics is in order.

An example, as I said, is fuzzy set theory. It violates the Excluded-Third Law.

But sometimes the reconsideration may be temporary. (Whether A and Non-A holds in the LOGIC of Quantum Mechanics, the Einstein-Schrodinger Cat, is a matter of heated debate.)

***

 Quantum Logic:,Both In & Out Of This World:

The removal of old logical axioms can be definitive. For example the Distributive Law of Propositional Calculus fails in Quantum Logic. That has to do with the Uncertainty Principle, a wave effect that would be etched in stone, were it not even more fundamental.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quantum_logic

***

Verdict? Neurons, Axons, And Axioms Make One System:

We have been playing with axioms for millions of years: they reflect the hierarchical, axon dominated, neuron originated most basic structure of the nervous system.

Why?

Well, the neuronal-axonal skeleton of minds is probably the lowest energy solution to the problem of thinking in the appropriate space. It has just been proposed neurons evolved twice:

https://www.quantamagazine.org/20150325-did-neurons-evolve-twice/

We do not just think axiomatically, but we certainly communicate axiomatically, even with ourselves. And the axiomatics are dynamical. Thus causes learn to fit effects.

The fact this work is subjective, in part, does not mean it does not have to do with nature. Just the opposite: causality is nature answering the call of nature, with a flourish.

Human mentality is a continual dialogue between nature inside (Claude Bernard) and nature outside.

Changing axioms is hard work: it involves brain re-wiring. Not just connecting different neurons, but also probably modifying them inside.

Mathematicians have plenty of occasions to ponder what a proof (thus an explanation) is. The situation is worse than ever, with immense proofs only the author gets (Fermat’s Last Theorem was just an appetizer), or then computer-assisted proofs (nobody can check what happened, and it’s going to get worse with full Quantum Computers).

Not all and any reasoning is made to be understood by everybody. (Mathematicians have to use alien math they don’t really understand, quite often.)

Yes, thinking is hard. And not always nice. But somebody has to do it. Just remember this essence, when trying to communicate with the stars: hard, and not always nice.

Patrice Ayme’

Three Neurons, Free Will

March 15, 2015

Modern Slaves Are Predictable, Free Worms Are Not:

Enough of these sad songs about how plutocracy, stupidity, cowardice and greed rule! Worms are smart, and willful! Yes, even worms have Free Will. Too bad for those who thought god controlled everything. Too bad for those who thought animals were machines. Too bad for those controlled by a decerebrating media: they are predictable, whereas worms are not.

That worms have free will is what a study led by Cori Bargmann shows. She is, among other titles, Torsten N. Wiesel Professor, head of the Lulu and Anthony Wang Laboratory of Neural Circuits and Behavior at Rockefeller University (Americans love complicated titles, they aspire to aristocracy; Wiesel a Swedish neurologist, got the Nobel, and was president of Rockefeller).

Brainy Blonde Cori Bargmann “Think Like A Worm”

Brainy Blonde Cori Bargmann “Think Like A Worm”

Researchers can genetically engineered just two, or three neurons in the worm’s head to glow bright green if those neurons respond.

Each neuron in the worm’s brain is assigned a three letter name. By zapping specific neurons with a laser beam, the neuron’s role is deduced from whatever function the worm lost.

So doing, working through the 302 neurons of Caenorhabditis elegans, Cornelia Bargmann discovered that just one neuron control worm hibernation and that worms have a sense of smell, and taste.

In 2011, Bargmann was asked what would be required to understand the worm’s nervous system fully. “You would want to understand a behavior all the way through, and then how the behavior can change. That goal is not unattainable.”

Well, in the end, I believe the behavior of neurons will be found to boil down to Quantum, or even SUB-Quantum physics. So, in the end, there will be no full understanding, just good guesses.

This is indeed what Bargmann discovered in 2015 points towards.

[See below much of the press release from Rockefeller. Also a 2011 NYT’s article on Bargmann’s lab, “In Tiny Worm, Unlocking Secrets of the Brain” may help.]

***

FREE WILL WORM GNAWING OLD PHILOSOPHY:

First, let me philosophize on this recent scientific discovery, which is bound to shatter many old illusions. Philosophy means guess further, or observe, what it all means, or could mean.

Saint Bernard made a rather enlightened observation: “the animal spirit or soul is limited by time – it dies with the body.” Descartes, five centuries later, advanced the grotesque thesis that animals were machines. It was grotesque, because anybody familiar with animals can tell they have free will.

Now neurologists have put Free Will down to as little as three neurons.

Indeed, then, worms are not machines, at least not in the classical sense. Given an input, they behave in unpredictable way, differently from classical machines. That is what the neurologists found.

Do we know of machines behaving that way? Yes. Quantum machines. A Quantum machine is driven by the unpredictable certainty of Quantum Waves.

Are worms then Quantum machines? Yes and no, as Abelard would say. Not necessarily, but probably.

Worms were exposed to a stimulus, a delicious smell. The same smell, always, but it did not give rise to the same reaction. Sometimes worms wormed their way towards the source of the smell, sometimes not.

Conclusion?

The worms’ thinking prevent us to predict its behavior. (Worms are smarter than politicians, the latter being thoroughly predictable!)

Plato famously considered his cave, where people were described as watching shadows on a wall. That was supposed to depict the relationship between humans and reality. The image is still popular among philosophers, and so consequences of it trickle down to the masses.

Plato’s picture is interesting, and it sure applies to propaganda from the powerful, and the way it is received by most. But only as such. As a depiction of how the minds of free worms, let alone, free humans, works, it fails utterly.

However, as far as what science says, and thus, what philosophy ought to confirm, buttress, and fly from, Plato’s picture is now completely obsolete, deprived of reality and imagination.

If a network composed of only three neurons can have an internal mind of its own, a cave of its own, we have to review and change, the concept of mind.

So, what is a mind? A mind, even reduced to three neurons, a network of a mind, has its own mind. How could that be?

Minds are worlds, this is why and how they will. Let me explain.

Quantum Physics describes the behavior of Quantum Waves. Quantum Waves sort-of think (one thousand and one naïve philosophers screaming at this point).

What is thinking? Roughly, “looking”, or perceiving (somehow) what is out there, and then conducting a computation (of sorts) taking what is out there in consideration.

This is exactly what Quantum Waves do.

The roundworm, our hero of will, has 2,000 genes controlling its sense of smell (twice what the rats have, and rats have excellent olfaction). Roundworms do not hear, and do not see, they are all about smell.

That world of smell occupy (part of) their 302 neurons, and build up the rest.

Could we made a “classical” model of a three neuron network? Perhaps, in first order. Actually, even classical model, complete with guiding waves, have been partly made, not just on a computer, but experimentally… for Quantum Waves.

However, in the end, Quantum processes will be found to be non-local (because, well, they are). That will ultimately limit classical, guiding waves models of Quantum waves, Black Holes, or even Roundworms three neuron networks.

If a piece of a worm’s mind is a world, entangled with the rest of the galaxy at a distance, philosophy also has to stretch.

Some would say that whether minds are Quantum, or entangled at a distance, will not bring the bacon on the table: this is neither here, nor there, as it has no practical effects. They would be wrong. Indeed, Non-Local philosophical models, Non-local, Quantum models of thinking, will allow to stretch human understanding so far that it may end up meeting reality itself.

Patrice Ayme’

***

Here is much of the press release from Rockefeller University:

Analysis of worm neurons suggests how a single stimulus can trigger different responses

March 12, 2015 | Science News

Even worms have free will. If offered a delicious smell, for example, a roundworm will usually stop its wandering to investigate the source, but sometimes it won’t. Just as with humans, the same stimulus does not always provoke the same response, even from the same individual. New research at Rockefeller University, published March 12 2015, in Cell, offers a new neurological explanation for this variability, derived by studying a simple three-cell network within the roundworm brain.

Worm brain: All the neurons within this microscopic roundworm are highlighted, with the large cluster at one end representing the brain. Coelomocytes, a type of immune cell, appear as dots along the body.

“We found that the collective state of the three neurons at the exact moment an odor arrives determines the likelihood that the worm will move toward the smell. So, in essence, what the worm is thinking about at the time determines how it responds,” says study author Cori Bargmann, Torsten N. Wiesel Professor, head of the Lulu and Anthony Wang Laboratory of Neural Circuits and Behavior. “It goes to show that nervous systems aren’t passively waiting for signals from outside, they have their own internal patterns of activity that are as important as any external signal when it comes to generating a behavior.”

… By changing the activity of the neurons individually and in combination [researchers] could pinpoint each neuron’s role in generating variability in both brain activity and the behavior associated with it.

The human brain has 86 billion neurons and 100 trillion synapses, or connections, among them. The brain of the microscopic roundworm Caenorhabditis elegans, by comparison, has 302 neurons and 7,000 synapses. So while the worm’s brain cannot replicate the complexity of the human brain, scientists can use it to address tricky neurological questions that would be nearly impossible to broach in our own brains.

Worms spend their time wandering, looking for decomposing matter to eat. And when they smell it, they usually stop making random turns and travel straight toward the source. This change in behavior is initially triggered by a sensory neuron that perceives the smell and feeds that information to the network the researchers studied. As the worms pick up the alluring fruity smell of isoamyl alcohol, the neurons in the network transition into a low activity state that allows them to approach the odor. But sometimes the neurons remain highly active, and the worm continues to wander around – even though its sensory neuron has detected the odor.

By recording the activity of these neurons, Gordus and colleagues found that there were three persistent states among the three neurons: All were off, all were on, or only one, called AIB, was on. If all were off, then, when the odor signal arrived, they stayed off. If all were on, they often, but not always, shut off. And, in the third and most telling scenario, if AIB alone was active when the odor arrived, everything shut off. “This means that for AIB, context matters. If it’s on alone, its activity will drop when odor is added, but if it’s on with the rest of the network, it has difficulty dropping its activity with the others,” Gordus says.

AIB is the first neuron in the network to receive the signal, which it then relays to the other two network members, known as RIM and AVA; AVA sends out the final instruction to the muscles. When the researchers shut off RIM and AVA individually and together, they found AIB’s response to the odor signal improved. This suggests that input from these two neurons competes with the sensory signal as it feeds down through the network.

Scaled up to account for the more nuanced behaviors of humans, the research may suggest ways in which our brains process competing motivations. “For humans, a hungry state might lead to you walk across the street to a delicious smelling restaurant. However, a competing aversion to the cold might lead you to stay indoors,” he says.

In the worm experiments, the competition between neurons was influenced by the state of the network. There is plenty of evidence suggesting network states have a similar impact on animals with much larger and more complex brains, including us, says Bargmann…“In a mammalian nervous system, millions of neurons are active all the time. Traditionally, we think of them as acting individually, but that is changing. Our understanding has evolved toward seeing important functions in terms of collective activity states within the brain.”