Posts Tagged ‘Consciousness’

CONSCIOUSNESS, ATOM OF THOUGHT, Atom of Computing: All Found In Electrons?

May 7, 2018

Consciousness: we know we have it, we know many other animals have it, but we don’t know what it is.

Before we can answer this, a question naturally arises: so what is it, to know what it is? What is it, to be? “To be” is something our consciousness knows, when it perceives it. But we also need to know when something “is” to know when, how and if our consciousness is. 

In order to simplify our thinking on this arduous subject, existence entangled with consciousness, consider our most fundamental, hence simplest, theory. Consider Quantum Physics. Surely “existence” is defined there, as Quantum Physics deals with what is most fundamental. Take the simplest examples: photon, electron. What is an electron? In Quantum Physics, an electron is what one electron does. Isn’t that enlightening?

Shouldn’t consciousness be, what consciousness does?

Initially, electrons were just negatively charged particles. At least, so it was until Bohr. Then the description of the electron became much more complex. It turned out that electrons did occupy only some energy levels. Then came De Broglie, who said electrons did as waves he attached to them did. And it was found, indeed, that electrons did so. PAM Dirac then proposed the simplest “relativistic” equation for the electron (a more complicated, second degree PDE had been proposed before and couldn’t be made to predict what was observed). That requested something called “spinor space”…. Then in turn predicted electronic spin and the anti-electron, and both were observed.

(Important aside: the French mathematician Cartan had invented spinors earlier in pure geometry. Yes, invented: he built-in his brain the relevant neurological connections, that is, the relevant geometry.)

Thus what we now call the electron has become higher dimensional in logical space (logical space is the space spanned by independent axioms; I just made it up; that means there is a connection between logic and geometry… thus, in particular, arithmetic and geometry…).

By adding axioms to its description, the concept of electron has become richer… The electron is a richer concept in our consciousness.

Confronted to 2 slits, the electron acts as if it were choosing where to go, after them. Is that, not just a computation, but a primitive form of consciousness? What consciousness is made of? Hard to say for sure, at this point, but certainly a guess worth exploring: any theory of consciousness may have to take this, that the electron acts as if it were conscious, into account. 

We evolved as living beings, and the more complex we became, the more conscious. Jean-Baptiste Lamarck’s law of increasing complexity applies, and is exemplified, by the evolution of consciousness.. Consciousness is probably a law of physics, not an accident of history.

Some say:’oh, well, consciousness may not be that important’. Well, first at least three different phyla evolved it, independently, on Earth, vertebrates being only one of them. (As all trout fishers know, trouts act as if they were conscious, that’s why the experienced ones are so hard to catch, when the water is clear…)

But there is a much deeper objection to considering consciousness unimportant: what is the connection of consciousness to thinking? Could the atom of consciousness be the atom of thinking…. And precisely defined as Quantum Computation?

Indeed, consider programming as presently done with electronic computers: one thing after the other, just so very fast, yet, it is fundamentally desperately dumb. Present day computing, pre-Quantum Computing, can result in desperately slow computations. Whereas the electron can compute instantaneously (says a hopefully naive Quantum theory) that problems too complicated for our (pre-Quantum!) computers to handle, and find out, where the low energy solution is. That’s the superiority of Quantum Computing: tremendous, instantaneous, stupendous computation, right.

So, what looks like a type of consciousness, found in the translating electron, is not just an incredibly efficient way of computing, it is at the core of the efficiency of the world. Could it be the most primitive form, the atom of thinking?

Identifying fundamental quantum and fundamental thinking is an idea whose time has come… Philosophically speaking, in the most practical manner, it means that discursive logic will never cover the last mile…

Patrice Ayme

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Very Tangential Observations:

  1. Albert Einstein ascribed properties to the photon, and the electron, which I claim, have not been observed (thus leading physics astray, straight into the Multiverse). However the ulterior formalism sort of implemented Einstein’s design (which is older than Einstein), attributing (sort of, or maybe not) a strict position to elementary particles… and was found to give excellent  results (namely QED, QCD, the “Standard Model”…) But Ptolemy too, gave good results. Thus, now, elementary particles are endowed with properties which, if I am right, are fake… It has often happened in science that a fake, or grossly incomplete theory will masquerade as true for a very long time: math is full of them (Non Euclidean geometry, etc.).
  2.  The example of Non-Euclidean geometry is revealing: it was abandoned for brain-dead Euclidean geometry… Why did those Hellenistic regime Greeks opt for that silly form of mathematics? Because their superiors, various kings and tyrants, prefered silly. Because geometry in the plane was easier, a case of looking for the keys only below the lampost, because it’s simpler, and one is drunk. Let’s not repeat the mistake of having only simple thoughts, in the case of pondering consciousness, just because our superiors prefer simple thoughts, and are drunk on their power… Soon to be extinguished in great balls of nuclear fire…
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Consciousness, Nonlocality, Free Will

March 26, 2017

DS asked in Aeon: “Patrice, in what way is consciousness “nonlocal”, and what is the evidence for this?”

DS: Science  and technique progress, and thus so do our visions of the world. Quantum computers are becoming a reality. Quantum computers work in a completely different way from the classical computers we presently have (which, fundamentally are of the same type as those the Greeks had, more than 2,000 years ago!). Present (2017) versions of Quantum computers are primitive relative to what’s coming (Artificial Consciousness computers). And you know what? Full Quantum computers depend crucially upon nonlocality.

https://patriceayme.wordpress.com/2017/03/14/artificial-consciousness/

Descartes located consciousness (“the soul”) in a tiny part of the brain (the pituitary gland).  I guess because Descartes considered it was the only part of the brain with a unique character, just like the soul is unique to the mind? Now we know the pituitary is just a master neurohormonal center…) 

Philosophers And People of Culture Have to Learn New Words and Especially the Concepts Having to Do With Quantum & Nonlocality. Lest they Become the New Barbarians…

Split brain, and other surgeries have revealed that consciousness can’t be localized that way, inside a tiny organ (whereas short-term memory can be localized, to the hippocampus, fear to the amygdala, vision to 17 areas in the cortex, etc.)

So, in that gross sense, consciousness is non-local.

Next, we are now basically certain that basic biology uses the Quantum (we have a few telling examples already, not just chlorophyll). By this I mean that consciousness uses individual quanta and their nonlocal behavior (for example individual photon, or individual electrons, the latter when, and precisely because, delocalized).

Indeed, what is the most fundamental property of the Quantum? Not just that it is quantified. Nonlocality is the Quantum most important property. The Quantum is quantified because it is nonlocal (Einstein did not understand this his entire life, from 1905 to his death). Nonlocality is the crucial difficulty of Quantum Physics (it shows up as Schrödinger cats, EPR paradox, etc.)

Supposing that the most fundamental thing we know of in the universe, consciousness, can, somehow, avoid the most fundamental physics we have found in the universe, is a form of denial akin to climate denial, or parallel universes. Ignoring Quantum Physics, as a fundamental conceptual tool to understand consciousness can only be explained by prejudice.

What prejudice? Most cultured people have no understanding, let alone feeling, for the Quantum. So they desperately clinging to Classical mechanics, something best suited for artillery shells…

As the Quantum is essentially nonlocal, and fundamental to consciousness, so is consciousness.

And what of the Quantum deniers? Well they miss entirely the immensely rich new logic that Quantum logic has offered beyond Classical logic…

The preceding should not be construed as an endorsement of so-called weirdly named “extrasensory perception”. Instead, I have argued that the sensory system itself is nonlocal (pretty much a physiological evidence, too, as we see with 17 areas…)

A trivial, but telling, case could be called “Free Will and Cosmic Rays”. Cosmic rays, cosmic elementary particles, can be millions of times more energetic than the most powerful elementary particles created by man, at CERN (their origin is obscure, logically speaking). It is known that cosmic rays can change the states of present computers (so even present computers are unpredictable!) Now the scale at which present computers operate is classical (as in classical mechanics), it is hundreds of times larger than the scale at which the inner machinery of cells operate.

That means that the inner machinery of neurons will be put in different states by cosmic rays, just like smartphones. There goes the freedom of Free Will. “Free Will” may feel free, but it may well have, and sometimes surely will have been, directed from a galaxy long ago, far away… This spectacular conclusion is not a matter of opinion. It’s a matter of science. And I have not even considered the question of (the extremely nonlocal) Quantum Entanglement. Quantum Entanglement is real and makes matters way worse.

Some will say, that’s fine, we don’t need to know all this stuff, we can be happy, and we can still pontificate about our classical notions of “Free Will” and “Consciousness”. Indeed, those who want to stay primitive, should. Yes. Yet, within bounds. There are limits to barbarity that civilization needs to set-up, as a matter of survival.

Those who want to cling to a more barbarian, less scientific past certainly cannot claim to have the will to moral superiority. They are like those who believe Muhammad rode to Jerusalem on a winged mule. One cannot accept the principle that one can believe in anything, accept that anybody can believe in anything, and civilization will go on. Verily, superior morality, superior smarts.

If anything, Quantum Physics show that much more things are connected in mysterious ways than ever thought possible. Even space and time get entangled in “Quantum Procrastination“, and cease to have any conventional meaning.

To believe that this completely new, immensely more subtle than was ever suspected (Quantum) universe, has nothing to do with the way we perceive it, and conceive of it, would be an astoundingly naive, revoltingly obsolete, lack of introspection, a short step away from those winged mules.

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 AM

December 3, 2015

Descartes Cut Down To Size, Consciousness Extracted:

Concepts such as “consciousness”, “free will”, “sentience”, or (to sound learned) “qualia”, are often brandished, without connecting them to (what are called in Quantum Physics) “observables“.

I will try to correct this here. I will associate “consciousness”, “free will”, “sentience”, or “qualia” with something observable, namely unpredictability. This enables me to claim that even simple animals have emotions, consciousness, etc.

Yet my approach, unpredictability, provides with a measure (of consciousness, free will, sentience, qualia), thus does not put all species in the same basket (as the unpredictability a mind is capable of will vary; and not just vary as a number).

Approaching intelligence through unpredictability does not fall in the same excesses as Princeton’s Peter Singer and other in the “animal rights movement who claim (with the Nazis) that fleas and humans have equal rights (so we may as well treat humans as fleas).

The notion of “observable” was central to the birth of Quantum Physics, and still is.

Aplysia: Brainy, Thus Sentient, Conscious & Also Unpredictable

Aplysia: Brainy, Thus Sentient, Conscious & Also Unpredictable

Clever Enough to Become a Plantimal…

There are more than 3,000 species of “Nudibranchs”, these sea slugs, as their branchies are nude… Just when you thought you were safe from French. the particular one above steal genes from photosynthesizing algae it eats. Then it becomes solar powered. Science does not know how this works, because Obama prefers to finance his friend Elon Musk rather than fundamental research in genetics and solar power. TO SOLVE THE GREEN HOUSE GASES CRISIS, ONE NEEDS MORE FUNDAMENTAL RESEARCH. NOW. Finance it with the 6,000 billions dollars given to fossil fuel plutocrats and their obsequious lackeys.

The notion of “observable” is central to Quantum Physics, and irritated Einstein, especially when Heisenberg pointed out that it was he, Einstein, who had introduced it in physics. It is no coincidence that I was driven to capture it for consciousness: it is central to science.

Quantum processes “behave” as if they were conscious of the environment at a distance. Einstein is unhappy in his grave: reality has turned into his worst nightmare. Poor Einstein was very much a Nineteenth Century physicist, he did not graduate to the new age of implicit wholeness.

Chris Snuggs: “As if” they are conscious. Does that mean they ARE conscious?

Patrice: Not an answerable question, because Quantum Processes cannot be interviewed. But I am sure that the feeling of consciousness is rooted in those Quantum Processes. Precisely because Quantum Processes behave as one could imagine elements of consciousness to behave: they are both unknowable and retrospectively determinable.

Chris Snuggs: “Does not “consciousness” need a brain?”

Patrice Ayme: First for the simple answer. What’s a brain? A set of neural networks. Aplysia has around 650 neurons.

A brain “thinks”. What is thinking? How do we know that an animal thinks? When it behave in a way we cannot always predict. Thinking manifests itself by the ability to make a (set of) neural network(s) behave UNPREDICTABLY.

Thinking is detected by the ability to go beyond (rote) learning, thus, to be unpredictable.

At least that’s what I claim. I claim this, because that’s the best I can… think of. What else?

Here is an example illustrating the preceding concepts. I met a giant sea turtle in the ocean. I knew it was thinking. How? because it showed a lot of initiative (especially for a supposedly stupid reptile).

First it determined I was no threat. It swam towards me. I could see its eye moving, inspecting me. I could not predict what it was going to do. It extended a vast flipper next to my fingers, we delicately touched. It was a sort of respectful handshake across 400 million years of evolution. I have been at the (very obscure, as it should be!) Sistine Chapel, at the Vatican, where God extents a finger to man.

This was much better. A flipper was extended, from turtle, to human. Then my reptilian friend slowly dove. I had done nearly nothing. The sea creature had created the encounter. Deliberately. Unpredictably.

Two days earlier me and the same turtle (it is particularly large, so I know it was the same one) swam on the surface in a particularly strong current, in the exact same spot, so it probably recognized me: sea turtles have color vision, and I am unmistakable with bright fluorescent orange and yellow shirt, pants and socks and giant bright yellow fins.

It is precisely because a human being, the world’s smartest animal, cannot predict the behavior of another organism, that we know that this organism thinks, is conscious, has sentience. The first time it decided to swim 5 feet apart, although I was all business, having trouble with the current, and not interested at that point by socializing sea monsters. My sole aim was to regain the beach, 400 meters away, past a sea cliff.

“Sentience” comes from the Latin sentientem (nominative sentiens) “feeling,” present participle of sentire “to feel”. The turtle was at the very least intrigued by my behavior the first time (‘crazy human swims against current pretending to be a turtle’), and was interested to inspect me some more.

In the case of three neurons, free will (or at least unpredictability) has been demonstrated. https://patriceayme.wordpress.com/…/three-neurons-free…/

The question of what is “consciousness” and how it can be determined to happen arises. That’s harder.

In “Surveiller et Punir” (mistranslated in English as “Discipline and Punish” instead of “Surveillance and Punishment”) Michel Foucault quoted at length the full execution of Damiens a religious fanatic who had pricked Louis XV with a knife. Foucault wanted to show how punishment changed. That gives me a justification to set-up my own gory scheme.

Descartes is famous for his “I think therefore I am”. What he was after was finding the simplest, most fundamental basis to start from. So doing, he made a huge mistake.

Indeed, one does not need to think to know that one is.

That can easily be shown by a thought experiment. Grab Descartes, tie him up on a table. The strength and number of bounds is important. Then take a rusty saw, and start to cut Descartes’ leg off. After Descartes puts in doubt your philosophical qualifications, he will start screaming. By the time you get to the sensitive nerves, next to the bone, his discourse will have lost any apparent method. At this point Descartes will not be thinking, but busy screaming his head off. Still, he would be fully existent, and feeling more alive than ever.

Thus sentience is more fundamental than thinking.

This shows, once again, that correct thinking starts with the correct feelings, moods, emotions.

This has many applications. When people extol Christianism, or Islamism, as if they were civilizations, instead of crazy superstitions with a very LETHAL Dark Side, one has to ask whether they set-up the mood of the Enlightenment.

When “leaders’ gather in Paris for the Green House Gas (GHG) crisis, are they aware of the correct emotion, the correct mood, that they should be infused with? Namely that they have only a few years to research the technologies which will allow to get rid of the GHG crisis, or an unprecedented holocaust, of the entire biosphere, may, or  will happen…

And will they be conscious that it will be their fault, and the fault of the 6,000 billion dollars of yearly fossil fuel subsidies they preside over, like the ecological terrorists they are?

This is an example of the following:

Verily, if you want to think right, you have to feel right. First.

Patrice Ayme’

No Multiverse, No Teleportation. Yet Quantum Consciousness?

June 27, 2015

There is a flaw, at the very root of the definition of the Multiverse:

Multiverse partisans believe anything, any physics, is possible. However if such is the case, among those possibilities, the universe is one of them. But then, if the Universe exists, there is just one universe, and the Multiverse can’t be!

Logic is a terrifying thing for those who have too little…

[The preceding is actually the latest variant, thanks to yours truly, of the 25 centuries old Cretan Paradox.]

We are led by some physicist who, not only have little knowledge, and little imagination, but they don’t have much logic, either! We look up to physics, because we look up to intellectual, or, more precisely, logical, scientific leadership. Prominent statements about the “Multiverse” or “Teleportation”, though, go the other way.

"Teleportation" Is About States, Not Particles. Nothing Simplistic!

“Teleportation” Is About States, Not Particles. Nothing Simplistic!

In one of the world’s major science museum, instruction is conducted for children between the age of 4 and 94 years old. Somewhere above the mastodonts and triceratops’ fossils is an special exhibition of the science of science-fiction.

An exhibit was about “teleportation”. There I was informed that particles had been successfully “teletransported” by “scientists” already.

I was so pleased to be informed of this that I teletransported all those who believe such inanities to a mental asylum.

They make a drastic mistake: confusing “particle” and “state”.

Particles cannot be “teletransported”. To pretend otherwise is a complete affabulation. What can be “teletransported” are Quantum States.

http://www.sciencealert.com/physicists-have-quantum-teleported-a-particle-of-light-across-25-kilometreshttp://www.sciencealert.com/physicists-have-quantum-teleported-a-particle-of-light-across-25-kilometres

The staff of Sciencealerts, 22 September, 2014, used the following banner: “Physicists have quantum teleported a particle of light across 25 kilometres.”

No, they did not. They teleported the state of a third photon.

This sort of confusion goes to the core of the mental retardation in which physics has spent most of the Twentieth Century. I pointed out that it originated with Einstein. Einstein made the following statement, which I view as an extreme error:

“Energy, during the propagation of a ray of light, is not continuously distributed over steadily increasing spaces, but it consists of a finite number of energy quanta LOCALIZED AT POINTS IN SPACE, MOVING WITHOUT DIVIDING and capable of being absorbed or generated only as entities.”

https://patriceayme.wordpress.com/2015/03/26/einsteins-error-the-multiverse/

That opinion of Einstein  above,  “the propagation of a ray of light… consists of a finite number of energy quanta LOCALIZED AT POINTS IN SPACE, MOVING WITHOUT DIVIDING” is complete affabulation, a fantasy. Yes, I know, Einstein got the Nobel Prize in Physics for it, and, thus, by saying this, I do not just grab Einstein by the horns, but the entire physics establishment. As Martin Luther would say, though, I see no other way…

I affabulate, and fantasized too, most often. However, when I do, while searching for truth, I try to respect known, well-established facts. In 1905, Einstein could imagine things about photons the way he did. Why not? It was natural: from Lucretius to Newton, most thinkers believed in particles. Particles were supposed to be the ultimate atoms of matter (atom means, in Greek, what cannot be divided).

However, since then, facts have intervened. The “particle” hypothesis became untenable. Indeed, the particular effect, how,  the Quantum shows up, is only how the energy of fundamental processes is released. In complete conflict, how the fundamental process proceeds is all about waves.

Einstein himself, after talking extensively about this with the (physicist and) philosopher Karl Popper, came to write the “EPR” paper… what is now called TELEPORTATION.

Einstein called this teleportation of states a “spooky interaction at a distance“. In truth, it’s an obvious consequence that fundamental processes are computed with waves, and waves are, by definition, NON-LOCAL.

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Quantum Computing: What’s the Difference, And How Conscious Is It?

Present computing is similar to computing with water canals, one primitive manipulation at a time. Quantum Computing will be about computing with the interferences waves bring.

For more on Quantum Waves:

https://patriceayme.wordpress.com/2014/04/05/quantum-wave/

And there a quandary is presented: Quantum behavior has much in common with the attributes of consciousness. Thus a full computer may well behave unpredictably, and as if it had consciousness, but also, truly, be conscious. We wouild be not just facing Artificial Intelligence, but Artificial Consciousness.

Skynet may not just acquire control, but be sentient…

This, I do believe, is a real “danger”. Working on the Quantum Computer, is working on Artificial Consciousness. However, the proximal danger is that the aura of contagious stupidity has infected what passes for political leadership. To with European “leaders”, leading into the abyss, because the Greek leader has decided to submit the latest austerity measures to a referendum by the Greek People.

Does not the Greek Prime Minister know that the People does not rule? Demo-cracy = Demos Kratos, People Power. Not what we have. How come the Prime Minister of Greece does not know the basics of the corrupto-world we live in? Democracy is just a word polite people of wealth and taste use to mask plutocracy.

The Greeks want a referendum on whether they want to suffer some more? Unforgivable. So negotiations of the worthies with uppity Greece are interrupted. The CE chief, J-C Junkers is little more than a polyglot Mafioso, having managed the tax evasion of hundreds of billions of Euros of hundreds of companies, when he “led” Luxembourg. Now he can talk tough.

Insanity in physics has shown the way to insanity in politics and ethics. Inspired by the Schrodinger cat who is supposed to be both dead and alive, our great leaders thought they could get away with being all about money, and all about the people. If you don’t like this universe, go live in another.

(OK, maybe our great political leaders do not know enough physics to think this consciously; however the little critters who advise them, and write their discourses for them have themselves friends who feel they are very smart, and that physics says one can be all things to all people, at the same time. So the pernicious influence of mad physics go far, that way. And it has penetrated ethics, indeed.)

Even the Pope has noticed that supposedly refined economics, such as “cap and trade” (a European invention now used in California) were obviously inspired by the Devil. He condemned them. But, nowadays, like Schrodinger’s Cat, our great leaders imagine they can be the Devil and the Good Lord at the same time, in different places, and we will still embrace their feet religiously, our hearts frantic with unbounded admiration.

Time to cut the Gordian knot, with a very sharp sword. A sword cannot cut the universe in two (as the naïve Multiversists believe), but it can certainly cut the crap. And teletransport minds to a state closer to reality.

Patrice Ayme’

IMPROVING BIOLOGICAL EVOLUTION

February 10, 2015

Biological evolution creates capabilities that, in turn, add dimensions to the universe in which life blossoms. That makes life more mathematically complex than (known) High Energy Physics (which does not evolve in higher dimensions as time flows).

No, I am not trying to contradict Darwin’s natural selection, nor Lamarck’s various selective evolutionary mechanisms. I suggest to complement them with new evolutionary mechanisms: ecological and social evolution, and FUNCTIONAL evolution. No, I am not day dreaming: I have explicit examples: flight, brain, consciousness.

I have thought of this for years, but the discussion with Brian Key, a neurobiologist, brought it to the fore.

Professor Key argued fishes could not experience pain (or suffering), because they were not conscious. Brian ascertained the latter point from his inability to distinguish structures in fish brains similar to those found associated to consciousness and pain in human.

Similarly, the drunk searching for his keys, below the closest lamp post.

Some Academics Climb the Tree of Academia, Showing their Bottoms Ever More

Some Academics Climb the Tree of Academia, Showing their Bottoms Ever More

Einstein used a higher level reasoning. I used a higher level reasoning.

What is the brain for? Figuring things out. How does that work? Well, in humans, consciousness helps. Ergo, consciousness appeared at some point in animal evolution.

At which point?

That’s an ethological question. A question of behavior.

In the past, I used to think fishes were dumb machines of the sea. Then, as a fisher, I discovered older trouts to be really smart. Recent studies have shown (some) fishes to be incredibly smart. On some tests, some fishes are found to be chimpanzee smart.

Brian Key: “Patrice raises the idea that “common sense” tells us that animal brains have the same general purpose as humans. I challenge readers to go beyond their everyday experiences because sometimes “common sense” can be misleading.”

If animal brains don’t have the same general purpose as ours, what could their purpose be? And how come we developed a different purpose?

What is the purpose of a human brain? Surviving. If animal brains are not for surviving, what are they for?

All and any animal brain is there to do exactly what the human brain is doing.

A case of the function defining the tool.

Conventional evolution theory looks at the evolution of organisms.

But there is a higher level of evolution than the one of organisms: ecological evolution. And an even higher one: the evolution of functions. For example, the function of flying was evolved by insects, pterosaurs, birds and bats.

Once flying had been invented by insects, it created its own ecological niche, its own universe in which at least birds and bats could evolve. Because at least birds and bats could eat insects, if they learned to fly.

The apparition of brain created its own ecological niche, its own evolutionary force.

This is why the brain capabilities of the brainiest species have been on an ascending trajectory.

The octopus’ eyes do what ours do. And they look very similar. Even though they evolved in completely separate fashion, and are inverted.

Vision defines the eye. Specifics follow.

Same for brains: one needs a reward and punishment (pain) system, and consciousness is useful. A question arises naturally, which philosophers have not answered: what is consciousness for?

The case of birds is clear: although their brains are completely different, they fulfill all functions found in humans.

Homo Floresiensis is perhaps even more telling: these 1.1 meter tall hobbits had completely different, much simpler brains. However, they developed sophisticated weapons.

There too the basic functions were satisfied from completely different neuroanatomy.

I am not claiming neuroanatomy plays no role, and that all animal brains can have as many functions as human ones: supposedly cockroaches keep on drinking, even when their throats are cut. Some insects seem perfectly dumb. However, wasps are smart. And they seem to experience pain. (I have experimented with wasps; my anti-wasp method is to hit them. Once hit, or even after a near-miss, they deduct that they better get somewhere else; conversely, wasp will makes it dangerous to approach a wasp nest!)

Socratic Gadfly claimed that wolves do not discuss hunting. Pendantry rightly asked him how he knew. We know little about animal languages.

It was just discovered that “… chimpanzee referential food calls are not fixed in their structure and that, when exposed to a new social group, chimpanzees can change their calls to sound more like their group mates.”

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/02/150205123016.htm

Drawing massive conclusions, when one knows so little? Is that “scientific”? Is that prudent? Is that wise? Should it be called that intellectual fascism?

Science is not getting animal brains yet.

If it were, it would get ours.

However, from this we got a conclusion: biology does not just evolve, it evolves its environment. The invention of flight by insects incited other species to “invent” flight. The invention of brains made the evolution of consciousness in (some) other species more likely.

Biology is an engineer, a scientist, a thinker.

Systems of thought, and systems of moods, have lives of their own. So does life itself. Life has a life of its own (to speak like Lacan). Life, as it evolves, adds not just complexity, but, outright, new dimensions. The Multiverse may not happen in physics, but, with life, it does, with a vengeance.

A very speculative question in physics (raised by no less than Paul Dirac) has been the permanence of physical laws. Tests have actually been made to test whether physical laws changed (they have been found not too, so far).

However, with life, the laws do change. Biological evolution evolves its own universe (and do not forget that the devil in the details is Quantum mechanical).

Patrice Ayme’

 

 

 

More On Quantum Consciousness

September 5, 2014

Human brains are built from ideas. Any change in such ideas is lots of work, thus pain, and is always resisted. Often viciously. The greater the change, the more vicious the backlash.

A contributor, “Disagreeable Me” (who had published an extensive essay on consciousness, Sept 1, 2014) rose strident objections to my thesis (found in preceding comments; such stridency is not new: I am used to violent critiques against Quantum Consciousness, in the last few decades that I have dragged this pet around). Here is some of the dialogue, raw (co-sent to Scientia Salon):

 

Disagreeable Me: “Most people seem to assume that their consciousness is in some way located in their brains. Personally, I agree with you that it is not a localized thing, but this is because I think consciousness is a property of a mind, and that a mind is an abstract object. 

That’s quite different meaning of the word, however. In quantum mechanics, non-locality means that effects seem to work instantaneously at a distance. I don’t see any reason for believing that consciousness has these attributes unless you want to bring up woo such as remote viewing or clairvoyance or mind-reading.”

Patrice: One could argue that all “objects” are “abstract” (or at least abstractions, in the mathematical sense Alonso Church gave that in the 1930s; Church was Turing’s thesis adviser). Abstraction is characterized by the stripping of secondary, inessential characteristics. So one may, indeed, loose localization. That’s vague (joke intended: vague = wave -> delocalized).

However, my point about localization is different. And precise. Brain delocalization is biologically grounded. The brain is, physiologically, a delocalized object.

The brain is made of many neighborhoods, and subsystems. Is the brain the temporal lobe? The cerebellum? The right brain? The frontal cortex? Clearly much of the brain is working all over, much of the time. Some parts get active, others go to sleep, other parts never stop (say those watching over basic functions such as breathing or neurohormonal cycles).

So, when we consider the brain, we consider something spatially spread out. Yet, the conscious feeling that emanates from it, what we call consciousness, somehow, is centralized. Consciousness is one, not multiple, not spread out, at any instant of time.

How to make one, out of many? This is a question that arises naturally when considering both brain, and consciousness.

One could object that the same can be said about a bridge. A bridge is an abstraction of many characteristics. Yet, what makes the perception of a bridge one? Consciousness.

If one focuses on one’s breathing and heart rate, as conscience can do, and commands them, the mind is then just about that. Conscience focuses on a (few) characteristic(s). One could say that conscience collapses on particular points.

Now think about the way a Quantum process enfolds: it’s about something wavy spread about that is processed, to become, in the end, just one.

This sole sentence abstracts the basic set-up of Quantum physics: “something wavy”: the wavefunction, the “spread about” is a Hilbert space; “processed” is about time as an evolution parameter; “in the end” is about collapse/decoherence; “the one” is the so called “particle state” that results.

The analogy with the contrast of the delocalized brain in an union with a focused, localized consciousness, free to localize inside the brain wherever it wills, jumps at me.

 

DM: …”the following sentence makes your meaning clearer. “If consciousness were not Quantum, it would have to be “classical”, that is, not fundamental.” So, you’re argument is that everything that is fundamental is quantum, and it is completely stupid to imagine that consciousness is not fundamental. 

This is largely meaningless to me. I don’t know what you mean by fundamental, and it is not obvious to me that everything that is fundamental is quantum. I might, for instance, claim that logic (i.e. the law of non-contradiction) is fundamental, but it would seem to be very strange to claim that logic is Quantum, whatever that would mean.”

Patrice: That’s indeed my argument. Although it’s not yet clear how exactly, all of Classical Mechanics, Relativity, and Thermodynamics have to emerge from Quantum Physics, I believe. I would call that Ultimate Unification (UU). (GUT, Grand Unified Theories, are less ambitious: they unify only at high energies; UU is a conjecture, right, but so is Langlands program in mathematics; nobody sneers at that.)

Right now, experimental research is exploring the transition from QM to CM, and has been honored with the 2012 Nobel Prize. (Haroche in Paris, for counting photons without disturbing them, and his colleague Wineland in Boulder, for doing quantum computing with ions, among other things.) We are very far from a full picture on how to implement UU (the Nobel committee recognized Haroche and Wineland’s works as first timid steps to the Quantum computer).

Logic is a vast subject. In 1936, two of the most advanced mathematicians (Birkhoff and Von Neumann) invented something they called Quantum Logic, doing away with the distributive law. I do not doubt, though, that logic is a form of empiricism (whether the one gets from reality, or… the imagination).

It’s curious that you mention the law of non-contradiction as fundamental (as Aristotle held, in contradiction with Heraclitus). Quantum Physics is well known to enjoy things that are alive and dead simultaneously. It seems rather contradictory to me that some don’t appreciate the contradiction.

 

DM: “What you call freedom I call randomness. Randomness is not freedom, but if nature is indeterministic then all objects are random anyway. Chaos theory suggests that small perturbations in complex systems such as brains can lead to radically different outcomes. “

Patrice: Agreed. Except that I do not confuse freedom and randomness. Randomness can help freedom, and vice versa, but they are not the same. Schopenhauer famously claimed he could not will what he willed. I beg to disagree: the wise will will what she wills, such is her definition. Higher reflectivity, and detachment from contingency, is what intelligence is all about.

I thank Disagreeable Me for giving me the occasion to become more conscious in the matter of consciousness (and offering me the occasion to make a quantum jump of understanding, etc.)

Patrice Ayme’

CONSCIOUSNESS IS QUANTUM

August 30, 2014

Consciousness is Quantum, because it cannot be anything else. Another, more vague argument, is that consciousness is ultimate, and so is Quantum Physics. It’s simple and natural to identify them, on the ground that there should be just one ultimate thing.

If consciousness were not Quantum, it would have to be classically explained. On the face of it, this is completely stupid: the world is Quantum, not classical. If consciousness were not Quantum, it would have to be “classical”, that is, not fundamental.

The Quantum is so incredibly fundamentally new, that it has changed even the notion of what it means to be enlightened:

Cat Seen From Entanglement, Not Light (!)

Cat Seen From Entanglement, Not Light (!)

[One of these Schrödinger cats was created by Entanglement, not Light!]

An argument for the Quantum nature of consciousness can also be derived along… classical lines familiar to old fashion philosophers.

Consider Classical Mechanics. Classical Mechanics is completely deterministic: given initial conditions, which can be determined with complete precision, a few differential evolution equation determine fully what will happen forever thereafter.

Thus, in Classical Mechanics, there cannot be any free will. Contrarily to observation. Also one then is left to ponder what good consciousness would have. Even pain would be useless, because the very conception of warning does not present any utility. Any process being ineluctable, human beings, and other animals are just witnesses to their own condition.

This means that the basic philosophy of consciousness and freedom contradicts Classical Mechanics.

Far from being philosophically satisfying, Classical mechanics is absurd. Descartes guessed this, as, inspired by Classical Mechanics (then being elaborated to the point it was clear that the equations were fully deterministic), he suggested animals were just machines.

To make human beings in something more, God was needed, it was confusedly felt. But then the omnipotence of God re-created the same problem as before: an omnipotent God replaces Classical Mechanics, and remakes the world into something humans cannot influence.

Quantum Physics has provided with a way out. It’s everywhere, unbeknownst. It is not just a physics of space and time, as so called “Relativity” is. When Poincare’ suggested the concept of Relativity, he meant one of space and time.

However, Quantum Physics entails a much more general relativity, the relativity of knowledge itself. Such is the Schrödinger Cat Paradox. Cats can be seen where one’s light has NOT reached. (The experiment was published a few weeks ago.)

What else do we know that can extent where no light of ours has passed? Consciousness, of course.

And the brain in all this?

The brain is a classical object, at first sight, a topology, a place with a notion of neighborhood. Different organs and networks in the brain accomplish different tasks, all at the same time. That’s what led some to the notion of subconscious. Indeed, most of these tasks are not consciously perceived: most of what the brain does is done in the background, and at best only very dimly perceived. For example heart management is hidden.

Yet, should one get a heart attack, one’s heart will become the focus of one’s consciousness (starting with a big pain). So what does consciousness do? It brings problems to the fore, and tasks where creativity, neurological creativity, is needed right away.

The brain, at first sight, is a classical object. But, at second sight, and actually, beyond sight, there is entanglement. And it allows to see.

It’s not as Pascal put it posthumously, that the heart can see where reason cannot, it’s that consciousness can see where light cannot. Remember the picture above.

How does consciousness do this? The brain, as I said has a local topology, yet consciousness rules over it all, that is, non-locally (we know this intuitively, or, as we also say, philosophically).

That perceived non-locality is something in common with Quantum Physics. The picture of the Schrödinger Cat made without light having gone from the cat to us was obtained by Quantum Entanglement, and not by a physical (“Hausdorff topology”) process.

Quantum Physics is not Hausdorff: points cannot be separated from each other. Not just that, but Quantum Physics is not local. Neither does consciousness feels like something, nor should it be, philosophically speaking as something that can be separated, and localized.

Some may scoff that the preceding may be all very interesting, a perspective on what may one day be better understood. But that it’s not practical.

Not so. The day has come, it’s here now.

Robots will seriously replace, displace and overcome humans when Quantum Physics becomes the core of Artificial Intelligence. Verily, one should talk about Artificial Consciousness (AC).

Indeed, the Quantum, once installed within machines in full, will show up as synthetic free will. The first Quantum computers are officially operational (see the D-Wave Two, an Adiabatic Quantum Computer; actually, you won’t see it, it’s sold for ten million dollars each).

Quantum processes, at best, are determined by non-local processes that we cannot inspect. Another point in common with consciousness.

So we are, most probably, Quantum computers. Classical Mechanics could explain us, Quantum Mechanics gives us freedom, and all what conscience is. This means that, as we create full Quantum computers, we will create, if my guess is correct, full consciousness of our own making. And we will be able to augment at will how conscious those machines will be.

Until they take over, of course.

The crown of creation will soon create souls. And soon engineer souls. Our apish ancestors started by stealing fire, we will end up giving birth to gods.

Patrice Ayme’

Consciousness I

July 22, 2013

Abstract: I tie in consciousness, incompleteness, the mind as multiverse, logic incarnated by high dimensional neurocircuitry, and various states of consciousness as their architects. Among other things.

***

Consciousness is a major mystery, blatant to all. Much boring stuff has been said about it. That does not mean we can’t progress in our understanding. We will. Here is a sketch of some of my ideas, and, as there is much more to be said, I will call this “Consciousness I”.

Are we conscious when sleeping? What’s the connection between intelligence and consciousness? I was pondering those questions while more or less sleeping (for want of a better description). That struck me as entirely appropriate: thinking about what happened when sleeping, while sleeping. Obviously I was conscious, and obviously, there are many levels of consciousness. (And, with modern technology, modulo the injection of drugs, aliens can come to control our minds and spy on our brains!)

Consciousness is a little bit like the light of a lighthouse: what it illuminates is visible, but the rest is still there. Like a lighthouse, it can be seen from afar.

An illustrative dream came up to help further my meditation. I was swimming in a rather cold sea, next to the shore, and then what I vaguely feared happened: my daughter was swimming too, somewhat in the distance, among the ominous waves. As she is only three years old, that was something to worry about: she swims very well, but in warm swimming pools. Not in this very black, frigid, undulating ocean.

So what was the point of this dream? Obviously to warn me that, were a body of water to be present, any body of water, even when clearly dangerous, there was a possibility that she would launch herself as boldly as when she jumps in a swimming pool. So I was forewarned. New logical circuitry connecting to the great danger center had been vividly forged.

No doubt that, should a somewhat similar context possibly arise in the real world, I would pay more preventive attention to what my daughter was doing.

A way to look at Quantum Physics is that the world is made of probabilities. Experiencing, and managing, the world as if it were made of probabilities is fully compatible with the vision, and experience, of the world prehistoric man had. There was no way to be sure that there was no venomous snake ready to strike below that rock, so better poke it with a stick, or give it a precautionary wide berth.

Meditation is a most precious, most human state of consciousness. Whereas sentience is shared with many animals on this planet, obviously, not so with the capacity for meditation. meditation allows to shut down most (over-) used neuronal circuitry, and engage more strategically important parts of the brain.

Action without meditation is as slavedom without wisdom

What does it mean to be conscious? Well, first, that we feel conscious. Clearly, in a sleep, quite often, we feel very much alive (“sentient” to put it in one word, meaning to have sensation, or sentiment), even though we can’t recall much of it when we wake up. This type of partial, but vivid, consciousness can happen under general anesthesia, as it did to me after an accident. I was waxing lyrical, doing poetry… I was told by the doctors, and even now, partly remember.

The key to logic, beyond what the Greeks understood, is the process of “meta”. It’s just the realization that, for all practical matters the world is uncountably infinite, whereas any language, hence traditional logic, is countable. This means that no logical process will exhaust the world.

That’s called logical incompleteness, and is associated to Gödel’s name. But the fundamental idea is very simple, I just uttered it. (Gödel went further than that, proving the logical process will get to a finite number of steps, where it will fail; related to this is my assertion that there is a largest number, the end-all, be-all of mathematics…)

If any logic is incomplete, how does one make do, and complete any logic? By adding dimensions, going meta.

We can’t go through the obstacle, so we jump over it. Consciousness is made to perform those meta jumps. How? By reconfiguring the inner mental universe in various states of… consciousness, and leaving memory traces of it.

I absolutely do not believe in the incredibly stupid interpretation of the Quantum according to the brainless “multiverse”. (Another case of human idiocy by types so arrogant that they do not understand how little they grasp.)

However, choosing an alternative or the other in a logic after a while, as Gödel says we have to do, is, basically, a choice of dimension. Here is the multiverse. But it’s neurobiological, not quantum.

Thus the capability to create multiverse within minds exists, it’s called consciousness in its various states. It’s between the two ears of a normally constituted human being. To go multiverse, various parts of the brains get more or less shut down as others are able to gain some ascendency. This is why getting drunk, and drugs in general are tied with some creativity (disclosure: I never used drugs because being arrogant, I think am a drug onto myself, and that I would best be trained by implementing the craziness myself!)

Notice that there are other ways to look at Quantum Physics (full of matrices for Heisenberg, full of waves in many ways for De Broglie, me, etc…). According to circumstances, the ways to look at things is more or less appropriate to the action at hand. Consciousness acts as a director, a decider choosing what ingredients one should throw in the reality our brain operates in.

Reality does not just depend upon what we perceive, but also upon what we decided to have perceived. Consciousness makes the decision to decide what’s the best reality one should operate in. and this goes all the way from the logical, to the factual, to the emotional.

One has to realize that, to start with, the brain is an extremely high dimensional object; each of the 50 known neurotransmitters or neurohormones can be viewed as a dimension. Different logical paths (neuronal paths, dendritic connections paths, etc.) can also be viewed as dimensions (I use the algebraic definition of dimension here: if each point of a space is determined by (x1, x2, x3,…, xn), the dimension of that space is n).

In normal operations, we favor some of these paths. (Be it only because some peculiar neurons, always the same control which part of the brain receive fuel and oxygen, and when.) However, when we shut down some preferred areas (from sleep, meditation, physical exercise, highly excited hormonal states, alcohol, etc.), and in particular those gateway neurons, other circuits and organs are then free to offered their alternatives. Hebbian reinforcing can do the rest, and new dimensions of thought then appear in everyday life.

***

Patrice Ayme

I AM, & SOMETIMES I THINK

July 17, 2012

SUM ERGO COGITO:

Abstract: Thinking is what defines us. Agreed.

Yet, from most perspectives, Descartes’ famous “Cogito Ergo Sum“, “I Think Therefore I Am” is (grotesquely) counterfactual, as I show below, from the nature of logic, from science, and from introspection. No, the soul does not come before and independently of the body, Messieurs Descartes and Havel. The reality is the exact opposite.  

Thinking emerges from the rough and tough, it is something that rises only from very complex, very organized matter. It may be the face of god, but it is first an act of human will. Last, and not least, the self extends well beyond conscious thought.

***

LOGIC IS (NEUROLOGICAL) RULES, DATA ARE (NEUROLOGICAL) INPUT; EXISTENCE FIRST:

It often happens, in the course of human debates, that, by manipulating standard concepts from fresh, and sometimes opposite perspectives, one is perceived to say the exact opposite of what one is trying to say. Why? Because much of what passes for thinking is actually perfunctory checking for the presence of a few known facts, in an ancient mood.

(This is not really a failure of the logical system; it turns out perception itself works in the same perfunctory way: 90% of input in the visual system consists of reentrant fibers…)

One consequence of my essay I Mood Therefore I Thinkis the exact opposite conclusion of Descartes’ most famous statement, from a multi pronged attack.

Yet, Paul Handover, the excellent gentleman and versatile thinker who founded the excellent site Learning From Dogs“, in what I fear could be a standard critique, suggested that I complicated matters about thinking, by trying to deviate from Descartes’s “I think therefore I am“. Said he:

“Cogito ergo sum, or as the French would say, “Je pense donc je suis”…surely all you are saying is that famous phrase, “I think, therefore I am”?

Ergo, writing so extensively about moods is complicating something basic to man. Some humans think and some don’t!”

Well, surely not. (Paul later understood what I meant, as the comment section made clear.) I agree that moods, paying attention to moods, considerably complicates the analysis of thinking, as I tried to show, for example, with Socrates’ obsession with pathetic little logic. That itty-bitty logic was just a transparent way to change the conversation from what was really wrong with Athens, namely that it was a slave society… Instead Socrates lived as a hanger-on of the golden youth of Athens, those whose descendants would ultimately collaborate with Macedonian plutocracy (Antipater, and his goons, 322 BCE). About that most grievious logical flaw, he had nothing to say; it was a question of moods.

Living, worldwide, among various natives, all endowed with very varied moods, about the same things, from Silicon Valley to Iran, Black Africa to the Latin Quarter, has taught me that moods dominate logic. Maybe not locally, in a mind, but certainly, globally, throughout a mind.

Recently I was talking to a Silicon (Valley) mini titan, and he asked me how my writing was doing, feigning polite interest, while barely hiding his considerable irritation, hostility and contempt (to all I represented, the Cogito). The mood he projected was clearly not the mood I would have enjoyed at the Café de Flore in Paris. Nor, of course, with such a mood in place, the debate could reach any depth. Silicon Valley does not want depth, just profits and market share, enabled by financial plots, and as little government as possible (while entertaining and financing the president). That’s the mood.

The first thinker to dare criticize Descartes directly was the (ultra-rich) Ludwig Wittgenstein, who went to Cambridge to study with Russell, and taught there, between bouts of building a cabin with his hands in Norway, and renouncing his plutocratic prerogatives. (Although it can be said Sartre & Al. made a covert critique of Descartes, see below.)

Wittgenstein thought Descartes’ famous slogan was pointless. Ludwig used to make fun of Descartes in his Cambridge seminar by loudly remarking:”I think, therefore it rains!” Or: “I think, therefore the sky is blue!” He did not elaborate more than that, I will.

All humans think. Simply some refuse to do it creatively, or have been conditioned, by a special mood, to avoid all and any creative thinking.

On the face of it, Descartes’ “Cogito” statement is ridiculous, as it uses an emerging property to define existence itself. But emergence pre-supposes existence. (And see what Existentialism hinted about the subject below.) And yet we will see the story is a bit more subtle.

***

THE BRAIN EMBODIES LOGIC, PHYSICS, MATHEMATICS:

When one looks at an implication: a > b, one is looking at a piece of neurology. Most mathematicians not only do not understand that, but refuse to understand it, are highly offended by it, and would rather leave the room screaming (they already have). However, so it is.

The wolf can howl to the moon, call it divine, still it is the moon. A physical object. Just like the mathematician can howl to mathematics, call it divine, still, like the moon, it’s just out there. That makes it even more important, but nothing physics did not invent first. 

Mathematicians want to call mathematics divine, for the same reason dogs want to call the moon divine: because, having discovered their object of adoration to be out of this world makes them feel divine about themselves (something very obvious in mathematicians). Descartes, creating the world just from his own thinking, is a typical case.

Reality is much more prosaic, not to say vulgar.

It is well known that a dog trying to get at a ball thrown in the water, will run along the beach just so, and jump in the water according to the optimal trajectory confirmed by electronic computers and 7,000 years of intense human efforts to write down the rules of calculus, so that they could be installed inside said computers.

How do mathematicians think wolves know calculus? (And so do lions, I have seen it.) Because they got the Fields Medal, the Abel Prize? How come the dog takes a year to learn what takes the mathematician 15? Because they read it in books, like human mathematicians?

No, it’s much simpler than that. Wolves have neurobiology which embodies (the) calculus (they need). This is the reason for what Wigner called “the unreasonable effectiveness of mathematics“. The mind is built from the existence of histories experienced. Yes, even in wolves. They make this spiritual construction when they play as puppies.

The puppies play with a lot of possibilities, their minds memorize those that work the best. It’s not building the cathedrals, but it leads there.

(The basic principles of cathedral construction were also found by trial and error, then culturally transmitted… so was calculus, now culturally hammered in, so that young human mathematicians, differently from those poor dogs, do not have to invent it!)

***

THINKING, CONSCIOUSNESS, EMERGE AFTER PLENTY:

Logic is made of (neurological) rules, data consist in (neurological) input (most internally generated). Those exist first. Thinking comes later, it is what is called an Emerging Property.

What is an emerging property? An enormous system is put in place, with an enormous number of interactions, and, as it becomes dynamic, it builds an order, an order that emerges progressively. Even plate tectonic is an emerging property. Crystallization is an example. pain, physical or psychological, another. All societies, even those of ants, are emerging properties.

Clearly, whatever thinking is, it’s an emerging property, because thinking requires a bunch of neurons to come together, first.

Moods and sensations are the indispensable background to any logical system.

It’s not just my opinion, and it’s not just neurological. Open any treatise in logic. OK, it’s easy to get lost within logic, as a quick peek at Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy shows . Logic is a universe of its own. Most mathematicians know nothing about it, and don’t want to know (lest they feel beaten at their own game, logical arrogance). To simplify, as usual, I go hard core, by sticking to hard core pragmatism (as found in the best hard science and mathematics).

Judicious simplification leads to better abstraction. I am going to simplify what logic is.

I have studied various logical systems, long and hard, even including Girard’s Linear Logic (invented very recently, in 1987). I have also studied, long and hard, before it became fashionable, Category Theory. Category Theory is literally a rigorous structuralism, a bunch of rules of manifest interest. (Nobody knows if it can replace Set Theory as a Foundation of Mathematics; practitioners don’t care, it’s too useful to give them time for deep meditation.)

My rough (philosophical) conclusion from all this esoterica: any logical system (including categories) consists, at the very minimum of:

1) a set of rules (it could be diagram chasing in a category). Call that the ‘logic‘.

2) a universe of symbols to which these rules apply. Call that the ‘universe‘ (in which that logic operates).

The way I look at it, this corresponds to the way the brain is organized:

 1) corresponds neurologically to an axonal system (including dentrites).

 2) corresponds to the regions (in the brain) the logic starts from (it will varied places, as inputs internal, or external, vary).

Sensation, moods, emotion, neurohormonal regimes act as meta-controllers, upon both the logic and the universe. For example in case of hyper stress, automatic meta controllers acting on gateway neurons will shut down parts of the brain by starving them of oxygen, and redirect oxygen and fuel towards areas indispensable for survival. So the brain’s logic is controlled by moods, as meta.

***

FALLING OFF A MOUNTAIN, TOO BUSY FOR THINKING:

Once I was delicately crossing a famous and notorious ice gully equipped just with an ice axe and rock climbing slippers. At the worst moment, I looked up, and saw a cloud of rock silently forming up in the sky, 600 meters higher. I started to run, in the hope of reaching the rock on the other side first. However, the avalanche from the partial collapse of said mountain hit my ropes just as I made it to a vertical slab. (The shoulder of that mountain entirely collapsed later, a famous case in Chamonix).

Torn off rock holds, I fell off, facing certain long and painful demise down the mile high gully of death (and the death of my partner, who had a lousy belay. From cracks in the one and only mineral block in that ice gully). I had a last thought: not only was I airborne, but I was dead, that was it, survival probability was strictly zero.

However my brain, in a miraculous feat I cannot not believe, to this day, succeeded to block me between vertical walls, one of ice, the other of granite, in a chimney position. All the more remarkable as I had only rock slippers (not mountain boots). The amount of unbelievable precision and giant neuronal power to unleash colossal force to stop the already long fall was only possible because all my brainpower was applied only where it mattered.

There was no thinking whatsoever. Actually it’s clear that after I had the thought that I was going to die, fir sure, the brain shut down all and any thinking. Consciousness was useless, it just stood in the way, so there was none. Pain and fear did not exist: they were irrelevant.

Thinking, consciousness, pain and fear were obviously completely shut down. All that was left was tremendous will power, enormous mathematical power and the capability to generate an enormous action potential in millions of motor neurons to create gigantic force.

After I stopped in other inhuman feats, I jumped out of the chimney position, grabbed rock and solo climbed ten  meters up to a terrace. It felt like jumping up. When I got to the terrace, and looked at lots of abraded arms, I just could not believe what had happened.  I still do not.

Cogito, ergo sum“, said Descartes. But where does cogito, ergo and sum fit in this gory scene? Nowhere.

Superstitious people who love slogans would just say that “God” took over. Whatever kicks their simplicity.

Clearly what happened has been related many times in similar incident: all my brain’s energy got concentrated exactly where it could make a difference, in a particular application of elementary mechanics, with maximum motor neuron power. Completely extinguishing the rest of brain activity.

Many years ago, a famous solo French sailor, Alain Colas, was in a race in the middle of the ocean. A loop of rope suddenly snapped around his ankle, and nearly completely severed his foot, causing severe blood loss. He had to make a tourniquet to save his life, administer first aid, then bring down his sails, on his giant boat, also to save his life, then try to give the alert. All of this while dragging foot and nerves on the deck. But he did not feel the pain, and he did not go into shock. That happened only when he was done with the essentials.

Anybody who is real hard and has experienced the grand outdoors hundreds of time, will have a similar story to relate.

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MINIMUM INTROSPECTION SHOWS EXISTENCE, & FEELING COME FIRST:

Waking up from total exhaustion one has first the sensation of existing (“I am!”, or: “I seem to be!”) , well before one starts thinking anything remotely organized, or logical. That could certainly be proven by e-m brain studies, BTW.

Somebody in very deep coma demonstrably exists, while often not being in thought, deep or not.

Actually anybody familiar with heavy exercise knows they can reach points where he or she is, but do not too well what anything, including themselves, is all about. They are, but they don’t really think. So being precedes thinking, elaborated or not. When I run uphill at 3,000 meters for more than fifteen minutes, it tends to do this to me, for example.

Moods provide (part of) the context that a logic needs. How does a baby learn the meaning of words? Not from a dictionary, but from emotions. Emotions come first, they provide the semantics of the world, for any growing human mind. I should go back in the essay and point that out, so thank you Paul!

Thus, at first sight, it’s amazing Descartes, an army captain, could make such a mistake. Did he have an agenda? He did.

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DESCARTES, OR MACHIAVELLISM SERVING EXISTENTIALISM?

I am tough on “Cogito Ergo Sum”, but I should not be so on his author. Indeed there are twists in this story.

Three centuries after Descartes, Sartre, raising the flag of so called French Existentialism, claimed that existence precedes essence (l’existence précède l’essence”). That reverted the philosophical view that the essence nature of something is more fundamental and immutable than its existence (Aquinas defined god as the thing where existence = essence…). So, if one thinks of the essence of man, as one should, to be thinking, then Sartre was (unwittingly?) saying that thinking was emergent.

Descartes was a genius, if there ever was one: he invented analytic geometry, making calculus possible. So why did he say something as absurd? Well, if man existed just from his thinking, it was not because of God.

Descartes’reasons were grounded in anti-theocracy, subtlety and the advancement of civilization. His new aphorism, “Cogito Ergo Sum“, was iconoclastic.

But iconoclasm yesterday, doctrine tomorrow. Compare the way Descartes broke new ground with his aphorism to the return to primitive theocracy of a modern celebrity such as Václav Havel advocates. Said that otherwise very honorable one: “… one great certainty: Consciousness precedes Being, and not the other way around, as Marxists claim…”. Havel would go oncondemning ours as “the first atheist civilization“, which “has lost its connection with the infinite and with eternity“.

Descartes’ mood was to go where no mind had gone before. Neo-conservatives are rather in the mood of going back again where the logic has thoroughly proved not to be sustainable. No wonder the birth rate is collapsing in such parts.

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Patrice Ayme