The Physics of Consciousness
I’ve been a fan of HE fan for quite some time now, but I just signed up today. (Let the revelries begin!)
I’ve been working on a series of blog posts that attempt to describe the universe in terms of both science and spirituality/metaphysics, using language that members from both groups can relate to.
I’d like to know what you think!
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Wow. Absolutely great stuff!
Thanks for sharing this.
About a year ago I started learning and reading about quantum consciousness and quantum computers. I remember thinking that I was so certain that the universe was not a computer simulation.
Over the last year or so, I’ve come to the conclusion that you cannot know anything with 100% certainty. I love what you said about “What is real”. That is exactly why we can’t know anything with 100% certainty – because “real” is subjective.
So not only can I not dismiss the idea that we live in a computer simulation, but I also cannot dismiss the idea that we don’t. I cannot dismiss the idea that there is a god, and yet I cannot dismiss that there isn’t. This goes for anything.
“A logic-based AI could never make independent decisions, raise questions, or demonstrate spontaneous behavior.”
How about making the ‘emotion’ of the AI stem from contrast? The logic are the rules that define it, the ‘emotional element’, the key to making it ‘human’, would be making decisions based on the contrast of the stimuli and how this would effect the ‘emotional’ response of the program. I can further break down what I mean by contrast if needed.
“What if we provided the AI with a constant stream of random inputs?”
Yes, I know nothing of designing AI so my comments are abstract at best, but give it logic, then give it ‘emotion’, then let it run against a stream of random inputs, then have a learning element.
>Creating an AI is my ‘big project’ that my learning of programming, databases, and networking is all geared towards, so talk about this is fascinating to me.
Thanks for the feedback everyone, I really appreciate it! It’s good to know people are interested in these topics.
@mowgli1 – Nice share! Bookmarked, will give it a look later.
@tine – Yes, I’d like to hear more about what you mean by contrast. I think that’s the general idea though. If the AI has to make a difficult decision, especially one where its options are logically contradictory, then that is emotion. (Think Sonny’s decisions in I, Robot.)
@alltoohuman – the very nature of the universe may prevent us from finding a definite answer. The brain is both a physical and a quantum computer – supporting evidence can be found for each argument. See my post on Universal Duality: http://www.brentpeters.me/wp/2012/09/1168
Hey, I asked for your scientific background, because it seems you are not using some concepts correctly. You are either MUCH more knowledgeable than I am, or you are messing up the definitions. Of course, i do not mean to offend in anyway, and plus, if the former possibility is the correct one, I would like to learn more. So, I’ve written out a few of the things that don’t make sense about your articles. Please, correct them as you see fit.
1. You say that light has a “speed limit” because matter is essentially a hologram and light interferes with it enough that it can never travel with a velocity higher than 3E8 m/s. But you also mentioned that holograms are basically photons. Photons interact with each other everywhere, and they are not further slowed down. So either your use of the term “hologram” is unnecessary and misleading, or there simply is no such thing.
2. This may seem a little nit-picky, but it may not be accurate to label dark energy as any type of energy. It has been labelled as such without really knowing anything about it. We have no idea if it is a different type of energy like you propose (information), but it cannot be restricted ONLY to things that are energy.
3. You’re taking a lot of principles and stating them as fact, as though there is not still a conflict as to whether it is true. In truth, many of the things you mentioned (i.e. the anthropic principle) have not and probably cannot be proven.
4. Kinda going off the last point, there is no way to know if life could be created again in the same manner as it had been for us. It may have been a few chance interactions. Of course, with infinite time you will most assuredly recreate life in the same manner. But saying “it will only be a matter of time” is kinda misleading. But again, this is something I would agree with you on, except for semantics. (Sorry if this is coming off as really nit-picky.) What I definitely don’t agree with though is that (within the realm of finite time) an evolution simulation will ALWAYS lead to some form of consciousness. This is not necessarily so.
5. What exactly do you mean by “So if we wanted to emulate consciousness on a computer, we wouldn’t need to code it from scratch; natural processes will do most of the work for us.”? I noted your analogy with our consciousness ultimately coming from debris, but I do not see how the analogy works.
6. Could you explain “Simulation Theory and the Holographic Principle describe a universe based on information, not matter. If these theories are indeed valid, then we have a scientific explanation for creatio ex nihilo.” I don’t see how those offer ideas about creation from nothing. They are not created from nothing..
7. “Neurons release energy in spikes, so their activation or inactivation can be read as a form of binary code.” You assume in this part that there are patterns in Neuron action potentials. This sorta gets into some free will stuff, but based on many voluntary actions, it would hard to find a pattern. Autonomous things will be easier, of course, but even then, I feel as though translating neuronal activity to binary would be useless.
8. “An AI with enough logic steps would have the functional equivalent of complete self-awareness. Awareness arises from logic. “….hmmm. I’m not so happy about that last statement. I’m hoping you could elaborate a bit on that.
On the whole, other than some issues of twisting concepts, I like your argument and would love to believe it. In fact, I wrote a research paper last year proposing that consciousness could be important factors dealing with dark matter/energy. It’s a scintillating concept, and I hope it is proven to be so. Interestingly enough, I also connected it to Hinduism’s Maya and Brahman.
I really liked the “Though this may seem odd, consider it from a design perspective: If a piece of matter within the Simulation isn’t being observed, then does the computer really need to render it?” part. It’s mind-boggling that if there could ever exist a universe that housed the resources to create a simulated universe, then there is a much higher probability that we live in one in an infinite number of simulations rather than the one real universe.
Information, as I understand it, exists as a representation of something else. Language, as with the word ‘tree,’ is information, and the word ‘tree,’ as a signifier, is not fundamental to the existence of that which it signifies. I agree with a lot of what you say in your blog, and this is merely a semantic point. However, if you agree that information cannot exist without being information about something, then is ‘information’ really the best way to explain that which is fundamental to and lies beyond the limits of subjective reality? If you do not agree, please explain why.
@alltoohuman – Thanks for the advice! Most of this is outside of my current field of study, so I’m relying on people who have more experience with the specific topics I mention to help me iron out all the details. I am rooted in neither science nor its counterpart (social sciences, “spirituality”, whatever you will) – but those are essentially the two fields I am attempting to bridge.
@darksingularity – My major is called Global Information and Social Enterprise Studies (out of sociology), but I have a few others in mind for later. In response to your first point, light is only slowed by mass particles. So if a photon interacts with another photon, then its observed velocity will be unaffected.
In response to 4, time within the simulation could run faster than time outside the simulation; it would only be a matter of computing speed. So in essence, life would have an infinite amount of time to evolve. I suppose “time” as I use it is relative, eh? :)
Also, I agree precisely, QFT: “It’s mind-boggling that if there could ever exist a universe that housed the resources to create a simulated universe, then there is a much higher probability that we live in one in an infinite number of simulations rather than the one real universe.”
If you could send me a link to the paper you wrote, I would definitely be interested in reading it!
@trawbear – Well, I think language is an entirely subjective phenomenon. What you call “tree” only refers to a set of recognized patterns. In other words, there is no tree. (Sup Neo)
Regardless of what you call it, “tree” refers to a specific set of patterns (leaves, branches, and such). The concept transcends linguistics entirely. That is what I mean by information.
Great responses everybody- I love the feedback! And for the points I didn’t respond to, I haven’t forgotten you- I’m busy moving into a new apartment right now and will get around to them eventually.
@neurokinetics, Brent, you have a sick blog. It is very interesting, easy to read, organized, and credible. I have read 2 articles, and from I have read, I feel you have a lot of potential.
I am in my last year as a chem. and env. science undergrad, and your work just resonates with me. I look forward to viewing your blog more. Best of luck on this project!
P.s. You should add a bio for yourself.
I’m too tired to comprehend that right now, but I have made a defined mental note to read the articles and check out the sources (purely out of interest).
I have always had a mental pendulum going on within, going from “The Universe has to be purely scientific” to “It’s all abstract spiritual consciousness stuff.” Good to read something that unifies the two ideas.