Pansychism, Are Electrons Conscious?

Thread Starter

MrAl

Joined Jun 17, 2014
8,151
Well you stopped at the point where the electron (or more easily undedrstood the photon) hit the two slits. Let's continue that reasonable thought experiment.
"After i go through the two slits, sometimes i will go to the right, and other times i will go to the left, and still other times i will go to the far right, or even farther right, or even farther, etc., or go farther to the left or even farther, etc., but there are some directions in which i will never go, and i do this because i interfere with myself in different systematic and random ways, This self-interference is hard for humans to understand."

If that isnt complex i dont know what is. It's so complex in fact that we cant quite understand it.
Oh yeah there is even more to the story.

"If after i go through the two slots you look at me i will only land in two different places, one place half of the time and the other place the other half of the time, on average."

But another pair of scientists in the Netherlands came up with some experiment that suggests that quantum mechanics is actually objective. I dont know the details yet though except that they say that a measurement does not depend on the consciousness of the observer while before that it was debatable.
 

bogosort

Joined Sep 24, 2011
625
Consciousness always seemed to me the capability of a being able to express "I am a dog/man/ameba/whatever and that thing in front of me means risk/pleasure/benefit/whatever"

I am xxxx, alone, seems not useful in the mainframe of Nature.
Before one can express "I am xxx and that thing in front of me means risk/pleasure/...", one must be able to express "I". This is much more difficult than might seem at first glance. Human babies understand pleasure/pain long before they understand that the thing receiving the pleasure/pain is different from the thing giving the pleasure/pain. The notion of a distinct self is a very complex idea to hold.

As for the evolutionary benefit of sense of self, it's very likely a byproduct of the evolutionary benefit of social groups. Brain size is well-correlated with social complexity, as increased cognitive capability allows for more complex social interactions, such as group hunting with communicated strategies and improvised tactics. The group's adaptability (and hence its success rate) greatly increases when each member can act independently (within the parameters of the group's goals). Independence within a group requires a concept of distinct self -- self awareness -- and so in this light consciousness can be seen as evolutionarily favorable.

There's an interesting connection between self awareness and self reference, as in recursive functions or languages that are powerful enough to describe themselves. In various disparate fields -- e.g., information theory, computational complexity theory, formal language theory -- there is a clear threshold between "moderately powerful" and "explosively powerful", and the capability of self reference seems to be an essential property of this threshold. Once a system becomes capable of self reference, it's as if a universal power has been unlocked. This is, however, a double-edged sword: along with the power comes less desirable aspects, such as necessarily being incomplete (ala Gödel), the capability to contain paradoxes, the capability to ask questions that cannot be answered, etc. It all feels uncannily similar to the human condition.
 

BobaMosfet

Joined Jul 1, 2009
1,653
There is a new view into consciousness that is coming up that sort of mimics old world views of soul.
The problem was that using the idea of a soul means separating the mind from body and that was not very well received because that brings spiritulism into the picture and we dont want to have to view sometime like an electron as being spiritual.

The idea with pansychism is that everything is conscious to a greater or less degree. For example, a human is more conscious than a cow but a cow is more conscious than a clam. Taking this down farther, an electron would be considered conscious but to a very very less degree than that of any animal or even a plant.

The reason for thinking about this is because it was realized that physical science is not as physical as we would like because it is all based on how matter behaves not what matter really is. This is now being thought of as a possible reason why we have trouble understanding some experiments that can have different outcomes from the same stimulus.

The idea is not that far fetched because recall that when we try to describe some particle interactions we end up saying that it may not be there until we look at it (in a manner of speaking). How could something not be there until we look at it? Also recall that color is not a property of the universe, it is a property of our own minds. We have grouped certain wavelengths into categories so that we can deal with them faster and dont have to identify them all uniquely every time we want to describe the wavelengths they reflect. I also like to bring up the hole in the ground discussion where we give a name to something that isnt really there just to make it simpler to deal with. The hole itself is not there only the ground around it is there, in a completely physical view. If we did an experiment at LHC to determine where holes were in the world, we would have to go by the particles that surround the 'hole' we could not look for the hole itself because we would never find one existing on it's own.

There is a lot more to this though i'll look up some links. Note however this is not science fiction it is a new start to understanding what consciousness really is.
Not aimed at you- just a general observation about this kind of thinking...

_This_ is the sort of think that keeps people so far behind. :: throws hands up and walks away ::
 

BobaMosfet

Joined Jul 1, 2009
1,653
Before one can express "I am xxx and that thing in front of me means risk/pleasure/...", one must be able to express "I". This is much more difficult than might seem at first glance. Human babies understand pleasure/pain long before they understand that the thing receiving the pleasure/pain is different from the thing giving the pleasure/pain. The notion of a distinct self is a very complex idea to hold.

As for the evolutionary benefit of sense of self, it's very likely a byproduct of the evolutionary benefit of social groups. Brain size is well-correlated with social complexity, as increased cognitive capability allows for more complex social interactions, such as group hunting with communicated strategies and improvised tactics. The group's adaptability (and hence its success rate) greatly increases when each member can act independently (within the parameters of the group's goals). Independence within a group requires a concept of distinct self -- self awareness -- and so in this light consciousness can be seen as evolutionarily favorable.

There's an interesting connection between self awareness and self reference, as in recursive functions or languages that are powerful enough to describe themselves. In various disparate fields -- e.g., information theory, computational complexity theory, formal language theory -- there is a clear threshold between "moderately powerful" and "explosively powerful", and the capability of self reference seems to be an essential property of this threshold. Once a system becomes capable of self reference, it's as if a universal power has been unlocked. This is, however, a double-edged sword: along with the power comes less desirable aspects, such as necessarily being incomplete (ala Gödel), the capability to contain paradoxes, the capability to ask questions that cannot be answered, etc. It all feels uncannily similar to the human condition.
Actually it isn't. I can't reveal how I know that (proporietary work-related), but 'self aware' is actually a very simple algorithm in the mind.
 
Last edited:

bogosort

Joined Sep 24, 2011
625
Actually it isn't. I can't reveal how I know that (proporietary work-related), but 'self aware' is actually a very simple algorithm in the mind.
You're missing the point. It's all well and good to say that matrix multiplication is a simple algorithm, but you can't ignore the complexity of the hardware necessary to run it.

For example, we definitively know that a human brain is more powerful than a finite state machine because the latter has no memory and humans certainly do. So human brains have at least the computational power of pushdown automata (indeed, we're almost certainly Turing complete). It seems clear that memory is essential for self reference, which is a prerequisite for self awareness, and it seems clear that at least mammals have memory. Less complex hardware -- bacteria, rocks, and such -- probably don't have memory -- they're FSMs -- and are therefore incapable of self awareness.

But even with sufficient hardware complexity, self awareness is difficult and seems to require a learning process. We have no shortage of Turing complete machinery that lack self awareness. Two prominent examples are iPhones and human infants.
 

Thread Starter

MrAl

Joined Jun 17, 2014
8,151
Not aimed at you- just a general observation about this kind of thinking...

_This_ is the sort of think that keeps people so far behind. :: throws hands up and walks away ::
Yes i understand your point of view and mine has been different as long as i can remember also. Mine view is that reality stems from a statistical analysis and that is our way of explaining things. But i have to admit that before we get to any average we get some very strange behavior that can not be handled statistically because we dont have enough samples to do that. It is impossible to get statistical results with just one sample, yet one sample exhibits the strange behavior.
I guess all along we had been automatically using statistical analysis without realizing it because we never had to look at quantum effects in order to hunt wild boar or woolly mammoths. The quantum effects were there all the time but we only saw the whole not the parts. We couldnt see the trees just the forest.
Now that we can see the trees we might think that reality is not what it seemed to be all this time.
I just read an article today that said that scientists say that one observer can see a photon and conclude and prove that it's spin is one way, and another observer can see that very same photon and conclude and prove that it's spin is another way and they would both be right. It's as if the observers becomes entangled themselves with the photon.

One of the most interesting experiments for me has been the two slit experiment that most here are familiar with. It is strange that the photon (or electron, or atom) can behave like a wave, but what is even more strange is that if we interact with that 'photon' AFTER 'it' has already passed through the two slits 'it' behaves like a particle again. Since it is assumed that it must go through the two slits in order to behave like a wave, then we assume that after it goes through it behaves like a wave, but if it behaves like a wave after it goes through and we interact with it after it goes through, how does it cancel the wave behavior. And that is after interacting with whatever is gong through ONE slit alone not both, so doing the interaction at the point just past that one slit causes something that seems to change the behavior as if it affected whatever went through both slits. The implication is that it was able to detect that it was going to be interacted with BEFORE it went through the two slits and thereby was able to prevent it from acting like a wave.
Doesnt make sense from a classical perspective. IF it changes into a wave after it goes through both slits then it should always behave as a wave after that but just interacting with just one part of that wave turns the whole thing into a particle.
But then how does the wave turn into a particle any time it interacts with something else even if there are no slits around. That's the whole ballgame i guess.
 

Delta prime

Joined Nov 15, 2019
843
Okay! Just so you know...
It was me who threw the wrench in your sandbox! I love reading extravagant statements & assertions not intended to be understood literally! Sooo... I'm bringing the heat.
Consciousness mandates two things: that you be aware of your existence, and that you’re able to respond to your environment. This awareness and arousal make up all that we experience. So pick up all of your toys and get out of my sandbox and go home... it's time for bed. :p
 

Thread Starter

MrAl

Joined Jun 17, 2014
8,151
Okay! Just so you know...
It was me who threw the wrench in your sandbox! I love reading extravagant statements & assertions not intended to be understood literally! Sooo... I'm bringing the heat.
Consciousness mandates two things: that you be aware of your existence, and that you’re able to respond to your environment. This awareness and arousal make up all that we experience. So pick up all of your toys and get out of my sandbox and go home... it's time for bed. :p
I dont own a sandbox but i guess you still do :)

Oh thing i could never figure out is how some people think that they can be the authority on subjects that have been argued for years to be indeterminant. The only answer is that they must have not done enough reading.
The bottom line is that no person on earth can determine with absolute certainty what or even who is conscious or not. That is because no person on earth can experience another persons conscious only the 'owner' of that conscious can experience it.
I am not going to argue that an 'electron' has consciousness but if someone who has studied these areas of nature a lot more than i have i at least have to consider why they might be suggesting such a thing and it is most likely that they have a good reason for saying something like that.
Also, to me, personally, in my everyday life it probably does not matter if it does or not, except maybe when an intellectual discussion arises on the topic.
On a related note, the Turing Test is interesting too. If we wanted to test who or what was behind a black screen, if they or 'it' was conscious, would we be able to tell from the answers to our questions if it was really conscious? If a computer program someday answers questions properly would we assume it was conscious? And if we could assume a computer program was conscious and that isnt even really a physical thing, what else that is physical could be conscious.

Yes, normally we think of consciousness as belonging to humans and things like that, but also normally we think of a photon or electron as being physical yet it exhibits properties that dont exactly seem physical. Physical things that we knew of before that never behaved that way. Is there some border line we cross when we go down to smaller and smaller scales, the border between physical and non physical. We usually think of the physical as having some sort of length, width, and height. But as we go down smaller and smaller that L, W, H, gets smaller and smaller, so maybe when it gets to be so small it starts to lose some physical properties.

But also, yes, this is probably a subject best discussed on a forum where members like to discuss pure philosophy. I myself get into this now and then because i sometimes run into questions about what is real and what is not and what might be border line. Some people could not care less especially when there have been more pressing issues in recent times.

What does not help at all though is to make up silly analogies like "sandbox" because that is just a mock to people who do care about these topics. It also does not help because it just muddies up the discussion with more unknowns. Remember it is easy to mock any topic, anything, anytime, anywhere, but it is hard to determine what is more correct and what is more in error.
 

Yaakov

Joined Jan 27, 2019
2,927
As with all philosophical discussions, definitions of terms is a pre-requisite. Making claims about what is required to be "conscious" is just arbitrarily defining the word. As obvious as it may seem to us that it's correct, those things that are self-evident are those with no proof whatever.

A productive discussion in this area needs to hinge on the meaning of the sentences, not the words in the sentences. It doesn't matter if you believe a word is a poor choice, the salient question is, "what does the person mean when they say it?"

In this discussion it is particularly vexed. "Consciousness" is not something we've reduced to math. There's no proof for it, there's no fixed definition for it in the context of a philosophical exploration.

That's why I choose to stick a pin in "human experience" and anchor things there for the time being. I have some idea what it is like to be me, and I have a good reason to believe that other humans share something like that experience. The sense of self—of identity, the experience of qualia which emerge from but are not themselves the physics that I believe underlie everything we can possibly know about.

In any case, it's really fraught to say, "consciousness is X, therefore you can't be right about Y" since the first part is simply an assertion not matter how deeply you believe it is self-evident.

The philosophers who debate these things, and try to progress in this domain, are extremely rigorous and spend many, many years developing ways of teasing out the underlying assumptions. One may have no time for professional philosophers and find their work useless, many people do, but since it takes a very long time to understand what they are up to, I would suggest that could be largely from ignorance.

This is not to say philosophers are a monolithic thing. Because of the inherent ambiguity they range from cranks to brilliant thinkers. But, in the core of the philosophical work humans do, there is deep insight and actual progress has been made over time, at least in paring away what clearly isn't going to improve our understanding of epistemic questions.
 

Thread Starter

MrAl

Joined Jun 17, 2014
8,151
As with all philosophical discussions, definitions of terms is a pre-requisite. Making claims about what is required to be "conscious" is just arbitrarily defining the word. As obvious as it may seem to us that it's correct, those things that are self-evident are those with no proof whatever.

A productive discussion in this area needs to hinge on the meaning of the sentences, not the words in the sentences. It doesn't matter if you believe a word is a poor choice, the salient question is, "what does the person mean when they say it?"

In this discussion it is particularly vexed. "Consciousness" is not something we've reduced to math. There's no proof for it, there's no fixed definition for it in the context of a philosophical exploration.

That's why I choose to stick a pin in "human experience" and anchor things there for the time being. I have some idea what it is like to be me, and I have a good reason to believe that other humans share something like that experience. The sense of self—of identity, the experience of qualia which emerge from but are not themselves the physics that I believe underlie everything we can possibly know about.

In any case, it's really fraught to say, "consciousness is X, therefore you can't be right about Y" since the first part is simply an assertion not matter how deeply you believe it is self-evident.

The philosophers who debate these things, and try to progress in this domain, are extremely rigorous and spend many, many years developing ways of teasing out the underlying assumptions. One may have no time for professional philosophers and find their work useless, many people do, but since it takes a very long time to understand what they are up to, I would suggest that could be largely from ignorance.

This is not to say philosophers are a monolithic thing. Because of the inherent ambiguity they range from cranks to brilliant thinkers. But, in the core of the philosophical work humans do, there is deep insight and actual progress has been made over time, at least in paring away what clearly isn't going to improve our understanding of epistemic questions.
Well it seems obvious that some members here just dont want to talk about it.

We can actually say something is "wrong" if we can quote an accepted theory and in doing so we ride on the backs of all the previous works. So if somebody wants to post a link or two on how we can test for consciousness that would be great, i'd love to see it. It would have to come in the form of a line of questioning i guess, because that's how most tests like these are done. Then we could try to poke holes in it and if not successful it might fly. We need dialog to work from though in order to apply serious logic.
The last i read was that it is not possible to do that, but who knows someone may find something out there.

I cant really agree on the implication that we are all too dumb to discuss anything. But i do agree that this subject is a little harder to grasp then say some electronic circuit, and that is my real area anyway. I just cant help finding philosophy interesting sometimes because it forces us to see things we never realized before.

A real shame is i knew this law professor that lived in California and was going to go out to see her when i went out to see my dear friend out there but there wasnt time. She was then going to send me her works on logic and philosophy but she passed away suddenly. A great loss to me and to everyone. What was amazing was when i first started talking to her about this stuff, she knew EVERYTHING i was talking about and could offer real insight. I was so surprised she had such a wide view on this stuff and had written about it herself.
 

Yaakov

Joined Jan 27, 2019
2,927
So if somebody wants to post a link or two on how we can test for consciousness that would be great, i'd love to see it. It would have to come in the form of a line of questioning i guess, because that's how most tests like these are done.

I cant really agree on the implication that we are all too dumb to discuss anything. But i do agree that this subject is a little harder to grasp then say some electronic circuit, and that is my real area anyway. I just cant help finding philosophy interesting sometimes because it forces us to see things we never realized before.
The trouble is, in order to test for something you have to describe what it will be if you find it. That’s the root of the philoosophical problem. If you agree on the definition of what you are looking for, you can move forward—testing or not. But the arguments concerning definitions of consciousness are circular. They are just assertions of what it is, and in the negative space that creates, what it is not.

I’m sorry you inferred I was suggesting that people are “too dumb” to discuss anything. I certainly don’t think that at all. My point was that philosophy, executed professionally, is a technical activity with all sorts of mental tools, methods, and tradition the naive philosopher has no access to. Because of this, such discussions usually devolve into arguments over the words being used rather than the ideas they are meant to convey.

Ignorance is not stupidity, and I have not encountered anyone who regularly posts here who even hints are being unable to think about technical things they know.
 

xox

Joined Sep 8, 2017
544
So if somebody wants to post a link or two on how we can test for consciousness that would be great, i'd love to see it. It would have to come in the form of a line of questioning i guess, because that's how most tests like these are done. Then we could try to poke holes in it and if not successful it might fly. We need dialog to work from though in order to apply serious logic.
The last i read was that it is not possible to do that, but who knows someone may find something out there.
We all know the sensation of being alive. Isn't that "proof" enough of what it is? And trying to validate it with logical thought is fruitless - the mind itself springs forth from consciousness! That's why it's so difficult to describe in words. No concept could possibly contain it.
 

bogosort

Joined Sep 24, 2011
625
We all know the sensation of being alive. Isn't that "proof" enough of what it is? And trying to validate it with logical thought is fruitless - the mind itself springs forth from consciousness! That's why it's so difficult to describe in words. No concept could possibly contain it.
It's not about "proof" or "validation", it's about understanding. We all know the sensation of gravity. Should we have stopped with that?
 

Delta prime

Joined Nov 15, 2019
843
Oh thing i could never figure out is how some people think that they can be the authority on subjects that have been argued for years to be indeterminant. The only answer is that they must have not done enough reading
It helps when your employer is a practicing physicist. Cuz we write the books so others may read.
Oh heck. It's was just my awkward way of joining this conversation. I also think a cute little monster like you could appreciate a sandbox.
One of the problems with the study of consciousness is the lack of a universally accepted operational definition. Descartes proposed the idea of cogito ergo sum ("I think, therefore I am"), suggested that the very act of thinking demonstrates the reality of one’s existence and consciousness. While today, consciousness is generally defined as an awareness of yourself and the world, there are still debates about the different aspects of this awareness.
Research on consciousness has focused on understanding the neuroscience behind our conscious experiences. Scientists have even utilized brain-scanning technology to seek out specific neurons that might be linked to different conscious events. Modern researchers have proposed two major theories of consciousness: integrated information theory and global workspace theory. It's part of my duties as a research engineer I must attend seminars conducted by prestigious scientists.
5 years ago researchers at Harvard Medical School started to pinpoint the physical origin of consciousness.
The researchers in the study looked at the brain scans of 36 people with brainstem lesions. Twelve of them were unconscious (in a coma) while 24 of them were still conscious. It turns out that 10 of the 12 unconscious patients had damage to the rostral dorsolateral pontine tegmentum. because of their research new treatment options are available for people with consciousness disorders, as well as a better understanding of consciousness itself.
 

Delta prime

Joined Nov 15, 2019
843
We all know the sensation of gravity. Should we have stopped with that?
One of my employers a Princeton University professor best known for linking the concept of a black hole to gravitational collapse, believes that the observer effect shows that our observations can alter reality.
 

xox

Joined Sep 8, 2017
544
It's not about "proof" or "validation", it's about understanding. We all know the sensation of gravity. Should we have stopped with that?
What more is there to understand? It has no name. No color. No shape. It is simply "this". The only way to truly study it is with one's own spirit. The articulating mind cannot grasp it.
 

bogosort

Joined Sep 24, 2011
625
One of my employers a Princeton University professor best known for linking the concept of a black hole to gravitational collapse, believes that the observer effect shows that our observations can alter reality.
Is the professor 200 years old? Gravitational black holes have been postulated since the late 1700s. In 1799, Laplace used Newton's law of gravitation to work out the maximum radius a mass could have before light would be unable to escape its gravity well. So I think the professor was a little late to the party.

The claim that observations alter reality implies that observers are somehow "outside" of reality, interacting with it through some kind of observation interface. But this seems needlessly contrived and anthropocentric. It seems more reasonable to start with the assumption that observers and their observations are just as much a part of reality as anything else. Does the stone in the river alter the water's reality? I'd say it's simply a part of the water's reality.
 

bogosort

Joined Sep 24, 2011
625
What more is there to understand? It has no name. No color. No shape. It is simply "this". The only way to truly study it is with one's own spirit. The articulating mind cannot grasp it.
I wholeheartedly disagree. It certainly has a name -- consciousness -- and, as we can each attest, it is an aspect of the universe, as real and tangible a phenomenon as gravity. It has no color or shape, but neither does gravity or electromagnetism or politics, but these things are worthy of study, yes? We have much to learn about consciousness.
 
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