[ExI] Fwd: Is Artificial Life Conscious?

Stuart LaForge avant at sollegro.com
Fri Apr 29 03:00:01 UTC 2022

Quoting Colin Hales:

> On Wed, Apr 27, 2022, 5:04 PM Rafal Smigrodzki via extropy-chat <
> extropy-chat at lists.extropy.org> wrote:

>> ### How about you give me a mechanistic explanation for how an "EM field
>> process" can process a few hundred million streams of bits that it takes to
>> create the conscious experience of hearing a sound? No hand waving about
>> Lorentz force, lol.
>> ----------------------------------
>>> The 'hardware' of the brain and the computer is based on atoms. Both are
>>> 100% EM from the scale of atoms up. A rock is an EM object. Chemical is EM.
>>> All 'information' in the brain is encoded in, literally IS,  EM phenomena.
>>> There is nothing else there in space but EM. 'Long-distance communication'
>>> is an EM phenomenon. 'Electric current' is a transit of an EM field through
>>> space. The difference between the brain and a computer/heart/liver is in
>>> how the EM is organized. All these things are 100% EM from the atoms up.
>>> The gigantic amount of information encoded in the literal structure of the
>>> brain's EM field system (that pervades the tissue) has no analogue in any
>>> general-purpose computer and has no role in any models of brain function
>>> (yet) that exist in computer models.. "To 'be' the EM field system
>>> impressed on space by a brain is to be conscious" is almost trivially true
>>> because there is nothing else to choose from.
>> ### Complete woo-woo.
>> One more reason I know that it's woo-woo is because I know that the brain
>> is not perturbed by externally applied electric fields of similar or higher
>> intensity than EEG. If you clench your teeth, the whole brain is bathed in
>> the chaotic EM fields generated by your masticatory muscles. These muscle
>> artifacts are something you can see on EEG and they completely swamp the
>> much weaker EM signals in the brain. If the brain's consciousness was
>> encoded in its bulk EM field, every time you chewed an apple you would pass
>> out, because your brain EM field would be completely altered by the muscle
>> artifact. Since I don't pass out from chewing, I know the bulk EM field of
>> the brain does not carry my consciousness.
>> Rafal
> The EEG and MEG are tiny residual scalp fields from tissue originating 1cm
> away from scalp. Of course they are messed up by muscle artefacts (scalp,
> facial and heart).  The actual fields in the brain tissue, that originate
> the EEG, are inside the membrane, are many orders of magnitude stronger.
> Transmembrane electric  field dynamics  (1cm away) are 10,000,000 volts/m
> and that can completely reverse in direction. Muscle artefacts is totally
> irrelevant there.
> Everything I have said is straight out of the standard model of particle
> physics, and then interpreted based on my having a PHD in brain
> electromagnetism.
> I am clearly in the wrong place to engage these issues. Apologies. I'll
> leave it there.

Not at all, Colin. Please continue and do not let Rafal's criticisms  
dissuade you. Your argument for EM fields is not completely without  
merit, since even in systems as simple as electrical wires attached to  
a power source, the energy (and therefore information) is transmitted  
not through the current in the wire but through the EM field on the  
outside of the wire. That being said, it means that EM fields would  
apply equally to intelligent computers and organic brains. While I  
believe you and Rafal are debating mechanisms of consciousness, I  
prefer to speak in terms of intelligence rather than consciousness.  
Since one is discernible by observation of learning while the other is  

The difference is subtle thus I have surprised surgeons by recognizing  
them after operations where they did not even come into the operating  
room until after I was anesthetized and supposedly unconscious. One  
could easily imagine a scenario where someone in a coma could be aware  
of everything going on around them and be unable to react. My point is  
that the problem of consciousness is ill-defined. The whole universe  
could be made of sentient computronium and philosopher stones, i.e.  
rocks with deep thoughts that can't talk, and we won't realize it  
because we don't speak their language.

I have entertained the notion that EEG brainwaves could be some sort  
of "carrier wave" and even looked up several papers where Fourier  
analysis were performed on EEGs looking for some pattern and could not  
find anything worth mentioning.

The biggest problem that I have with the EM field mediating  
intelligence or consciousness is that my own studies into the  
mathematics of neural networks indicate that learning is mediated  
multiplication of high-dimensional tensors divided into "layers", and  
the more layers, the deeper the AI. EM fields are governed by quantum  
mechanics and therefore linear and subject to an unlimited additive  
property. That is to say that any number of wave functions may be  
added together to make a new wave function.

On the other hand, the most important element of the neural networks  
are neurons that are characterized by non-linear activation functions.  
The necessity of the non-linearity of the activation function is that  
if neurons have a linear activation function, they cannot be organized  
into separate "layers" and instead all act as one giant layer and a  
single layer is quite stupid no matter how large. Therefore the sum of  
quantum fields or other waves do seem mathematically able to exhibit  
observable intelligence, whereas the sum of non-linear neurons do.

I suspect that is why Sir Roger Penrose's Orch-OR theory needed  
quantum gravity to work . . . because Quantum Mechanics is completely  
linear whereas gravity and Einstein's General Relativity is  
non-linear. He needed to get the non-linearity from somewhere.

In any case, I disagree with both you and Rafal. You think EM fields  
mediate consiousness, Rafal thinks that synaptic organization and  
transmission via ions and neurotransmitters mediate consciousness. I  
think that consciousness is a complex recursive mathematical function  
on tensor-space mediated by sparse synaptic connections between  
non-linearly activated neurons. I think we all would benefit from  
keeping the conversation going.

Stuart LaForge

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