[ExI] Fwd: New article: EM Field Theory of Consciousness

Jason Resch jasonresch at gmail.com
Fri Jun 17 22:17:26 UTC 2022

On Fri, Jun 17, 2022, 4:57 PM Stathis Papaioannou via extropy-chat <
extropy-chat at lists.extropy.org> wrote:

> On Sat, 18 Jun 2022 at 06:36, Jason Resch via extropy-chat <
> extropy-chat at lists.extropy.org> wrote:
>> On Fri, Jun 17, 2022, 3:22 PM Stathis Papaioannou via extropy-chat <
>> extropy-chat at lists.extropy.org> wrote:
>>> On Sat, 18 Jun 2022 at 00:39, Jason Resch via extropy-chat <
>>> extropy-chat at lists.extropy.org> wrote:
>>>> If epiphenomenalism were true we wouldn't have access to reliably talk
>>>> about our inner states of consciousness, our feelings, our awareness, etc.
>>>> The author of "epiphenomenal qualia", Frank Jackson, which introduced
>>>> the thought experiment of Mary the color scientist, later had this epiphany
>>>> leading him to reject his original conclusion that qualia were
>>>> epiphenomenal:
>>>> FJ: “Epiphenomenalism was unbelievable, and indeed that was a
>>>> consideration that eventually made me change my mind.”
>>>> Interviewer: “So why did you change your mind?”
>>>> FJ: “Well, the biggest factor was the picture of myself writing
>>>> ‘epiphenomenal qualia’, but not being caused to write ‘epiphenomenal
>>>> qualia’ by qualia. I said in ‘epiphenomenal qualia’ that you had to be an
>>>> epiphenomenalist about qualia, and what that meant was that qualia didn’t
>>>> change the words that came out of my mouth or the movements of my pen on
>>>> pieces of paper, so that meant that when I gave the talk defending
>>>> ‘epiphenomenal qualia’, when I wrote the paper defending ‘epiphenomenal
>>>> qualia’, the qualia weren’t causing the talk and they weren’t causing the
>>>> writing, and I just decided this was sort of unbelievable.”
>>>> [...]
>>>> “It was the picture of myself writing the paper, uncaused by the
>>>> qualia.. I said that I can’t believe this. And I came to think that was the
>>>> triumph of philosophical cleverness over common sense.”
>>> Qualia are epiphenomenal if the physical world is causally closed. So
>>> when Jackson writes his paper, the movement of his hand is entirely
>>> explained by the observable physical forces on the hand. If he has qualia,
>>> they cannot have any separate causal efficacy of their own, because if they
>>> did to an observer it would look like the hand was moving contrary to the
>>> laws of physics, due to some magical force.
>> I disagree that the causal closure of physics necessarily means qualia
>> are epiphenomenal. Consider the multiple levels involved, as Roger Sperry
>> explains in his 1966 paper "Mind, Brain, and Humanist Values" where he asks
>> "who pushes whom around inside the cranium":
>> https://sci-hub.hkvisa.net/10.1080/00963402.1966.11454956
>> “I am going to align myself in a counterstand, along with that
>> approximately 0.1 per cent mentalist minority, in support of a hypothetical
>> brain model in which consciousness and mental forces generally are given
>> their due representation as important features in the chain of control.
>> These appear as active operational forces and dynamic properties that
>> interact with and upon the physiological machinery. Any model or
>> description that leaves out conscious forces, according to this view, is
>> bound to be pretty sadly incomplete and unsatisfactory. The conscious mind
>> in this scheme, far from being put aside and dispensed with as an
>> "inconsequential byproduct," "epiphenomenon," or "inner aspect," as is the
>> customary treatment these days, gets located, instead, front and center,
>> directly in the midst of the causal interplay of cerebral mechanisms.
>> Mental forces in this particular scheme are put in the driver's seat, as
>> it were. They give the orders and they push and haul around the physiology
>> and physicochemical processes as much as or more than the latter control
>> them. This is a scheme that puts mind back in its old post, over matter, in
>> a sense-not under, outside, or beside it. It's a scheme that idealizes
>> ideas and ideals over physico-chemical interactions, nerve impulse
>> traffic-or DNA. It's a brain model in which conscious, mental, psychic
>> forces are recognized to be the crowning achievement of some five hundred
>> million years or more of evolution.”
>> “To put it very simply, it becomes a question largely of who pushes whom
>> around in the population of causal forces that occupy the cranium. There
>> exists within the human cranium a whole world of diverse causal forces;
>> what is more, there are forces within forces within forces, as in no other
>> cubic half-foot of universe that we know. At the lowermost levels in this
>> system are those local aggregates of subnuclear particles confined within
>> the neutrons and protons of their respective atomic nuclei. These
>> individuals, of course, don't have very much to say about what goes on in
>> the affairs of the brain. Like the atomic nucleus and its associated
>> electrons, thes ubnuclear and other atomic elements are "moleculebound"
>> for the most part, and get hauled and pushed around by the larger spatial
>> and configurational forces of the whole molecule.
>> Similarly the molecular elements in the brain are themselves pretty well
>> bound up, moved, and ordered about by the enveloping properties of the
>> cells within which they are located. Along with their internal atomic and
>> subnuclear parts, the brain molecules are obliged tos ubmit to a course
>> of activity in time and space that is determined very largely by the
>> overall dynamic and spatial properties of the whole brain cell as an
>> entity. Even the brain cells, however, with their long fibers and impulse
>> conducting elements, do not have very much to say either about when or
>> in what time pattern, for example, they are going to fire their messages.
>> The firing orders come from a higher command.”
>> “In short, if one climbs upward through the chain of command within the
>> brain, one finds at the very top those overall organizational forces and
>> dynamic properties of the large patterns of cerebral excitation that
>> constitute the mental or psychic phenomena.”
>> “Near the apex of this compound command system in the brain we find
>> ideas. In the brain model proposed here, the causal potency of an idea, or
>> an ideal, becomes just as real as that of a molecule, a cell, or a nerve
>> impulse. Ideas cause ideas and help evolve new ideas. They interact with
>> each other and with other mental forces in the same brain, in neighboring
>> brains, and in distant, foreign brains. And they also interact with real
>> consequence upon the external surroundings to produce in toto an explosive
>> advance in evolution on this globe far beyond anything known before,
>> including the emergence of the living cell.”
> It is certainly useful to think of higher level phenomena affecting
> behaviour, but that does not mean they are not epiphenomenal. It is useful
> to consider a computer’s behaviour in terms of the program, but the program
> cannot do anything that is not fully explained by low level phenomena in
> the circuitry.

I agree that the computer analogy is useful in this case. I think the
computer analogy shows the physical rules can be abstracted away entirely
to the point computer programmers need not consider or know anything about
the underlying physics of the computer's parts. In a sense programmers are
playing with their own higher level casual rules, which are entirely
shielded from the lower level implementation.  This is why the causal order
of a Java program can be understood entirely without reference to whatever
physical computer it may be run on.

Might the same be true of our high level thought patterns? Max Tegmark
seems to think so:

“How can something as complicated as consciousness possibly be explained by
something as simple as particles? I think it’s because consciousness is a
phenomenon that has properties above and beyond the properties of its
particles. We physicists call phenomena that have properties above and
beyond those over their parts: emergent phenomena.”

“How can something as physical as a bunch of moving particles possibly feel
as non-physical as our consciousness? Well, I think it’s because our
consciousness is a phenomenon that doesn’t only have properties above and
beyond those of its parts, but also has properties that are rather
independent of its parts, independent of its substrate, independent of the
stuff that it’s made of.

Computation is also rather substrate-independent, because Alan Turing
famously proved that any computation can be performed by any substance as
long as it has a certain minimum set of abilities to compute. So this means
that if you were a self-aware computer game character trapped in your
game-world in some game in a future super-intelligent computer, you will
have no way of knowing whether you are running on Windows, on macOS or on
some other platform, because you would be substrate-independent.

Now I think consciousness is the same way. I think consciousness is a
physical phenomenon that feels non-physical, because it’s just like waves
and computations. More specifically, I think that consciousness is the way
information feels when it’s been processed in certain complex ways. So this
means that it’s substrate-independent, and this also means that it's only
the structure of the information processing that matters, not the structure
of the matter that’s doing the information processing.”

As does Douglas Hofsteader with his notion of "Strange Loops" when higher
levels of a hierarchy reach down to change something in a lower level:

“Now we can relate this to the brain, a well as to AI programs. In our
thoughts, symbols activate other symbols, and all interact heterarchically.
Furthermore, the symbols may cause each other to change internally, in the
fashion of programs acting on other programs. [...]
If it were possible to schematize this whole image, there would be a
gigantic forest of symbols linked to each other by tangly lines like vines
in a tropical jungle–this would be the top level, the Tangled Hierarchy
where thoughts really flow back and forth. This is the elusive level of mind:
the analogue to LH and RH. Far below in the schematic picture, analogous to
the invisible “prime mover” Escher, there would be a representation of the
myriad of neurons–the “inviolate substrate” which lets the tangle above it
come into being. Interestingly this other level is itself a tangle in a
literal sense–billions of vells and hundreds of billions of axons, joining
them all together.”

(See associated picture here:

The lower level (below the waves) might represent the neuronal or atomic
levels, it is the substrate supporting the higher level structures (e.g.
the drawing hands) but those could be ideas, states of a computer program,
qualia, etc. which have their own causal relations and powers (at their
level of description). It all comes down to this: Can an idea or a thought
cause you to move a muscle?


>>>> On Fri, Jun 17, 2022, 10:27 AM William Flynn Wallace via extropy-chat <
>>>> extropy-chat at lists.extropy.org> wrote:
>>>>> I can't say that I understand your reply fully.  All behavior,
>>>>> intelligent or not, comes from your unconscious mind.  Maybe I don't
>>>>> understand epiphenomenal as well as I think I do.
>>>>> I do understand this:  : a secondary mental phenomenon that is caused
>>>>> by and accompanies a physical phenomenon but has no causal influence itself. Like
>>>>> seeing tuba notes in color.  bill w
>>>>> On Fri, Jun 17, 2022 at 8:48 AM Stathis Papaioannou via extropy-chat <
>>>>> extropy-chat at lists.extropy.org> wrote:
>>>>>> On Fri, 17 Jun 2022 at 23:01, William Flynn Wallace via extropy-chat <
>>>>>> extropy-chat at lists.extropy.org> wrote:
>>>>>>> OTOH - it could be that our conscious mind is like God looking down
>>>>>>> on us and observing our behavior - meaning that the conscious has no role
>>>>>>> in our behavior at all - it is superfluous - epiphenomenal.  So if that is
>>>>>>> true, trying to make robots conscious is a waste of time.  No advantage to
>>>>>>> it.  It has programs that monitor all output like our conscious mind  .
>>>>>>>  All is done by our unconscious and the conscious is just an observer.  No
>>>>>>> free will, but we don't need it - our unconscious (which is really
>>>>>>> conscious of all inputs) does all the work.
>>>>>> If consciousness is epiphenomenal, it isn’t an optional extra. It is
>>>>>> a side-effect of intelligent behaviour.
>>>>>> bill w
>>>>>>> On Fri, Jun 17, 2022 at 2:13 AM Colin Hales via extropy-chat <
>>>>>>> extropy-chat at lists.extropy.org> wrote:
>>>>>>>> Hi,
>>>>>>>> This is to let you know of the arrival of this publication:
>>>>>>>> Hales, C.G., and Ericson, M.L. (2022). Electromagnetism’s Bridge
>>>>>>>> Across the Explanatory Gap: How a Neuroscience/Physics Collaboration
>>>>>>>> delivers Explanation into all Theories of Consciousness. Frontiers in Human
>>>>>>>> Neuroscience 16.
>>>>>>>> https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fnhum.2022.836046/full
>>>>>>>> https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fnhum.2022.836046/full#supplementary-material
>>>>>>>> This is the full and final argument.
>>>>>>>> Note that on page 9 there is a brief discussion of a new kind of
>>>>>>>> chip. That is the one I am building at unimelb. AGI because it can't be
>>>>>>>> anything else. Actual artificial neurons (no general-purpose computing, no
>>>>>>>> software, no models, no programming). Bottom line line: put the signalling
>>>>>>>> physics of the brain in in natural form, naturally interacting, naturally
>>>>>>>> adapting on the chips, NOT the physics of a general purpose computer.
>>>>>>>> The abstract is below. Overall:
>>>>>>>> 1) all theories of consciousness are actually EM field theories.
>>>>>>>> 2) bringing explanation of the 1st person perspective requires an
>>>>>>>> epistemic upgrade to the standard model of particle physics.
>>>>>>>> Turns out that to properly cover all the bases needed 22 pages and
>>>>>>>> an 8 page supplementary. Sorry about that.
>>>>>>>> Interesting times.
>>>>>>>> cheers,
>>>>>>>> Colin
>>>>>>>> ==========================================
>>>>>>>> A productive, informative three decades of correlates of phenomenal
>>>>>>>> consciousness (P-Consciousness) have delivered valuable knowledge while
>>>>>>>> simultaneously locating us in a unique and unprecedented explanatory
>>>>>>>> cul-de-sac. Observational correlates are demonstrated to be intrinsically
>>>>>>>> very unlikely to explain or lead to a fundamental principle underlying the
>>>>>>>> strongly emergent 1st-person-perspective (1PP) invisibly stowed away inside
>>>>>>>> them. That lack is now solidly evidenced in practice. To escape our
>>>>>>>> explanatory impasse, this article focuses on fundamental physics (the
>>>>>>>> standard model of particle physics), which brings to light a foundational
>>>>>>>> argument for how the brain is an essentially electromagnetic (EM) field
>>>>>>>> object from the atomic level up. That is, our multitude of correlates of
>>>>>>>> P-Consciousness are actually descriptions of specific EM field behaviors
>>>>>>>> that are posed (hypothesized) as “the right” correlate by a particular
>>>>>>>> theory of consciousness. Because of this, our 30 years of empirical
>>>>>>>> progress can be reinterpreted as, in effect, the delivery of a large body
>>>>>>>> of evidence that the standard model’s EM quadrant can deliver a 1PP. That
>>>>>>>> is, all theories of consciousness are, in the end, merely recipes that
>>>>>>>> select a particular subset of the totality of EM field expression that is
>>>>>>>> brain tissue. With a universal convergence on EM, the science of
>>>>>>>> P-Consciousness becomes a collaborative effort between neuroscience and
>>>>>>>> physics. The collaboration acts in pursuit of a unified explanation
>>>>>>>> applicable to all theories of consciousness while remaining mindful that
>>>>>>>> the process still contains no real explanation as to why or how EM fields
>>>>>>>> deliver a 1PP. The apparent continued lack of explanation is, however,
>>>>>>>> different: this time, the way forward is opened through its direct
>>>>>>>> connection to fundamental physics. This is the first result (Part I). Part
>>>>>>>> II posits, in general terms, a structural (epistemic) add-on/upgrade to the
>>>>>>>> standard model that has the potential to deliver the missing route to an
>>>>>>>> explanation of how subjectivity is delivered through EM fields. The revised
>>>>>>>> standard model, under the neuroscience/physics collaboration, intimately
>>>>>>>> integrates with the existing “correlates of-” paradigm, which acts as its
>>>>>>>> source of empirical evidence. No existing theory of consciousness is lost
>>>>>>>> or invalidated.
>>>>>>>> _______________________________________________
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>>>>>> --
>>>>>> Stathis Papaioannou
>>>>>> _______________________________________________
>>>>>> extropy-chat mailing list
>>>>>> extropy-chat at lists.extropy.org
>>>>>> http://lists.extropy.org/mailman/listinfo.cgi/extropy-chat
>>>>> _______________________________________________
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>>>> _______________________________________________
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>>> --
>>> Stathis Papaioannou
>>> _______________________________________________
>>> extropy-chat mailing list
>>> extropy-chat at lists.extropy.org
>>> http://lists.extropy.org/mailman/listinfo.cgi/extropy-chat
>> _______________________________________________
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> --
> Stathis Papaioannou
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