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# A neuroscientist's radical theory of how networks become conscious

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posted on Nov, 25 2013 @ 12:38 PM

One example of a very simple mathematical equation that results in a very unpredictable answer:

1/0

How is that unpredictable... there are only two possible answers: infinity or undefined. Infinity is the most probable answer, but there is only one correct answer.
edit on 25/11/2013 by ChaoticOrder because: (no reason given)

posted on Nov, 25 2013 @ 01:47 PM

ChaoticOrder

tgidkp
I agree that "sufficiently complex" is not new. however, click a few links and you'll discover that he has defined in what way specifically and mathematically that sufficiency is defined.

That is a fair point, he did add a new layer of mathematics to the subject.

tgidkp

I didn't need math to explain my logic because it's fairly simple to understand. Deterministic machines never do anything unpredictable and thus have no free will to act against their programming. Thus any deterministic machine can never have true consciousness or free will, regardless of how complex it is.

In what way is free will "acting against their programming"?

Given your name, I assume you know about nonlinear dynamics? How theoretically deterministic systems can result in effectively unpredictable and 'random' behavior? Contemporary science and mathematics have moved beyond that "determinism excludes free will" trope some time ago.

A deterministic machine will always give a predictable output for every input. You can test it as many times as you like but it will never produce an unexpected output unless the computer experiences a glitch. It doesn't matter how complex your network is, if it's deterministic it will never be conscious.

If it's deterministic AND has zero Kolmogorov-Sinai entropy rate, maybe.

Complex networks almost always won't: they'll be chaotic and have KS entropy > 0.

EDIT: Now how do we overcome this obstacle you ask... the answer is simple: quantum random number generators. The machine needs access to some sort of true quantum entropy so that it can express completely unpredictable outputs. Exactly how that results in consciousness, I don't know.
edit on 25/11/2013 by ChaoticOrder because: (no reason given)

Not known to be necessary.
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posted on Nov, 25 2013 @ 02:46 PM

Given your name, I assume you know about nonlinear dynamics? How theoretically deterministic systems can result in effectively unpredictable and 'random' behavior?

Chaos theory does not say that truly random data can arise from a complex deterministic system. It implies that random looking data can arise from a deterministic system. It's not unpredictable at all, the same equation will ALWAYS result in the same output for any given input, even if it looks to be quite random. There is no magical deterministic equation which produces unpredictable output. Show me just one example of a "theoretically" deterministic equation which produces unpredictable output every time and then you will have a valid argument. But you wont, because such an equation does not exist.
edit on 25/11/2013 by ChaoticOrder because: (no reason given)

posted on Nov, 25 2013 @ 03:33 PM

ChaoticOrder

Given your name, I assume you know about nonlinear dynamics? How theoretically deterministic systems can result in effectively unpredictable and 'random' behavior?

Chaos theory does not say that truly random data can arise from a complex deterministic system. It implies that random looking data can arise from a deterministic systems. It's not unpredictable at all, the same equation will ALWAYS result in the same output for any given input, even if it looks to be quite random. There is no magical deterministic equation which produces unpredictable output. Show me just one example of a "theoretically" deterministic equation which produces unpredictable output every time and then you will have a valid argument. But you wont, because such an equation does not exist.

The thermodynamical fluctuations of real physical systems (not even requiring quantum mechanics) which support consciousness mean that there will always be sufficient "apparent" randomness that it's indistinguishable from "real" randomness (I personally don't think there's any difference between "truly" random and untruly random---one's the limiting case).

Don't confuse 'theoretically deterministic equation' from the physical reality. Brains which are implemented in physics have plenty of chaos to appear to have "free will" if you associate that with unpredictability.

edit on 25-11-2013 by mbkennel because: (no reason given)

posted on Nov, 25 2013 @ 03:48 PM

The thermodynamical fluctuations of real physical systems (not even requiring quantum mechanics) which support consciousness mean that there will always be sufficient "apparent" randomness that it's indistinguishable from "real" randomness (I personally don't think there's any difference between "truly" random and untruly random---one's the limiting case).

Of course there is a difference between pseudo-random and truly random... it's like the difference between a classical RNG and a quantum RNG. Classical RNG's may seem random but they aren't "truly" random, because if you know the seed used to generate the seemingly random data you can regenerate the exact same "random" numbers. Without quantum mechanics there is no randomness in our universe, thermodynamic fluctuations are a result of quantum mechanics at the most fundamental level.

True randomness means that the output doesn't necessarily have anything to do with the input. In the quantum mechanical universe things can happen without needing a cause. Things can spontaneously occur according to pure probability, without needing a previous chain of events which directly led up to the event in question. That is why quantum mechanical events are the only source of truly random numbers in this universe. There is no other theory of reality which incorporates the same type of randomness that QM seems to express. Without quantum mechanics the universe is a deterministic system which is destined to reach an exact outcome.
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posted on Nov, 25 2013 @ 05:11 PM

ChaoticOrder

The thermodynamical fluctuations of real physical systems (not even requiring quantum mechanics) which support consciousness mean that there will always be sufficient "apparent" randomness that it's indistinguishable from "real" randomness (I personally don't think there's any difference between "truly" random and untruly random---one's the limiting case).

Of course there is a difference between pseudo-random and truly random... it's like the difference between a classical RNG and a quantum RNG. Classical RNG's may seem random but they aren't "truly" random, because if you know the seed used to generate the seemingly random data you can regenerate the exact same "random" numbers.

Without quantum mechanics there is no randomness in our universe, thermodynamic fluctuations are a result of quantum mechanics at the most fundamental level.

a) chaotic randomness in large ensembles is as good as any other randomness.

b) I don't believe quantum mechanics to be necessary at all or even believe there is any strong evidence of 'intrinsic' randomness in QM that is more than an illusion.

Start integrating the equations of motion in the Heisenberg or Schroedinger represntation. What do you notice? No randomness imposed anywhere. When do you get "randomness"? In the ill-defined handwaving in the Copenhagen interpretation of an observation which happens to have 10^23 interacting atoms without a carefully prepared & identical state down to every single spinning phase on the wavefunction.

What happens when you can prepare the interacting system to be in a well controlled state? Then that's called a quantum computer and somehow the "randomness" evaporates. God does play dice with the universe---real physical dice controlled by deterministic equations of motion with a very high KS entropy rate. Like real casino dice.

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posted on Nov, 25 2013 @ 05:31 PM

a) chaotic randomness in large ensembles is as good as any other randomness.

You clearly aren't grasping the fundamental problem here... pseudo-random numbers are not good enough for applications such as secure cryptographic algorithms. The reason for that is because it's not truly random data and it's entirely possible to reverse engineer the so called "randomness". Just because something appears to be quite unordered does not make it truly random, it's simply an illusion which creates the impression of being random, but it's based on completely deterministic mathematical rules and the equation will always give the same output for the same input (ie the exact same "randomness").

When do you get "randomness"?

I would have to get deeper into the nature of QM to properly explain quantum randomness but there are countless examples of QM randomness driving common subatomic phenomena... when an electron spontaneously decides to release a photon and jump down to a lower energy state around a nucleus, or the timing of particle decay, or the vacuum fluctuations which cause space-time to spontaneously warp at the quantum scale. In fact there is a website which offers this type of truly random data.

This website offers true random numbers to anyone on the internet. The random numbers are generated in real-time in our lab by measuring the quantum fluctuations of the vacuum. The vacuum is described very differently in the quantum mechanical context than in the classical context. Traditionally, a vacuum is considered as a space that is empty of matter or photons. Quantum mechanically, however, that same space resembles a sea of virtual particles appearing and disappearing all the time. This result is due to the fact that the vacuum still possesses a zero-point energy. Consequently, the electromagnetic field of the vacuum exhibits random fluctuations in phase and amplitude at all frequencies. By carefully measuring these fluctuations, we are able to generate ultra-high bandwidth random numbers.

qrng.anu.edu.au...

edit on 25/11/2013 by ChaoticOrder because: (no reason given)

posted on Nov, 25 2013 @ 05:49 PM
And here's a list of some common QRNG techniques...

Because the outcome of quantum-mechanical events cannot in principle be predicted, they are the ‘gold standard’ for random number generation. Some quantum phenomena used for random number generation include:

* Shot noise, a quantum mechanical noise source in electronic circuits. The term is a clipping of the term "Schottky noise," referring to the scientist who first published regarding this phenomenon. A simple example is a lamp shining on a photodiode. Due to the uncertainty principle, arriving photons create noise in the circuit. Collecting the noise for use poses some problems, but this is an especially simple random noise source. However, shot noise energy is not always well distributed throughout the bandwidth of interest. Gas diode and thyratron electron tubes in a crosswise magnetic field can generate substantial noise energy (10 volts or more into high impedance loads) but have a very peaked energy distribution and require careful filtering to achieve flatness across a broad spectrum[6]

* A nuclear decay radiation source (as, for instance, from some kinds of commercial smoke detectors), detected by a Geiger counter attached to a PC.

* Photons travelling through a semi-transparent mirror. The mutually exclusive events (reflection — transmission) are detected and associated to ‘0’ or ‘1’ bit values respectively.

* Amplification of the signal produced on the base of a reverse-biased transistor. The emitter is saturated with electrons and occasionally they will tunnel through the band gap and exit via the base. This signal is then amplified through a few more transistors and the result fed into a Schmitt trigger.

* Spontaneous parametric down-conversion leading to binary phase state selection in a degenerate optical parametric oscillator.[7]

Physical phenomena with quantum-random properties

edit on 25/11/2013 by ChaoticOrder because: (no reason given)

posted on Nov, 25 2013 @ 05:54 PM

God does play dice with the universe---real physical dice controlled by deterministic equations of motion with a very high KS entropy rate. Like real casino dice.

Lol... well I can now see that I'm clearly wasting my time trying to argue this with you because you apparently refuse to accept the implications of QM and would rather believe everything is deterministic in some sense. It's not. End of story.

posted on Nov, 25 2013 @ 08:44 PM

How is that unpredictable... there are only two possible answers: infinity or undefined.

To simplify matters lets just call infinity as undefined, because in a numerical state it is. As for how this is unpredictable is that our deterministic mathematical model fails to produce a useable, comprehensible and predictable number.

1/0 is just one example of infinity in an equation, there are many others. Infinity is a concept, not a number and as such does create a lot of problems and uncertainty with mathematical structures.

posted on Nov, 25 2013 @ 09:36 PM

Nice photo of a 'Feather Duster', the twit who rambled all this junk out is Not a Neuro anything, he is simply a Comedian.... Have you read about the Robot that committed suicide recently ?????

posted on Nov, 27 2013 @ 03:51 AM

ChaoticOrder

God does play dice with the universe---real physical dice controlled by deterministic equations of motion with a very high KS entropy rate. Like real casino dice.

Lol... well I can now see that I'm clearly wasting my time trying to argue this with you because you apparently refuse to accept the implications of QM and would rather believe everything is deterministic in some sense.

Did you understand why?

The implications of QM which are much more radical (such as the notion of the wavefunctions in Hilbert space and non-locality of something in some form or another) I accept and are strongly justified by experiment and are theoretically consistent.

By contrast, randomness is 'hacked' into undergraduate quantum mechanics in a poorly defined way---there are normal equations of motion for wavefunctions (Heisenberg equation) which have no randomness. And then there is a non-unitary 'projection' for an 'observation' which somehow has to be distinguished from the evolution of quantum mechanical particles even though observational equipment is still made out of quantum mechanical particles.

The randomness and collapse procedures are indeed useful shortcuts for practical experimental situations, like Fermi's golden rule, but I believe they are approximations to the more complex and true manybody problem.

Thermodynamically large systems, inevitable interactions with background radiation or vacuum fluctuations, plus chaos can give exceptionally good approximations to the Platonic ideal of 'true' randomness without any conceptual nonsense inserted into the equations of motion.

And besides, even if there is "True" randomness somewhere in quantum mechanics, what's to prevent the biggest effect to come from chaos from fluctuations in large systems whose state is not precisely prepared when they "observe" (by interacting) small quantum mechanical systems?

What do you think is happening in those physical systems you mentioned?

It's not. End of story.

No, it's not the end of the story. There are plenty of 'interpretations of quantum mechanics' which exclude collapse and/or indeterminism as an essential feature and are, to date, experimentally indistinguishable with other ones that don't.

en.wikipedia.org...

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posted on Nov, 27 2013 @ 04:37 AM

Well that was constructive. (end sarcasm) I get the feeling it went over your head so you went for laughs. You were successful because I thought your post was funny.

Now I will go back to reading the intellectuals posts. I admit some of the stuff they are saying is beyond me I have had to Wiki a few things they've written. You on the other hand...let me just say I got ya figured out.

posted on Nov, 27 2013 @ 01:03 PM

ChaoticOrder

a) chaotic randomness in large ensembles is as good as any other randomness.

You clearly aren't grasping the fundamental problem here... pseudo-random numbers are not good enough for applications such as secure cryptographic algorithms. The reason for that is because it's not truly random data and it's entirely possible to reverse engineer the so called "randomness".

In a pseudorandom number generator in practice, it means that a digital computer operating in classical mechanics can be reliably prepared into a state (i.e. by resetting the seed) which results in predictable evolution. Concretely the physics of this is a known macroscopic state of separation of large numbers of charge carriers to reliably represent the bits in the hardware implementing RAM.

Physical random-number generators cannot be so prepared into perfectly defined initial states when the difference is between preparing 2048 bits for a key (conventional computer) vs 10^23 phases, and other configurations. When there is sufficient physical chaos (high KS entropy rate) then the inability to prepare a macroscopic physical state perfectly will result in effectively unpredictable behaviors from any macroscopic observer like us. No "intrinsic" randomness in laws of motion is necessary to produce this effect. In fact it is a major area of experimental study called quantum computing to engineer sophisticated systems which do NOT exhibit this phenomenon.

posted on Nov, 27 2013 @ 01:09 PM
I am of the opinion that consciousness is what I have for sure, and that you probably have it or something similar, but it's hard to say for sure. Maybe you have it, and maybe not.

If a machine acted the same way you did, I would have no reason to believe it wasn't conscious, too.

posted on Nov, 27 2013 @ 08:44 PM

The randomness and collapse procedures are indeed useful shortcuts for practical experimental situations, like Fermi's golden rule, but I believe they are approximations to the more complex and true manybody problem.

You are free to have that interpretation of quantum mechanics, I thought the same thing when I first learnt about QM. But after studying it for several years it has become very clear to me that true randomness is intrinsic to the way QM works. But I'm not going to get into a debate about this because I've argued about this many times with many people and it never goes anywhere because both of us are strongly attached to what we want to believe. I can admit that I prefer to believe that true randomness exists, because it means free will is possible, but it's also the most widely accepted interpretation of QM and has a lot of evidence backing it up. Without true randomness my entire future is set in stone and there's nothing I can do to change it, which means I wouldn't even be a true conscious being with free will, I would only have the illusion of being conscious and having free will.

EDIT: here's a decent video which explains how the Delayed Choice Quantum Eraser validates the uncertainty principle and shows that determinism is false: Delayed Choice Quantum Eraser
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posted on Nov, 27 2013 @ 10:45 PM

And to prove that I'm not alone in my opinion I want to point out these two surveys which asked physicists, mathematicians, and philosophers how they interpret quantum mechanics:

A Snapshot of Foundational Attitudes Toward Quantum Mechanics
Another Survey of Foundational Attitudes Towards Quantum Mechanics

Graph from the first paper:

Graph from the second paper:

EDIT: I should also point out that the second survey had less participants and they were generally younger than those in the first.
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posted on Nov, 28 2013 @ 10:52 AM

It's a giant leap to go from saying randomness in nature is intrinsic to randomness is a prerequisite for consciousness. I side with the other poster that consciousness is the product of chaotic (and/or complex) systems and these don't necessarily require true randomness. The universe might require true randomness, but what's there to say about the things in that universe? Do machines require randomness? Do computers? Do people? Things in our universe may not require true randomness, but true randomness is sure to eventually happen. Nothing can prevent it.

So it's like I'm saying consciousness has hidden determinism, but since the universe contains everything within itself then nothing can prevent true randomness. Therefore, even if a system is made explicitly to filter out true randomness it still cannot prevent it, since the very mechanisms that try to control the randomness are themselves vulnerable to it. What this means is NOTHING is perfectly predictable. Nothing can be perfectly planned and perfectly carried out. So even our machines, mechanisms constructed to be perfectly predictable, will not be.

The universe is a combination of determinism AND randomness. This leads to a situation where both our past and future are probabilities, not certainties or rendered unknowable. If the universe were randomness there'd be absolutely no predictability and if it were deterministic everything would be certain.

When I see localized order in an ocean of randomness I see some determinism. This determinism does not have complete reign, its role is instead to shape things. The randomness is to give things diversity. Together they're creation.

it's kind of like determinism is an equation. Randomness is what feeds the equation. The output is our universe. It has shape and diversity and is probabilistic. Of course, if it's a series of equations, they're very much far in advance of our understanding. And I have to wonder if these deterministic equations will themselves change and thus create fundamentally new shapes in the universe. Maybe they're just greatly slowed down randomness through which the rest is filtered through. Still I have to wonder what magic or authority produces these equations?
edit on 28-11-2013 by jonnywhite because: (no reason given)

posted on Nov, 28 2013 @ 09:23 PM

It's a giant leap to go from saying randomness in nature is intrinsic to randomness is a prerequisite for consciousness.

No it's not, explain to me how can you have a completely deterministic consciousness when everything that consciousness "thinks" is completely predictable and can be calculated if you know the deterministic equation being used to create the consciousness. Here's a little puzzle for you: present to me one deterministic equation which you believe if run on a computer would make that computer become self aware... doesn't that whole puzzle just seem completely impossible? But that's exactly what you are saying is possible, that a simple deterministic equation can create something conscious. Absurd...

The universe is a combination of determinism AND randomness. This leads to a situation where both our past and future are probabilities, not certainties or rendered unknowable. If the universe were randomness there'd be absolutely no predictability and if it were deterministic everything would be certain.

You're saying exactly what I'm saying. I never said randomness was the only thing which exists, of course there is some order in the randomness (hence my name ChaoticOrder). All I'm saying is that there is a degree of true randomness in the universe, where as mbkennel is trying to argue that at the heart of reality everything is completely predictable and deterministic, which is clearly wrong. Apart from your statement about consciousness being possible in a purely deterministic system, you are saying exactly what I have been saying: that the future is not certain (but also not entirely unpredictable).

EDIT: just realized that I screwed up the link on that second survey, here's the link in case someone wanted it: arxiv.org...
edit on 28/11/2013 by ChaoticOrder because: (no reason given)

posted on Nov, 28 2013 @ 09:57 PM

ChaoticOrder

It's a giant leap to go from saying randomness in nature is intrinsic to randomness is a prerequisite for consciousness.

No it's not, explain to me how can you have a completely deterministic consciousness when everything that consciousness "thinks" is completely predictable and can be calculated if you know the deterministic equation being used to create the consciousness.

And so?

For any practical purpose the inability to exactly prepare a state down to every phase of every atom and every electromagnetic fluctuation is just as good as any other source of randomness. For any other conscious observer outside the system the first consciousness is every bit unpredictable.

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