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    Thread: "Perceptronium" .. A quantum theory of consciousness

    1. #1
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      "Perceptronium" .. A quantum theory of consciousness

      Human consciousness is simply a state of matter, like a solid or liquid – but quantum | ExtremeTech

      https://medium.com/the-physics-arxiv-blog/5e7ed624986d


      Here is the link to the actual published paper with 34 pages and 15 figures. And a quote from the abstract just to indicate the direction of this effort and how it might as well be in japanese for my sake. Saké pun not intended!!
      We examine the hypothesis that consciousness can be understood as a state of matter, "perceptronium", with distinctive information processing abilities. We explore five basic principles that may distinguish conscious matter from other physical systems such as solids, liquids and gases: the information, integration, independence, dynamics and utility principles. If such principles can identify conscious entities, then they can help solve the quantum factorization problem: why do conscious observers like us perceive the particular Hilbert space factorization corresponding to classical space (rather than Fourier space, say), and more generally, why do we perceive the world around us as a dynamic hierarchy of objects that are strongly integrated and relatively independent? Tensor factorization of matrices is found to play a central role, and our technical results include a theorem about Hamiltonian separability (defined using Hilbert-Schmidt superoperators) being maximized in the energy eigenbasis. Our approach generalizes Giulio Tononi's integrated information framework for neural-network-based consciousness to arbitrary quantum systems, and we find interesting links to error-correcting codes, condensed matter criticality, and the Quantum Darwinism program, as well as an interesting connection between the emergence of consciousness and the emergence of time
      Xei. Please help us!
      Last edited by Dthoughts; 04-25-2014 at 01:16 AM.

    2. #2
      Xei
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      It's always funny watching physicists trying to biology.
      Dthoughts, Sageous and StephL like this.

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      Terminally Out of Phase Descensus's Avatar
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      I haven't read the full thing, but the abstract reads like a bunch of grad students smoked a lot of pot and threw some "dude...what if...." ideas together.

      In short, I have no idea what they're talking about.
      StephL likes this.
      The worst thing that can happen to a good cause is, not to be skillfully attacked, but to be ineptly defended. - Frédéric Bastiat
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      I think the basic idea is that the consciousness, by virtue of being capable of perception and other such mental things and, therefore, also being capable of collapsing the wave function and reducing a superposition of states into one definable outcome (think, Schrodinger's cat, but relating to everything), would count as an entirely new state of matter, at least on the quantum level. The reasoning seems to be that because we're capable of doing this where inanimate objects aren't, we are far more different from them than previously thought. The capabilities of information processing which other objects also lack is further proof that we're different.

      Quantum factorization refers to Shor's algorithm (according to google), which is based on quantum computing and, unless I'm misinterpreting it, seems to be a more efficient method for finding prime factors of any given integer, than classical computing. Can't find any mention of a "problem", though.

      I might be talking out of my rectum, so take it with a grain of salt.

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      This looks considerably more interesting upon closer examination, than I thought!
      Here the link to the complete paper as pdf: Consciousness as a State of Matter

      Tegmark makes an attempt to tie his ideas about cosmology together with the Integrated Information Theory of Giulio Tononi, and while that tying together goes a bit or a lot over my head - IIT looks like a pretty interesting model to understand consciousness:

      Consciousness as Integrated Information: a Provisional Manifesto

      The integrated information theory (IIT) starts from phenomenology and makes use of thought experiments to claim that consciousness is integrated information.

      Specifically: (i) the quantity of consciousness corresponds to the amount of integrated information generated by a complex of elements;
      (ii) the quality of experience is specified by the set of informational relationships generated within that complex.
      Integrated information (Φ) is defined as the amount of information generated by a complex of elements, above and beyond the information generated by its parts.

      Qualia space (Q) is a space where each axis represents a possible state of the complex, each point is a probability distribution of its states, and arrows between points represent the informational relationships among its elements generated by causal mechanisms (connections). Together, the set of informational relationships within a complex constitute a shape in Q that completely and univocally specifies a particular experience.

      Several observations concerning the neural substrate of consciousness fall naturally into place within the IIT framework. Among them are the association of consciousness with certain neural systems rather than with others; the fact that neural processes underlying consciousness can influence or be influenced by neural processes that remain unconscious; the reduction of consciousness during dreamless sleep and generalized seizures; and the distinct role of different cortical architectures in affecting the quality of experience. Equating consciousness with integrated information carries several implications for our view of nature.
      I am still reading the paper - but only from flying over it I am quite intrigued, and now it's me hoping, you'll take a look into this one Xei, as our local mathematicus - just if you got nothing better to do of course..


      It is surprisingly easy to read - here the inviting introduction:

      INTRODUCTION

      Everybody knows what consciousness is: it is what vanishes every night when we fall into dreamless sleep and reappears when we wake up or when we dream. It is also all we are and all we have: lose consciousness and, as far as you are concerned, your own self and the entire world dissolve into nothingness.

      Yet almost everybody thinks that understanding consciousness at the fundamental level is currently beyond the reach of science. The best we can do, it is often argued, is gather more and more facts about the neural correlates of consciousness—those aspects of brain function that change when some aspects of consciousness change—and hope that one day we will come up with an explanation. Others are more pessimistic: we may learn all about the neural correlates of consciousness and still not understand why certain physical processes seem to generate experience while others do not.

      It is not that we do not know relevant facts about consciousness. For example, we know that the widespread destruction of the cerebral cortex leaves people permanently unconscious (vegetative), whereas the complete removal of the cerebellum, even richer in neurons, hardly affects consciousness. We also know that neurons in the cerebral cortex remain active throughout sleep, yet at certain times during sleep consciousness fades, while at other times we dream. Finally, we know that different parts of the cortex influence different qualitative aspects of consciousness: damage to certain parts of the cortex can impair the experience of color, whereas other lesions may interfere with the perception of shapes. In fact, increasingly refined neuroscientific tools are uncovering increasingly precise aspects of the neural correlates of consciousness (Koch, 2004). And yet, when it comes to explaining why experience blossoms in the cortex and not in the cerebellum, why certain stages of sleep are experientially underprivileged, or why some cortical areas endow our experience with colors and others with sound, we are still at a loss.

      Our lack of understanding is manifested most clearly when scientists are asked questions about consciousness in “difficult” cases. For example, is a person with akinetic mutism—awake with eyes open, but mute, immobile, and nearly unresponsive—conscious or not? How much consciousness is there during sleepwalking or psychomotor seizures? Are newborn babies conscious, and to what extent? Are animals conscious? If so, are some animals more conscious than others? Can they feel pain? Does a bat feel space the same way we do? Can bees experience colors, or merely react to them? Can a conscious artifact be constructed with non-neural ingredients? I believe it is fair to say that no consciousness expert, if there is such a job description, can be confident about the correct answer to such questions. This is a remarkable state of affairs. Just consider comparable questions in physics: Do stars have mass? Do atoms? How many different kinds of atoms and elementary particles are there, and of what are they made? Is energy conserved? And how can it be measured? Or consider biology: What are species, and how do they evolve? How are traits inherited? How do organisms develop? How is energy produced from nutrients? How does echolocation work in bats? How do bees distinguish among colors? And so on. Obviously, we expect satisfactory answers by any competent physicist and biologist.

      What's the matter with consciousness, then, and how should we proceed? Early on, I came to the conclusion that a genuine understanding of consciousness is possible only if empirical studies are complemented by a theoretical analysis. Indeed, neurobiological facts constitute both challenging paradoxes and precious clues to the enigma of consciousness. This state of affairs is not unlike the one faced by biologists when, knowing a great deal about similarities and differences between species, fossil remains, and breeding practices, they still lacked a theory of how evolution might occur. What was needed, then as now, were not just more facts, but a theoretical framework that could make sense of them.

      In what follows, I discuss the integrated information theory of consciousness (IIT; Tononi, 2004)—an attempt to understand consciousness at the fundamental level. To present the theory, I first consider phenomenological thought experiments indicating that subjective experience has to do with the generation of integrated information. Next, I consider how integrated information can be defined mathematically. I then show how basic facts about consciousness and the brain can be accounted for in terms of integrated information. Finally, I discuss how the quality of consciousness can be captured geometrically by the shape of informational relationships within an abstract space called qualia space. I conclude by examining some implications of the theory concerning the place of experience in our view of the world.

    6. #6
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      Thank you Steph for this Briljant introduction. I coulden't have reached it by myself. Haven't had the time to really get into the article. And the introduction I have read from the PDF is actually different from what I remember. There's a huge problem in Bitpower according to this theory. I love it.

      I was thinking of this web just this afternoon. The way it is described in this introduction really portrays a beautiful poetic image for me to visualize. I was thinking how the thoughts I form in my head are actually limited to concepts that I can ascribe words to. Interestingly, those concepts are very unlimited but rather words put massive limitation on sharing concepts with other conscious beings. I have a deep wish to dissolve this barrier, to be honest.

      Lucid dreaming is actually a very interesting phenomenon when you stop and think that the mind is able to make an exact copy of every concept in reality, be it an object. an auditory tone, or any other sensory experience. What's more, in a theoretical sense the dreamer is able to tie together all these individual components into novel experience and stories in whatever way he/she wishes in a kind of Pythagorean mindspace. Thinking about mathematics is something out of my normal frame of reference so I can't really dig too much into this article and I would be a fool for trying since I have so much schoolwork to do before exams. So I'll leave any examination of the PDF up to you guys. Btw, I'm glad this aticle sparked such an interest in you StephL (!) I think we may have some common ground at last! Hehehe.

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      Quote Originally Posted by Dthoughts View Post
      Thank you Steph for this Briljant introduction. I coulden't have reached it by myself. Haven't had the time to really get into the article. And the introduction I have read from the PDF is actually different from what I remember. There's a huge problem in Bitpower according to this theory. I love it.
      Well - no wonder - the above introduction belongs to the second paper I linked up above.
      To make matters a bit less confusing and more to the point, I went back to the concept of consciousness = integrated information from Tononi, in order to see, where Tegman is coming from.
      Being a long paper - and basically really about a mathematical model of consciousness - it is easy to read, relatively.
      Procrastinating, the me, but if you take it paragraph by paragraph - you will be able of understanding the gist of it, I believe.
      Up to now - I am, and despite of my love for all things mathematical and beautiful - I am more than rusted on stuff I used to know, and most definitively never understood Hilbert space. But I feel I will be able to understand the text of it - and it's mostly that.

      Why not go through it together?
      We have all thread after all - and nobody has to read it - scroll on over it!

      I have read a bit further - but take a look at this - contains a nicely followable thought-experiment:




      A Phenomenological Analysis: Consciousness as Integrated Information

      The integrated information theory (IIT) of consciousness claims that, at the fundamental level, consciousness is integrated information, and that its quality is given by the informational relationships generated by a complex of elements (Tononi, 2004). These claims stem from realizing that information and integration are the essential properties of our own experience. This may not be immediately evident, perhaps because, being endowed with consciousness most of the time, we tend to take its gifts for granted. To regain some perspective, it is useful to resort to two thought experiments, one involving a photodiode and the other a digital camera.

      Information: the photodiode thought experiment
      Consider the following: You are facing a blank screen that is alternately on and off, and you have been instructed to say “light” when the screen turns on and “dark” when it turns off. A photodiode—a simple light-sensitive device—has also been placed in front of the screen. It contains a sensor that responds to light with an increase in current and a detector connected to the sensor that says “light” if the current is above a certain threshold and “dark” otherwise. The first problem of consciousness reduces to this: when you distinguish between the screen being on or off, you have the subjective experience of seeing light or dark. The photodiode can also distinguish between the screen being on or off, but presumably it does not have a subjective experience of light and dark. What is the key difference between you and the photodiode?

      According to the IIT, the difference has to do with how much information is generated when that distinction is made. Information is classically defined as reduction of uncertainty: the more numerous the alternatives that are ruled out, the greater the reduction of uncertainty, and thus the greater the information. It is usually measured using the entropy function, which is the logarithm of the number of alternatives (assuming they are equally likely). For example, tossing a fair coin and obtaining heads corresponds to log2(2) = 1 bit of information, because there are just two alternatives; throwing a fair die yields log2(6) = 2.59 bits of information, because there are six.

      Let us now compare the photodiode with you. When the blank screen turns on, the mechanism in the photodiode tells the detector that the current from the sensor is above rather than below the threshold, so it reports “light.” In performing this discrimination between two alternatives, the detector in the photodiode generates log2(2) = 1 bit of information. When you see the blank screen turn on, on the other hand, the situation is quite different. Though you may think you are performing the same discrimination between light and dark as the photodiode, you are in fact discriminating among a much larger number of alternatives, thereby generating many more bits of information.

      This is easy to see. Just imagine that, instead of turning light and dark, the screen were to turn red, then green, then blue, and then display, one after the other, every frame from every movie that was ever produced. The photodiode, inevitably, would go on signaling whether the amount of light for each frame is above or below its threshold: to a photodiode, things can only be one of two ways, so when it reports “light,” it really means just “this way” versus “that way.” For you, however, a light screen is different not only from a dark screen, but from a multitude of other images, so when you say “light,” it really means this specific way versus countless other ways, such as a red screen, a green screen, a blue screen, this movie frame, that movie frame, and so on for every movie frame (not to mention for a sound, smell, thought, or any combination of the above). Clearly, each frame looks different to you, implying that some mechanism in your brain must be able to tell it apart from all the others. So when you say “light,” whether you think about it or not (and you typically won't), you have just made a discrimination among a very large number of alternatives, and thereby generated many bits of information.

      This point is so deceivingly simple that it is useful to elaborate a bit on why, although a photodiode may be as good as we are in detecting light, it cannot possibly see light the way we do—in fact, it cannot possibly “see” anything at all. Hopefully, by realizing what the photodiode lacks, we may appreciate what allows us to consciously “see” the light.

      The key is to realize how the many discriminations we can do, and the photodiode cannot, affect the meaning of the discrimination at hand, the one between light and dark. For example, the photodiode has no mechanism to discriminate colored from achromatic light, even less to tell which particular color the light might be. As a consequence, all light is the same to it, as long as it exceeds a certain threshold. So for the photodiode, “light” cannot possibly mean achromatic as opposed to colored, not to mention of which particular color. Also, the photodiode has no mechanism to distinguish between a homogeneous light and a bright shape—any bright shape—on a darker background. So for the photodiode, light cannot possibly mean full field as opposed to a shape—any of countless particular shapes. Worse, the photodiode does not even know that it is detecting a visual attribute (the “visualness” of light) as it has no mechanism to tell visual attributes, such as light or dark, from non-visual ones, such as hot and cold, light or heavy, loud or soft, and so on. As far as it knows, the photodiode might just as well be a thermistor—it has no way of knowing whether it is sensing light versus dark or hot versus cold.

      In short, the only specification a photodiode can make is whether things are this or that way: any further specification is impossible because it does not have mechanisms for it. Therefore, when the photodiode detects “light,” such “light” cannot possibly mean what it means for us; it does not even mean that it is a visual attribute. By contrast, when we see “light” in full consciousness, we are implicitly being much more specific: we simultaneously specify that things are this way rather than that way (light as opposed to dark), that whatever we are discriminating is not colored (in any particular color), does not have a shape (any particular one), is visual as opposed to auditory or olfactory, sensory as opposed to thought-like, and so on. To us, then, light is much more meaningful precisely because we have mechanisms that can discriminate this particular state of affairs we call “light” against a large number of alternatives.

      According to the IIT, it is all this added meaning, provided implicitly by how we discriminate pure light from all these alternatives, that increases the level of consciousness.

      This central point may be appreciated either by “subtraction” or by “addition.” By subtraction, one may realize that our being conscious of “light” would degrade more and more—would lose its non-coloredness, its non-shapedness, would even lose its visualness—as its meaning is progressively stripped down to just “one of two ways,” as with the photodiode. By addition, one may realize that we can only see “light” as we see it, as progressively more and more meaning is added by specifying how it differs from countless alternatives.

      Either way, the theory says that the more specifically one's mechanisms discriminate between what pure light is and what it is not (the more they specify what light means), the more one is conscious of it.

      I find this interesting - and of course it goes on.
      What do you think? Anybody?



      Quote Originally Posted by Dthoughts View Post
      Lucid dreaming is actually a very interesting phenomenon when you stop and think that the mind is able to make an exact copy of every concept in reality, be it an object. an auditory tone, or any other sensory experience. What's more, in a theoretical sense the dreamer is able to tie together all these individual components into novel experience and stories in whatever way he/she wishes in a kind of Pythagorean mindspace. Thinking about mathematics is something out of my normal frame of reference so I can't really dig too much into this article and I would be a fool for trying since I have so much schoolwork to do before exams. So I'll leave any examination of the PDF up to you guys. Btw, I'm glad this aticle sparked such an interest in you StephL (!) I think we may have some common ground at last! Hehehe.
      Yes - I find it almost strange to engage in lucid dreaming and not become hooked by thinking about consciousness, in a way.
      I really like your tenacious enthusiasm about the topic of and that you won't stay in beyond dreaming for talking about it - even if your heart and desires might rather dwell there.


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      Consider that the integrated extensiveness of thought is improved in the truly superior mind.

      Consider that ultimate, true, and fundamental gravitational and inertial equivalency and balancing is consistent with dreams, quantum gravity, the middle distance in/of space, and instantaneity. Invisible and visible space in fundamental equilibrium and balance is the middle distance in/of space consistent with half gravity and half inertia and dream experience. That is a gigantic physical truth.

      The key here is to balance being and experience.

      The nature of thought in relation to emotion, the range and extensiveness of feeling, and sensory experience is of significant bearing here. You all need to balance being and experience.
      Last edited by gab; 04-30-2014 at 02:00 AM. Reason: and a third one

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      Thought is not visible. Thoughts are not visible experience. Thoughts relate to visible and invisible space, ultimately, and in balance. It is a great truth/fact that the ability of thought to describe or reconfigure sensory experience is ultimately dependent upon the extent to which thought is similar to sensory experience. There is no outsmarting the genius of dreams. Thought is more like sensory experience in general (including visual experience) in dreams, thereby improving upon memory and understanding. Dreams ultimately, generally, fundamentally, naturally, and theoretically unify physics/physical experience. Any understanding of "consciousness" certainly involves the nature of both dreams and thought.

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