Is consciousness to be found in quantum processes in microtubules?

Discussion in 'Pseudoscience' started by Write4U, Sep 8, 2018.

  1. Yazata Valued Senior Member

    I don't think that we should exaggerate the tubules importance or speculate too fancifully about them.

    Eukaryotic cells are filled with a whole variety of little structures called organelles. Microtubules are only one of many kinds of organelles.

    If I was going to get excited about a particular kind of structure inside cells, it might be lipid bilayers. (These are found in prokaryotic cells too, though the lipid bilayers in the cell membranes of archaea have interesting differences.) These form membranes that represent the outer boundary of the cell as well as the boundaries of many little structures within eukaryotic cells (the organelles). Many biochemical processes take place at membranes or are controlled by membranes, which with the help of proteins control what is able to pass through them, thus maintaining a concentration of this over here and that over there.

    And there are the countless ubiquitous proteins bustling everywhere, which function like gritty little nanomachines and are involved in almost everything the cell is doing. (Proteins are obviously found in prokaryotes as well as eukaryotes.) They form the enzymes that catalyze many of the chemical reactions in the cell.

    And obviously there are the nucleic acids. (Again found in both kinds of cells.) DNA is where the code is stored from generation to generation. And it's obvious that there's a very complex data processing operation going on with the nucleic acids, as particular genes are read and other genes are turned off and silenced, so that everything takes place in the right order. Since the human genome project and the wholesale sequencing of many organisms' genomes, it's increasingly clear that most of an organisms' DNA is regulatory in nature, controlling that stuff. Another thing that's becoming increasingly clear is the many functions of RNA. It's no longer seen as DNA's little brother, merely a messenger, and biologists realize that it is very active in many ways.

    An increasing amount of biologists' attention these days is devoted to all of these many functional networks inside cells and how they are controlled. A few biological specialties have started to increasingly resemble computer science. So inevitably there have been many proposals and even experimental attempts to make little molecular scale computers using these processes that the molecular biologists have uncovered. But I don't think that we should leap from that fact to some fanciful and totally speculative "explanation" for consciousness.

    Cell and molecular biology has been the growth industry in the biological sciences over the last few decades. It's kind of elbowed aside the zoologists and botanists.

    All this incredible activity and complexity at the cellular level is why I'm skeptical about the old speculation about cells popping fully-formed out of some 'primordial soup'. Obviously the cells we see today are the result of an elaborate process of chemical-evolution development that would have taken considerable time. Of course the very first cells (LUCA, the last universal common ancestor and whatever led up to that) were likely far simpler than any of today's cells. (Which might be why they no longer exist, they couldn't compete with newer models.) The prokaryotes seem to be a very robust and efficient earlier cell model, while the eukaryotes are the current top-of-the-line model, a later development. If life originated some 3.5 billion years ago and multicellular organisms only about 500-600 million years ago, most of the history of life was devoted to the elaboration of cells. (Eukaryotes seem to have appeared some 1.5-2 billion years ago.)

    Microtubules are just one thing that's happening in there, and not necessarily the most important thing or the most interesting thing.

    I'm still unclear on what they supposedly have to do with thought and with consciousness. Penrose seems have originated that idea, but I'm not sure how he argues for it or tries to justify it. Dropping in the magic word 'quantum' doesn't clarify things or make them any more credible.

    I'm hugely skeptical and at this point am inclined to consider it little more than crankery.
    Last edited: Nov 1, 2018
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  3. billvon Valued Senior Member

    If he says "you can't feel your heart beating" he is wrong, yes. If he says "you can't feel peristalsis" he is wrong.
    Oh, it could easily be MORE efficient. For example, optical and quantum computing do not use those "microchips" you are talking about and could well be better/faster than conventional microchips at certain problems. Biomolecular computers are now in their infancy. Silicon integrated circuits are just what works best for us NOW.
    Natural selection does not come up with the most efficient system. It just comes up with a system that works well enough for the organism to survive.

    Our eyes are backwards. That was a mistake, but it worked well enough. The switchover from fetal to adult circulation is an absurd Rube Golberg system, and resulted in tens of thousands of infant deaths before we had the technology to fix the problems caused by that system. But it works well enough to allow us to survive.
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  5. Write4U Valued Senior Member

    He said "interoception", look it up.
    Watch the clip, overall it is much more interesting than cherry-picking which organs you can feel and which not.
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  7. Write4U Valued Senior Member

    Draw me a picture of your GI tract as you can visualize it internally, ok. c'mon
  8. Write4U Valued Senior Member


    Am I saying different?
    Oh, and that is not the same as saying the evolutionary system is currently at a stage where it works best for NOW?
  9. exchemist Valued Senior Member

    Indeed it is not. There is no concept of "best" . There is no optimisation from good to better to best. There is simply what enables survival of the species, however it is achieved. Once it is good enough to do that, the evolutionary pressure ceases.
  10. billvon Valued Senior Member

    I know what that means. And yes, if he says you cannot perceive things via interoception, he is wrong.
    Nope. You can make an argument here if you like. If you can't, I am not watching a video to make up for your lack.

    When I swallow, I feel the food go down my esophagus. If it's a big bite, I can feel it make the transition from my esophagus to my stomach. Sometimes it takes a second for my LES to open, then I can feel it plop in.

    Afterwards, I can feel my stomach contracting and relaxing to move food around. I usually don't feel much from my small intestine. When my large intestine starts filling up I start to feel the pressure that 'it's time to go.' That feeling gets more insistent the longer I wait.

    Most people feel these things. Some don't, and have problems as a result. If you cannot, it might be a good idea to ask your doctor about it. From
    Kids who struggle with the interoceptive sense can also have trouble “feeling” their emotions. They may not be as tuned in to the body cues that help interpret emotion. Without being able to feel and interpret those body sensations, it’s harder to clearly identify the emotion.

    For instance, a child may not “feel” fear because he doesn’t recognize that his muscles are tense, his breathing is shallow and his heart is racing.

    Having trouble with this sense can also make self-regulation a challenge. When you’re able to tell that you’re thirsty, you know to take a drink. When you can feel that your bladder is full, you know to use the bathroom. When you feel a sense of frustration, you know to explain what’s troubling you.

    For some kids, this system doesn’t work well and they can’t regulate certain responses. Some kids may experience bedwetting. Or they may not know why they’re feeling off and can have meltdowns. Kids who struggle with these things may not be able to identify the real source of their discomfort.
    Yes. You posted "could you make a computer that can calculate without 'microchips' . . . . No, you couldn't." That is false.
  11. Write4U Valued Senior Member

    If I understand it correctly, this bustling (transit) everywhere uses microtubules as the transport scaffolding. That is the point, microtubules are the fundamental transport system for import as well as export into and out of cells.
    Nature weeds its own mistakes.
    Can you explain further and suggest a better naturally allowed system?
    What technology is that?
    Are you telling me "human selection" is responsible for the evolution of humans? Wow.

    Are you identifying "quantum" as a Rube Goldberg system? It's an "uncertain" function, no?

    Here we are, the pinnacle of evolution from a single celled organism and you say we are a collection of Rube Goldberg organizing functions? What do you want, a Ferrari?
    Last edited: Nov 1, 2018
  12. Write4U Valued Senior Member

    No, that wasn't me. I said you cannot make a computer without microchips, and I was called out on that. Don't accuse me of someone else's mistake.
    No, I don't say that or anything like it at all. Stop putting words in my mouth.

    You want to translate everything I write in your own words? Be my guest, but don't assign authorship of your words to me, please.
    Last edited: Nov 1, 2018
  13. Write4U Valued Senior Member

    No, that's not what he said. He said that we don't know exactly where your organs are, not that we can't feel them or their functions. Interoception does not tell us location as when you look at your limbs, it tells us the state of the organ's health, ....difference.

    You can touch your toe from visual observation. But you cannot point to, or draw the outline of the organs he identified in a general sense. You cannot visualize them as you would visualize an external object.

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    You can visualize that inside you without being cut open?

    Watch the clip. It's really interesting.......

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    At 12.30, Seth talks about the experience of interoception.

    If you can spend time by telling me that I am quoting someone incorrectly, why not spend that time to look at the clip. You'll be watching a "learned" fellow speak, not a layman such as me.
    How can that not be of interest to you? You are participating in this thread, no? Why?

    I am not asking anyone to do their own research. I am providing the material on which I base my arguments in the most convenient form, be it written, or audio, or video, by experts and the results of their research. What's the difference?

    I am just trying to find "common denominators" of a fundamental property with the potential for evolving into a conscious pattern.

    What is sufficient "evidence" to make a case on a particular subject?
    Last edited: Nov 1, 2018
  14. billvon Valued Senior Member

    No it doesn't. That's the whole point. We still have backwards eyes, and suffer blind spots and detached retinas as a result.
    Of course. A system that routes pulmonary return through the umbilicus and placenta, then returns to the left atrium, with a tiny foramen between the two vessels. You are born, the foramen opens wide, the umbilical vessels close (just as they do now) and you begin normal circulation. No circulatory reversals, no holes in your heart required.
    Heart surgery.
    Nope, not at all. Not sure where you got that.
    Nope. No idea where you got that. Fetal circulatory switchover is Rube Goldberg, though.
    We are not the "pinnacle of evolution." We are not the strongest, longest lived or most robust organisms. We are not the cleanest or most efficient. We do not have the most optimized DNA. We are merely pretty smart. Human ego likes to think we are the pinnacle of evolution, but we are just another primate - albeit one with a biggish brain.
    In many cases - yes.

    Our eyes are backwards and the 'cabling' goes through the front of the imager. Rube Goldberg.
    Some of our nervous system travels through our spine; other parts go straight from our brain to our organs. Rube Goldberg.
    Fetal circulation switchover is VERY Rube Goldberg.

    I am fine with what evolution provided us (although certainly some things could be done better, like childbirth. Marsupials win there, hands down.) The point, which you seem to disagree with, is that evolution does NOT come up with the most efficient systems, or even very good systems. It comes up with systems that work, sometimes barely well enough.
    Yes, it does.

    Ask a child where his bladder is. He will point to his groin. Because when he has to pee, that's where the sensation comes from. Interoception, telling us the location of an organ.

    Or watch someone who is full. He will often pat his stomach or put his hand on it. Because he feels the sensation of being full - and interoception tells him that is coming from his abdomen, where his stomach is.
    And what it is doing, and where it is.
    Wait a minute. Do you actually think that interoception means "you can visualize your internal organs as you would visualize an external object?" If so, you are very mistaken, and do not know what the word means.

  15. Write4U Valued Senior Member

    A cuttlefish is the most empathic animal on earth. It can not only perceive and study objects, it is able to physically blend with the object. That is just an incredibly empathic ability.
    What allows for such "mirroring" ability of the brain, unless it is at microscale. And here we find a candidate for such potential, Microtubules, which have proven abilities for computational processes at nano scale.
  16. Write4U Valued Senior Member

    Yep, that's what we are discussing, no?
  17. billvon Valued Senior Member

    Microtubules create empathy!
    Microtubules allow intelligence!
    Microtubules are quantum computers!
    Microtubules will save the world!
    Microtubules enable life as we know it!
    Microtubules are all you need to know!
  18. Write4U Valued Senior Member

    This may add to the discussion of consciousness:
    Question is, what do we have in common to allow for separate evolution of sophisticated brains to begin with.

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    The plot thickens.....

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    Last edited: Nov 1, 2018
  19. Write4U Valued Senior Member

    No, microtubules allow for sentience, how's that?

    Can't really get much further back, without getting into "spirituality"

    And that is not where I want to go.
    Last edited: Nov 1, 2018
  20. billvon Valued Senior Member

    And . . .
    Microtubules give you sentience!
    Microtubules are the reason for sophisticated brains!

    Truly, is there anything the magic microtubules CAN'T do?
  21. Write4U Valued Senior Member

    I'm trying to find microtubules in octopi. No luck so far. I'm betting of the few things we have in common, microtubules might be one of them.
    Where have I claimed that ? My claim is that microtubules may well be the smallest commonly shared neural information transit system, which has evolved to the point of ability for self-reference and abstract thought, such as "I think, therefore I am".
  22. Yazata Valued Senior Member


    One of the cooler cellular proteins are little transport nanomachines called kinesins. They actually 'walk' along the microtubules on two little atomic-scale legs. Or that's one idealized model. Another model imagines them working like inchworms. But either way, cargo (large molecules that don't diffuse well) bind to them and are carried down the microtubule and across the cell.

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    Around the cell at least. 'In to' and 'out of' involves transport across membranes. And that once again involves protein nanomachines acting like very chemically-selective little gates and pumps.

    But yeah, I agree with you in that I certainly don't want to dismiss or downplay microtubules (which are constructed from proteins). They aren't just pathways, they can expand and contract and are part of what pulls chromosomes apart in mitosis, what makes cells able to move and stuff like that.

    I'm just not convinced that they have anything directly to do with consciousness.
    Last edited: Nov 1, 2018
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  23. billvon Valued Senior Member

    Microtubules transport neural information!
    Microtubules allow abstract thought!
    Microtubules gave Rene Descartes all his best ideas!

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