The Hard Problem of Consciousness (3'd iteration)

Discussion in 'General Philosophy' started by Yazata, Jul 11, 2012.

  1. Magical Realist Valued Senior Member

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    I don't see the search for protophenomenal constituents to mind as being that outlandish. Afterall, even with the physicalist reductionism of matter we assume a certain continuity of properties starting from the whole all the way down to its atomic parts. "Protophysical" properties like mass and charge for example. It seems sort of basic to me to assume the same will be the case for mind if indeed we are bent on some sort of reductionism to irreducible units. Leibniz attempted such a atomistic ontology of "tiny minds" or monads as did Whitehead with his actual entities. After that higher level mental properties can be logically inferred as merely quantitative sums of lower level protomental properties. But I suspect that alot of the explanation for mind, if indeed such is even possible, will involve a mapping out of the hierarchal structures (as well as novel properties) that emerge from bottom to top. IOW, it won't do to just have an aggregate of protothinking units in order to explain mind. We will have to take into consideration all the functions and processes of said units in their structured relations and interactions with each other.
     
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  3. Rav Valued Senior Member

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    The idea that reductionism necessarily entails reducing everything to "units" of some sort is a little bit flawed. It would be more accurate to characterize it as an effort to discover what is most fundamental. After all most physicists, who obviously embrace a reductionist methodology themselves, are quite happy to take very seriously the idea that it is the field and not the particle that is most fundamental. If this is an accurate way to conceptualize the fabric of reality, then the properties necessary for the emergence of the dimension of experience would not really be found in "units" of matter, they would ultimately derive from a more fundamental underlying physical structure: the field. Of course so would every other property as well.
     
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  5. Billy T Use Sugar Cane Alcohol car Fuel Valued Senior Member

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    Only for gravity might that be true. All other fields, in the "standard model" which has existed for some decades make their force fields by the fundamental particles creating and exchanging "virtual particles." Below diagram is example of what the electric field is. One electron is scattering the other without actually hitting the other electron, but by their mutual repulsive electric field, which is itself only "virtual particels."

    One could say, with more validity than your idea: "Fields don´t actually exist - only particles, both virtual and permanent, do."

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    Gravity is not yet part of the "standard model" and the virtual particel it would use, the graviton, has not yet been detected.

    I may be wrong about what is the virtual particle making the gravitational field. It was at least years ago called the graviton, but the final prediction of the standard model has within the last year been confirmed - I.e. the Higgs Boson has been observed. It may be the "virtual particle" of the gravity field. I am not well versed in the latest terminology.
     
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  7. C C Consular Corps - "the backbone of diplomacy" Valued Senior Member

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    Purely as an example of that level of reductionism that Rav mentions still hanging around as a desire, I recollect Herms Romijn of the Netherlands Institute for Brain Research putting out a paper back in 2002 actually contending that the virtual photons of EM fields were the elementary carriers of conscious experiences. Even proposing "An experimental strategy [...] to test the hypothesis." AFAIK, though, nothing was ever pursued in regard to it by anyone else; Romijn apparently didn't even follow-up with more papers. The abstract and maybe an additional short description should still be listed somewhere in the archives of the Journal of Consciousness Studies. This or that publication of the "quantum consciousness" research crowd might have something about it revived in their past issues, but this one probably doesn't stretch back very many years: http://jcer.com/index.php/jcj/issue/view/31
     
  8. Billy T Use Sugar Cane Alcohol car Fuel Valued Senior Member

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    Not very likely idea, IMHO as those virtual particles only interact with isolated charged particles, which don´t exist in the brain. I.e. even thought a hydrogen atom has two charged partices, it is not attracted by an electric field. Ions do exist there, so this is a weak argument.

    The only dualists with knowledge of physiology and qunatum physics that i respect is noble prize winner, Sir John Eccles. I read one of his books, but not sure now if it was The self and its brain or Mind and Brain. There are very fine "hairs" on most cells, (forget the name -cilla ?) that are small enough to have quantum effects. Sir Jonh thought they were how the mass less soul acted on the brain. He is well worth reading if you have not already. I doubt the world will ever see his equal in this area aqain.
     
  9. Rav Valued Senior Member

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    Really Billy? You've never encountered the idea that there are only fields, and that every type of particle is an excitation of such?

    See here, and here or even just this wikipedia article and its references.

    This is all theoretical physics of course, so one shouldn't really draw any definitive conclusions from such models about the true nature of the physical world, but the ideas are, nonetheless, out there, as food for thought.
     
  10. wellwisher Banned Banned

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    The cationic pumping at the cell membrane, that occurs at all cells, is all you need to set the stage for consciousness. Neurons generate the highest free energy at the membrane. You don't really need quantum physics.

    If we look at the cell membrane of any cell, special ion pumping proteins use ATP energy to pump and exchange sodium and potassium cations. The sodium ions accumulate outside and potassium ions accumulates inside. This action creates two concentration gradients, where sodium wants to diffuse inward to balance the concentration on both sides (entropy), while potassium wants to do the same thing outward to balances on both sides.

    Potassium cations bond to water weaker than sodium cations. The net result is potassium cations end up smaller due to lugging less water (hydrated water).

    The original entropy potential of each cation (want to balance concentrations on both side of the membrane) and the smaller hydrated potassium cation, allows potassium to leak out to some degree, but the larger hydrated sodium cannot leak in. Since there is now more net positive charge outside, due to some leaking potassium, the result is the membrane potential (outside positive and negative inside due to loss of potassium).

    The final result is the free energy in the membrane is both the entropy of the sodium and the rest of the potassium, plus the membrane potential. There is a dual free energy potential which wants to lower energy and increase entropy. These are two spontaneous and connected paths. The entropy potential allows for new paths toward lower energy.

    In most cells, material going into the cell is assisted with transport proteins, which make use of this membrane free energy. In a loose sense, these transport proteins are like specific memory (specific transported molecule) connected to local membrane firing. They form a lock and key arrangement. The local membrane will release energy to help the transport of this specific molecular memory connected to the transport protein. A cell can appear conscious this way; finicky child.

    A synapse simply scales up and uses a wider zone of the membrane. Instead of a special molecule trying to get in, each synaptic zone can transport a range of neurotransmitters, which can have a cascading effect within the membrane in terms of the free energy that is released. Instead of a molecule memory, it becomes memory based on ionic surfaces.

    An interesting observation is, neurons do not replicate after a certain point. Most of the cells of the body will divide every so often, to make fresh daughter cells. But mature neuron never duplicate. I would guess this is due to the extreme free energy within the membrane. From a practical POV, you don't want neurons to replicate or else that would mess up the delicate wiring of each neuron in relation to others. As the free energy within cell membranes got critically high, these cells stopped replicating and begin to scaffold and synapse, as a new way to lower the extreme build up of free energy.

    If you look at our sensory systems, like our eyes, our eyes transmit ionic signals to neurons. These signal help release ionic potential (fire neurons) using pathways that run parallel the input signal; analogy of the transport protein template.

    Consciousness is a summation process of the entire free energy economy in light of transport templates. It is the primary entropy potential due to cation pumping that is the wild card.
     
  11. Billy T Use Sugar Cane Alcohol car Fuel Valued Senior Member

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    Perhaps many years ago. Fields are useful concepts and I would only be able to compute the force between two electons in those terms, not via a set of Feynman diagrams, but the modern view is that fields are virtual particles being exchanged. Never has anyone AFAIK, suggested the electron is not fundamental but some excitation in some field.

    You first link is a paper submitted by Art Hobson for pubilcation to the Am. J. Phys. a year ago. As that is a very respected journal, I doubt they have published it as it is too far from the modern POV. Your second link seems mainly to favor field POV as particle masses are not conserved. For example mass can be conveted into energy. (Beta-decay or atomc bombs being two extremes.) The accepted "standard theory" has no problems with this, or need of fields. Your wiki link is supporting the now accepted POV that the Electirc Field is caused by the exchange of virtual particles.

    When one wants to push down to the most fundamental levels known, even protons and neutrons are not fundamental - each is made of three quarks and fields are made of / by constant exchange of virtual particles, at the most fundamental level. I´m not well versed in this, but understand that some known effects are ONLY understood with the Feynman Diagram POV, not possible to explain / understand with a field POV.
     
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  12. Rav Valued Senior Member

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    From here: http://www.damtp.cam.ac.uk/user/tong/qft.html

    "Suppose we capture a proton from a cosmic ray which we identify as coming from a supernova lying 8 billion lightyears away. We compare this proton with one freshly minted in a particle accelerator here on Earth. And the two are exactly the same! How is this possible? Why aren't there errors in proton production? How can two objects, manufactured so far apart in space and time, be identical in all respects? One explanation that might be offerred is that there's a sea of proton "stuff" filling the universe and when we make a proton we somehow dip our hand into this stuff and from it mould a proton. Then it's not surprising that protons produced in different parts of the universe are identical: they're made of the same stuff. It turns out that this is roughly what happens. The "stuff" is the proton field or, if you look closely enough, the quark field."

    These references I am providing you with are just those I've located with a few minutes of googling. This is stuff I've read about on numerous occasions and in numerous locations over the years. It's not fringe science, it's not outdated, and it's not incorrect. It is theoretical physics. It may or may not be an accurate description of reality, but you can say that about everything else in theoretical physics as well.

    Billy, with all due respect, if you're trying to suggest that the idea that fields may be fundamental is not taken seriously by physicists, you're just plain wrong.
     
  13. Magical Realist Valued Senior Member

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  14. Rav Valued Senior Member

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    I wouldn't say that I suggested any sort of theory of consciousness at all. Rather, I am simply pointing at something additional to our current understanding of the properties of matter. My discussion of fields was simply a reminder than when speculating about all this we can look beyond (or beneath) particle physics to try to find our fundamental ingredients.
     
  15. C C Consular Corps - "the backbone of diplomacy" Valued Senior Member

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    But the "hard problem" doesn't concern "consciousness" as the outward behavior of a body being able to navigate around in its environment, and the chains of microphysical interactions that eventually build-up to enabling that capacity. What it concerns is like an exploded diagram of all the components of a car engine looking just like that, but then some peculiar "new direction" or POV is introduced (for lack of a better metaphor) -- where, when studying the engine that way, the engine appears as sky and grass and flower scent and the feel of bark and the singing of birds. Also having private, audible-like conversations with itself manifested in the mix.

    Bringing quantum mechanics into it indeed does not help either; the entities and abstract descriptions of physics simply appear like the entities and abstract descriptions of physics; just as brain tissue publicly looks like brain tissue.

    Referring to the actions and dynamics of assorted scientific entities -- including oscillations -- doesn't help, either; actions don't float on their own minus what engages in them. If Timmy is running down the sidewalk, what's outwardly there is the changing form of Timmy's body moving along, not "running" itself as some disembodied ghost. And Timmy looks like Timmy. An exploded macro / micro view of his brain as tissues, neural structures, individual cells, molecular structures, atoms, etc appear as tissues, neural structures, cells, molecular structures, atoms; not something quite different. Not the Eiffel Tower having a dual appearance as both as itself and as Farmer John's woodland fringed pasture. (Never mind that both appearances -- public [extrospective] and private [introspective] -- are actually part of experience itself. But sustained acknowledgment that the former isn't really "experience-independent" [or "out there"] isn't even going to get in the front door except in some corners of philosophy).

    If Grok the caveman was presented with a DVD and told that the shinier surface on one side is the movie appearing on a TV screen and sounding from its speaker, he'd think we were crazy. But fortunately, Grok can be provided with an explanation. When it comes to the hard problem, a lot of curious people are still waiting for a satisfactory explanation. Note I emphasize "curious". There are people in the world who could watch a dinosaur teleport from one corner of a city block to another and not care less; even take offense that some other group was astonished and felt the incident needed more clarified about it than what was observed.
     
  16. Billy T Use Sugar Cane Alcohol car Fuel Valued Senior Member

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    I´ll just post this and let someone better versed than I am reply more: Below is the modern (since 1970 finished, but started in development in 1920s) standard model of fundamental particles, which, via virtual particle exchanges, make ALL the force fields (except possibly not the gravity field). All from this link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Standard_Model:

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    or in more numerical detail, these 61 fundamental or Elementary particles produce the fields of clasical physics (And some finite range fields classical physic knew little about):


    .....Types..Generations Antiparticle ....Colors....Total
    Quarks.......2..... 3 Pair .............3 .........36
    Leptons......2..... 3 Pair ............None......12
    Gluons........1..... 1 Own .............8...........8
    W.............1...... 1 Pair...............None .......2
    Z..............1 ......1 Own..............None ......1
    Photon...... 1...... 1 Own ............None ......1
    Higgs ........1...... 1 Own ............None ......1
    ........................................................Total 61

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    Here, in full, is the "overview" section, with one part made bold my me:
    * For example that the classical electric force field falls off / decreases as the inverse square, is sort obvious as the surface flux density of the virtual photons crossing any sphere centered on the charged particle decreases that way with the total surface of that sphere increasing as the square of the sphere radius.


    Good question, but very poor answer you give as why would each "hand full" of proton stuff have exactly the same mass to at least 8 figure accuracy?

    The correct answer is: Protons are made of three fundamental particles, called quarks, not from scoops of some continuous field of "proton stuff."

    The proton is made from two up and one down quarks (and the neutron from two down and one up quarks) - made from ONLY fundamental particles, not from a universe filling field of "proton stuff."
     
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  17. Magical Realist Valued Senior Member

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    I see..So now fields are NOT viable entities for explaining consciousness even though you suggested they might be. Tks for the "clarification"..
     
  18. Billy T Use Sugar Cane Alcohol car Fuel Valued Senior Member

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    As it has taken nearly 100 years to get a quite good understanding (the standard model) of the fundamentals of physic, if you could put any shred of flesh on those bones, you would save the Nobel selection process some money. - You would be the obvious and unchallenged winner of the physic prize.

    I say "quite good understanding" as at least four particles were predicted to exist before they were found and not only that, many of their properties were as the Standard Theory predicted. The Standard Theory is the collimation of a century´s work by 10,000 (or more?) very highly educated physic Ph. D.s
     
  19. Rav Valued Senior Member

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    If you'd read the material I linked you to, you'd realize that the quoted portion was simply an attempt to conceptualize the sort of thing that might be going on. In other words, it's an analogy to get you thinking in the right direction. It should be obvious that David Tong knows what quarks are. Go ahead and check out the rest of the lecture for context and perspective if you like.

    Further, no physicist who toys with the idea that fields are fundamental is trying to invalidate all of particle physics. As far as I can tell, the standard model would be just as useful if you posited that particles were made out of absurdly tiny fragments of ridiculously phenomenal purple elephant tusk from an alternate universe. So tell me, what is so problematic about suggesting that a particle is an excited piece of something more fundamental, like a field? You're not altering it's properties, you're just saying more about what it actually is. Just because the fundamental forces are mediated by force carrier particles doesn't mean that particles can't possibly be excitations of fields themselves.

    Anyway... I'm sorry Billy, but I'm just not going to be listening to you on this one. In fact the thing is that rather than demonstrating why modeling all particles as field excitations is unworkable, you just seem to be promoting the standard model as the be all and end all of modern physics. But aside from that, there are just too many accomplished physicists who don't seem to have your problem. But most importantly, I cbf'ed wandering off on this tangent with you anymore. Go solicit the opinions of our resident experts in the physics & math forum if you like, and I'll listen to them. But remember, I've been careful to point out, more than once, that I am not making statements about how reality actually works. I am merely referencing an idea that is already out there in the work, writing and musings of the physics community.
     
  20. Rav Valued Senior Member

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    Let's say you once ate a slice of cake that was so unbelievably phenomenally delicious that you were convinced it couldn't possibly have been made in the normal fashion or with the usual array of ingredients. Merely suggesting as much, and pointing in the general direction of where one might find some essential additive, doesn't really constitute a theory about how it was produced now does it?

    Those whom your wiki link discusses have gone considerably further, and this is an important distinction. It seems you have trouble with those, for whatever reason.
     
  21. Billy T Use Sugar Cane Alcohol car Fuel Valued Senior Member

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    To answer your question: Your speculation about “what it actually is” has zero supporting evidence. It is exactly like the speculation that there could be a large dense metal, perhaps gold, filled crater on the back side of the moon with slight cover of moon dust due to a collision, long ago of a basically pure gold meteor with the ejected cloud of moon material settling out as the covering dust. Both these speculations have zero supporting evidence.*

    The standard model has been very successful in predicting many things later confirmed by experiments and until there is some evidence that the standard model has a significant flaw, other than not yet being the theory of gravity, Occam´s Razor applies. Also applicable is “If it ain´t broke, don´t fix it.”

    What is there to recommend your idea than particles are themselves made from microfields compared to the alternate theory that they are made of soul stuff or the “gold crater on back side of the moon” theory? All these theories have then same amount of supporting evidence (zero*). Furthermore, why would you think your “microfields” are not made of even smaller virtual particles as the known nuclear and EM force fields are known to be made of "virtual particles"?

    One can play your postulate game (particles are made of fields, which made by even smaller particles, etc.) without end – an infinite regress based on only speculations, not evidence, “fixing” a simpler theory that “ain´t broke.”

    -------------
    *Actually there is some evidence for the dense masses near the moon surface from the minor deflections of satellites in low lunar orbit. They are called “masscons” and in a few years passive low altitude lunar orbits crash into the moon. At least twice this has been learned “the hard way.”

    PS - As I answered your questions; please don´forget to answer mine, which basically is: What recommends your ideas over the equally well supported alteratives, I mentioned?
     
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  22. Magical Realist Valued Senior Member

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    Sorry.. but suggesting fields as an explanation for consciousness is suggesting fields as explanation for consciousness. But backpeddle away for whatever reason. Frankly I found the suggestion quite intriguing. But in the future I'll try and not take your words so literally. More like vague intimations for other things you meant but for some reason couldn't put into words?
     
  23. Magical Realist Valued Senior Member

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    Wow..now that's a really clear analogy. Sometimes even I lapse into confusing the hard problem with the softer problems of consciousness. As is distinguished here: "Easy problems are easy because all that is required for their solution is to specify a mechanism that can perform the function. That is, their proposed solutions, regardless of how complex or poorly understood they may be, can be entirely consistent with the modern materialistic conception of natural phenomena. Chalmers claims that the problem of experience is distinct from this set, and he argues that the problem of experience will "persist even when the performance of all the relevant functions is explained". --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hard_problem_of_consciousness
     

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