Physics of Consciousness

I’ve been sitting on this Physics of Consciousness link for a while, without so far watching the video interviews, because of both the topic and the participants. I’m a bit sceptical I’ll hear anything newly convincing, but I will take a look.

(Also worth linking because of the overall range of material on Robert Lawrence Kuhn’s “Closer to Truth” PBS site generally, but FQXi and Templeton I notice. Is Templeton also the reason Dennett not involved in EES?)

Post Notes:-

David Chalmers – Non-reductionist emphasis, new fundamental role for something like consciousness. Tononi “integrated information theory”. Materialist /identity theory (Penrose /Hameroff) adds nothing.

[My own Tononi / IIT Links here.]

Sean Carroll – Unreconstructed determinist reductionist – simply emergence of useful-category short-hand.

David Wallace – References Dennett, but seems to be an epiphenomenalist – no interaction backward interaction from conscious to physical. But like Dennett he does agree the problem is with our arguments, not with our subjective intuition.

Max Tegmark – Fact is outstanding mysteries of physics do seem to have issues with consciousness. Prejudice regarding the subjective element in objective physics. But, the hard-problem is actually a hard-fact. Consciousness is a real thing, however fundamental or otherwise. Clearly some additional fundamental principle about information processing. (Tegmark seems pretty close to my position, see also Rovelli.)

Bernard Carr – (seen him talk previously at HTLGI) – Sees the limitations of most science seeing consciousness as one-way emergent epiphenomenal from physics, whereas there clearly is interaction. Consciousness is more fundamental than that -William James. Filter, limiter or transducer of information processing consciousness in the brain, (doesn’t actually use the phrase) free-won’t rather than free-will, but … not the creator or consciousness. Consciousness is a primary fundamental element of physics. It’s physical reality that is the secondary manifestation of more fundamental information processing, Carr is not a “panpsychist”, but prepared to countenance effects that science would brand as “paranormal” phenomena. Any way – NOT simple reductionist.

[One to one interview format is much better than conference “debate” formats!]

Paul Davies – Systems view, more than the sum of the parts. (Also a Tononi integrated information reference. No reference to Tononi in Rovelli?) Promising. Not panpsychist, but some proto-conscious stuff must be missing from models – but not necessarily an independent fundamental stuff. Physics and psychic must both arise from same info stuff – form and complexity (“II” must also relate to entropy?)

Jeff Tollaksen – new to me – and not sure I get anything newly intelligible, other than it’s a problem with our tools or particle-properties models – Hammer / Nail metaphor? Quantum miracles! Hmmm.

Don Page – also new to me – “sensible quantum mechanics” and “mindless sensationalism”. Interesting, “sensible” is a parameter I use. Speculative framework rather than a theory or thesis. Limitations of explanations in descriptive physics are everywhere, not just with consciousness, so “hard-problem” is an unfair categorisation for lack of explanation of subjectivity.


Also published on Medium.

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