I continue to be fascinated by the developments at the British Computer Society Cybernetic Machine Specialist Group (BCS Cybernetics Group or BCSCMSG for short) despite the dense specialist jargon making proceedings all but unintelligible to any lay reader like myself. Here is the synopsis of papers presented at the BCSCMSG Symposium 10 as part of CASYS’05 (Computing Anticipatory Systems 2005 Conference) in Liege in August earlier this year.
My principle fascination, and reason for following proceedings over several years (and blogging many previous references), has been the apparent fundamental nature of information underlying reality itself, as part of my specific interest in modelling and communicating information about reality, at least in so far as humans can know and communicate reality.
Paraphrasing … the BCSCMSG current mission is to establish the Evolutionary ‘Anthropic’ Semantic Principle, by which the fundamental physical foundations of computing as used in brains, can be realized. The human brain is a universal computational semantic machine and [the Diaz-Rowlands re-write of the Nilpotent Dirac Equation of] quantum physics provides a natural model and modes by which human natural language is realized to allow the human race to comprehend the evolutionary cosmos. No less.
The philosophy of mind and mind-matter angles, of what can be known about reality (epistemology), the processes of knowing of it (consciousness et al), and what any independent reality might be (ontology), is clearly relevant to the modelling of information about reality. Suspending disbelief it is also possible to accept that quanta (as the smallest significant differences that can exist between anything) are probably the most fundamental building blocks of information as well as the building blocks of “matter”.
Despite also accepting mind (consciousness) as emergent from brain physiology (matter & processes) what is mind blowing is the idea that the emergence (clearly complex and multi-layered) can have a causal and direct reductionist explanation that is also based on quantum mechanics. (Why not ? says Josephson. Yes, “microtubules” say Hammeroff and Penrose. No, “that’s mere pixie-dust” say the Churchlands, Blackmore and Dennett. Sceptical says Deutsch. Who needs reductionism and causality say Deutsch and Chalmers.) Quantum mechanical effects in brain-mind processes, not to mention in the wider DNA-life processes themselves – how weird can this get ?
OK, so holographic universe (Talbot); multiple interfering universes (Everett / Wheeler / Deutsch); are believable at the quantum scale, universes or states with small differences, small departures from coherence. OK too, non-locality, action-at-a-distance, anticipation, future actions travelling ahead faster than light, can also be credible at similar quantum scales and near coherence maybe ? (Even the practicioners working with these “models” struggle to accept these as everyday “paradigmatic” world-views.)
It’s all there to be read about. Quantum mechanics based mathematics behind everything from seemingly abstract things like fundamental number theory and mathematics itself and theories of computation, through physics naturally, to large-scale coherence in processes in brains and macro-cosmological feedback loops in the cosmos itself.
And if that’s not weird enough, it even comes with a bootstrapping mechanism to create something (ie everything) from nothing.
The nothing that is, that is.
Watch that space.
Hope these people also turn up at Tucson2006.