Thursday, January 03, 2019

Panpsychism is needed to quantify consciousness

Let me assume that you consider yourself conscious. Let me assume that you admit that there's nothing too special about yourself – i.e. that you are not a hardcore solipsist. It must make sense for other people to be considered conscious – objectively or at least subjectively.

Now, is there something special about humans? From the scientific perspective, there is nothing qualitatively unique about the homo sapiens species – to think otherwise would mean to be anthropocentric which basically means to violate the lessons of Darwin's theory of evolution. All differences between humans and other organisms – or other bound states of elementary particles – must be considered quantitative details. A human body is an amazing engine but it is still a bound state of electrons and nuclei.

Try to define a quantity \(\Phi\) (pronounce "capital phi") that determines whether a physical system is conscious or how much it is conscious. The spectrum of \(\Phi\) may be either continuous or discrete or mixed. If it is discrete and distinguishes humans at \(\Phi=1\) from unconscious objects with \(\Phi=0\), there must exist a calculation of the probability that an intermediate object, or a dying or stupid person, is conscious. Effectively, the probability of \(\Phi=1\) is continuous, too.

Whatever you do, you will end up with the conclusion that as long as you look at the world quantitatively, there is a quantity \(\Phi\) that may be high for humans but – because humans don't qualitatively differ from other objects – it must be nonzero for other objects, too. \(\Phi\gt 0\) for your cat and puppy, perhaps for bacteriums, molecules, and the electron.

I have basically presented a proof of panpsychism, a philosophical view that there is a flavor of consciousness in all physical systems in the Universe. I believe that my reasoning above must be the idealized reason why the scholars who study consciousness increasingly consider panpsychism to be unavoidable.

They are joining a long list of famous names including like Thales, Parmenides, Plato, Averroes, Spinoza, Leibniz, and William James; and ancient philosophies such as Stoicism, Taoism, Vedanta and Mahayana Buddhism.

David Chalmers promoted the term "hard problem of consciousness" ("What causes it?") in 1995. More importantly, Giulio Tononi has developed the Integrated Information Theory (IIT). Between 2004 and 2014, he published the first, second, and third versions of that paradigm. He has some particular definition of \(\Phi\) – I deliberately chose the same letter as he does. His \(\Phi\), a measure of the amount of consciousness included in a physical system, is the maximum of "something like entanglement entropy" but not quite entanglement entropy over all possible separations of the physical system to two subsystems.

At any rate, even objects that are very different from humans – or organisms – will have a strictly positive \(\Phi\).

When you fairly evaluate Tononi's theory, you should separate your appraisal to several parts such as: Are his definitions internally consistent? Can they be applied to objects in the real world? Do they have calculable values, at least approximately? Can the values be measured, directly or indirectly? Do these numbers behave naturally in any sense? In particular, what is \(\Phi\) for composite systems? How does \(\Phi\) depend on the time scales, distance scales, and energy scales in a problem (describing the behavior of the physical system)? And is there any link between \(\Phi\) and our informal understanding of the presence or amount of consciousness?

But some people are simply not fair. They are not even capable of being fair. So Sabine Hossenfelder wrote a short rant titled electrons don't think. Electrons aren't conscious, we hear, because the particles collide according to the Standard Model which disproves panpsychism and you should run from "philosophers".

Holy cow.

She claims to have "discovered" panpsychism, by which she means that she only recently heard about it for the first time. In reality, she completely and totally misunderstands all the relevant issues. First of all, "thinking" and "consciousness" are not the same thing, as she demagogically suggests. Second, collisions according to the Standard Model have nothing directly to do with consciousness, either, in contrast to her assertions. Third, calling the panpsychism champions "philosophers" is just swearing and it contains no evidence that they are wrong. Fourth, she is clearly unaware of the simple "proof" of panpsychism I started with. Fifth, she makes totally wrong statements about physics such as:
Now, if you want a particle to be conscious, your minimum expectation should be that the particle can change. [...] In other words, electrons aren’t conscious, and neither are any other particles. It’s incompatible with data.
Sorry but the electron definitely can change. One electron is a physical system that carries some observables – the position/momentum and the spin, or their functions. Because these observables are \(q\)-numbers and not just \(c\)-numbers, i.e. because there are at least two possible eigenvalues of these observables, electrons carry the information in general and the properties carrying the information definitely can change.

In fact, the ability of an electron to carry the information – by having the spin up or down, or one value of momentum (or energy level in the atom) or another – isn't particularly small. If you add up all the qubits or other information that electrons in your body can carry, you will get more than enough information space to explain all the information that may be needed for the consciousness of the human being that you call yourself.

But we live in the post-truth epoch in which aggressive stupid Niemands such as Ms Hossenfelder who have absolutely no valid arguments and who don't understand anything that matters for the problems they claim to address are being promoted by similar post-truth garbage that has filled the newspapers and magazines that used to be science magazines. I am always shocked by the dozens of total imbeciles who fill comment sections of crackpots' blogs such as Hossenfelder's blog and who smack their lips when they are served this extra-stinky šit. What is wrong with you? Why are there so many individuals on the Internet who belong to the garbage bin instead?

Needless to say, I think that there are research topics that I consider much more important than panpsychism. But the same is happening to them. Hostile individuals such as Ms Hossenfelder are constantly attacking state-of-the-art scientific disciplines with totally wrong arguments and with malicious demagogy. They don't even try to learn the basics of the fields they are attacking because they rely on the existence of hundreds of other evil people who make sure that the demagogues get away with their disgustingly stupid attacks.

In other words, none of these people actually has any desire to find the truth or to be good (let alone world class) at doing the intellectual work. They just want to succeed as talking heads and because tons of idiotic aggressively presented lies and stupidities are enough for that, thanks to the large number of undemanding listeners among the target audiences, they choose the easiest path to "success".

I want the old world order back. I want the world where this these folks don't have the influence we see today.

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