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Alan Kadin: on 4/7/17 at 12:36pm UTC, wrote Dear Dr. Dizhechko, I already responded to your comment of April 5th –...

Alan Kadin: on 4/7/17 at 12:33pm UTC, wrote Dear Mr. Walker, Thank you for reading my essay. In response to your...

Alan Kadin: on 4/7/17 at 12:32pm UTC, wrote Dear Mr. Amberden, Thank you for reading my essay, and for your comments. ...

Dizhechko Semyonovich: on 4/7/17 at 9:46am UTC, wrote Dear Sirs! Physics of Descartes, which existed prior to the physics of...

Bruce Amberden: on 4/7/17 at 4:48am UTC, wrote Hello Alan Kadin, I very much enjoyed your essay; it’s an excellent...

William Walker: on 4/6/17 at 22:18pm UTC, wrote Dear Alan, I really liked your ending calling for cooperation... very...

George Kirakosyan: on 4/5/17 at 17:56pm UTC, wrote Thank you for kindly words, dear Kadin. You have almost rightly...

Alan Kadin: on 4/5/17 at 16:43pm UTC, wrote Dear Dr. Dizhechko, I am not sure that I understand your analysis, and the...


Jonathan Dickau: "As it turns out... My personal philosophy specifically treats the notion..." in FQXi Essay Contest 2016:...

Jonathan Dickau: "I agree Lorraine, I've never been so much a fan of the 'paragon of..." in FQXi Essay Contest 2016:...

Quantum Antigravity: "EXPERIMENTAL quantum Anti-gravity —..." in The Myth of Gravity

Pentcho Valev: "Money for teleology and silly songs only? The teleology contest is a..." in Towards a Goal — Two...

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Bohemian Reality: Searching for a Quantum Connection to Consciousness
Is there are sweet spot where artificial intelligence systems could have the maximum amount of consciousness while retaining powerful quantum properties?

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To build the ultimate artificial mimics of real life systems, we may need to use quantum memory.

Painting a QBist Picture of Reality
A radical interpretation of physics makes quantum theory more personal.

The Spacetime Revolutionary
Carlo Rovelli describes how black holes may transition to "white holes," according to loop quantum gravity, a radical rewrite of fundamental physics.

Riding the Rogue Quantum Waves
Could giant sea swells help explain how the macroscopic world emerges from the quantum microworld? (Image credit: MIT News)

April 24, 2017

CATEGORY: Wandering Towards a Goal Essay Contest (2016-2017) [back]
TOPIC: No Ghost in the Machine by Alan M. Kadin [refresh]
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Author Alan M. Kadin wrote on Mar. 1, 2017 @ 20:13 GMT
Essay Abstract

The prevalent pre-scientific paradigm for understanding nature focused on design or intention, even for inanimate objects. This approach was debunked by Newton for physics, and by Darwin for biology. But belief in the unique supernatural nature of human intelligence is still widespread. I argue that biological intelligence is due to simple evolved structures based on neural networks, without the need for any new physical mechanisms (quantum or classical) or a “ghost in the machine”. Humans see agency and intent everywhere, because we are programmed to do so. The conscious mind may turn out to be a virtual reality simulation that is largely illusory. Furthermore, these structures may be emulated in artificial neural networks, to create true artificial intelligence.

Author Bio

Alan M. Kadin is a physicist and engineer with a Ph.D. in Physics from Harvard on superconducting devices. Following a career in both academia and industry, Dr. Kadin is now an independent technical consultant. One of his current projects is exploring the future of computing as part of the IEEE Rebooting Computing Initiative. He has been submitting essays to FQXi since 2012. For further information, see his LinkedIn page.

Download Essay PDF File

Eckard Blumschein wrote on Mar. 2, 2017 @ 07:18 GMT
If there will be another FQXi context and I may contribute again, then I will perhaps quote you again because I consider your courageous reasoning important.

Please feel confirmed and further motivated by Wudu's cry for help.

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Author Alan M. Kadin replied on Mar. 5, 2017 @ 03:24 GMT
Dear Dr. Blumschein,

Thank you for your encouraging comment. Of course what is courageous to some may be foolish to others.

Alan Kadin

Branko L Zivlak wrote on Mar. 2, 2017 @ 08:12 GMT
DearMr. Kadin

You're right. But, what is the ultimate reason for the ‘noise’ and the lack of determinism.

Best regards,

Branko Zivlak

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Author Alan M. Kadin replied on Mar. 5, 2017 @ 03:25 GMT
Dear Mr. Zivlak,

In any complex system with very many degrees of freedom, it is impossible in practice to control all of the degrees of freedom, or even to know them accurately. That constitutes ‘noise’. Predictions in such systems are always based on simplified models, which inevitably leads to uncertainty.

Alan Kadin

Member George F. R. Ellis wrote on Mar. 2, 2017 @ 08:21 GMT
Dear Alan Kadin

very nice essay, taking the macro viewpoint seriously.

>> The stated question in this essay contest, “How can mindless mathematical laws give rise to aims and intention?,” implicitly assumes that human behavior should be ultimately derivable from particle physics. This is entirely wrong, on several levels.

Correct! The higher levels also have their own causal powers. This is possible because of the interplay of bottom-up and top-down effects between the various levels.

>> The paradigm of natural selection is central not only to biology, but to psychology as well. Neural networks are capable of learning and adaptation to complex environments, and the conscious mind represents a simplified dynamic model of the environment. Goals and intentions are abstract representations of adaptive programs that can promote individual well-being and success.

Yes indeed. Again this depends on the neural nets realising their logic via lower level elements, whether neurons and synapses or logic gates based in transistors


George Ellis

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Author Alan M. Kadin replied on Mar. 5, 2017 @ 03:27 GMT
Dear Prof. Ellis,

Thank you for your supportive comments. I am taking this argument a bit further, and suggesting a mechanism for constructing consciousness in biological or electronic systems. This is somewhat speculative, but may be testable and should encourage further discussion.

Alan Kadin

Andrew R. Scott wrote on Mar. 2, 2017 @ 12:14 GMT
One of the few sensible essays; but I struggle with your talk of the "illusion of consciousness" because I know that I am conscious, using my definition of consciousness. Maybe I need to re-read, but in what sense could my experience of consciousness be an illusion? Rather than consciousness as such, do you mean my sense of control and of freewill? I perfectly understand that these may be an illusion.

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Author Alan M. Kadin replied on Mar. 5, 2017 @ 03:28 GMT
Dear Mr. Scott,

Thank you for your comments. I assure you that I also feel that I am conscious, with a unified mind. However, I am suggesting that this very sense of self is largely an illusion, disguising the complex interactions among many different brain circuits that give rise to the self. Consciousness is the tip of an iceberg, and you cannot understand the dynamics of an iceberg just by focusing on the tip above the water.

Alan Kadin

sridattadev kancharla wrote on Mar. 2, 2017 @ 14:06 GMT
Dear Alan Kadin,

It's difficult to confirm which is fundamental, consciousness or matter, which is emerging from which, however it's obvious that they are intertwined. So instead of debating which is first we should acknowledge the importance of both. They are like software and hardware of a computing system. The system is meaning less with either. I welcome you to read there are no goals as such its all play, in which i propose that we humans are capable of interpreting our reality from with in a 3-sphere and that consciousness is the 2-sphere manifold (Riemann sphere) with in that model. We can also created artificial consciousness based on the article representation of Qdits on Riemann sphere for quantum computing. We can abstract all objective and subjective phenomenon that we see and experience using mathematical geometry and transfer that to an artificial being. If the objective part is the machine, then we may call the subjective part the ghost. So there "can" be a ghost in the machine if we say so. It's a mere perspective or expression of choice. Also please see the attached document with several diagrams that i have made from my exploration of human condition.



attachments: 1_zero__i__infinity.docx

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sridattadev kancharla replied on Mar. 2, 2017 @ 14:10 GMT
Correction - The computing system is meaning less with out either one of software or hardware.

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Author Alan M. Kadin replied on Mar. 5, 2017 @ 03:30 GMT
Dear Mr. Kancharla,

If you read my essay, you will see that I argue that consciousness represents a specific brain structure, rather than any independent entity or aspect. I am afraid that I cannot make much sense out of your document “zero=i=infinity”.

Alan Kadin

Mark Pharoah wrote on Mar. 2, 2017 @ 20:42 GMT
Perhaps Alan, we can rephrase the question for you: why is it that the illusion of intentionality exists? Is nature really in the business of creating illusions for illusions sake? If you see a tree, you might say, "it's an illusion; just as my consciousness is an illusion" etc, but why would nature bother with the fallacy of your existential self?

Another way of looking at it is as follows:

Physics may explain that an atom of a type X will behave as all atoms of type X behave; likewise that a system of type Y will behave as all systems of type Y behave; and therefore that an organism of type human will behave as all organisms of type humans behave, as in, they all read and write, all play and fight etc. Thus, the processes of one human to another are identical in their physical nature. But here in lies a problem surely. If you are conscious of your 'self', but all such system-types as yourself are indistinguishable in the manner of the physics, why is your 'self' not all such systems or none? What physical principle or law, can be applied to all selves that have existed in the history of the universe (and will exist in the future) that will account for the uniqueness that you can identify as 'your particular self'? Are you sure there is no ghost?

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Author Alan M. Kadin replied on Mar. 5, 2017 @ 03:31 GMT
Dear Mr. Pharaoh,

As I address in the essay, the illusion of intentionality exists because it is enables rapid decisions in complex dynamic environments, and is thus highly adaptive. The sense of a unified ‘self’ is also an illusion. These are not merely opinions; they are consistent with experimental observations in modern cognitive science.

Alan Kadin

Mark Pharoah replied on Mar. 6, 2017 @ 21:38 GMT
You say, "the illusion of intentionality exists because it is enables rapid decisions in complex dynamic environments,"

"it enables"? I take it that "it" refers not to the illusion or to intentionality in your sentence, but to the complex processes (otherwise it would be nonsense i.e., to say of an illusion that it enables something to happen...). And on this assumption (the assumption that "it" refers to complex processes), the illusion of intentionality has no function on your account... it is a kind of by-product of complex processes. Conversely, were it to have a function, then, it would have an effect which would be to say it is not immaterial to the process and thereby not illusory. If it has no function, then why does nature bother to have the illusion exist (it would have no survival benefit)? I get the sense of the logic going round in circles. Can you square it for me please?

You also suggest that your stance is not an opinion but fact, courtesy of cognitive science... Really?!

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Kigen William Ekeson wrote on Mar. 2, 2017 @ 21:39 GMT
Dear Alan Kadin,

Thanks for your interesting essay. I can't say that I agree with your position, but I enjoyed reading the piece. One point that I will comment on was the following;

"Furthermore, we tend to see ourselves as free agents, but we actually have much less control than we think we do. Control is just another illusion."

I would argue that one of the defining characteristics of any animate entity is control. It is only by maintaining a certain relationship between inner and outer conditions that that ability to control is maintained, and ultimately expanded (via evolution). So, how can control be an illusion? If you meant to write "conscious control", well that's a bit different. However, I would argue that it seems pretty clear that, in general, self-control increases as the complexity of an organism increases. Do you really think that people aren't getting together to decide to build things like the LHC, or to send a probe to Mars, or sell some shares of stock? It seems clear that although our conscious control as human being most certainly is supervenient upon a vast array of unconscious expressions of control, and an even larger array of uncontrolled inanimate causes, that our conscious experience cannot be labeled as an illusion.


William Ekeson

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Author Alan M. Kadin replied on Mar. 5, 2017 @ 03:32 GMT
Dear Mr. Ekeson,

Thank you for your interest. My key point is that the sense of an independent unified self seems real and self-evident, but this sense is highly misleading. This perceived self is an adaptive structure, which hides its origins. Only by looking beneath the obvious can we truly understand the nature of the structure.

Alan Kadin

Stefan Weckbach wrote on Mar. 3, 2017 @ 02:49 GMT
Dear Alan Kadin,

it seems to me that you identify the source of all meaning as irreducible randomness. Mathematically, this would be no problem, since if one waits long enough, every possible event will occur. Nonetheless i ponder about the nature of randomness, if it plays such a crucial role in nature. Surely, its essence is due to the fact, that its subsequent events do - per definition...

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Author Alan M. Kadin replied on Mar. 5, 2017 @ 03:35 GMT
Dear Dr. Weckbach,

You seem to have misunderstood the key point of my essay. Specifically, the direction of evolution or learning derives from the environment. Randomness assures that all local variations are explored, but only those that are adaptive to the environment are maintained.

You ask how illusions reveal profound truths, while I have proposed that illusions actually hide profound truths. We need to look behind the curtain to find out what is really going on.

Alan Kadin

Stefan Weckbach replied on Mar. 5, 2017 @ 18:36 GMT
Dear Alan Kadin,

if what you have analysed is a profound truth, then the illusions you spoke of not only hide profound truths, but they also can reveal them. Therefore illusion seems to me the wrong term for a mind that is able to look behind the curtain. Indeed, there is no contradiction between a physical brain, hiding some irrelevant things according to Darwinian evolution and a brain...

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Ajay Pokhrel wrote on Mar. 4, 2017 @ 13:18 GMT
Hello, Mr. Kadin,

Your essay is the first essay that I have started in FQXI for discussion as the topic is very interesting and I, pretty much enjoyed the most part of the essay.

Your way of defining illusion is very different from others. The part that I liked very much was when you mentioned " So biological design, too, is an illusion, which is explainable in terms of blind adaptation to complex environments " and "Control is just another illusion."

Also check out my essay "Our Numerical Universe" showing how, by knowing numbers and mathematical patterns of universe, we could reach aims and intentions.

Best Regards,


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Author Alan M. Kadin replied on Mar. 5, 2017 @ 03:36 GMT
Dear Ajay,

Thank you for your interest. I will read your essay.

Alan Kadin

Joe Fisher replied on Mar. 7, 2017 @ 16:57 GMT
Dear Dr. Alan M. Kadin,

Please excuse me for I have no intention of disparaging in any way any part of your essay.

I merely wish to point out that “Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.” Albert Einstein (1879 - 1955) Physicist & Nobel Laureate.

Only nature could produce a reality so simple, a single cell amoeba could deal with it.

The real Universe must consist only of one unified visible infinite physical surface occurring in one infinite dimension, that am always illuminated by infinite non-surface light.

A more detailed explanation of natural reality can be found in my essay, SCORE ONE FOR SIMPLICITY. I do hope that you will read my essay and perhaps comment on its merit.

Joe Fisher, Realist

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Author Alan M. Kadin replied on Mar. 11, 2017 @ 02:36 GMT
Dear Mr. Fisher,

I am afraid that I cannot understand your sentence about infinite surface, infinite dimension, and infinite light, even after reviewing your essay.

Alan Kadin

Edwin Eugene Klingman wrote on Mar. 7, 2017 @ 07:04 GMT
Dear Alan Kadin,

We have, in past essays, agreed in general but differed in the details. For example, the wave aspect of fundamental particles reflects internal rotating vector fields while the external motion follows classical particle trajectories. Entanglement is rejected.

Similarly, we do not believe mind and consciousness to be related to quantum effects on the atomic level. [Or...

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Author Alan M. Kadin replied on Mar. 11, 2017 @ 02:39 GMT
Dear Dr. Klingman,

Thank you for reading my essay, and for your comments. I agree that classical AI was overhyped decades ago, but recent AI approaches based on “deep learning” are finally starting to achieve breakthroughs. Further, I anticipate that current research programs in brain science and brain-inspired computing will converge in identifying a computational architecture to account for both biological and artificial consciousness, in the foreseeable future.

Alan Kadin

Satyavarapu Naga Parameswara Gupta wrote on Mar. 7, 2017 @ 07:56 GMT
Nice essay Kadin,

Your arguments are excellent I just quoted some of them below….

1. I argue that biological intelligence is due to simple evolved structures based on neural networks, without the need for any new physical mechanisms (quantum or classical) or a “ghost in the machine”. Humans see agency and intent everywhere, because we are programmed to do so. The conscious...

view entire post

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Author Alan M. Kadin replied on Mar. 11, 2017 @ 02:41 GMT
Dear Mr. Gupta,

Thank you for reading my essay, and I will take a look at your essay on the Dynamic Universe Model.

Alan Kadin

Peter Jackson wrote on Mar. 7, 2017 @ 15:00 GMT

Quite brilliant! I'm in stunned admiration of ability to far better and more clearly express almost all the many concepts in my own essay, plus others. I've also argued that 'agency' is a misnoma in the strings but you put the case far better. I can't list all agreement but picked out the following;

"..most of human behavior is subconscious and irrational." "..a similar...

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Author Alan M. Kadin replied on Mar. 11, 2017 @ 02:42 GMT
Dear Peter,

I’m glad you enjoyed my essay, and I hope more people will read it.

I look forward to reading your essay and watching the accompanying video.


David Brown wrote on Mar. 8, 2017 @ 08:34 GMT
"My view is that that the subjective experience of consciousness reflects the brain activity associated not with the entire brain, but only that small portion that is projected into this self-conscious virtual reality construct." My guess is that the preceding statement represents an important insight. What is the evolutionary role of consciousness? It might be a mechanism for coordinating and triggering the various brain areas needed for decision-making and short-term learning — good decision-making and short-term learning would be that which promotes survival and reproduction — "good" would mean that which nature selects.

"The field of "artificial intelligence" is almost as old as computers themselves, but it has long fallen far short of its goals. The traditional method of artificial intelligence is to devise a list of rules about a particular topic, and program them into a conventional computer. But knowledge of a fixed set of rigid rules in not what we generally mean by intelligence." The preceding is another important insight, in my estimation. The "rule-based approach" to AI seems to me to be a fundamentally misguided "control freak" approach to AI. Heuristic algorithms and logic programming might work for about 5% of AI problems, but deep learning and robotics-based open-ended feeding of deep learning might be needed for 95% of AI problems. The problem would be that if the human brain becomes obsolete, human beings might find out that Darwinian evolution is brutal, wasteful, relentless, and inevitable. See how people treat mice and rats in laboratories and ask yourself if you want the human brain to become obsolete.

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Author Alan M. Kadin replied on Mar. 11, 2017 @ 02:44 GMT
Dear Mr. Brown,

Thank you for your careful reading of my essay. I think I have identified some of the important questions, but I don’t have all the answers. The conscious mind seems to filter the enormous amount of data present in senses and memories, selecting out only the data that is most relevant for careful integration into a simplified model. Too much data can be overwhelming or even crippling. Our new always-on internet-based society is showing that all too clearly.

Alan Kadin

James Arnold wrote on Mar. 10, 2017 @ 17:29 GMT

Fascinating! We are diametrically opposed on the issue of consciousness and intention. I am rating you highly, as you express the reductionist abstraction from the irreducible in elegant and classic fashion. But your explanations are unable to explain your own creativity, which is wonderfully ironic.

Please allow me to quote one aspect of consciousness that is inexplicable in...

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Author Alan M. Kadin replied on Mar. 11, 2017 @ 02:58 GMT
Dear Prof. Arnold,

I realize that my essay may be a bit provocative, but I believe it is presents a clear argument for the materialist viewpoint, and provides a basis for further discussion. The FQXi essay contest offers a unique opportunity for people with disparate viewpoints to have such discussions.

Thank you for reading my essay. I look forward to reading your essay and the article that you identified.

Alan Kadin

Héctor Daniel Gianni wrote on Mar. 11, 2017 @ 23:40 GMT
Dear Alan M. Kadin

I invite you and every physicist to read my work “TIME ORIGIN,DEFINITION AND EMPIRICAL MEANING FOR PHYSICISTS, Héctor Daniel Gianni ,I’m not a physicist.

How people interested in “Time” could feel about related things to the subject.

1) Intellectuals interested in Time issues usually have a nice and creative wander for the unknown.

2) They usually enjoy this wander of their searches around it.

3) For millenniums this wander has been shared by a lot of creative people around the world.

4) What if suddenly, something considered quasi impossible to be found or discovered such as “Time” definition and experimental meaning confronts them?

5) Their reaction would be like, something unbelievable,… a kind of disappointment, probably interpreted as a loss of wander…..

6) ….worst than that, if we say that what was found or discovered wasn’t a viable theory, but a proved fact.

7) Then it would become offensive to be part of the millenary problem solution, instead of being a reason for happiness and satisfaction.

8) The reader approach to the news would be paradoxically adverse.

9) Instead, I think it should be a nice welcome to discovery, to be received with opened arms and considered to be read with full attention.

11)Time “existence” is exclusive as a “measuring system”, its physical existence can’t be proved by science, as the “time system” is. Experimentally “time” is “movement”, we can prove that, showing that with clocks we measure “constant and uniform” movement and not “the so called Time”.

12)The original “time manuscript” has 23 pages, my manuscript in this contest has only 9 pages.

I share this brief with people interested in “time” and with physicists who have been in sore need of this issue for the last 50 or 60 years.


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Author Alan M. Kadin replied on Mar. 12, 2017 @ 13:08 GMT
Dear Hector,

I agree that time is a primary parameter in physics, biology, and psychology. I will read your essay more carefully.

My own view, mentioned in my essay in the End Notes, is that on the microscopic level, time is defined by quantum waves. The characteristic time for an electron is h/mc^2 = 8e-21 s, the period of a quantum oscillation.

Alan Kadin

Willy K wrote on Mar. 12, 2017 @ 05:41 GMT
Wonderful essay. Loved the suggestion towards the end of the essay on using dreams as a measure of consciousness. I agree that Turing test is not good enough, principally because it requires reference to humans. My own suggestion on separating intelligent systems is the result of the model I have built in my essay. It is premised on the Constitutional nation state being the next level of emergence after the level of the individual.

I agree with you that most animals could have some form of consciousness, but I would argue that even if that were so, they would not be classified as being intelligent. You appear to be hopeful that AI systems will appear in the next few decades. I am not sure where I stand with regard to intrinsic AI systems, but I am negative on extrinsic AI systems. The difference between the two is that the former will be self-contained (like an individual) while the latter will be more like a government.

Regards. Willy

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Author Alan M. Kadin replied on Mar. 12, 2017 @ 13:09 GMT
Dear Willy,

Thank you for your comments. I will read your essay.

With regard to AI, my preference would be for a small local “digital assistant” under one’s control, rather than a mysterious oracle in the cloud.

Alan Kadin

Willy K replied on Mar. 26, 2017 @ 06:37 GMT
It is interesting that ours are the only two essays that bring in the concept of Corporation Boards into this contest. I rate your essay highly. I also note that you have written (earlier) about avoiding the paradox of quantum entanglement and measurement. I missed this when I first read your essay. You might want to check out Racicot’s essay since it too attempts to resolve the same paradox.

Regards, Willy

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Georgina Woodward wrote on Mar. 13, 2017 @ 01:36 GMT
Hi Alan, you have said a great many sensible things. I thought it a well written, very accessible essay.

A few quibbles...

You wrote in regard to evolution; "There is no underlying goal or intent, apart from survival." A. Kardin 2017. I think that not even survival is a prior goal but survival is the outcome of a functional structure able to avoid its elimination. Tommaso Bolognesi has written in his essay about the linguistic use of 'goal' when it is actually an external viewpoint post occurrence of outcome.

You wrote: "The primary feature that distinguishes biological systems from physical systems is exponential reproduction, based on the digital code of DNA." A. Kardin 2017. I don't know why you have called it digital. It is a chemical code and the structure of those chemicals are necessary for the function of protein building and mRNa building. The letters of the base pairs are not just like numbers but associated with material structure. I can't readily see a definition of digital that would fit.

Re. your: "In particular, only a guided design can produce a radical redesign in a single step. In contrast, the unguided design of natural selection can only make minor modifications per generation, each of which must be adaptive." A. Kardin 2017. Not all genes are equal in the effect they have on structure or function. Also some are control genes that have effects on many other genes. So a small change can have a large effect. Also there can be epigenetic effects altering gene expression of many genes. Not all selection is adaptive. A characteristic can be harmful but so long as the carrier is able to survive and reproduce rather than not it can be passed on in the gene pool.

Kind regards Georgina

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Author Alan M. Kadin replied on Mar. 14, 2017 @ 01:53 GMT
Dear Georgina,

Thank you for your careful reading of my essay, and for your comments.

I agree with you that my explanation of evolution and adaptation were a bit simplified, but I was trying to emphasize the power of adaptation to a physics audience that has mostly overlooked it. Adaptation is mathematical, but the mathematics are not the closed-form differential equations that physicists are used to.

My other key point is that almost everything we think we know about the human mind from our subjective perceptions is illusory. That is why progress in understanding consciousness and intelligence have been so difficult. Even our attempts at emulating intelligence using computers have been misdirected. But ongoing research in cognitive science, brain science, and computer science may lead to a dramatic change in the not-too-distant future. I might even be around to witness it (and I’m 64).

Best Wishes,

Alan Kadin

Ben Tolkin wrote on Mar. 17, 2017 @ 01:41 GMT
This felt more like a long setup than an essay; it's all accurate, but there's so much further to go! The idea that our conscious perception of our aims is mainly a post-facto rationalization isn't that controversial, and I'd be more interested in *why* this property exists. What is it about conscious, simplified models of the world that allows for better decision-making in complex environments? Why, if both the world and our minds are mostly chaotic and difficult to perceive, is it adaptive for organisms to set up conscious aims at all? This implies a certain level of order above the chaotic interactions of particles that only emerges at particular scale, and allows for reasonable interpretations of the terms "aims and intentions" beyond the idea of "conscious goals."

To be fair, after reading through the other essays, there are apparently plenty of people in the world who still believe in Cartesian dualism to the point of mysticism, but the scientific community is pretty well over it. I just thought this essay focused to much on interpreting the topic as "spiritual" vs. materialist consciousness, which isn't the only way to approach it, and spent a lot of time reiterating a solid but very old set of arguments.

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Author Alan M. Kadin replied on Mar. 17, 2017 @ 03:12 GMT
Dear Mr. Tolkin,

Thank you reading my essay, and for your comments.

You assert that the illusion of consciousness is widely accepted, but unfortunately, that is not the case, even among scientists. The essay was written primarily for those who are open-minded but still unclear.

My other key point is that evolutionary adaptation is a powerful general paradigm, and is indeed mathematical, even if the mathematics are not the closed-form differential equations that physicists are used to.

As to why consciousness is adaptive, that is probably the easier question. In a world of predators and competition, rapid decisions and actions are adaptive; hesitation is not. Simple models also lend themselves to social cooperation, which is adaptive, in contrast to solitary introspection. We believe ourselves to be rational free agents, but that is another illusion. These illusions are themselves adaptive, which is why they are so persistent.

Finally, only by seeing through the illusions will we be able to emulate natural intelligence and design truly intelligent machines.

I will read your essay. Good Luck in the competition.

Alan Kadin

Rajiv K Singh wrote on Mar. 25, 2017 @ 06:14 GMT
Dear Kadin,

In this essay, a feel good factor exists throught out, and also generates a sense that we saw an over all picture. As I felt, in all the discussions of mind, and consciousness, an agency forms a basis as a given feature, with an ability to identify itself, and model the environment around. So, I decided to take a few points regarding this.

In Fig.2B, a small modification...

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Author Alan M. Kadin wrote on Mar. 25, 2017 @ 14:23 GMT
Dear Dr. Singh:

Thank you for your careful reading of my essay, and for your extensive comments.

With respect to Fig. 2B, you are correct that this represents many systems evolving in parallel, so that many directions of evolution are possible.

The question of how a conscious mind recognizes self and agency is indeed an important one. Minds are designed to recognize the continuity of objects even if they move or change, and further to identify correlations as causal. For example, if object A moves next to resting object B, which suddenly moves, then object A is an agent that caused (non-agent) object B to move. Neural networks are good at matching patterns like this.

With respect to how a virtual reality construction representing consciousness first evolves, that too is an important question. But consider the need of an animal to partition a visual field into objects of various categories: food, threats, mates, competitors. Some of these identifications may be instinctive, but others may be learned. The ability to make dynamic identifications based on past experiences would be highly adaptive. A dynamic model with active embedded links can start out simple, and become more complex with evolution.

With respect to my comments in the conclusion about illusions, my key point is that our subjective perceptions are NOT the same as the external reality. Instead, they represent a simplified construction, like a dream or a virtual reality, which dynamically tracks external reality and enables rapid adaptive responses. Only by looking past the illusions can we make genuine progress on understanding consciousness.

Alan Kadin

Stefan Keppeler wrote on Mar. 26, 2017 @ 20:32 GMT
Dear Alan,

bravo -- clear analysis, well-reasoned and nicely told! Your essay is among the most comprehensive ones, I think you touch upon about every aspect that is relevant to tackle the question. Myself, I focused on why our models of the macroscopic world, which "identify agency, both in ourselves in others" (as you put it) are not at variance with goal-free microscopic laws. Your approach is somewhat broader. I also like your comments about animal consciousness and the possible relevance of dreaming.

Good luck, Stefan

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Author Alan M. Kadin replied on Mar. 26, 2017 @ 22:42 GMT
Dear Stefan,

Yes, clarity is something that I value in my writing and in that of others. Your essay is also quite clear. Obscure writing can sometimes be a way to hide confused thinking!

My key point, which is different from most other essays, is that intelligence and consciousness can be modeled without any fundamental new physics, provided that we dismiss our subjective perceptions. I realize that this may be controversial, but it provides a way to avoid the philosophical impasse of mind-body duality.

I have had a number of lucid dreams over the years, in which I knew I was dreaming, and could analyze dream content real-time and even manipulate the dream environment. Any serious model of consciousness needs to incorporate dreaming as an alternative conscious state.

Best wishes,


Stefan Keppeler replied on Mar. 27, 2017 @ 09:20 GMT
Dear Alan,

I'm also sympathetic to the idea that "intelligence and consciousness can be modeled without any fundamental new physics" and that this will allow to "avoid the philosophical impasse of mind-body duality."

By the way, your explanation "that the human mind is preprogrammed to identify agency" and that "[t]hese agents are central to a simplified model of the world, which filters all our perceptions" reminded me of Sofia Magnúsdóttir's essay, which also prominently features such internal "simplified models".

One more question: Do have a simple example for what you had in mind when you wrote that "macroscopic systems often include complex feedback loops that largely decouple the macroscopic behavior from microscopic degrees of freedom"?

Cheers, Stefan

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Anonymous wrote on Apr. 4, 2017 @ 12:57 GMT
Alan -

An excellent essay, thank you. You provide a clear and concise defense of the universe as a closed physical system of immense complexity, and a well crafted argument that our notions of consciousness and agency are epiphenomenal illusions.

Two things puzzle me. The first is whether you have completely closed the door. For example, you say "you choose your breakfast, but the climate of the earth is beyond your control." As to breakfast, where do you make room for the efficacy of consciousness by which one may change the course of history by choosing a breakfast other than the one that appears before you? As to climate change, are you saying that human behavior has no effect on climate - or simply that your individual decisions are so minuscule as to have de minimum influence on the outcome?

My second question concerns a key theme in my essay The How and The Why of Emergence and Intention. Your arguments are specific to the questions of "How", but what is absent is an explanation of "Why". I suggest that a closed system can have no answer to that question.

Thank you - George Gantz

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Author Alan M. Kadin replied on Apr. 4, 2017 @ 15:27 GMT
Dear George,

Thank you for your careful reading of my essay and your comments.

Cartesian dualism is so embedded in our psyches that overcoming it is extremely difficult.

Regarding the illusion of control, we all like to believe that we are important as individuals. We can indeed affect things locally in a large way, and globally in a very small way. Regarding climate, I recyle and conserve energy as a way of expressing my solidarity on the issue, but I understand that this is largely symbolism.

Regarding “why”, once you have DNA, natural selection automatically brings about the rest. But I would suggest that the evolution of human-like intelligence may not be inevitable. So I really don’t expect to hear from intelligent aliens. Primates are not the most successful animal group, and ancestral humans and pre-humans were almost wiped out several times. It is really only the invention of agriculture 10,000 years ago that turned humans from a marginal existence to the dominant form of life on earth.


George Kirakosyan wrote on Apr. 5, 2017 @ 07:36 GMT
Hi dear Kadin

You have presented one serious and huge meaningful article in this contest (I think really - maybe for this namely your work remains little bit outside of active discussion and evaluation!) I will just tell you that small quantity of people will entered to detailed study the whole volume of your amazing work in limited time that provided to us. But I had try to read your essay and had find many attractive - justice assertions and rational approach that can bring to productively develop, in my hurried view. On a contest question particularly you clearly notices that we no need a new mysterious hypotheses (that is main thing for me!), but you also demonstrate the whole difficulty of such question.

So, your work seems to me very rich to future thinking that unconditionally deserved to high rating, (that I feel obligated to do!) But only let my drive your attention on my technological remark for your future works.

Best wishes!

P.S. Hope you can check - is my essay are readable or not?

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Author Alan M. Kadin replied on Apr. 5, 2017 @ 16:33 GMT
Dear Dr. Kirakosyan,

Thank you for reading my essay and for your insightful comments.

With regard to your essay, it is readable even if the English is a bit non-standard, and the presentation a bit wandering. If I understand your argument correctly, you question the foundations of both quantum mechanics and relativity based in part on their non-realistic methodology.

I agree, and I refer in the End Notes of my essay to a recent unpublished manuscript “Proposed experiments to test the foundations of quantum computing”. Quantum computing has become a hot research area driven by immense amounts of funding, motivated by dramatic claims of exponentially fast computing. My prediction is that these systems will fail completely, which will bring about a revolution in our understanding of the foundations of quantum mechanics, perhaps within the next 10-20 years. I hope to still be around to see this.

Alan Kadin

George Kirakosyan replied on Apr. 5, 2017 @ 17:56 GMT
Thank you for kindly words, dear Kadin.

You have almost rightly characterized the main essence of my approach, and you have offered your article in It look to me as your next serious work that however, I'm just not able to study and say something reasonable within this short and tensioned time that we are now. So, I will do it after this heavy battle. Then we can examine our common points as well as the possible disagreements. Now I can only wish you successes!

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Dizhechko Boris Semyonovich wrote on Apr. 5, 2017 @ 09:16 GMT
Dear Alan M. Kadin

I appreciate your essay. You spent a lot of effort to write it. If you believed in the principle of identity of space and matter of Descartes, then your essay would be even better. There is not movable a geometric space, and is movable physical space. These are different concepts.

I inform all the participants that use the online translator, therefore, my essay is written badly. I participate in the contest to familiarize English-speaking scientists with New Cartesian Physic, the basis of which the principle of identity of space and matter. Combining space and matter into a single essence, the New Cartesian Physic is able to integrate modern physics into a single theory. Let FQXi will be the starting point of this Association.

Don't let the New Cartesian Physic disappear! Do not ask for himself, but for Descartes.

New Cartesian Physic has great potential in understanding the world. To show potential in this essay I risked give "The way of the materialist explanation of the paranormal and the supernatural" - Is the name of my essay.

Visit my essay and you will find something in it about New Cartesian Physic. After you give a post in my topic, I shall do the same in your theme


Dizhechko Boris

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Author Alan M. Kadin replied on Apr. 5, 2017 @ 16:43 GMT
Dear Dr. Dizhechko,

I am not sure that I understand your analysis, and the English may be only part of the problem.

My view, which is mentioned briefly in the Endnotes section of my essay, is that quantum waves provide the fundamental units defining time and space, but that these waves are physically distinct from the time and space in which they move.

Alan Kadin

William Walker wrote on Apr. 6, 2017 @ 22:18 GMT
Dear Alan,

I really liked your ending calling for cooperation... very inspirational.

2 questions:

1. Does AI scare you? Why or why not

2. Do you see neurons like I do? They are eyes of consciousness that pass along information (see or communicate - kind of like humans do).

* And if you wouldn't mind giving me a critique... I would love to hear your ideas about my paper... A Theory of Everything...

and check out my latest post... on 4/6... it's a little poem like description about dark matter.

Good luck in the contest,

William Walker

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Author Alan M. Kadin replied on Apr. 7, 2017 @ 12:33 GMT
Dear Mr. Walker,

Thank you for reading my essay.

In response to your questions,

1) People scare me more than AI.

2) Neurons are not conscious. They simply propagate ionic distortion signals from one end to the other.

Regarding your Theory of Everything, you seem to believe that consciousness is a universal field, while I believe that consciousness is an illusion.

Alan Kadin

Bruce M Amberden wrote on Apr. 7, 2017 @ 04:48 GMT
Hello Alan Kadin,

I very much enjoyed your essay; it’s an excellent read. You have an excellent grasp of the field leading up to artificial intelligence and consciousness, and I agree with your many points.

But, I think that you may have missed the point of the question of “How can mindless mathematical laws give rise to aims and intention?” You jump to the assumption ‘that human behavior should be ultimately derivable from particle physics’ – human behavior is not reducible to particle physics. How would you explain the rules of Baseball with particle physics? Human behavior is ultimately implemented by particle physics. In a decade or two, we will demonstrate that human behavior can be implemented by computers, in addition to evolutional implementation in biology.

I think the question should be read as: How can the mindless universe implement aims and intention though human behavior or otherwise?

I am sure you have to agree that the universe is highly likely to be mindless, yet billions of years of physical processes and natural selection have produced us. The fact of our existence is not controversial - how we got here is.

How can, and how did, the universe produce us?

Thanks for the good read.


Bruce Amberden.

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Author Alan M. Kadin replied on Apr. 7, 2017 @ 12:32 GMT
Dear Mr. Amberden,

Thank you for reading my essay, and for your comments.

You seem to have misread my concluding paragraph. I stated explicitly that human behavior is NOT reducible to particle physics.

As to how the universe produced humans, the answer is adaptation through natural selection. We are not as special as we think we are.

Alan Kadin

Dizhechko Boris Semyonovich wrote on Apr. 7, 2017 @ 09:46 GMT
Dear Sirs!

Physics of Descartes, which existed prior to the physics of Newton returned as the New Cartesian Physic and promises to be a theory of everything. To tell you this good news I use «spam».

New Cartesian Physic based on the identity of space and matter. It showed that the formula of mass-energy equivalence comes from the pressure of the Universe, the flow of force which on the corpuscle is equal to the product of Planck's constant to the speed of light.

New Cartesian Physic has great potential for understanding the world. To show it, I ventured to give "materialistic explanations of the paranormal and supernatural" is the title of my essay.

Visit my essay, you will find there the New Cartesian Physic and make a short entry: "I believe that space is a matter" I will answer you in return. Can put me 1.


Dizhechko Boris

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Author Alan M. Kadin replied on Apr. 7, 2017 @ 12:36 GMT
Dear Dr. Dizhechko,

I already responded to your comment of April 5th – see above.

Alan Kadin

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