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Forrest Landry: on 3/27/17 at 1:58am UTC, wrote Dear Marc, Thank you for your wonderfully written note! Glad to meet you....

Forrest Landry: on 3/26/17 at 23:59pm UTC, wrote Hi Jim, Thanks! Although I do believe that more credit goes to John...

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Forrest Landry: on 3/21/17 at 0:50am UTC, wrote Hi Don, Thank you. In regards to understanding the paper itself, I put...

Don Limuti: on 3/20/17 at 23:46pm UTC, wrote Hi Forest, I am an EE by training and do dabble in philosophy. I did read...

Forrest Landry: on 3/12/17 at 22:14pm UTC, wrote Hi, In reading through the posts that have occurred on this forum, I am...

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FQXi FORUM
March 28, 2017

CATEGORY: Wandering Towards a Goal Essay Contest (2016-2017) [back]
TOPIC: The Hard Problem by Forrest Landry [refresh]
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This essay's rating: Community = 4.9; Public = 3.0


Author Forrest Landry wrote on Mar. 3, 2017 @ 20:13 GMT
Essay Abstract

Considers what is meant by the 'hard problem of consciousness', and what sorts of questions, tools, and techniques would be necessary to address it. Identification with the concept of time is proposed and connections between that concept and the notions of 'choice', 'change', and 'causality' are developed as a basis for the real, as conceived within the context of the scientific method. Using established relations known to exclude hidden variable theories, an identification of the temporal arrow with 1st person experienced randomness is explored as a basis for resolving the hard problem.

Author Bio

Forrest Landry is a philosopher, writer, researcher, scientist, software developer, engineer, and craftsman. He is the founder and CEO of Magic Flight, a B2C wood products design and manufacturing company, located in San Diego, and employing appx 35 people. Skilled in large scale software systems design, applications architecture, etc, he has completed production work in several federal projects supporting various FBI investigative capabilities, TSC, IDW, DARPA, the Library of Congress Congressional Records System, and many others. He is also the author of several books and essays on various areas of foundational ethics, ontology, epistemology, and the philosophy of life.

Download Essay PDF File




Author Forrest Landry wrote on Mar. 4, 2017 @ 20:12 GMT
Hi,

For a very simplified summary of the main argument of my 'hard problem' paper, please see this single page printable PDF or short web HTML page). Think of it as the TLDR; version of the core logic.

Have a great day!

Forrest

attachments: one_page_summary_3.pdf




sridattadev kancharla wrote on Mar. 5, 2017 @ 20:46 GMT
Dear Forest,

Dear All,

Universe is an i-Sphere and we humans are capable of interpreting it as 4 dimensional dual torus inside a 3-Sphere, which consists of Riemann 2-sphere as Soul as depicted in S=BM^2 diagram in the attached doc. Soul is the simplest of the complex manifolds with in the 3-sphere, Mind and Body constitute the remaining complexity. Soul, Mind and Body are in a...

view entire post


attachments: 4_zero__i__infinity.docx

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Conrad Dale Johnson wrote on Mar. 7, 2017 @ 18:13 GMT
Forrest –

I really appreciate the care and intelligence you’ve put into this essay. I think it’s very important to emphasize that “consciousness” refers to a 1st-person viewpoint that’s always uniquely located in space and time. And I fully agree that there’s no contradiction between this 1st-person viewpoint each of us has and the 3rd-person “objective” mode of imagining the world.

But when you ask, “how does a 1st person experience arise from purely 3rd person reality?” – I think two very different things are getting confounded. This isn’t a criticism of your argument, which is quite good – it’s a reflection on the intellectual background we’re dealing with.

One of these two things is the issue of viewpoint. No conceivable description of objective reality – that is, of reality as conceived from no particular point of view (3rd person) – could give a good account of the world from a particular point of view inside it. But having a particular viewpoint, i.e. being somewhere in space and time, is not a specific feature of conscious beings. Atoms always interact from a specific point of view; and like us humans, any measuring device only has access to the world in a particular place and moment. This hardly means they’re “conscious”.

The other thing is the issue of the kinds of interaction that take place: this distinguishes atoms from living things, and makes human experience different from the experience of other animals. We can describe the differences between atoms, animals and humans objectively, in terms of externally observable behavior. We can also describe their differences from their respective 1st person viewpoints, where their respective interaction-contexts become important. For example, quantum theory and relativity require us to take the viewpoint / context of “the observer” into account, where any physical measuring device can play the role of “observer”. It sometimes makes sense to talk about the “proper frame” of a particle.

What does not make sense, I think, is to treat 1st person “consciousness” as it if were some kind of 3rd person characteristic that some entities objectively “have” and others don’t. The “hard problem” arises because subjectivity itself is assume to be objectively real… i.e. something that can be conceived apart from any particular point of view.

In an earlier contest essay (Section 3), I tried to show that the argument about the nature of time, in physics, involves the same confusion. The question of whether the “flow” of time is objectively “real” makes no sense: there can only be a present moment “now” from some point of view in time, just as there can only be a “here” from some particular point of view in space. I argued that relativity itself makes the 1st person aspect of time more fundamental than the 3rd person block universe picture.

The bottom line is that our notion of a “purely 3rd person (objective) reality” is entirely valid, eminently reasonable and profoundly useful, because there are such important aspects of the world that can best be described that way. But there are other equally important aspects of the world – conscious experience being one – that are purposely and necessarily left out of the objective picture. In other words, even in physics, the world is not only an objective reality but also a web of interactions between viewpoints. It’s very unfortunate that many people can only seem to grasp the latter by talking about “panpsychism”, i.e. again imagining subjectivity as if it were an objective feature of the world that even atoms “have”.

When we argue about “free will” vs. “determinism”, we’re likewise confusing these viewpoints. There are aspect of the physical world that operate deterministically and others that involve statistical constraints on otherwise random events – but this is an entirely 3rd person issue, that has nothing to do with consciousness. From my 1st-person viewpoint, I can’t see that my life would be the least bit different if it were proved to me that my brain-dynamics is really strictly causal, and that I therefore don’t really “have” free will.

I hope these comments make sense to you… and I’d very much appreciate your looking at my current essay, when you get the chance.

Thanks – Conrad

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Author Forrest Landry replied on Mar. 7, 2017 @ 22:31 GMT
Dear Conrad,

Thank you for your considered and very thoughtful reply! Excellent to meet you.

As you state, and I agree, there is no inherent contradiction between 'consciousness', as always regarded in terms of a 1st-person viewpoint uniquely located in space and time (and possibility), and a 3rd-person 'objective mode' of imagining the world.

I particularly liked that you use the term 'objective' rather than 'exists' in your post. To my mind, those terms have distinct meanings, and are to be used syntactically in different ways (There are notes explaining this difference somewhere in the into of the http://uvsm.com website).

I also agree that the question "how does a 1st person experience arise from purely 3rd person reality?" confounds these two very different things: that the notion of existence is derived from the notion of 'objectively real' and *not* the other way around. Partly, that was the intent of the essay, to setup to clarify things like that, though in 25Ksc, including end-notes, there is only so much I can attempt to accomplish.

And you are also right about the 'prevailing intellectual background'. For example, the opposite question: "how does a pure 3rd person reality arise from a 1st person experience?", would suggest that I am some sort of philosophical idealist, and yet that is definitely *not* so! This is not a case of excluded middle. There is a third option, and it is much easier to work with.

The other alternative? Consider the notion of interaction, as a kind of 'information transit', as being maximally, simple, basic, fundamental, etc, and it becomes possible to construct all modes of view. For example, a 3rd person view is modeled very well with mathematics, as the study of relations, ie, a timeless analogue of 'interaction'. The 1st person view is to consider 'information transit' as directly equivalent to the notion of 'observed causality' -- which is more naturally considered as being inherently temporal.

This still leaves open the questions of domain embedding, but at least that is a lot more tractable than getting lost in a semantic quagmire, and thus, asking all the wrong questions, or in the wrong way. The world has enough distractions as it is to be adding yet more.

I very much liked your clarity about this: "No conceivable description of objective reality – that is, of reality as conceived from no particular point of view (3rd person) – could give a good account of the world from a particular point of view inside it". Yes, agreed, and well stated!

Also, moreover, that having a particular viewpoint, ie, locality in space, time, and possibility, is not specifically about conscious beings, brains, etc. This is a key point. It is important that the notion of locality (in time/space/possibility) be bound to the notion of the specificity of a particular actual interaction, as an instance of a causal relation bearing at least a little bit of *new* information, rather than to the (incorrectly presumed) absolute totalizing class of 'all possible interactions' (ie, with *no* additional information).

Any measuring device -- as a gathering of otherwise unknown information -- only has access to the world in a particular place and moment. All other information -- in the absolute elsewhere, in terms of time/space/possibility -- is inherently *unknowable*. Agreed that to conflate the prior uncertainty of measurement outcome, signaling process, etc, as intrinsically “conscious”, is to conflate very different scales of complexity -- so much so that is is more readily a consideration of two separate domains altogether. There is no prior certainty at all that the domain embedding is "perfect".

Agreed "... it does not make sense to treat 1st person 'consciousness' as it if were some kind of 3rd person characteristic, that some entities objectively 'have' and others don’t". This is also part of the reason why a clear distinction between the concepts and linguistic usage of 'to exist', 'to be real', and 'objective' is so important. These three concepts may be inseparable, and insofar as they are also distinct, they are not interchangeable.

We can sum up by saying that 'subjectivity' is not 'objectivity' (nor the reverse either), and both subjectivity and objectivity are not 'the real'. Real refers to the interaction between the subjective and the objective. Technically speaking, subjective and objective are not real, and do not "exist". The notion of "real" is in its own ontological class, apart from that which is related by it, 'the subjective' and 'the objective'.

I will take a look at the essays you reference.

Forrest



Conrad Dale Johnson replied on Mar. 8, 2017 @ 16:34 GMT
Forrest,

Thanks for your response! I’ll need to give it some thought, and I see that there’s also a lot to digest on uvsm.com. Having given up on philosophical language a long time ago, myself, it’s exciting to find it being taken seriously and used to develop genuinely new ideas outside the academic perimeter.

Very briefly, on terminology: I tend to use the word “reality” specifically for the part of the world that’s the same for everyone, at least in principle, i.e. the world of objective fact. On the other hand, there’s the evolving possibility-structure, the present-time interactive context in which each of us “exists” (not just us humans). I take “subjectivity” as referring to the specific dimensions of existence that emerge from the uniquely human kind of inter-brain connection, described in my essay. But the language of your last paragraph above is intriguing, and I’ll consider it further.

Very glad we have this chance to connect…

Conrad

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Joe Fisher wrote on Mar. 10, 2017 @ 17:10 GMT
Dear President Forrest Landry,

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...

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Satyavarapu Naga Parameswara Gupta wrote on Mar. 12, 2017 @ 01:22 GMT
Nice essay dear Forrest Landry,

Your ideas and thinking are excellent; it is very rare to find real administrator CEO who is into scientific field, Wonderful. For eg.,

Your discussion on consciousness is very nice, and….

-The three major questions about time:.

1 The unicity aspect of time:

Why is this moment experienced, and not that one?

2 The asymmetry...

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Author Forrest Landry wrote on Mar. 12, 2017 @ 22:14 GMT
Hi,

In reading through the posts that have occurred on this forum, I am definitely reminded of why I wrote and posted an essay here, and therefore also I am obtaining of some increasing clarity about what were *not* the reasons.

As far as I am concerned, it is worthless and pointless to try to convince anyone of anything -- it is a waste of time. In regards to human action, I...

view entire post





Don Limuti wrote on Mar. 20, 2017 @ 23:46 GMT
Hi Forest,

I am an EE by training and do dabble in philosophy. I did read your essay and knew I was over my head. However, your analysis of first person and third person perspectives in our reasoning struck me as fundamental to "choice". This aspect of choice has been mostly ignored in this contest. And I like you evaluation:

"The relation between a 1st person perspective on reality and 3rd person perspective on reality is not one of mutual contradiction. Both perspectives have a single common temporal ground, even if differing areas of utility and application, how the notions of randomness and causation are treated, etc"

My essay covers a roughly similar territory using dialog.

Thanks for your essay,

Don Limuti

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Author Forrest Landry replied on Mar. 21, 2017 @ 00:50 GMT
Hi Don,

Thank you.

In regards to understanding the paper itself, I put together this very short summary which may make the logic much more accessible. Take a look and let me know if this helps to make it easier.

Also, agreed that the notion of choice is very important. In regards to this, you may also want to see some of the other writings on my website for more about choice.

Forrest




James Lee Hoover wrote on Mar. 24, 2017 @ 17:27 GMT
Forrest,

Looking at your Bio, you sound like a man for all seasons and pursuits.

You essay is impressive and thought provoking. "Both self (1st person) and universe (3rd person) co-occur and co-evolve in time, and as such, it is natural to expect that our theories and models of both -- the tools that we use -- will also co-occur and co-evolve in time as the needs for them also change.”

Because the initial state of models change over time, observations and measurement, as part of the scientific methodology, must update that initial state over time so that reality is not hampered by observation. As Einstein said, "Physics is an attempt conceptually to grasp reality as it is though independently of its being observed."

Generally we are modeling a future point in time using an a-temporal mathematics

that the universe moves on.

Hope you get a chance to give your thoughts on my essay.

Jim Hoover

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Author Forrest Landry replied on Mar. 26, 2017 @ 23:59 GMT
Hi Jim,

Thanks! Although I do believe that more credit goes to John Conway and Simon Kochen -- their essay did most of the 'heavy lifting' -- ideas that I am relying on here, to substantiate why a non-entropic arrow of time is (also) conceptually coherent.

In regards to initial conditions, the way in which we regard these is from the perspective of the present. Ie, observing current measurement values, we can project backward through our "universe model" to determine what the initial conditions 'should be' to arrive at the present state. In doing it this way, we naturally 'factor out' the specific values of all of the random variables -- ie, we re-normalize all available information to the time symmetric basis of the model.

For the most part, this sort of background activity is not an issue. The specific values of the random variables tend to average out and generally are considered unimportant when taking the long view of universal timescales.

However, on the microscopic scales of time, such random variable are the means by which the past is distinguished from the future, insofar as is the very nature of such events to have the two 'tracks' computed by the modeling be distinct (ie, the "quantum jump"). In effect, the projection of initial conditions into the past _without_ accounting for the random measure observation is distinct from the projection of initial conditions into the past _when_also_ accounting for the random measure observation. In this way, the 'potentiality' difference between the two model tracks (distinguished by randomness) is 'locally aligned' with the 'actuality' of a given moment/observation.

In other words, the notions of locality in time, space, and possibility cannot not co-occur; that the specificity of these three concepts are distinct, inseparable, and non-interchangeable. As such, in effect, the attributes of observation are independent of the specificity of observation. That, at least, we can ultimately trust as as being an irreducible type of "observer independence".

Blessings,

Forrest

PS: Although I have not yet had a chance to convert my draft notes for another essay into actual prose format, you may enjoy reading them at http://uvsm.com/re_question_1.htm

Basically, what this (prototype) essay (notes) does is to actually answer the three basic questions about the nature of time -- why it has an arrow, its direction, and rate.

Let me know what you think.




Member Marc Séguin wrote on Mar. 26, 2017 @ 22:59 GMT
Dear Forrest,

Amazing essay! Right off the bat, you clearly set up the question in terms of 1st person experience “in time” and 3rd person atemporal reality, and I agree this is one of the most relevant aspects of the question. I really liked your image of the “epistemic sandwich” --- quantum mechanics and general relativity as two hard 3rd person buns, with the 1st person mesoscopic perspective caught between the two!

I must confess that I found the end of your essay quite challenging, and I do not grasp very well what you mean by the identification of the arrow of time with 1st person experienced randomness. However, your fist endnote led me to the content on your website, and I must say I’m quite impressed. In you Intro, nicely structured as a Q&A, you clearly present a lot of ideas that nicely “resonate” with mine. I can relate personally to the strained relationship you describe between academia and metaphysics, having myself left academia after getting my master’s degree in cosmology in great part because of the total lack of understanding and support I got from my peers in relation to my main interest, which is and always has been the basic metaphysical questions. I have been teaching physics at the introductory college level for the past 30 years, so my work in metaphysics is, like yours, essentially a privately funded hobby --- although, in the last FQXi contest, my essay “My God, It’s Full of Clones” won second prize and got me a membership, which kind of dealt me back “through the back door” into the academic world. However, seeing the relative lack of interest my essay has generated so far in this contest, I realize that it does not matter that much. By the way, I fully agree with your above post: discovery of new ideas and communication between the participants is the most important part of this contest.

In the intro on your website, you list 3 key insights, and I find it amazing that it resonates so much with what I wrote in the essay I submitted. I wish I had known of your work before! In my model, that I call “co-emergence”, I try to understand the lawfulness of the world that we observe as the interplay (relationship) between “conscious agents” (subjectivity) and the physical world they observe (objectivity): consciousness, with its power of agency and volition, emerges out of a physical level of description where interactions take place according to “mindless” laws, while the rigid laws that obey the physical interactions are, in some sense, an emerging consequence of the existence of a community of conscious observers that share between themselves a coherent story about a lawful and stable world. In your model, relationship is structurally prior to the category of the things related; in my model, the infinite domain of all abstractions is the ground of existence, and subjectivity and objectivity co-emerge from it --- I think there are interesting parallels between our metaphysics!

I will dive deeper into your website, look at your book “An Immanent Metaphysics” that I just downloaded, and certainly get back to you. In the meantime, I already have a specific question: in you Intro on your website, you mention that “perhaps the Axioms [of your Metaphysics] can be used to derive, as consequences, [the] basic equations of physics.” Do you mean very general equations that must obey any physical world, or the specific equations of the physics of our universe? As you can see, in the way I frame the question, in my view our universe is just one of many universes, and our physics is one among many physics. I would like to know what you think metaphysics can tell us about the “existence” of possible worlds.

Sincerely,

Marc

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Author Forrest Landry replied on Mar. 27, 2017 @ 01:58 GMT
Dear Marc,

Thank you for your wonderfully written note! Glad to meet you.

In regards to the identification of the (primal) arrow of time with 1st person experienced randomness, you may want to read the post I just wrote in reply to Jim Hoover, just immediately above, as it goes a bit more into this concept.

Essentially, on the scale of the very simple (which is also usually at the very microscopic limit of a domain), the notion of 'perceived randomness' is an inherently asymmetric relation between two otherwise symmetrically modeled 'possible world tracks' through some sort of phase-space described by that model. Symmetric models (mathematics in total) does not admit of the 'information generative' aspect of asymmetry -- that must come from 'outside' the model, and is effectively the very essence of what distinguishes the model from the real. If you think about it, you will see that it cannot be otherwise.

Therefore, the specificity of the randomness, _relative_ to an observer, is the asymmetry outside of the model that binds the notion of "here and now", in a specific possible universe -- and that is the basis for the being of locality _for_ that observer. It is in this way that the possible becomes the actual, in an 'oriented' way (asymmetric) -- ie, distinguishing 1st person (known) from 3rd person (unknown) by the introduction of "that which is unknowable". Ie, that the known, unknown, and unknowable, are ultimately distinct, inseparable, and non-interchangeable.

Not sure if that explanation (along with my above notes to Jim) helps make this clearer (let me know if not).

In regards to your question, I was initially meaning 'what must be true (equations) which would apply to any world'. However, the notion of 'universe' is generally given as a totalizing function (all that exists) and therefore, if that construct is to be believed as applicable/useful, then it may also be the case that the specific gauge constants for 'this' physical universe 'should also' be somehow derivable.

Personally, I think that this is a red-herring. Conceptually speaking, the use of totalizing functions is fraught with peril. Among physicists, I have not yet seen that implemented in a way I could consider proper, and as a result, I suspect that many of the big questions being asked are therefore misleading in the extreme. As such, I have taken it as my research question to determine what could be validly constructed without the use of totalizing operators of any sort, and have thus far, not found it to be a limit at all. It is surprising what can be done with the much simpler ingredients of just the immanent modality.

However, returning to the question at hand, I would regard that the primary metric basis would be a specification of the limits of maximum bandwidth between objective and subjective. In other words, it is to ask: what is the maximum of information flow associated with the "here and now", as classically defined? To some extent, this can only be computed on a volumetric basis, in a relation to surface area.

If we look 'from the inside out', my work with the Axioms, modalities, etc, does no have near enough information specifying complexity to provide the direct definition of the bit values associated with established physical constants. In that sense, my theories are far too simple.

Yet if we look 'from the outside in', assuming a universe with an absolute, a-priori defined structure of platonic lawfulness, then in that assumption itself, the constants basically become 'baked in'. Even under the most conservative methods of estimation, finding the gauge constants can hardly be helped.

For example, we can consider that the extreme bandwidth limit is set by the total differential scale delta between the domain limits, from smallest and the largest, and compute that as the 1st worst case metric product limit. The Planck length is 1.6 x 10^-35 m (microscopic limit) and the speed of light accessible universe history is on the order of 3 x 10^8 m/s by 14.5 Giga-years, giving an absolute max universal data flow constant of somewhere considerably south of approximately 10^60 bits per second.

We can refine the finite bandwidth max access control limit further (much lower) by establishing a relation between information and energy, and therefore of the degree of 'distortion' in the field of relation of available signaling access between the subjective and objective. If the information density is too high, its energy understood as mass causes it to form a black hole, thus disappearing it from being 'actually accessible'.

However, the "actual" bandwidth limits associated with the "here and now" is very probably a *lot* lower still, for any 'reasonable' meaning of the terms -- ie, something mesoscopic that we can actually relate to in terms of meters and seconds. For example, for a typical human nervous system, it is approximately 10^18, when integrating over all available sensory modalities, before any reprocessing.

Yet, when we look at the very best of what is available in terms of the level of relational specification from the totality of current physics, Standard Model, etc, we get a max of 10^12 under ideal conditions. 10^8 is far more typical. As such, there is a *lot* of room for free particularization -- at least 6 orders of magnitude in complexity.

As such, I do not think that it is actually "reasonable" -- ie a demonstration of something important -- to get the physics constants from a 3rd person 'universe assumption' (because it must assume what it is attempting to prove), or from a purely 1st person perspective (insofar as pure idealism can assume/define anything under the strong anthropomorphic argument). Something else is needed.

The constants of physics are an aspect expression of the total model complexity, and that is in itself but a small fraction of the total coherency of the immanent transfer bandwidth. My speculation is that the 'coherency fraction' is exactly half of the available, and that therefore, we still have something like one order of complexity remaining to develop in our theories of physics before hitting hard limits of the observable.

Forrest




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