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James Arnold: on 3/22/17 at 10:41am UTC, wrote "it would be much easier to study/analyze an extrinsic form of intelligence...

Willy K: on 3/22/17 at 8:44am UTC, wrote Hi Arnold I was really struck by this sentence in your essay,...

James Arnold: on 3/21/17 at 16:58pm UTC, wrote Hello Peter Thank you for your thoughtful and encouraging comments....

James Arnold: on 3/21/17 at 15:38pm UTC, wrote Hello Don Thank you for your comment. I have read and thoroughly enjoyed...

Peter Jackson: on 3/21/17 at 13:14pm UTC, wrote James, A very well written and interesting essay with an impressive and...

Anonymous: on 3/20/17 at 20:45pm UTC, wrote Hi James, This is a great essay that takes a novel approach to the "tough...

James Arnold: on 3/20/17 at 0:37am UTC, wrote Thank you, Lawrence. Yeah, I have to say, quantum theorists are even harder...

Lawrence Crowell: on 3/19/17 at 21:28pm UTC, wrote Your essay makes some interesting points. There are some aspects with...


leonae gonzales: "This seems to be very interesting site. Professionally i am a writer at the..." in Quantum Replicants:...

James Putnam: "Quoting Gary D. Simpson: "If you disapprove of one-bombing and wish to..." in FQXi Essay Contest 2016:...

Steven Andresen: "It might be that I have come to know where the hidden variable is, to..." in 80 Years of EPR —...

Lawrence Crowell: "The choice for anonymous commenting is a good idea. A person scoring less..." in FQXi Essay Contest 2016:...

dieu le: "The Creation of Momentum From the gigantic Milky Way Galaxy to the..." in Alternative Models of...

dieu le: "What causes Things Move in Universe? Things move when encountering a..." in Alternative Models of...

leonae gonzales: "I would like to prepare a review of this topic with the help of research..." in Quantum Replicants:...

Thewitcher: "Đến với dịch vụ chữ ký số bạn sẽ được..." in Riding the Rogue Quantum...

click titles to read articles

Quantum Replicants: Should future androids dream of quantum sheep?
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)

Rescuing Reality
A "retrocausal" rewrite of physics, in which influences from the future can affect the past, could solve some quantum quandaries—saving Einstein's view of reality along the way.

March 23, 2017

CATEGORY: Wandering Towards a Goal Essay Contest (2016-2017) [back]
TOPIC: Quantum spontaneity and the development of consciousness by James Robert Arnold [refresh]
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This essay's rating: Community = 4.9; Public = 6.1

Author James Arnold wrote on Mar. 6, 2017 @ 16:52 GMT
Essay Abstract

The concept of quantum spontaneity is introduced to provide a non-deterministic model of consciousness that can accommodate our intuitive sense of self, consciousness, intentionality and willfulness.

Author Bio

A retired philosopher, published in physics and philosophy, formerly affiliated with UC Santa Cruz. Lives in Northern California.

Download Essay PDF File

Author James Arnold wrote on Mar. 6, 2017 @ 17:39 GMT
I should mention that the last two sections were summarized to fit within the contest limit.

One sentence I'd like to clarify is "the source of spontaneity is ubiquitous, although not necessarily extant":

Nature, the source of spontaneity, is ubiquitous, although not necessarily extant -- meaning that its spontaneity is expressed through individuality. I believe it's important to avoid any duality, as of a universal consciousness which exists transcendent of, or apart from nature.

Conrad Dale Johnson wrote on Mar. 7, 2017 @ 15:53 GMT
Hi James –

It’s nice to find an essay that’s intelligently written and well-informed, and I’m sorry that my comments are somewhat critical. You do make an important point, that’s also central to my essay – that causal determinism is the result of non-causal quantum behavior, and not just a given, in physics. I have no problem with calling QM “spontaneous”, though I also...

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Author James Arnold replied on Mar. 7, 2017 @ 16:08 GMT

Thank you for your comments.

The problem with conceiving the fundamental elements of Nature as “random” or “indeterminate” is that they provide no basis for rational behavior at the level of human development. Like a deterministic basis, they require some sort of rupture, or magical leap, to get to all the features of willful, creative, and rational experience.

Conrad Dale Johnson replied on Mar. 8, 2017 @ 15:06 GMT
I guess my approach is rather different from yours, though we seem to have points of agreement. It seems to me there are a great many remarkable "leaps" along the way from quantum physics to the human mind, all quite different from each other, and none of them "magical" or inexplicable. And I see many levels of randomness, as well as new ways of determining what happens. But your concept of "spontaneity" may be a good way of encapsulating all this, to emphasize what all the various modes of evolution have in common.

Thanks again -- Conrad

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Author James Arnold replied on Mar. 8, 2017 @ 15:10 GMT

I'd be interested in examples of the "leaps" you mention.

Edwin Eugene Klingman wrote on Mar. 8, 2017 @ 00:01 GMT
Dear James Arnold,

A fascinating paper. Thanks for your review of Chalmers, Dennett, Nagel, Penrose, Pinker, Searle, Sperry and others. I haven't looked at them for years, but agree with all your analysis. Funny how one can achieve a name in this field when it's obvious one doesn't know whereof one speaks. Anyway, your summary is valuable, particularly for those who may not know recent...

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Author James Arnold replied on Mar. 8, 2017 @ 03:39 GMT

Thank you for your very thoughtful reply. I imagine we'd have a great conversation if we could sit down and talk.

I'll have to think about your preference for "in-forms" in "…brain function doesn't cause consciousness, it in-forms it."

I ran out of space, but wanted to elaborate on "convergence" in a way that is not dualistic -- treating Nature as in each individual, not something something separate and transcendent.

... and I will look at your "The Nature of Quantum Gravity."

Thanks again.

Gavin William Rowland wrote on Mar. 8, 2017 @ 06:21 GMT
Dear James Arnold

I am trying to plough through all of the better papers here and found yours particularly unique and insightful. Here are some jotted thoughts along the way:

Didn't particularly agree that causality is emergent, or a derivative physical principle. Is the speed of light emergent from quantum mechanics? I guess you wanted to dispatch causality quickly and space...

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Author James Arnold replied on Mar. 8, 2017 @ 15:06 GMT
Hello Garvin

Thank you for your review.

The essay definitely suffers from brevity, so I appreciate the opportunity to clarify.

To your question, no, the speed of light isn't emergent in my interpretation, it's a physical property, built-in to the framework of the universe, not directly causal or spontaneous. Like the forces, it structures the physical relationships of quanta, whether they're considered causal or not.

Regarding spontaneity in biological systems, check out the link to Martin Heisenberg's reserch (son of Werner BTW) indicating that unicellulars (and fruit flies) display "random" behavior.

I'm looking forward to reading your essay.

Author James Arnold replied on Mar. 8, 2017 @ 15:08 GMT
Ouch -- I apologize for calling you "Garvin"!

Must re-read TWICE before submitting!

Gavin William Rowland replied on Mar. 10, 2017 @ 12:11 GMT
Hi James

You may find this article of interest:

Boisseau, R. P., Vogel, D., & Dussutour, A. (2016) Habituation in non- neural organisms: evidence from slime moulds. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences. 283 (1829)

I think it is the most conclusive evidence yet of learning and decision making in unicellular organisms.

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Cristinel Stoica wrote on Mar. 8, 2017 @ 09:58 GMT
Dear James,

I enjoyed reading your essay, you discuss various positions on the problem of consciousness and propose an answer based on what you call "quantum spontaneity". I will have to think more at this, because I still try to understand the differences/advantages of quantum spontaneity as compared to quantum randomness due to the wavefunction collapse, or the spontaneous collapse interpretation, in the foundations of QM and also in consciousness. Also you may be interested in, although you probably know it, the free will theorem of Conway and Kochen. This is one example of how QM is more than simply randomness, so this maybe supports your idea of spontaneity.

Best regards,

Cristi Stoica

The Tablet of the Metalaw

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Author James Arnold replied on Mar. 8, 2017 @ 15:20 GMT

I much prefer "willfulness" to "free will." It avoids the implication of freedom from influence.

Vladimir Rogozhin wrote on Mar. 9, 2017 @ 10:55 GMT
Dear James,

I have read your deep analytical essay with great interest. I believe that it is possible to solve the "difficult problem of consciousness" if first to solve the super difficult problem of ontological basification of mathematics (knowledge). Modern crisis of understanding in fundamental science (mathematics, physics, cosmology) is primarily a crisis of ontology. By the way, the idea of "spontaneity of consciousness" was developed by the mathematician, philosopher Vasily Nalimov (1910-1997) He set the task before the fundamental science: "to build a model of the self-aware Universe." Why did not he solve this problem? I think precisely because mathematics itself is going through a crisis of bases. This crisis is more than a hundred years old, but mathematicians "sweep it under the carpet". Sincerely, Vladimir

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Anonymous replied on Mar. 9, 2017 @ 16:17 GMT

Thank you for your most intriguing post. It reads much like an oracle.

I have long considered mathematics, especially ratio, as skeletal to the universe -- structural, but barren. Is that my weakness? I'm open, but dubious.

Regarding Nalimov, there is very little about him in English. His "spontaneity" may be translated badly as "probability" or "uncertainty" in the few English mentions I've been able to find.

At Nalimov's "probability" is said to imply that "man is never free", being dominated by ontological probability. That doesn't seem to rise to "spontaneity."

Can you elaborate here on the "crisis of bases" in mathematics, or provide a reference, preferably to something you've written (in English please -- my Russian is barren!).

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Author James Arnold replied on Mar. 10, 2017 @ 00:20 GMT

Once again I haven't noticed that I'd been logged out. That should really be more obvious than the little black-and-white at the bottom. Somewhere I read how to get "anonymous" changed to "me"....

Vladimir Rogozhin replied on Mar. 10, 2017 @ 14:53 GMT

Link to my essay FQXi – 2015: The Formula of Justice: The OntoTopological Basis of Physica and Mathematica*

Also a good article S. Cherepanov "THE SUBSTANTIATION OF MATHEMATICS: A NEW VIEW ON THE PROBLEM" (I do not know English, my assistant is always GUGLE.)

I believe that Cherepanov sets the right direction for solving the problem of substantion (justification / foundation) of mathematics: "to construct the model of regular process which does not dwell and always lead to something new and new." But I can not agree with approach proposed by S. Cherepanov. Problem requires more fundamental synthetic approach and synthetic method – the ontological construction.

"Substantion (justification / foundation) of mathematics": I use the comprehensive term – the ontological basification. The ontological basification includes the ontological substantion, justification, foundation: the ontological construction framework, carcass and foundation of mathematics (knowledge).


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Joe Fisher wrote on Mar. 11, 2017 @ 16:03 GMT
Dear James Robert Arnold,

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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Stefan Weckbach wrote on Mar. 11, 2017 @ 19:19 GMT
Dear James Arnold,

i followed a similar attempt as you in my first essay here on FQXi. Sponteanity is an interesting concept and first of all your attempt to describe emergence as convergence. If the structured aggregate of human consciousness indeed converged from its underlying sponteanity of the mircrophysical parts, then i think one has to conclude that these myriads of parts can somehow dissolve their individual perspective into a bigger perspective (human consciousness), a bigger sponteanity. Anyways, your essay was a good reading, especially how you deconstructed the expert's theories on this field. Good work, i gave you the highest score for this contribution. If you like to read what i think about the essay contest's questions, i would be happy if you would read and comment on my own essay.

Best wishes,

Stefan Weckbach

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Author James Arnold wrote on Mar. 11, 2017 @ 20:26 GMT
Thank you, Stefan.

Have you gotten a "1" rating from anyone? I did -- anonymously, an obvious attempt at sabotage. I've filed a complaint.

To your post, you wrote: "If the structured aggregate of human consciousness indeed converged from its underlying sponteanity of the mircrophysical parts..."

I didn't explain "convergence" well -- I was up against the 25,000 character limit. I see it as the metaphysical One, Nature, that focuses, converges, wherever there's a structure capable of individuality.

I'm going look for your essay....

Satyavarapu Naga Parameswara Gupta wrote on Mar. 12, 2017 @ 19:40 GMT
Nice essay Arnold,

Your ideas and thinking are excellent like…

1. Searle and others don’t disagree that consciousness is a purely physical effect. Searle even believes that “there is not and cannot be any question whether a machine can be conscious and can think, because the brain is a machine”,19 but he argues that there is more to thinking than computation. His thought...

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Author James Arnold wrote on Mar. 13, 2017 @ 00:41 GMT
Thank you, Satyavarapu

I just got another '1' rating. What a laugh. Not a '2' with critical remarks. Just a '1'. I must be threatening someones' precious beliefs.

Author James Arnold replied on Mar. 13, 2017 @ 00:47 GMT
I'll read your essay, and give you a response.

Avtar Singh wrote on Mar. 14, 2017 @ 23:04 GMT
Dear James:

I enjoyed reading your essay and agree completely as it reinforces spontaneity at the quantum level with free will or consciousness rather than randomness. My paper is a mathematical and physical extension of the ideas in your paper leading to the predictions of the observed universe.

Thanks for your thoughtful and kind comments on my paper. I appreciate it very...

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Rajiv K Singh wrote on Mar. 15, 2017 @ 12:03 GMT
Dear Arnold,

With pleasure I must confess that human mind is so creative and so ingenious to construct such fine arguments to get around even complex issues. A possibility gets created for a new direction. Even though I made a good effort, yet it is always possible that I may have missed certain points.

Indeterminacy is not the lack of knowledge or measurement: If we trace back the...

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Author James Arnold wrote on Mar. 15, 2017 @ 16:57 GMT
Hello Rajiv

Thank you for your evaluation. We are obviously far apart philosophically.

Regarding indeterminacy and determinism, I do agree that trying to apply it all the way back to the beginning is problematic. But you seem to be ascribing to a qualified determinism, applicable in the present, and my point is that determinism is always derivative of spontaneity -- not that it doesn't exist, but that it is limited to interactions among aggregates.

"How does the perception of 'being causal agent' arise?" I did mention that we are causal agents, and influenced by causes, but being spontaneous, we are capable of willful and creative causation.

"This argument did not manage to avoid a metaphysical explanation to bring in willfulness; I am not saying metaphysical argument cannot be correct." Yes indeed. I offered it as an alternative metaphysic, an alternative to the currently ascendant deterministic metaphysic. I should have called it ontological, which is as far as I took it, making no claim about the ultimate source and meaning of it all.

Thank you again for a thoughtful (and creative!) critique.

Ian Corbett wrote on Mar. 16, 2017 @ 00:51 GMT
Dear James,

I enjoyed reading your essay. I would like to have seen more of your "metaphysic" and less criticism of materialist theories, but it seems with your idea of spontaneity and "convergence" you've solved Searle's problem and explained intentionality in a naturalistic way. Great job!


Ian Corbett

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Lawrence B. Crowell wrote on Mar. 19, 2017 @ 21:28 GMT
Your essay makes some interesting points. There are some aspects with quantum mechanics that I thought I would comment on.

Quantum mechanics is completely linear. Quantum states are vectors in a linear vector space, called a Hilbert space, that are transformed by matrices. These vectors add linearly, and these matrices are linear operators. In fact quantum mechanics is so linear it is the simplest things around. Further, the evolution of quantum states is governed by unitary operators that obey the Schrodinger equation. As a result quantum mechanics is completely deterministic.

The spontaneous acausal aspect of quantum mechanics comes about with measurement. This involves the coupling of a classical or on a gross scale nonquantum measurement system to the quantum system. There are a number of ways of seeing this. The measurement system is ultimately quantum mechanical, but too large to describe. As a result quantum phase from the system measured diffuses into the vast number of states of the measurement apparatus. We could also rack this up to the nonlinear aspects of a classical system (only classical systems can be nonlinear) perturbing a linear system.

This means the acausal aspects of quantum mechanics, say this popping spontaneous properties of quantum mechanics, are not really quantum mechanics. It is a matter of how a quantum measurement induces a system to become decoherent.

Cheers LC

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Author James Arnold replied on Mar. 20, 2017 @ 00:37 GMT
Thank you, Lawrence. Yeah, I have to say, quantum theorists are even harder to pin down than quantum particles! If you repeat one quantum theorist's position that the quantum world is fundamentally random, another will say no, it's actually deterministic -- so deterministic you can't even believe how deterministic it is.

Regarding the meansurement, I wrote a little piece in response to the Schrodinger's Cat experiment: Instead of a cat, put "Arnold's Clock" in the chamber, let the uranium decay and stop the clock instead of kill the cat, open the door and see that your measurement, or your observation, had nothing to do with when the clock "died."

Or take "the collapse of the wave function", an equation that if called a "curve function" might be clear enough to quantum enthusiasts that they could realize that it's like a bell curve, not a particle wave, and the "collapse" is just the resolution of the former indeterminacy. (So you're sitting in a chair, supposedly watching the baby; you fall asleep, then wake up in horror that you can't see where the baby has crawled off to; but just before you went to sleep you noticed your watch, so you know it was 5 minutes ago, and so you construct a probability function describing where the babe could have crawled off to. You find the babe, and your probability function "collapses".... How exotic!)

I expect you'll say I just don't understand -- That when I quote quantum theorists who say it's all about randomness it collapses the quantum theory function, and suddenly my quote creates a new state, -- and now quantum theorists say it's all about determinacy.... YesNo?

Anonymous wrote on Mar. 20, 2017 @ 20:45 GMT
Hi James,

This is a great essay that takes a novel approach to the "tough problem". You make a very good case for convergence instead of emergence (that is clear and well written).

If you take a look at my essay you will see a very short dialog version of the "tough problem".

If you take a look at you will see how Heisenberg flubbed "uncertainty", and see a concept of discontinuity that I believe fits with your model.

It is so refreshing to see this essay. Thanks,

Don Limuti

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Author James Arnold replied on Mar. 21, 2017 @ 15:38 GMT
Hello Don

Thank you for your comment. I have read and thoroughly enjoyed your refreshing essay, and I'll comment on it there. And I'm looking forward to reading digitalwavetheory.

Thank you for giving me reason to smile! (Not to say an irresistible impulse!)


Peter Jackson wrote on Mar. 21, 2017 @ 13:14 GMT

A very well written and interesting essay with an impressive and undeniably 'individual' analysis & interpretation of the present state QM. I agree your hypothesis is on the right lines and that currently perhaps; "spontaneity is the least biased interpretation of quantum phenomena. , and your two sound 'bookends';

"..once the relationship between the two...

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Author James Arnold wrote on Mar. 21, 2017 @ 16:58 GMT
Hello Peter

Thank you for your thoughtful and encouraging comments. Unfortunately, your rating seems to have been negated by another "1 bomb." (There needs to be some method to prove one's maturity before being allowed to rate essays!)

Regarding the spinning sphere, can you give me a link to the full description of the experiment? Without knowing more about it, I'd suspect that given only two options, a 50-50 distribution would result whether by "randomness" or spontaneity.

I'm gonna go read your essay....

Willy K wrote on Mar. 22, 2017 @ 08:44 GMT
Hi Arnold

I was really struck by this sentence in your essay, “Consciousness is not a system of extrinsic relationships; it is intrinsic, it has a subjective interiority.” Wouldn’t it be a reasonable conclusion to make from that assertion that it would be much easier to study/analyze an extrinsic form of intelligence as compared to an intrinsic one (since objectivity becomes less of a problem)? My essay is premised on the basis that the Constitutional nation state is such an extrinsic intelligence and it can be objectively understood much faster than our internal mental states which are inherently subjective in nature.

This is in line with the extrapolations you make later on in your essay, “From quanta to atoms to cells to (neurological) animals…” However, the extrinsic intelligence I am referring to would require one more level of the process you described of individuals coming together to become part of a new whole.

Regards, Willy

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Author James Arnold wrote on Mar. 22, 2017 @ 10:41 GMT
"it would be much easier to study/analyze an extrinsic form of intelligence as compared to an intrinsic one (since objectivity becomes less of a problem)"

Yes, it would. I ran out of space. Bees and ants would be excellent examples of a highly developed social intelligence. But a study of such extrinsic intentionality, although "easier", would seem to me to be derivative of its intrinsic nature, and if not explicit, it would necessarily be based on implicit assumptions. For example, is the intentionality of individual humans (e.g., libertarianism) more important than that of their society (e.g., fascism), and why so? The answer, I submit, depends on your "easier", implicit belief. Thank you, I'll look at your essay with that question in mind.

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