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Christopher Fiorillo: on 4/11/17 at 4:01am UTC, wrote Dear James, My proposal concerns both epistemology and ontology. I think...

James Arnold: on 4/8/17 at 0:20am UTC, wrote Hello Lorraine Thank you for your comments. I don't disagree that...

Lorraine Ford: on 4/7/17 at 8:25am UTC, wrote James, I was delighted with the excellent way your essay refutes the idea...

Dizhechko Semyonovich: on 4/7/17 at 8:04am UTC, wrote Dear Sirs! Physics of Descartes, which existed prior to the physics of...

James Arnold: on 4/5/17 at 5:44am UTC, wrote Hello I've already read and rated your essay. I believe I wrote about it...

Dizhechko Semyonovich: on 4/5/17 at 5:16am UTC, wrote Dear James Robert Arnold I appreciate your essay. You spent a lot of...

James Arnold: on 4/4/17 at 22:39pm UTC, wrote Hello Christopher Thank you for your very interesting comments and your...

James Arnold: on 4/4/17 at 21:44pm UTC, wrote Hello George I like your definitions of spontaneity and intentionality....


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...

click titles to read articles

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?

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)

April 24, 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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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.

Author James Arnold replied on Mar. 28, 2017 @ 14:00 GMT
I'm adding here the more fully developed final sections and conclusion of the essay, which the contest length restriction did not allow:

An alternative ontology

For spontaneity to be recognized as a natural principle that both characterizes quantum behavior and induces consciousness, an alternative ontology must trace a coherent path between them.

If we share a fundamental...

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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....

Peter Jackson replied on Mar. 24, 2017 @ 17:43 GMT

My long conversation with Stefan on my string gives a complete run through of the mechanism (March 4). The video is here; Classic QM video or a compressed glimpse here; 100 sec flash vid.

QM's 50:50 should arise from the random nature of particle orientation; around 50% will have north left and 50% right. But QM has a 2nd ('complementary') orthogonal distribution! which is what has confounded classical analysis. I show exactly where that comes from, how the 'Cosine' distributions arises, and also how they are 'squared' to give the full QM predictions!

Of course I doubt any such advancement will ever be admitted as a new paradigm against such old well established doctrine as weirdness!

You may have noticed by now that my essay is quite dense and you need to read it slowly and maybe more than once, in 'rationalisation' brain mode! But I'm certain you'll find it's worth doing.

Sorry about your 1 bombs, I've just had my 11th! But the good news is I hadn't applied your rating so will do so now!

Very best


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Author James Arnold replied on Mar. 24, 2017 @ 20:21 GMT
Hello Peter

Thank you for the information. Unfortunately, the links (http://https// and http://https// don't work. Can you double check them? I'll be glad to look at them and maybe reply on your page.

It's hilarious -- after your nice rating I got another '1'. Imagine if trolls would apply their diligence to something positive!

Author James Arnold replied on Mar. 25, 2017 @ 20:43 GMT
I posted this reply to Peter on his thread, but am copying it here as it applies to the scientific critiques below as well:

Peter, yours is a brilliant and fascinating investigation of the physics of learning, and of its potential for improvement, but being rooted in science, it lacks an appreciation of the meta-physics of transcendence, negativity, and creativity (not to mention teleology).

I’ll give brief examples, which seem so obvious and commonplace only because we possess these capabilities inherently: The concept of infinity cannot be learned, it cannot be defined (rendered finite), and yet we all have an intuitive (transcendent) grasp of what it means – we have a word for it! Negativity can involve a notion like “this situation is unacceptable, but an alternative can be imagined and may be possible.” Creativity can involve the imagination of something that doesn’t exist: The first hand-drawn representation of an animal, for example; we take representation for granted only because the original creative concept has been handed to us. (I go into these sorts of issues in more detail at .)

This isn’t to disparage the brilliance of your creativity, only to criticize your lack of self-appreciation!

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.

Jose P. Koshy wrote on Mar. 24, 2017 @ 06:42 GMT
James Arnold,

The essence of your argument, it appears, is that consciousness emerges spontaneously (without any causal factors); and that 'such spontaneity' exists at the quantum level. I think you assume QM as the right theory; and you suggest replacing the 'randomness' in QM with 'spontaneity'.

The two main theories in physics, QM and GR, are incompatible, implying that at least one should be wrong. I am of the opinion that the 'world-view' of QM is wrong, though its mathematical equations serve as useful tools. The mathematical laws make the quantum world deterministic. When there are more than one variable, mathematical determinism allows a 'set of possible actions', not just one. This may appear as randomness.

For example, QM says, "An electron follows all possible paths. Out of the possible paths, some are more probabilistic." What does it mean? It means there are 'impossible paths', that is, maths allows only a set of 'possible paths' and the 'unknown causal factors' are more in favor of some paths. If there are no causal factors, all paths will have the same probability, and none of our computers will work. A computer works just because we can control the 'causal factors'.

QM favors a 'randomness that cannot be explained' at the quantum level, though its equations suggest an 'explainable randomness'. This 'dual nature' of QM makes it unscientific (in my opinion). However, if the interpretations of QM are taken as correct, then the term 'spontaneity' is more suitable, because 'randomness' is closer to determinism, and 'spontaneity' denies determinism of any kind.

Spontaneity, however, does not explain anything. Any physical phenomenon can be dubbed 'spontaneous', and we can refrain from explaining it. In metaphysics, it may sound great; but in science it has no value.

Jose P Koshy

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Author James Arnold replied on Mar. 24, 2017 @ 07:58 GMT
Jose, I appreciate your engagement with what I've been contending here.

You write that spontaneity "does not explain anything. Any physical phenomenon can be dubbed 'spontaneous', and we can refrain from explaining it. In metaphysics, it may sound great; but in science it has no value."

I fully agree. But spontaneity has no value in science because science, when disciplined, when...

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Jose P. Koshy replied on Mar. 25, 2017 @ 13:32 GMT
James Arnold,

What I have stated about 'freewill' is related to science. What is 'freewill' based on science? To answer it, we have to consider the distinction between what we 'can do' and what we 'cannot do' (however much we wish). That is, there exits some restrictions; these restrictions are set by mathematical laws. Thus there is a 'set of allowed actions'. Freewill, based on science, is a mere selection from the 'set of actions allowed'. All living things and even some of our machines have freewill, the ability to select. This, of course, differs from the metaphysical view of freewill. I do agree that the domains of physics and metaphysics are different.

Jose P Koshy

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Author James Arnold replied on Mar. 25, 2017 @ 20:51 GMT
Okay, how do you explain the selection of an option that no one has ever tried before? If instead of fight-or-flight when confronted by the leopard, I decide to hand it a piece of the banana slug I'm eating?

James Lee Hoover wrote on Apr. 1, 2017 @ 18:19 GMT

I like convergence rather than emergence and spontaneity rather than randomness. The coming together of nature and consciousness you describe seems more unifying. I just wonder about the "medium" example you give of space roiling with "virtual particles." In our atmospheric world, do our quantum components converge from an environment of space? Maybe we need an Einstein thought experiment.

My essay also speaks of the quantum meeting the macro but is perhaps less ethereal.

Hope you have a chance to check it out.

Jim Hoover

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Author James Arnold replied on Apr. 2, 2017 @ 19:42 GMT
Thank you for your comments, Jim

The "convergence" concept was necessarily brief. I should have made it clear that the "Nature" that converges is everywhere, not just in "empty" space. I would like to elaborate on systematic aggregates as being more-or-less transient, amorphous, pre-individual convergences. Human aggregates, being combinations of highly advanced individuals, are illustrative: culture, a choir, even loving relationships bring an unconscious, amorphous Nature into being.

I'll read your paper later today. Thanks again!

James Lee Hoover replied on Apr. 4, 2017 @ 05:14 GMT

The contest is drawing to an end, and I am reviewing those I've read and am not sure that I rated. Yours I did on 4/1. Short memory.

Hope you enjoyed the interchange of ideas as much as I did and still do.

Jim Hoover

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Author James Arnold replied on Apr. 4, 2017 @ 17:52 GMT
Thank you, Jim. I'm half-way through your essay, then house guests. Will return to it today.

George Gantz wrote on Apr. 3, 2017 @ 21:06 GMT
James -

An excellent essay, thanks. I'd be quite interested in discussing with you the contrast of spontaneity with intentionality - a key concept in my essay The How and The Why of Emergence and Intention. I would characterize spontaneity as the ability of an agent to make a choice that is not determined - yet intentionality suggests that choices are made that cluster behaviors around attractor states, yielding a physical reality that is anything but spontaneous in its structure and operations. Very interesting stuff!

I did stumble over one statement you make - "given a precision-made coin-tossing machine and precisely minted coins, placed in a vacuum chamber and insulated from all outside influences, one can get heads 100% of the time." This is, of course, a deterministic process under the conditions described. But I think it quite a bit harder to know whether something we observe is deterministic or spontaneous, random or intentional. If you observe a large number of random coin tosses, man arbitrarily long string of heads can be found --- if one tosses the coins long enough. In my essay I use the metaphor of the 100 typing monkeys to test out that concept.

Regards - George Gantz

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Author James Arnold replied on Apr. 4, 2017 @ 21:44 GMT
Hello George

I like your definitions of spontaneity and intentionality. I'd add, of their relationship, that whereas spontaneity is innate even to quanta, intentionality derives from a spontaneity equipped with a cognitive faculty.

About randomness, I would say that it is always deterministic, but it may be affected by such a large number of "conjunctive" influences that the term is useful, as is probability theory.

I look forward to reading your essay.

Christopher D. Fiorillo wrote on Apr. 4, 2017 @ 13:37 GMT
Dear James,

I very much enjoyed your essay, including the addendum that you posted March 28.

I strongly agree with your approach to the philosophical issues. I am a neuroscientist, and I think that misconceptions about philosophy (the big questions) have been the primary barrier to understanding the brain. Even the importance of philosophy is generally dismissed, so it is not...

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Author James Arnold replied on Apr. 4, 2017 @ 22:39 GMT
Hello Christopher

Thank you for your very interesting comments and your rating. I rated yours highly as well.

I think the basic difference in our approaches is that yours is epistemological while mine is ontological.

I see spontaneity as an autonomous capability of an individual entity. As autonomous, an individual can be influenced, but not determined. Knowledge is one of the influences on a cognitive individual.

You wrote “spontaneity”, “randomness” and “indeterminacy” "denote the uncertainty associated with a state of knowledge" and spontaneity is "uncertainty about the future given knowledge of the present" so "knowledge (information) constrains the future, thereby limiting spontaneity."

Because of my ontological perspective, I disagree with your idea that spontaneity is uncertainty (an epistemological category). I would say knowledge might inhibit (i.e., influence) spontaneity, but it can also disclose future possibilities, which can empower a spontaneous individual.

Regarding "free will", I think "willfulness" avoids the objection that will (the exercise of intention) is not absolutely free, but inhibited in some degree, although genuinely spontaneous (undetermined). And so I don't understand your contention that will is just the product of uncertainty.

Agree or not, thank you for the stimulating thoughts!

Christopher D. Fiorillo replied on Apr. 11, 2017 @ 04:01 GMT
Dear James,

My proposal concerns both epistemology and ontology. I think that there is only knowledge and reason. The challenge is to understand the knowledge here versus the knowledge there (how it is distributed across space and time). We need to distinguish the knowledge in a particle from our knowledge about the particle.

“I see spontaneity as an autonomous capability of an individual entity. As autonomous, an individual can be influenced, but not determined.”

Yes, I agree (although I use different terms to describe this).

“Knowledge is one of the influences on a cognitive individual.”

I believe it is the only influence. I would distinguish internal knowledge in the form of inertia (momentum) from external knowledge in the form of forces. The knowledge of an individual (analogous to inertia in this case) is only a partial cause of the individual’s future. Other causes are external forces. And all of those causes together are not sufficient to fully determine the future. The undetermined portion is ‘spontaneity’ (according to my interpretation of your ideas). I would call it uncertainty.

If we consider all the information of an individual as well as the environment, then the uncertainty about the individual’s future is further reduced (relative to only the information of the individual). However, I believe that the there is uncertainty about the future even if all the information in the universe is considered. Therefore spontaneity and free will exist with respect to both epistemology and ontology (I believe these are not fundamentally distinct, although obviously an individual has only a small portion of the information in the universe, and thus cannot be certain of reality).

Thank you again for your essay, and I hope to continue our discussion in the future.

Best wishes,


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Dizhechko Boris Semyonovich wrote on Apr. 5, 2017 @ 05:16 GMT
Dear James Robert Arnold

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 James Arnold replied on Apr. 5, 2017 @ 05:44 GMT

I've already read and rated your essay. I believe I wrote about it too, but I'll have to go check.

Dizhechko Boris Semyonovich wrote on Apr. 7, 2017 @ 08:04 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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Lorraine Ford wrote on Apr. 7, 2017 @ 08:25 GMT

I was delighted with the excellent way your essay refutes the idea that subjective experience and intentionality don’t exist, and also the excellent way that your essay refutes the idea that AI “will eventually be indistinguishable from human minds”. As you say: “to imagine they can constitute a holistic intelligence out of separate and indifferent parts is to forego scientific thinking for a divergence into the magical.”

Regarding emergence, I agree that “liquidity” is not an example of emergence: “Liquidity is just a manifestation of objective relationships between molecules, but on a larger scale.” I also agree that consciousness is not something that emerges: “Consciousness is not a system of extrinsic objective relationships; it is intrinsic, it has a subjective interiority.” I would say that the content of the consciousness of living things is a whole structure of categories of information and their relationships to other categories: I would claim that the knowledge aspect of reality is a primitive, logically necessary aspect of reality, possessed by the things of reality, even particles.

What you call quantum “spontaneity”, I would identify as “free will” or “creativity”: true emergence in the sense that a new rule has been added to the system (so to speak). I would claim that we are literally embedded in the fabric of the universe-system, and that free will (e.g. to step by step navigate towards a goal) is like creating and adding new local initial-value rules to the system (so to speak).



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Author James Arnold replied on Apr. 8, 2017 @ 00:20 GMT
Hello Lorraine

Thank you for your comments.

I don't disagree that "spontaneity" could be described as "free will" (my "willfulness") or "creativity." But they run the risk of being criticized as anthropomorphic. "Spontaneity" seems the most basic, natural description.

I used to be a programmer too. I've never met a programmer who believed in AI.

I look forward to reading your essay.

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