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Robert Groess: on 4/7/17 at 16:28pm UTC, wrote *Clerk-Maxwell

Robert Groess: on 4/7/17 at 16:20pm UTC, wrote Just as an addendum to this thread, what I have been convinced of since...

Robert Groess: on 4/7/17 at 16:10pm UTC, wrote Dear Gary, Thank you for clarifying and sorry if I did not answer what you...

Gary Simpson: on 4/6/17 at 21:39pm UTC, wrote Robert, Just one clarification please ... I would say that a Maxwell's...

Robert Groess: on 4/6/17 at 5:19am UTC, wrote Dear Gary, Thank you for taking the time to read my essay and for your...

Gary Simpson: on 4/6/17 at 2:10am UTC, wrote Robert, First, let me offer one small correction. You state that a...

Robert Groess: on 4/5/17 at 16:52pm UTC, wrote Dear Torsten, Thank you so much for your comments and your time in rating...

Torsten Asselmeyer-Maluga: on 4/5/17 at 15:15pm UTC, wrote Dear Robert, at first the upvoting for your well-written essay(the maximum...


Steve Dufourny: "It is even very intriguing and troubling when we consider this matter not..." in The Multiverse - Part 2...

Steve Dufourny: "If we consider that the main quantum of E is a finite serie, a fractal.And..." in The Multiverse - Part 2...

Georgina Woodward: "Evidence favour of quantum vibration rather than quantum spin.(I'd like to..." in Alternative Models of...

Pentcho Valev: "Compatibility of Quantum Mechanics and Relativity: Impossible A Priori ..." in We Are All Connected

kurt stocklmeir: "neutrinos are tachyons - neutrinos flying around the universe would have an..." in Alternative Models of...

Gary Simpson: "All, Is there any empirical evidence that the electron orbitals of an..." in Real-Time Physics

Georgina Woodward: "Hi William, Thanks for your answer. The motivation for the vibration..." in Alternative Models of...

Ken Seto: "I endorse the idea of Newton’s “absolute time”. However, we have no..." in Real-Time Physics

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)

May 30, 2017

CATEGORY: Wandering Towards a Goal Essay Contest (2016-2017) [back]
TOPIC: Wandering Towards a Goal: The Causal Provenance of Intent by Robert Groess [refresh]
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Author Robert Groess wrote on Mar. 6, 2017 @ 17:31 GMT
Essay Abstract

Intent can be defined as a choice of specific actions within a larger domain of physical phase space. We consider the amazing success of reductionistic bottom-up mathematical laws and see if we can locate a departure point for goal-driven action in physical systems. We consider as an example the case of irreversible free expansion and inject intent in form of Maxwell's Demon. This provides a thermodynamic trail with implications suggestive of the computational nature of intent. We will focus on what constitutes a conduit for such computations and attempt to isolate emergent mechanisms in artificial intelligence systems, bridging with biological analogies. Lastly, we find the intersection of quantum and classical paradigms to be the subject of intense interest as regards the origins of volition.

Author Bio

Robert Groess is currently a Cosmology Initiative visitor at the School of Earth and Space Exploration at the Tempe Campus of Arizona State University. He has a PhD in Extragalactic Astrophysics and an MSc in High Energy Physics. His research interests currently include the limits of computability from fundamental physics and its relation to how we understand the universe on its largest scale.

Download Essay PDF File

Ines Samengo wrote on Mar. 7, 2017 @ 02:02 GMT
Dear Dr. Robert Groess, I just read your concise and well-written essay. I was happy to see Maxwell's Demon, which also made a main character of mine. However, following Bennet, I do not believe that Smoluchowski and Szilard's ideas regarding the measuring process are the true solution to the puzzle of the demon, I prefer Landauer and Bennet's solution (for example, Bennet Sci. Am. 1987). This is, however, not central to your analysis nor your claim. I do have a question, however. It is not fully clear to me what exactly you claim regarding the strategy of selecting the path that keeps the largest number of options open for future trajectories. Is it just an example of how artificial systems can be programmed, and then observe that they behave as agents? Or do you also believe that this strategy somehow emerges in biological systems?

Thanks! ines.

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Author Robert Groess replied on Mar. 7, 2017 @ 05:36 GMT
Dear Professor Ines Samengo,

Thank you for your kind compliments about my essay. Yes, you are right about the subtlety that Smoluchowski and Szilard did not know where the increase in entropy really comes from. Something that Landauer and especially Bennett conclusively argued. Though I did not refer to it in my essay, there is an arXiv paper by Bennett that you might like to look at: arXiv:physics/0210005v2 [physics.class-ph] 9 Jan 2003. Thank you for pointing that out.

Regarding Wissner-Gross and Freer's Causal Entropic Force model, this is an algorithm with the ability to predict future paths deterministically in simulations, something biological systems do not have the luxury of being able to do (at least not with as much fidelity). My point was that what we recognize as agency, can emerge from such algorithmic processes. From what I can tell though, these authors are attempting to determine if indeed this can be applied in some way as a universal thermodynamic model for adaptive behavior. Great question!



Branko L Zivlak wrote on Mar. 7, 2017 @ 12:51 GMT
Dear Mr. Robert Groess,

About the second law of thermodynamics in you assay:

Nature tends to be regulated with the help of cycles (2) and Cycle (exp (2)), that is based on the equation (17) in my essay. This is for the material world dominant process in relation to the thermodynamic processes. The second law of thermodynamics tells about the increase of entropy, but that is related to the temperature that is the result of a collisions. The temperature arises from the existence of the material world, you can see
ns. From chaos will again create order because it is inevitable:

Order and disorder in nature are constantly complementing or rather make harmony.

Best regards,


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Author Robert Groess replied on Mar. 7, 2017 @ 16:58 GMT
Dear Mr. Branko Sivlak,

Thank you for your comments regarding my use of the Second Law. To clarify, this is a rigorous approach to contrast the differences between systems operating with and without intent. In the case of Maxwell's Demon we have an accounting mismatch to track down, the result of an intent operating on an otherwise undisturbed situation. This in turn lead to the connection of erasure of information with intent, and gives us a thermodynamic trail to follow.

I am not sure if I follow your argument of how the relation-set (2) and (17) of your essay leads to the instantiation of agency or goal-seeking behavior. Maybe you could help clarify please?



Branko L Zivlak replied on Mar. 8, 2017 @ 00:22 GMT
Dear Mr. Robert Groess,

If I mention any goal, that is the goal of nature to produce proton, Eq.(17).



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Erik P Hoel wrote on Mar. 7, 2017 @ 18:12 GMT
Hi Robert - thanks for much for the essay, I just read and voted for it. I thought your explanation of thermodynamics in terms of macro states and the relationship to the arrow of time was excellent. My own essay ("Agent Above, Atom Below" on March 6th) is also about macro states, but rather about their causal effects.

Btw, I thought you stuffed a lot of observations into these two sentences: "This efficiency of biological systems stems from having to be selective about which in- formation to store based on how likely it is to be critical to them in future. By looking at heuristic systems that comprise individual complex bio-molecular devices, like pumps and motors in cells, their ability to survive, and even thrive, becomes enhanced towards the future." I'd like to see this developed more in the future!

All the best - thanks for the read,

Erik P Hoel

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Author Robert Groess replied on Mar. 7, 2017 @ 21:31 GMT
Hi Erik,

Thank you very much for your compliments. I have in the meantime enjoyed reading, and voting for, your well written essay too.

Regarding your comment, it would indeed deserve an essay of its own to expand on the multiple top-down processes that occur in complex biological systems, propagating useful higher-level structures. You might to consider the article about bacterial flagella by Mark J. Pallen & Nicholas J. Matzke, (Nature Reviews Microbiology 4, 784-790 (October 2006)), which goes into depth about the complexity of such structures.



Author Robert Groess wrote on Mar. 7, 2017 @ 21:30 GMT
Hi Erik,

Thank you very much for your compliments. I have in the meantime enjoyed reading, and voting for, your well written essay too.

Regarding your comment, it would indeed deserve an essay of its own to expand on the multiple top-down processes that occur in complex biological systems, propagating useful higher-level structures. You might to consider the article about bacterial...

view entire post

Joe Fisher replied on Mar. 12, 2017 @ 15:38 GMT
Dear Dr. Robert Groess,

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

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

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

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

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

Joe Fisher, Realist

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Author Robert Groess replied on Mar. 12, 2017 @ 17:29 GMT
Dear Joe Fisher,

Thank you for your comment. I am a great fan of simplicity myself. simplicity on the far side of complexity. I have in the meantime taken the time to read through your essay and have placed a comment on your forum.



Satyavarapu Naga Parameswara Gupta wrote on Mar. 14, 2017 @ 10:04 GMT
Nice essay Prof Groess,

Your ideas and thinking are excellent like your opening sentences…

1. You are reading this essay because you chose to read it. Moreover, a stupendous number of decisions had to take place in a particular causal sequence in order to write it. There is nothing accidental about these events, nor the order in which they have occurred. Aims and intentions...

view entire post

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Author Robert Groess replied on Mar. 16, 2017 @ 06:06 GMT
Dear Mr. Satyavarapu Gupta,

Thank you for your comments on my essay. Though perhaps I did not communicate my strategy effectively enough of using physical, measurable quantities to home in rapidly on what generates intentions in the first place. This was the intent of my essay and, although it may not have been a very illustrious exposé in that regard, I had hoped it would engender a nugget of insight or perhaps even be a source of inspiration for other authors.

Coming to your essay, I did indeed read through it and, interestingly enough, found it quite useful in my line of work. Having said that, I have been unsuccessful at using your perspective to find an emergent, unequivocal, source of intentionality emerging from mindless mathematics. Perhaps I have misunderstood some key points.



Don Limuti wrote on Mar. 19, 2017 @ 01:58 GMT
Hi Robert,

"Thus Maxwell's demon is the prototype of intention. He is greedily making choices to increase information"...... Did I get this right?

This does strike me as fundamental. I believe that Max Tegmark has changed MUH to the IUH. Mathematics has changed to Information....In line with your ideas.

Thanks for your clear and enjoyable essay,

Don Limuti

PS I noticed in your bio: His research interests currently include the limits of computability from fundamental physics and its relation to how we understand the universe on its largest scale.

I have a computation I cannot make in a paper I wrote. So I only outlined it. I think you may find it interesting. Check out

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Author Robert Groess replied on Mar. 20, 2017 @ 17:31 GMT
Dear Don,

Thank you for your time in reading my essay and for your comments. Yes, your summary is spot on. Maxwell's Demon turns out to be a great example on how intentions manifest themselves in the physical world. Glad you liked the essay, it was a challenge to write.

Thank you for your link to your research work on dark energy. I will have a closer look at it as well as your FQXi essay too.



Don Limuti replied on Mar. 25, 2017 @ 01:31 GMT
Hi Robert,

FYI: Have you checked out Ines Samengo essay. She also has invoked Maxwell's demon as a prototypical "chooser". She has focused on the memory clearing as a fundamental part of the action.

There is something here...I wish I could get a clearer picture of it. If you have any insights would you post on my blog.


Don Limuti

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Author Robert Groess replied on Mar. 25, 2017 @ 10:26 GMT
Dear Don,

Yes thank you, I have enjoyed reading Inés Samengo's essay too. She and I both have references from Charlie Bennett at the IBM Research Lab in Yorktown Heights, NY. I had the privilege of spending some time with him about 10 years ago and his thoughts on thermodynamic considerations of computations are very poignant for this contest. The highly original and complimentary essays by Natesh Ganesh and Erik Hoel make a strong case for what you are saying as well. I really enjoyed your summary that Maxwell's Demon can be considered a "prototype of intention", something we are invited to consider when following the reasoning of Sherlock Holmes, "...when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth". Perhaps we can ask if there are any systems in nature that separate thermal environments to produce heat gradients, that can be used for useful work. Thermonuclear reactions in stars come to mind as quintessential sources of heat gradients, but I will think about this some more in the spirit of what you are saying, that Maxwell's Demon may be trying to tell us more than we are currently seeing.



Vladimir Rogozhin wrote on Mar. 23, 2017 @ 16:02 GMT
Dear Robert,

I read with great interest your deep analytical essay with ideas and conclusions that will help us overcome the crisis of understanding in fundamental science. I believe that the modern crisis of understanding in fundamental knowledge is the crisis of ontology. It is especially important that you actualize the concept of "memory". I think that this concept is the central concept - noumenon ordering the picture of the world of the Information age. I give my highest rating. I invite you to read my ideas .

Best regards,


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Author Robert Groess replied on Mar. 23, 2017 @ 17:57 GMT
Dear Vladimir,

Thank you very much for your favorable comments on my essay. They are greatly appreciated. As regards your question about a more substantive definition of memory, I think we agree when you say that "Ontological (structural, cosmic) memory is something that generates, keeps, develops, transforms, directs everything". Personally, I did not delve any deeper than it being a simple physical state that persists with time. With this definition any physical object can be usurped as a device for memory. The real utility of it though is only realized when coupled with the ability to process information that it represents at a higher level of abstraction (the definiton of emergence). Thank you for your reference to your essay. I will take a more detailed look at it.



Wilhelmus de Wilde wrote on Mar. 25, 2017 @ 16:13 GMT
Dear Robert,

Thank you for your comment on my essay.

Indeed what I had to refer as "The collective NOW memory" is wht is available as information on our Subjective Simultaneity Sphere. It also means that it is available for ALL other SSS spheres of any form of consciousness. The center of an SSS is indeed an emerging physical point in our emerging reality with its restrictions of space and time.

If we are expanding the radius of an SSS this new sphere can involve the whole "known" universe with all its known and also unknown (meaning the not yet interpreted and discovered data) information.

This could mean that we are receiving at any NOW moment ALL information (on our SSS) about our specific emerging reality, in the middele ages the "interpretation" of that collective NOW moment was another one as the one we are receiving right NOW, becuse of lack of knowledge.

When looking around in our emerging reality we become aware that only a little part of our consciouss companions are sharing the "knowledge" of the specific NOW we are experiencing.

The accumulated "knowledge" (awareness) of ALL branches of science is available for ALL s data on their SSS. This also counts for the collective "history" of a specific NOW moment that includes the infinity of time before this NOW, only a little part of thsi is available as "knowledge" that we become consciouss of.

You asked me the right question that I am still working on , thank you for that.That is why I like so much the FQXi contest , you are directly confronted with essential questions.

I am going to read comment and rate your essay NOW.

best regards


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Wilhelmus de Wilde wrote on Mar. 25, 2017 @ 16:38 GMT
Dear Robert

I like to mention some remarks on your very well written essay:

* "The second LAW of Thermodynamics" is a "collective memory" of a past analysis in this specific NOW moment. In the next NOW moment it may be totally different. It may just be another interpretation of Maxwells Demon...

* Consciousness may be the counterforce of entropy...

* Any "limit" of minimal information (Landauer) is restricted in TIME. Time is an emergent phenomenon, so is information so are the receiving agents... Each NOW moment includes ALL information of its past.

* AI is crated by emergent consciousness, so maybe it is a GOAL that is not only occupied by progeneration...but can be a means to overcome the restrictions of time and space and come closer to Total Simultaneity...

* It sis no use I think to look for the announcer in the radio. Both the announcer and the radio are emergent phenomenae.

I liked your essay very much, the above remarks are only thoughts that came up during reading, I wish you good luck in the contest, be prepared to receive negative ratings without any comment (I got 6 ones!!!)...

best regards


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Author Robert Groess replied on Mar. 26, 2017 @ 00:47 GMT
Dear Wilhelmus,

Thank you for taking the time to read and comment on my essay. I appreciate it. I enjoyed your thoughts and extra perspective that you have provided. You say "Time is an emergent phenomenon, so is information so are the receiving agents". This is a fascinating discussion since I agree with you on the information and receiving agents. What I would love to understand better is the concept of time being a realization of another, deeper process. For example, neutron decay really happens at the scale where quantum effects are substantial, and yet we can treat the elapsed time for such an event classically. I wonder if you have more thoughts on that? In any event, thank you again for your comments and I will reply to your post regarding your essay on your forum.



PS: From the rules of the contest, I understand there is a good probability that excessively low ratings without basis will be cancelled and removed from scores before the final decisions are made.

Wilhelmus de Wilde replied on Mar. 26, 2017 @ 09:47 GMT
Dear Robert,

(I post this also on my thread (like you do) for the continuity and the alerts we receive when a new post is added)

As we ALL are emergent agents in this emergent relity it is also for me sometimes difficult not to fall in the pitfall of accepting reality as REAL. Also it is quite difficult to obtain an "exteriour" viewpoint...

When we stay comparing an emergent...

view entire post

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Alexey/Lev Burov wrote on Mar. 26, 2017 @ 03:44 GMT
Dear Robert,

I like your essay, I even managed to learn something from it. I have a couple of questions for you. At the conclusion, you quote P. Anderson:

" In fact, the more the elementary particle physicists tell us about the nature of the fundamental laws, the less relevance they seem to have to the very real problems of the rest of science, much less society."

If it is so, what do you think is the value of the particle physics for the humanity?

I appreciate the very end of your paper:

" They leave thermodynamic trails which we can follow. Their ultimate progenitors however remain elusive. Until such time as intentions find a way to know themselves."

Do you think they might to know themselves in scientific way?

I will score your text soon.



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Author Robert Groess replied on Mar. 26, 2017 @ 04:08 GMT
Dear Alexey,

Thank you very much for your time in reading and commenting on my essay. As regards your two questions, the Anderson quote I interpret to mean that particle physics is specialized in the way it is investigated, with no direct analogues that can be directly applied to other branches of science. I do believe there is great value in understanding particle physics though, especially since the way much of how our society has been transformed from early pre-technology days, is mostly in thanks to serendipitous discoveries along the way.

Your seconds question about intentions knowing themselves, I very much like to believe that is a worthwhile goal that is within the realm of physics - though perhaps not quite the physics we have been able to discover yet. Those are two wonderful questions and I can keep at them for hours.



Alexey/Lev Burov replied on Mar. 26, 2017 @ 05:27 GMT
Robert, let's ponder a bit about your answer on the value of the particle physics (PP). This is a typical answer we heard many times, but is it good? The answer points to byproducts of PP, not to its direct aims. That sort of answer implies that the direct aims do not have a sufficient value to humanity, doesn't it? Keeping in mind that there is no reason to expect more fruitful byproducts from PP than from any other branch of physics, high price of PP and complete silence about its direct value, what might be a reason for humanity to support it? What do you think?

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Author Robert Groess replied on Mar. 26, 2017 @ 15:38 GMT
Dear Alexey,

To me the tremendous impact the scientific method has had on society over the past few centuries is a trend that keeps evolving. At the end of the 19th century, physicists were ready to declare they had discovered everything there is to know. Then the quantum revolution came (started). It took decades though afterwards before the fruits of some of those discoveries could be marketed (consumer electronics and computers). The same for relativity. It took more than a few decades before GPS systems were prototyped. So I am a proponent of this trend continuing. But we will most likely not see any direct, tangible benefits of current PP research for some time to come. Having said this though, even the most esoteric of physics research forms part of our global information infrastructure on which our entire livelihoods rest. It is also not an expensive endeavor when compared with other human "priorities" - defense and entertainment come to mind.

Coming back to the focus of this contest, since aims and intentions manifest themselves quite profoundly in our local physical neighborhood, and yet none of our physics is geared to treat them, I believe hunting down the true origins of intent will be a worthwhile, fruitful and paradigm shifting endeavor. The question "why am I, me?" is not simple to answer, and yet I belive it has an answer that has some purchase in physics, just one we have no proficiency to handle yet.

Thank you for this lively discussion.



Edwin Eugene Klingman wrote on Mar. 26, 2017 @ 20:13 GMT
Dear Robert,

I very much enjoyed your essay.

In your treatment of Maxwell's demon as "a situation that is laced with intent", you gather a number of well-known facts and weave them together in as succinct a presentation as I've ever seen, focused on entropy, the Landauer limit, from Schrödinger's 'aperiodic crystal' to Watson and Crick. A key observation:

"there is always a thermodynamic cost of storing information and any information that has no predictive value for the future is superfluous and wasteful."

You then apply this to the genome as a memory register of useful knowledge that has accumulated over time.

I believe this also correlates strongly with your remark on my page about Chomsky, re: "the fundamental nature that language has on the structure of an individual brain." In The Automatic Theory of Physics [my ref 5] I develop Steven Grossberg's mathematical model of neural nets and show an example neural network for sequence detection, with the example sequence "j", "oo", "ss" = 'juice'. As you note this is a neural structure, and clearly the predictive value of language is exceedingly high.

I have made new connections based on your essay and your comments on my page. FQXi annually opens a new gold mine. Thank you for participating and sharing your insight.

My best regards,

Edwin Eugene Klingman

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Author Robert Groess replied on Mar. 29, 2017 @ 21:24 GMT
Dear Edwin,

Thank you so much for your detailed comments, I really appreciate them. I likewise have enjoyed new perspectives on this topic thanks to your essay.

Kind regards,


Stefan Keppeler wrote on Mar. 29, 2017 @ 20:50 GMT
Dear Robert,

you wrote an excellent essay! It gives me a lot of things I have to think about. I'll have to come back with questions, but right now I'm too tired. For the moment I just say: Good luck for the contest!

Cheers, Stefan

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Author Robert Groess replied on Mar. 29, 2017 @ 21:22 GMT
Dear Stefan,

Thank you very much for your time. I greatly appreciate it. Best of luck to you too!



George Kirakosyan wrote on Mar. 30, 2017 @ 08:13 GMT
Hi dear Robert

Your work seems to me deeply analytical where you try to represented mutual interconnections of the peculiarities of whole with the primordial bricks. I think this is the right and maybe only is a single way to solve actual questions in such character. For me also it is attractive that you have guiding by energetically aspects of study and judgement, that allows to use math opportunities. However I am some skeptical that the offered question can be solved at all and right now, even principality (not speaking about of practically.) I feel you also have finished in somewhat sadly note on this. Why it is so, you and me can understand this as there are not clarified yet much of fundamental questions, as the quantum-classical duality, the essence of elementary particles at all, as will as mystery of gravity, break of symmetry etc. Then I think that it is just not so serious try to explain how operated and taking the decision the human brain when we cannot yet to answer what kind of force pressed on us in the our chair. I think our efforts must be directed on these in first. I hope my work can be in your interest (there main things are in refs). Meantime I continue to read your attractive essay. Hope you will answer in my page and we will completed our impressions!

Best wishes

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Author Robert Groess replied on Mar. 30, 2017 @ 16:41 GMT
Dear George Kirakosyan,

Thank you for pointing me to your essay. I have left you a comment on your forum in the meantime. Thank you also for your comments about my essay. I have taken the reductionistic approach to begin with, with the intention of identifying the interplay of higher level information flow (such as that which goal-oriented behavior requires) to try isolate the physical conditions absolutely necessary for a world with intention to exist in the first place. I appreciate your comments and would like to let you know I have also rated your essay in the meantime.



Peter Jackson wrote on Mar. 30, 2017 @ 17:06 GMT

Thanks for your rare perception & comments on my essay. I've replied there. I've also just seen Charlie Bennett's IBM Q video, thank you. Very good if quite sold that it was all Einstein that was wrong. I've now read your essay too and found it a great refresher on the key role of entropy. I've always been somewhat skeptical of the importance of the 2nd law but I now have a broadened basis for it.

I can't write much now (96yr old mother being rushed hospital) but two things that did stop me was; "{i]Biological systems arise from elements that are described completely, if intractably, by the laws of physics that we already know" Do you really think we already know all the laws which may be applicable to biology?

And did you suggest 'intentions' ..require the ability to perform computations'. (or even require US to have that ability. Is computation not a conscious act? so does a baby really 'compute' for his first intentional acts?



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Author Robert Groess replied on Mar. 30, 2017 @ 17:52 GMT
Dear Peter,

Thank you for your kind comments. I have already replied to the post on your forum. I also have a renewed appreciation for the depth of the Second Law after the extensive research that I did in the months leading up to this contest. As regards your two quesions:

The physics we know can formulate equations for the interactions of elementary particles, atoms, elements and compounds. However, in all but the simplest of cases (such as the Hydrogen atom), we are unable to calculate analytically and have to resort to perturbation or numerical methods. So, we have the physics. We just find that it is too unwieldy to be useful on large (i.e.: biological) scales - at least so far.

And secondly, yes I believe a baby does perform calculations (or "compute" as you say). We may prefer to recognize them as decisions. Decisions to smile if you smile at the baby. Decision to lift its arms and grab with its hands if you hold up a shiny object. Etc. Travelling pulse trains in neurons and voltage gated ion channels abound (see George Ellis' essay for a really nice explanation).



(got my name right this time)

George Kirakosyan wrote on Mar. 30, 2017 @ 19:45 GMT
Thanks dear Robert that you find time to read my article as well as for favorable words. I also have completed my readings and I can add to my early post not so much but only your article really contained many interesting directions and aspects, which deserve more carefully studies than we doing hurried in such circumstance. In my view your work deserves to good rate that I'm going to do.

Be well, my dear!

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Vladimir Nikolaevich Fedorov wrote on Mar. 31, 2017 @ 07:30 GMT
Dear Robert,

With great interest I read your essay, which of course is worthy of the highest rating.

I'm glad that you have your own position

«In Maxwell’s apparatus we wish to sort the fast-moving molecules from the slow-moving … thereby providing a thermal gradient that has the ability to do work. This situation is laced with intent.»

«As with the statistical nature of thermodynamics, quantum equations themselves present no indication of aims and intentions.»

Your assumptions are very close to me

«This is a classical case of free expansion and provides us with the following insight into the dynamics of the physical world.»

You might also like reading my essay , where it is claimed that quantum phenomena occur in the macro world, where "there is no measurement problem" due to the dynamism of the elements of the medium in the form of de Broglie waves of electrons, where parametric resonance occurs and solitons are formed, wich mechanism of work is similar to the principle of the heat pump.

I wish you success in the contest.

Kind regards,


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Author Robert Groess replied on Mar. 31, 2017 @ 17:53 GMT
Dear Vladimir Fedorov,

Thank you for taking the time to read my essay as well as for your kind comments. I wanted to let you know I have in the meantime also read and rated your detailed and wide reaching essay and have posted a reply on your forum. Good luck in the contest.



Christian Corda wrote on Mar. 31, 2017 @ 08:13 GMT
Dear Robert,

Your Essay is a remarkable contribution to this Essay Contest. In fact, Maxwell's Demon, Landauer Principle (which is a further proof of the power of the Second Law) and the quantum-classical boundary are intriguing issues that always fascinated me. In fact, I am currently working in the quantum-classical boundary of black hole physics, where the role of thermodynamics is fundamental. In any case, I enjoyed a lot in reading your work, which deserves the highest score that I am going to give you.

Congrats and good luck in the Contest.

Cheers, Ch.

P.S. I replied to your comments in my Essay page.

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Author Robert Groess replied on Mar. 31, 2017 @ 16:53 GMT
Dear Christian Corda,

Thank you for your time in reading and gratuitous comments on my essay. I have also in the meantime replied to your detailed response on your forum page. We were fortunate to have had Frank Wilczek give weekly seminars on Black Hole atmospheres in January this year at ASU. While not the core of my research interests, I do enjoy keeping up with the interesting progress being made in that regard.

Best of luck to your team in the contest as well!



Conrad Dale Johnson wrote on Mar. 31, 2017 @ 14:40 GMT
Hi Robert –

Thanks for your very thoughtful and well-informed meditation on our theme. I agree with your approach, and you generally support your argument well with concrete instances.

There’s one point (in section 5) where I think you jump too far, though. In a computational setting, I’m sure it’s true that “replication, given the right constraints, is inevitable.” But such an artificial environment lets us set up whatever constraints we like, and I don’t think it’s clear at all “that life on the early Earth was an inevitable result of complex carbon chemistry being subject to… solar, volcanic and electrostatic energy sources.” I know this has been argued by some quite knowledgeable folks, but they tend to take a broad thermodynamic view, and underestimate the great many specific difficulties in the way of the emergence and survival of replicating systems.

As you know from looking at my essay, I lean the opposite way, emphasizing the improbability of the major transitions in our history. Very unlikely accidents are by definition rare, but they can also be very important, as we all know from the course of our own lives. But I don’t think this contradicts the gist of your argument.

Incidentally, I think your treatment of senescence is largely correct in relation to complex organisms, but probably not in relation to bacteria. At the cellular level, sex and horizontal gene transfer, along with various repair mechanisms, seem to deal effectively with destructive mutations over millions of generations.

Thanks again – Conrad

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Author Robert Groess replied on Mar. 31, 2017 @ 17:12 GMT
Dear Conrad,

Thank you for your time in reading my essay and for your detailed comments.

Regarding your first comment, thank you for pointing that out. I understand no lab experiments have ever occurred (yet?) where inanimate complex carbon compounds have been subject to energy sources, and something "living" has emerged. I also appreciate your second point about very rare accidents and totally agree with you that given enough time they would quite plausibly have transpired, which makes their contributions very important. As regards your third comment about senescece, I appreciate your clarification that it referes to complex organisms and more simple ones are far more hardy in the face of destructive mutations. Thank you for that.

I have really enjoyed this contest, in large part thanks to contributors like you who add value to the discussion were are having.

Kind regards,


Author Robert Groess replied on Apr. 7, 2017 @ 16:20 GMT
Just as an addendum to this thread, what I have been convinced of since writing this, is that natural nuclear reactors on the prebiotic earth are thermodynamically far superior (low entropic) sources of energy that could bring about the construction of complex carbon molecules.

Anonymous wrote on Mar. 31, 2017 @ 23:40 GMT

"Macroscopic objects emerge from the quantum classical boundary. They do not exhibit any quantum behavior such as entanglement and decoherence." There are studies that make the boundaries of that world less distinct. Quantum Biology studies in "Life on the Edge" show a strange quantum coherence in the photosynthesis, making the process much more efficient. Does that show "intentions are a connection from abstractions with no existence in physical reality" The author also mentions quantum features in European Robins. We keep seeing how much we have to learn in this quantum-classical joining. I present Jeremy England's views on entropy: According to Dr. Jeremy England , a clump of atoms, when driven by some form of external energy, such as the Sun, and surrounded by a heat bath (ocean or atmosphere, for example), will always restructure itself in order to dissipate increasingly more energy into the surrounding environment.Our origination is seen less as a random,even accidental event.

I guess that is why I see this as such an inscrutable topic.

Hope you have a chance to comment on mine.

Jim Hoover

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Author Robert Groess replied on Apr. 1, 2017 @ 04:01 GMT
Dear Jim,

Thank you for taking the time to read through and comment on my essay. Yes, you are right. Thank you for pointing out that I was not clear in my essay about macroscopic objects. I intended to present them as we describe them in the Newtonian sense and merely mentioned the quantum-classical boundary to delineate a separation between two very different physical paradigms. I also appreciate the point you make about the European Robins, and indeed any birds that use the earth's magnetic field to navigate without any ferrous metals in their biology. Thank you for pointing more of Dr. Jeremy England's work out to me, I will have a closer look. I appreciate the new perspectives you have shared and I am going to read and comment on your essay in a little while.



Vladimir Nikolaevich Fedorov wrote on Apr. 1, 2017 @ 07:27 GMT
Dear Robert,

Thank you very much for your interest in my modest work.

Answered your question

«I am intrigued if there is a specific link you make connecting our physical world with the notion of intentionality?»

in my thread of the forum.

I wish you success in the contest.

Kind regards,


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Jochen Szangolies wrote on Apr. 1, 2017 @ 13:04 GMT
Dear Robert,

thank you for a well-written and well-thought out essay. I wonder weather you know off the work of Terrence Deacon---some of your remarks regarding the 'thermodynamic trail' of intentionality seem to point in a very similar direction. The basic idea appears to be that intentional action may locally contravene the tendency towards entropy maximization (at an at least equivalent cost to be paid elsewhere)---i.e. one can spot a goal-directed system by looking at its entropy balance (to simplify a bit).

Deacon calls behavior in accord with expectations---e.g. entropy maximization---'orthograde', and consequently, the actions of a system that locally subverts such a tendency, like Maxwell's demon, 'contragrade'. He identifies three levels of such behavior, each emerging from the lower one---basic thermodynamics (homeodynamics), morphodynamics (self-organization), and teleodynamics, which is where intentional behavior comes in. This allows him to reconcile the emergent, goal-directed behavior with the lower-level maximization of entropy, which is locally subverted. I think you might find some common ground with his ideas!

Anyway, I wish you luck in the contest.



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Author Robert Groess replied on Apr. 2, 2017 @ 15:50 GMT
Dear Jochen,

Thank you very much for the reference to Terrence Deacon's work. I will have a closer look at that. Thank you also for your time in reading my essay, and for your thoughtful comments.

Bets of luck in the contest to you too.



Héctor Daniel Gianni wrote on Apr. 1, 2017 @ 23:24 GMT
Dear Robert Groess

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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Author Robert Groess replied on Apr. 2, 2017 @ 16:03 GMT
Dear Héctor Gianni,

Thank you for your comment. I will have a look at your essay and will comment on your forum.



Dizhechko Boris Semyonovich wrote on Apr. 2, 2017 @ 07:11 GMT
Dear Robert Groess

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 Robert Groess replied on Apr. 2, 2017 @ 16:16 GMT
Dear Boris Dizhechko,

Thank you for your comment. I would like to take the time to read your essay carefully, with the understanding that you have parsed it though a digital translator. I will comment on your forum shortly.



Dizhechko Boris Semyonovich replied on Apr. 5, 2017 @ 04:14 GMT
Dear Robert,

My rating dropped after your visit to my threads. If it's not you, then you have the opportunity to raise the prestige of the New Cartesian Physic and extend our fellowship to the second round.

You have successfully found a link between the origin of mind and entropy. However, to see the work demon of Maxwell's have to believe in the identity of space and matter. The movement of space-matter divides particles according to their energy. The genome accumulates is not experience, his complication is associated with the ability to complicate the mental images with which the mind interacts with the world. I appreciate your essay.

Dizhechko Boris.

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Author Robert Groess replied on Apr. 5, 2017 @ 04:56 GMT
Dear Boris,

Thank you for coming back to my forum for comments on my essay. I can assure you that it was not my vote that brought your rating down. Besides, the contest rules state that judges will only use community ratings as a guide, and subject essays to an independent peer-review process for final evaluation.

Your comments on my essay also appear to have had their subtleties scrambled by your translator. I do not wish to presume what it is you wanted to tell me, only that you last sentence makes it seem that it was all favorable.



George Gantz wrote on Apr. 2, 2017 @ 14:14 GMT
Robert -

I enjoyed reading your essay, and I think you have captured the essential feature of intention as fundamental to the way the world works. I also agree with the caution you exhibit in making the leap from intention to volition.

Finally, I was amused by your closing sentences, "Their ultimate progenitors however remain elusive. Until such time as intentions find a way to know themselves." The beginning (the source of intentions) and the end (self-reflective intentional agents - us) are intimately connected, yet that connection is eminently mysterious.

I explore identical themes in my essay (The How and The Why of Emergence and Intention) - I would appreciate you reaction if you have the chance to read it.

Regards - George Gantz

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Author Robert Groess replied on Apr. 2, 2017 @ 16:12 GMT
Dear George,

Thank you for your time in reading my essay and for your thoughtful comments. They are greatly appreciated. As regards comments on your essay, I want to take the time to read it carefully and will post comments on your forum soon.



Ines Samengo wrote on Apr. 3, 2017 @ 01:06 GMT
Hi Robert, I copy here my reply to your last comment, because I took so long to answer (sorry about that), that you won't notice it in my entry. Sure, *time* is at the bottom of everything, I wish I had a clearer image of it...

> all of that would be useless if not for observers who can process such information to make sense of the universe.

Yes, this is one way to answer your...

view entire post

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Author Robert Groess replied on Apr. 3, 2017 @ 21:59 GMT
Hi Inés,

Thank you for posting on my forum page. I have replied to your post on your page and will rely on my spreadsheet to hopefully keep track of our conversation.



Larissa Albantakis wrote on Apr. 4, 2017 @ 04:40 GMT
Dear Robert,

I finally had the time to read your essay after you left your very encouraging post on my page. It was a pleasure and I have to say that this is maybe the most straight to the topic essay I have seen around. I will certainly look up the "causal entropic force" reference. The results sound intriguing and I hadn't heard of this yet.

With respect to the connection between quantum mechanics and consciousness, I do see the appeal. However, a theory of consciousness should not only be able to explain whether there is consciousness yes or no, but also how a particular experience arises and what makes it different from other possible experiences. The components of our experiences most certainly correlate with neural interactions rather than anything that is going on in micro tubuli. If a connection can be made between QM and the content of experience, that would be great, but to date it doesn't seem promising.

Best regards,


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Author Robert Groess wrote on Apr. 4, 2017 @ 16:47 GMT
Dear Larissa,

Thank you for your time in reading and commenting on my essay. I greatly appreciate it. Thank you for your well grounded comments on the classical nature of consciousness too.

My feeling is that quantum effects do play a rôle in some regard, but perhaps more in the spirit of how migratory birds are able to navigate by magnetic maps without ferrous materials in their bodies. In any event I agree with you that it doesn't seem very promising at present and there is a lot of work left to be done.

Kind regards,


Torsten Asselmeyer-Maluga wrote on Apr. 5, 2017 @ 15:15 GMT
Dear Robert,

at first the upvoting for your well-written essay(the maximum points)

It is a complete discussion of information theory from the thermodynamical point of view (or from the point of entropy). At other place in the forum, I wrote about evolution as a good example of your insights. I copied it here too:

Here, there are two processes, mutation and selection. The mutation process increases the entropy (as a stochastic process) but produces information at the same time (new species with up to this time completely new properties). But this new information is meaningless without an evaluation or better selection. Here one uses a fitness function (or something similar) to select the new species. This process reduces the entropy. At the end, you can produce more entropy but you reach a goal (or you have directed process).

Global rules (like maximizing the entropy) are veryimportant for the goal-orientation of a process.

Alle the best for you and good luck for the contest


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Author Robert Groess replied on Apr. 5, 2017 @ 16:52 GMT
Dear Torsten,

Thank you so much for your comments and your time in rating my essay. It is much appreciated.

Kind regards,


Gary D. Simpson wrote on Apr. 6, 2017 @ 02:10 GMT

First, let me offer one small correction. You state that a gram-mole of hydrogen has a mass of 1 gram. This is not entirely correct. Hydrogen is not found in nature on Earth in its monotonic form. It is a diatomic gas. Therefore, a gram-mole of hydrogen gas has a mass of 2 grams.

Several essays mention Maxwell's Demon within a context similar to yours. There might be a small error in the way the idea is presented. When the demon opens the gate, molecules on BOTH sides would be able to pass through. So the demon would need to be certain that the NET change was to his favor.

Several essays also discuss a reduction in local entropy and the use of information. Would it be a reasonable inference to say that living entities ARE each a Maxwell's Demon? Like the man said ... if it walks like a duck ...

The discussion on the Landauer Limit was new information to me. Many Thanks!

I'm a little skeptical about the quantum consciousness stuff ... it might be true but it is a bit New Age if you know what I mean.

All in all a good effort.

Best Regards and Good Luck,

Gary Simpson

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Author Robert Groess replied on Apr. 6, 2017 @ 05:19 GMT
Dear Gary,

Thank you for taking the time to read my essay and for your detailed comments.

As regards the points you have raised, you are correct, hydrogen as a gas is diatomic and my simplified example does not make that distinction. Secondly, I also agree with you that in order for Maxwell's Demon to do its job within a reasonable amount of time given the situation we have described above, it would have to do net-effect accounting on a large number of interchanging "gas particles". The third point you raised is more tricky. I can imagine a mechanical device, computer controlled, that would be able to do the job of the Demon. In the context of this essay contest, this device would operate under the whim and fancy of someone who would like to arrange this physical situation for their benefit - i.e.: act with intent. But whether Maxwell's Demon as a creator of a thermal gradient, needs to be alive, does not seem to be the case. Though it would certainly be required to adhere to conservation laws and as such would leave a thermodynamic signature. I wonder if I have answered this satisfactorily?

And finally, consciousness remains mysterious to us for the time being, as does the measurement problem. I dully note your caution, in the absence of evidence, not to take two mysteries and compound them into one.

Thank you for your thoughtful and helpful comments, they are much appreciate.



Gary D. Simpson replied on Apr. 6, 2017 @ 21:39 GMT

Just one clarification please ... I would say that a Maxwell's Demon is not necessarily alive, but if something is alive does that make the living thing a Maxwell's Demon? You know ... all dogs are mammals, but all mammals are not necessarily dogs ..... What does that Venn Diagram look like?

Best Regards and Good Luck,

Gary Simpson

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Author Robert Groess replied on Apr. 7, 2017 @ 16:10 GMT
Dear Gary,

Thank you for clarifying and sorry if I did not answer what you had originally asked. The short answer to your question is yes, I do think that living entities are Maxwell's Demons.

The caveat though is there seems to be a clear distinction though between the "Demon" Clark-Maxwell had in mind, and the one described by Bennett, et. al. The original Maxwell's Demon was conceived to be an agent that did not contribute to the energy budget of the system. It is a truly fictitious conceptualization.

What we have leaned since then, is that any agent that could conceivably bring about the reduction of entropy of a sub-system, must fundamentally be part of the equation. So in its modern incarnation, a physical Maxwell's Demon leaves thermodynamic footprints just as any living entity does.

Thank you for such a great question.



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