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Edwin Klingman: on 3/16/17 at 22:49pm UTC, wrote Dear Heinrich, Thank you for reading my essay and for asking excellent...

Satyavarapu Gupta: on 3/14/17 at 15:29pm UTC, wrote Nice essay Prof Pas and Wittmann, Your ideas and thinking are excellent...

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Vladimir Tamari: on 3/13/17 at 0:51am UTC, wrote sorry I submitted my comment before signing in Cheers. Vladimir

Anonymous: on 3/13/17 at 0:50am UTC, wrote Dear Heinrich and Mark I really enjoyed your beautifully writen and...

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FQXi FORUM
April 24, 2017

CATEGORY: Wandering Towards a Goal Essay Contest (2016-2017) [back]
TOPIC: How to set goals in a timeless quantum Universe by Heinrich Päs and Marc Wittmann [refresh]
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Author Heinrich Päs wrote on Mar. 7, 2017 @ 15:11 GMT
Essay Abstract

Aims and intentions as pertaining to conscious agents are defined in a temporal, classical perspective onto the Universe. In this essay we contrast this temporal, classical perspective with a timeless and fundamental quantum reality and argue that these points of view correspond to philosophical notions of "becoming" and "being". These realms can be identified both within physics as well as within psychology. We speculate that the relations between the corresponding realms in both fields are non-trivial and raise some of the most fascinating fundamental questions that could link the understanding of consciousness with fundamental physics.

Author Bio

Heinrich Päs, Professor of Theoretical Physics at Technische Universität Dortmund, Germany. He works on neutrinos and particle physics beyond the Standard Model. Beyond that, he is interested in the nature of space, time and reality. Accomplishments: Scientific American cover feature,Physical Review D Editorial Board, pop-science book "The Perfect Wave". Marc Wittmann, Ph.D., Research Fellow at the Institute for Frontier Areas of Psychology and Mental Health, Freiburg, Germany. Research area: Cognitive Neuroscience with focus on the perception of time. He explores how subjective time is related to cognition, emotion, and body states. Book "Felt Time: The Psychology of how we perceive time" (MIT)

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Lorraine Ford wrote on Mar. 8, 2017 @ 06:01 GMT
Dear Heinrich and Marc,

Re ‘To understand how things such as aims and intentions can arise from mindless fundamental physics we first have to understand what the fundamental reality is.”:

Why are you assuming that fundamental physics is mindless?

“While these results are not unchallenged, we nevertheless thus adopt as a working hypothesis that consciousness should be understood as a phenomenon linked to a classical algorithm operating in the brain and defining the factorization into subject/conscious self, object and environment”:

Where did the algorithm come from?

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Author Heinrich Päs replied on Mar. 9, 2017 @ 17:16 GMT
Dear Loraine,

thanks for reading our essay. Regarding your questions:

"Why are you assuming that fundamental physics is mindless?"

The short answer is, we just quoted the essay motto here. But more importantly, we argue that things like aims, intentions, and mind need time and a classical reality as prerequisites. As fundamental reality is quantum and as there are good reasons that also time is an emergent property, we conclude that also aims, intentions and mind are emergent rather than fundamental.

"Where did the algorithm come from?"

As has been argued by people like John Archibald Wheeler or Seth Lloyd in principle one can understand all natural processes as a running computation. Now if you ask where the specific algorithm giving rise to consciousness comes from I would answer it is a product of biological evolution.

Best regards, Heinrich




Giovanni Prisinzano wrote on Mar. 8, 2017 @ 18:30 GMT
Dear Authors,

Very beatiful essay, well documented and argued, in my opinion one of the best among those I have read sofar in the contest. It presents a nice balance between the physical, the psychological, and the philosophical aspects of the issue, with a brilliant use of the Dionysian-Apollonian concepts couple associated with the great Greek philosophers Heraclitus and Parmenides, the first interpreter of temporality and becoming, the second of immutability and being.

One question: you write of an “algorithm” assumed to be the physical correlate of consciousness. How this algorithm should be intended? In the logical-mathematical sense of a computable sequence of operations, or in the physical sense of a natural process? Both possibilities raise problems. In the first case the consciousness may be implemented or reproduced by a computer. In the second it may be, at least in principle, detected experimentally.

(Of course I don't have an answer. I think so far we can say of the consciousness much more what it is not, than what it is. It is not a feeling, nor a state of mind, nor a process, nor an activity, but it is something that must be able to accompany feelings, moods, processes, activities, such as seeing, feeling, speaking, suffer and so on. As Kant wrote "The 'I think' must be able to accompany all my representations". But neither Kant nor anyone else has so far explained the nature of consciousness. Only conjectures have been made. A hypothesis that seems plausible to me is that it is a mathematical function, self-referential and incomputabile, that reminds in some ways the Goedel formula. But it is just a pure hypothesis.)

My best regards,

Giovanni

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Author Heinrich Päs replied on Mar. 9, 2017 @ 17:19 GMT
Dear Giovanni,

thank you very much for the kind words. Of course also we have no answer to what consciousness is. My personal feeling is that consciousness is more related to information than to matter (although matter may play an important role). Thus I like information-theoretic ansatzes such as IIT. If consciousness (or some aspects of it) would be reproduced by a computer that wouldn’t be a problem for me. But probably things are not that simple: as Marc might argue, things like emotions are generated in areas such as the brain stem which (as far as I know) are unconscious according to IIT but essential to our self-image. However, as Marc summarizes evidence, emotions are also felt and are strongly linked to cortical, i.e. self-conscious processes related to the insular cortex. Emotions stem from an interplay between conscious and unconscious processes. Moreover I personally believe that information always needs some material representation to be effective in the physical world. So I personally would believe that consciousness is a computable sequence of operations represented by a physical process. That this physical process could be detected experimentally would also be no problem for me (and already now we can find parallels between activation patterns e.g. in NMR brain scans and conscious brain activity). I actually find this prospect pretty exciting.

Our main point of course is that it could help both physics and the understanding of consciousness to study experimentally what happens in altered states of consciousness where the self is experienced as dissolving. Does that have consequences for the perspective being important for the emergence of classical reality? Or is it totally independent and the seemingly parallels between physics and psychology are just accidental? We don’t know, but we believe it would be exciting and important to study these questions.

Best regards, Heinrich



Giovanni Prisinzano replied on Mar. 10, 2017 @ 18:32 GMT
Dear Heinrich,

thanks for your kind and detailed answer!

I agree with almost all of your remark and I find myself very interesting the IIT, on which a couple years ago I read a fascinating book in Italian:

https://www.amazon.it/Nulla-pi%C3%B9-grande-Giulio-T
ononi/dp/8868520338/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1489169881&sr=8-3
&keywords=giulio+tononi

(By the way, I apologize for my insecure English. In the previous post I wrote inexcusably "the consciousness", something I don't usually do).

The only thing that puzzles me is the idea that consciousness can be a computable process. This would mean, according to the nature of Turing machines, that, if a computer gets to run the algorithm of consciousness, then all computers are in theory able to do so, thus making consciousness a sort of infinitely replicable program. This contrasts with the individuality of consciousness, which makes us consider unrepeatable the self of everyone. But, again, this is just my doubt and I too find exciting the perspectives that more extensive experimental tests on both the IIT and the altered states of consciousness can open on the relationship between quantum and classical dimension of reality, as well as on the nature of time, to which, as can be seen right from your and Marc's paper, consciousness is intimately connected.

Best regard again,

Giovanni

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Gavin William Rowland wrote on Mar. 9, 2017 @ 13:05 GMT
Dear Heinrich and Marc

I enjoyed your essay. I am not particularly a fan of IIT or the relationship of entropy -> time, but these were peripheral to your main thesis. By the second last page that things started to fall into place for me.

As I understand it, you are proposing that our everyday perception of reality and sense of self (the two closely intertwined) exist at an essentially classical level. When we detach from classical reality via altered states of consciousness, we come in contact with our non-local quantum reality.

Do you mean from this that you regard the mind as a nonlocal entity?

I am also interested in psychology/consciousness and psychological time. Indeed i have referenced your book Marc "Felt Time" in my essay "From nothingness to value ethics". I would be interested in your thoughts on my reasoning.

Best regards

Gavin

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Author Heinrich Päs replied on Mar. 9, 2017 @ 17:21 GMT
Dear Gavin,

thank you very much! You are right, IIT and the entropy-time relation are peripheral to our main thesis, namely that time, self and reality are emergent both in psychology and in physics, and that the relations between the psychological and physics notions of these concepts should be studied.

In fact we propose „that our everyday perception of reality and sense of self (the two closely intertwined) exist at an essentially classical level.“ Whether in altered states of consciousness we really come into contact with quantum reality is just one possible (and rather strong) hypothesis. But it is a hypothesis I believe is worth studying experimentally. I personally would not believe that the mind is a non-local entity but that it could be possible that while the mind is dissolving in altered states of consciousness in the process of this „phase transition“ it could get some glimpse onto quantum reality. As I said this is strong hypothesis but in any case one should study experimentally what self, consciousness and perspectives means for both physics and psychology even if it may turn out that both notions are totally unrelated.

Best regards, Heinrich



Gavin William Rowland replied on Mar. 10, 2017 @ 10:28 GMT
Dear Heinrich

Speaking of altered states of consciousness, it is interesting that those reporting near death experiences report a spaceless and timeless reality. It can seem like hours have passed when in fact the duration is only minutes. Whether or not one regards these as anything more than the oxygen starved brain, they are an interesting type of altered state of consciousness as they do seem consistently nonlocal in flavour.

Best regards, Gavin

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Marc Wittmann replied on Mar. 10, 2017 @ 13:42 GMT
Dear Gavin,

yes indeed, individual reports after near-death experiences point to the same notions of "timelessness" and "selflessness". However, it is near impossible to systematically study those cases prospectively (while they are having the experience). With psychological techniques such as meditation, trance, etc. or with psychotropic substances one can induce such experiences as I have summarized in: Wittmann M (2015) Modulations of the experience of self and time. Consciousness and Cognition 38, 172–181.

Best regards,

Marc

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Anonymous wrote on Mar. 13, 2017 @ 00:50 GMT
Dear Heinrich and Mark

I really enjoyed your beautifully writen and thought out essay, it answers the essay topic and is besed on the latest research.

I liked your emphasizing the the Dionesian/Appollo dichotomy and extending it to the absolute universe of Newton et al, and on the other hand the relative observer perspective - I attach a recent painting I made fearuring these two opposite figures. It is titled "Marching Forward Never Doubting Clouds Will Break" made as you can see definitely a frog/ant let us say human perspective.

Alas I do not accept most of the fundamental cenceptual formulations of Quantum Mechanics that you used as a springboard to consciousness. Decoherence, Probability, Many-Universes. I am confident that these concepts and many others will give way to an Appollonian physics with no observers inserted until needed. I have made such a model Beautiful Universe and feel confident once its rudementary outline is fleshed out it will solve many of the problems of the Dionesian physics Einstein introduced when he inserted the observer in Special Relativity.

I will be happy if you can read my fqxi essay my fqxi essay

Cheers, Vladimir

attachments: IMG_2422.JPG

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Vladimir F. Tamari wrote on Mar. 13, 2017 @ 00:51 GMT
sorry I submitted my comment before signing in

Cheers. Vladimir

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Joe Fisher wrote on Mar. 13, 2017 @ 16:23 GMT
Dear Professor Heinrich Päs,

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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Satyavarapu Naga Parameswara Gupta wrote on Mar. 14, 2017 @ 15:29 GMT
Nice essay Prof Pas and Wittmann,

Your ideas and thinking are excellent like…..

1. Ironically, the view that the Universe is a single, all-encompassing unity carries the misleading name "Many-Worlds-Interpretation" in physics.

2. Thus in principle there are two possible kinds of quantum systems:

_ Isolated (typically microscopic) systems with no interaction with the...

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Edwin Eugene Klingman wrote on Mar. 16, 2017 @ 22:49 GMT
Dear Heinrich,

Thank you for reading my essay and for asking excellent questions. Having read your own excellent essay, despite that we agree on key points, I see it will be difficult to frame the answers to your questions in a comment. Some answers are already presented on my comments page but I doubt you have time to read these.

First, primordial – either awareness...

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