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Gary Simpson: on 11/20/17 at 13:44pm UTC, wrote Dr. Gibbs, FYI, there is a new FQXi essay contest. Best Regards, Gary...

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The Math of Consciousness: Q&A with Kobi Kremnitzer
A meditating mathematician is developing a theory of conscious experience to help understand the boundary between the quantum and classical world.

January 29, 2023

CATEGORY: Wandering Towards a Goal Essay Contest (2016-2017) [back]
TOPIC: Consciousness Bootstrapped by Philip Gibbs [refresh]
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Author Philip Gibbs wrote on Feb. 28, 2017 @ 20:47 GMT
Essay Abstract

Starting from just the logical possibility of self-aware experience as an information process, consciousness can be bootstrapped into existence with a minimum number of random events capable of happening by chance in a landscape of cosmologies. This essay follows the passage of emergence through logic, mathematics, physics, chemistry, biology and psychology as a high level overview bringing together the authors ideas previously explored in earlier FQXi essays.

Author Bio

Philip Gibbs has worked on physics and mathematics as an independent academic for thirty years since leaving professional academia shortly after gaining his doctorate in theoretical physics.

Download Essay PDF File

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Branko L Zivlak wrote on Feb. 28, 2017 @ 22:45 GMT
Dear Mr. Gibbs,

You say:

The standard next step is to declare this collection of mathematical structures to be the top level multiverse of possible universes. And I was angry.

Then you say: The universe must be read as a whole. And I say: That is OK.


Everything contributes to the whole. Whether you call it a multiverse or a universe is just semantics and of no consequence. I agree, but it is not serious. It is also not fair to the profession and to the readers. I looked in four languages and always the universe means all. To conclude: Multiverse shows the arrogance and lack of understanding of those who have imposed the term. You can see in my essay that term Universe is quite enough to express Whole and its parts.

Then you also say: We have reached a rare level of intelligence on a rare planet in a rare universe. But please without last „rare“.

Best regards,

Branko Zivlak

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Author Philip Gibbs replied on Mar. 1, 2017 @ 08:25 GMT
Branko Zivlak, thanks for raising this central point. I agree with the theme in your essay that there is really just one whole. Semantics can cause confusion. At one time the word "world" meant all of material existence, now we are comfortable with the idea that "world" means just our planet and there are many other worlds. The word "universe" is heading the same way and, like you, I am not sure it is a helpful direction. In most of my essay I used the word "cosmology" in place of "universe", and "landscape" in place of "multiverse" to try and get round this, but in a few places I slipped up and used the word "universe" as if it was one of many. Well at least it beings the discussion into the open.

Some physicists talk of multi-levels of multiverse. The only level I see is the quantum mechanical sum or path integral over all possible classical configurations. Even that may be more of an algebraic abstraction than a real "multiverse" I don't think the eternal inflation version of the multiverse is likely to be correct at all. It is a very speculative idea and neither the maths nor the physics works out. I am surprised that it is given as much credence as it does.

However, I do think there is a landscape of vacuum solutions to the "master theory" of physics, whether that be an extension of string theory or something else. When you do the path integral in quantum mechanics you have to include all paths no matter how far away from the physical solution they are. If you don't then you lose unitarity. This means that other vacuum solutions cannot be entirely ignored except as some practical approximation. They are there and they are connected to our reality, even if we do not have the technology to detect them.

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Gary D. Simpson wrote on Mar. 1, 2017 @ 03:07 GMT
Hello Dr. Gibbs ... I'm glad you submitted an essay. I was beginning to wonder if you would join the party!

Essentially you argue that the various algebras are sophisticated enough to produce the observable cosmology and that the observable cosmology is large enough to produce us somewhere given enough time without a complete extinction event.

You present a pretty convincing argument. My only possible disagreement might concern the uniqueness of a similar set of occurrences. Just recently, it was announced that a nearby star (Trappist-1, distance = 40 LY) has 7 rocky planets similar to Earth and that 3 of those could be in the habitable zone. Within 20 LY, there are over 100 known stars ... within 40 LY that number is closer to 900. The most recent estimate for the number of stars in our galaxy is 1 trillion and 75% of those are red dwarfs similar to Trappist-1 (similar in size ... we don't know about planets).

With the universe being 13.8 billion years old and our solar system being 4.5 billion years of age, there has been more than enough time for similar histories to occur elsewhere, and there appear to be many places where these histories might occur ... which brings us to Fermi's Paradox.

Best Regards and Good Luck,

Gary Simpson

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Author Philip Gibbs replied on Mar. 1, 2017 @ 10:04 GMT
Gary, Hi, The subject of Earth-like planets is fascinating and its a story that will keep running. It will be amazing if we can discover a planet with an atmosphere rich in oxygen when telescopes like Webb get in on the act in a few short years.

However, I do think that talk of plentiful Earth-like planets must be taken with a pinch of salt. I wrote a bit about that a while back when I was...

view entire post

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George Kirakosyan wrote on Mar. 1, 2017 @ 07:15 GMT
Dear Philip,

You are one of the rare honest people of the modern corrupted world and, of course, the talented pen master!

However, let me ask, - why you have written this excellent essay, to say only that this question cannot have answer for today? My dear, I think, in this case, your honesty just have prevented you perceive the given Issue in its true significance. In my subjective opinion, we had deal with a good joke, on what many of us immediately rushed to peck!

I ask you only to pay attention to the following expressions -

//mindless mathematical laws// - is not this a crime?

// the mathematical laws give rise to aims and intention// - As we know, the math was a kind of system of description that was a result of human creation....

So, such assertion may be equalized to a next, for example, - how was killed m-r John ... by using the Armenian language?

Such remarks have pushed me to say in my work some more important things, using this opportunity.

That is why I can evaluate your article as only very high - but not as extremely!

With all best wishes

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Author Philip Gibbs replied on Mar. 1, 2017 @ 13:24 GMT
George, thanks for your comment.

I did not mean to sound so negative about the prospects for progress. Our understanding has always been moving forwards and I don't doubt that it is doing so now, even if it sometimes takes time to realise which ideas are the most useful. However, there have always been people who stood up and said that we have nearly reached the end, only to be proved wrong. I still think we have a way to go.

I don't know what you mean when you ask if "mindless mathematical laws" is a crime. It's not a statement or an action that can be judged as a crime. Perhaps you mean it is a crime to think in terms of mathematical laws being mindless. Maybe when I read your essay I will understand better what you mean.

You say that math is a description and a result of human creation. Different people mean different things when they use the word mathematics. Some people think of it as just a language while others think it is a logical structure that is always there. In my essay I described mathematics as a tool we use to explore logical possibilities. I think those possibilities are independent of us but as I explained in another essay, some parts of mathematics are universal concepts that we discover and others are arbitrary constructs that we invent.

I look forward to reading your essay to get a better feel for your point of view.

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Author Philip Gibbs wrote on Mar. 1, 2017 @ 10:21 GMT
Thanks to everyone who is posting comments. I will try to answer all of them but please be patient because I have many other duties at the moment and may not be able to respond quickly. I will also read other essays in due course and leave comments there when I have something interesting to say about them. Even if I don't comment I can say that I enjoy reading a wide range of different ideas, whether they agree with mine or not. It is exciting to be in the FQXi essay competition again. Good luck to all.

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Author Philip Gibbs replied on Mar. 1, 2017 @ 13:03 GMT
I will be rating essays positively, looking for things like engaging writing and originality. I won't mark down because I don't agree with the basic idea of an essay, so long as it is well argued. I will also mark up people who respond to comments on their essays. Participation in a friendly and helpful spirit is much more important than the prizes. The real test of how valid our ideas are is how good they will look in the future when more is known. If we could be sure of the right answers now we would not need the contest. I thank FQXi and sponsors for providing this opportunity to participate again.

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Wilhelmus de Wilde de Wilde replied on Mar. 1, 2017 @ 16:16 GMT
Dear Philip,

Good to read you here with a very fine basket of thoughts.

I liked it very much.

Also a remark : It is because our sensation of time and the lapse that our lives seem to take compared to the age of the "universe" that we don't think about the end of the sun, proton decay and so on, like a child that is beginning life and not thinking about the end.

The "universe" as you see it contains all other forms of reality, a good idea to have a clear way of talking that I will take in mind.

I also hope that you will have some time to read/comment and maybe rate my essay "The Purpose of Life".

Thank you


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Author Philip Gibbs replied on Mar. 1, 2017 @ 17:39 GMT
Hello Wilhelmus, it's good to see you here again.

I agree that time important. It is essential to our sense of consciousness which requires memory of the past so it is the arrow of time that counts. I can envisage a universe without time but I can't imagine anything like life being a part of it.

It is true that our life is very short compared to the timescale on which our cosmology works. Of course you can also think about paradoxes like the enormous coincidence that we are alive now given that for most of the age of the universe we are not there. I think this indicates that it is our experience that is fundamental, even more fundamental than the universe itself.

I will certainly read your essay later.

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Luke Kenneth Casson Leighton wrote on Mar. 1, 2017 @ 15:38 GMT
mr gibbs, hi, i have a couple of questions for you:

"The process is beautiful in its complexity but without goals." - how do you arrive at this conclusion?

the second is: do you have a working hypothesis for the definition of consciousness that you are happy with?

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Author Philip Gibbs replied on Mar. 1, 2017 @ 17:54 GMT
Luke, thank you for your questions

You are asking why the processes of astrophysics are without goals. Goals are set by intelligent minds so if astrophysics have goals they must have been set by higher beings that we would call God(s). It is not for me to tell people that their religions are wrong. The premise of my essay is to provide an alternative way to understand the universe. I wrote that to set up the case that goals arise along with life and are set by people. The universe does not start with a goal such as a goal to produce life by creating stars and planets. It is a beautiful and remarkable process that we need to understand but it is mindless. This is just my hypothesis for the essay and I am happy to hear other views.

I don't have a definition for consciousness. I am not sure that it is something that can be defined in precise physical way. It is our sense of self-awareness and requires, memory, intelligence and the ability to sense our surroundings. I am not sure we can say much more than that.

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Luke Kenneth Casson Leighton replied on Mar. 4, 2017 @ 05:44 GMT
hi phillip,

in retrospect of many decades it would be apparent that i have had a rather unusual upbringing, having wandered as a child and teenager the various stately homes that the Transcendental Meditation movement used for teaching its courses. posters on the wall filled with quantum mechanics equations linked to ancient sanskrit texts, for example.

i have also been extremely lucky enough to know dr alex hankey, who *has* indeed come up with a formal mathematical framework in which "consciousness" may be defined, as a QM system operating at a "Critical Instability Point".

regarding intelligence, i am reminded of the bun-fight between creationists and evolutionists. whenever i hear them going at it, all i want to do is bang their damn heads together and shout at them, "you idiots! evolution *IS* god's chosen tool of choice for intelligent design. now cut it out!"


put simply, a careful analysis at all levels of operation of our universe shows patterns that allow us to conclude that "creative intelligence" (randomness with self-replication and critical-instability feedback) is a fundamental inherent emergent property. all minds *BORROW* the fabric of the universe in order to have "thought" and other aspects that are BELIEVED to be unique to humans or at least unique to each individual.

i sort-of wandered into this perspective by chance.

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Author Philip Gibbs replied on Mar. 4, 2017 @ 11:14 GMT
Luke, my mother has been in the TM movement for many years and has had a particular interest in my work because of that. The statement that '"consciousness" may be defined, as a QM system operating at a "Critical Instability Point"' is not far removed from my thinking, but the problem is to turn these words into something more concrete.

I am an atheist and my philosophical position is that the universe and our consciousness arise naturally without external interference if you accept anthropic selection from the landscape of logical possibilities. However I recognise that intelligent design provides an alternative explanation for fine-tuning. If you have answers for other questions that religion raises then I can't argue against that as a philosphical position. To me religion seems improbable but not impossible. What I do find harder to understand is the people who rile against both multiverse and religious philosophies. I don't see how a third class of alternative can work. If anyone can provide one that is self-consistent then I would be happy to accept that too.

Thank you again for your feedback.

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James Lee Hoover wrote on Mar. 1, 2017 @ 23:02 GMT

"Starting from just the logical possibility of self-aware experience as an information process, consciousness can be bootstrapped into existence with a minimum number of random events capable of happening by chance in a landscape of cosmologies."

This gives the impression that life emerged by accident rather than necessity as Jeremy England would say with his theory based on the Second Law of Thermodynamics: group of atoms is driven by an external source of energy -- sun or chemical -- and it will often gradually restructure itself in order to dematerialize increasingly more energy. Natural law would deem it must improve its ability to absorb energy more and more, becoming convincingly lifelike.

Still Nature and chance in terms of the right elements is involved but his theory applies to the animate and inanimate.

What is your feeling?

Your essay is very instructive and clearly states your views.


Jim Hoover

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Author Philip Gibbs replied on Mar. 2, 2017 @ 16:38 GMT
Hello Jim, I am glad you brought this up.

I think Jeremy England is right to make connection between thermodynamics and evolution, and I agree that there must have been a spontaneous emergence of life. However, I don't agree with his thesis that life is self-organised to efficiently dissipate heat.

It seems to me that the most efficient way to dissipate heat is to be a black surface...

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Author Philip Gibbs replied on Mar. 2, 2017 @ 17:59 GMT
I'd like to add this link which discusses the inevitability of evolution

Generating Life on Earth: Five Looming Questions, by Holmes Rolston III

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James Lee Hoover replied on Mar. 3, 2017 @ 22:51 GMT
Couldn't open the link, Philip.


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Lawrence B. Crowell wrote on Mar. 2, 2017 @ 01:50 GMT
Dear Phillip,

The opening of your essay has some remarkably similar developments in my essay. The singularity of a black hole produces an ambiguity of connectivity in the nature of spatial surface in the exterior region. This connects to ER = EPR, and how elementary particles are a massive redundancy. There is only one electron in the universe, but we see massive redundant copies of it. The same holds for quarks, gluons, photons etc. Also since you mentioned groupoids and category theory, I published in Prespacetime a paper which illustrated how the metric is categorically equivalent to the Tsirelson bound of QM.

I agree with you there is a deep set up in the basic structure of the universe which has permitted the existence of intelligence. I did not go into the nature of consciousness that much. I have a hard time figuring what is meant by consciousness. You mention self-reference, and in my essay I speculate on that feature. This might be just a signature on how consciousness is a sort of illusion. Maybe it is an illusion of an illusion.

Anyway I liked your paper a lot. It covered ground that I have thought about.

Cheers LC

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Author Philip Gibbs replied on Mar. 2, 2017 @ 18:50 GMT
Hello, Lawrence. I already saw your essay but will need to read it again. As usual you are heavy on the maths!

I have gone for a birds eye view covering the range from mathematical beginnings to consciousness so nothing is covered in any depth.

There is always something in common with our ideas so it is a pleasure to read your work.

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Lawrence B. Crowell replied on Mar. 2, 2017 @ 21:40 GMT
My essay is a bit of a shameless way of presenting some aspect of what I am working on. It did dawn on me though that the open world with respect to quantum entanglements seems to be a condition necessary for complex systems that are self-directed or that have intentionality. This seems to be in line with what you are saying. It is not that consciousness is some direct manifestation of some physical process.

Your comments early on are interesting with respect to holography. The holographic screen or event horizon is a way that a symmetry is manifested in a massively redundant manner as many degrees of freedom corresponding to each Planck area on the horizon. This correlates with my thinking about the Higgs field as well. This restricts the full set of symmetries of a Lagrangian to a limited set on the low energy physical vacuum. Along these lines I have a set of calculations I have done which illustrate how the Unruh effect can be seen in the inertial frame as Higgs physics. This leads to some sort of correlation between spacetime physics and the Higgs field. I an send to you a copy of this when I write some notes on it.

Cheers LC

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Lawrence B. Crowell replied on Mar. 2, 2017 @ 21:43 GMT
I just scored your essay --- good job


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Andrew R. Scott wrote on Mar. 2, 2017 @ 12:24 GMT
Quite interesting but "Our conscious mind emerges from biology and psychology, requiring no further explanation". Wow! That sounds like a statement of faith about a phenomenon we do not understand. I certainly agree that no explanation may ever be available to us, but "requiring no further explanation"?

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Author Philip Gibbs replied on Mar. 2, 2017 @ 12:56 GMT
All I am saying here is that no scientific explanation is required beyond what can be provided by psychology and biology. The explanation within those bounds may be complex and not yet well understood. My point is that it is wrong to search for new physics such as proposed by Penrose, or spiritual explanations such as something like a soul. Of course there are philosophical points to be made too, such as the ones in the essay.

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Steve Dufourny wrote on Mar. 3, 2017 @ 10:15 GMT
Hello Mr Gibbs,

Very interesting general analyse.

I asked me that said why you conclude with this word "rare".I am not sure because lifes and consciousness seem adaptable and universal in function of planetary parameters.The relevance is to consider that lifes, consciousness are resulsts of evolution due to encodings of evolution.We see easily in a simple resume the emergence of lifes with our history quantum sphères ....Time evolution informations spherisation.....H.....CNO....HCN H2C2 H2O NH3 CH4 ....primordial soap.....ine ase amino acids unicells ..pluricells....and this and that on this line time giving fishs ....reptilians....Inferior mammalians.....Superior have a simple line of encodings.Now I have yesterday seen at television that searchers had found a unicell aged of 3,8 billions of years on earth.The lifes seem even adaptable in difficult environments.We see it with the extremophils bacterias for example.I think Mr Gibbs that emergent lifes are not rare like you said but universal in function of many paramters.The universe and its 1000 billioçns of galaxies have an ocean of lifes animals and vegetals....where combinations are infinite.Rare I don't think.

I liked your essay that said in its generality.I am wishing you all the best in this contest.

Regards from Belgium

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Author Philip Gibbs replied on Mar. 3, 2017 @ 19:15 GMT
Steve, you make a fair point. First let me say the following: None of us know how rare or common life is beyond Earth. What we do know is that life is common and diverse on Earth, and that so far there is no sign of life elsewhere. It is not obviously present on other planets in the solar system, and if there is intelligent life elsewhere in our galaxy it is not doing anything to make its presence known in verifiable ways. We also now know that there are many rocky planets around other stars so the opportunity for extraterrestrial life to evolve is there.

My essay is a hypothesis for how things may have come into being. What I say in my essay are predictions based on that hypothesis, not claims of fact. I should perhaps have made that clearer in the conclusion but I reached the word count limit.

My statement about rarity is that intelligent life is rare beyond Earth. This is a prediction based on observations of fine-tuning and the accidental events that made our evolution possible. It is consistent with the absence of signals from extraterrestrials, but it could still easily be wrong and I don't intend to pretend otherwise.

I do think that primitive bacterial life could be much more common than intelligent life. Early bacteria on Earth would have modified the atmosphere. There were several mechanisms for producing oxygen before chlorophyll took over. Oxygen would not be maintained in the atmosphere without some biological mechanism. There is a good chance we will be able to determine whether oxygen is present in exoplanet atmospheres within the next few years.

I do think that present claims about Earth-like exoplanets is being over-hyped. It is easy to get optimistic about life being common because we would like it to be so. Perhaps it is common, but my prediction is that the circumstances that make life evolve to higher levels are very rare. I think your more optimistic view is more the norm now.

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Steve Dufourny replied on Mar. 9, 2017 @ 12:13 GMT
Hi Mr Gibbs,

It is indeed a big puzzle.Sometimes I imagine all these 1000 billions of galaxies with their stars and planets.I say me that the numbers and probabilities in inserting the combinations of lifes with different paramters than on earth,that becomes troubling.We are Inside an universe with so many planets that it becomes logic to extrapolate these combinations with quantum gravitation and electromagnetism.At this present they drink,eat, think, dream, live,evolve,cry,laugh, us ,it exists probably civilizations less Evolved, others more.These numbers and the quantum gravitation imply an ocean infinite of combinations.Already Inside our milky way ,we do not know it,already,it is a problem of special relativity and limits due to space.Our galaxy is of 100000 Light years and us we are at 27000 LY of the central supermassive BH.Plants,animals and vegetals have many secrets to show us.The combinations are incredible when we consider this quantum gravitation and coded of adaptation with electromagnetism.The animals, vegetals can have so many shapes and functions.The adaptation like foundamental also.We know so few Mr Gibbs, even our technology is Young,we have worked the standard model and thermo and electreicity and correlated photonic waves.In 150 years like if we had all understood.It is the same with the waves.SETI for example looses its time with these electromagnetic waves.We cannot speak at a kind of present.If an Advanced civilization exists so they utilise the waves of gravitation,whic are not relativistic.But like we do not check this quantum gravity ,so we cannot send or receive these signals.We are just youngs Mr Gibbs.We are in fact so weak in technologies still.The quantum gravitation is the new era of sciences.But we are at the beginning only.

All the best

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Author Philip Gibbs replied on Mar. 9, 2017 @ 19:29 GMT
People like to write about how aliens at a distance of up to 60 light years will be listening in on our early radio and television broadcasts. Likewise we should be able to detect them, they say. But what is happening to our transmissions? TV and radio is moving first to satellite and then to the internet. Satellite does not point into space. For the internet we may use wi-fi but what will that look like from space. Everything is becoming digital and the signals are compressed to the point where they appear as noise. Eventually the bandwidth we require will be so high that everything will be transmitted as directional signals that cannot be seen from space. We still use a bit if old-fashioned analogue VHF for some purposes but soon that will be as obsolete as smoke signals and it will stop. Aliens will be able to see our signals for about a hundred years before we will become invisible again.

What then happens when it becomes possible to transfer our consciousness to electronic brains? If we can give ourselves as much pleasure as we need in virtual reality will we want more? When happiness is available at the press of a button, will we keep pressing the button or will we look for something else like knowledge? What then happens when we know everything and more seems futile? Will we carry on? If our emotions evolved to help as survive, how long will we want to preserve them just for the sake of it? And if we switch them off will we still have goals and purpose?

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Anonymous wrote on Mar. 3, 2017 @ 19:17 GMT
Hi Phil, glad you made it.

I much enjoyed what felt like a whirlwind guided tour and personal overview of the cosmos and current physics. It seems these essays form windows into the widely disparate workings of human brains (yes that was DIS...!)

Nicely written again and wide ranging. I rather though my own had packed in a full compliment of linked topics to build a similar conclusion, though more bottom up and derivative than your top down view, but I think you seamlessly hit double figures on concepts two pages before me!

I didn't find any real bootstrapping, which was good as I'd have expected it to invalidate your fundamental proposition (with which I and my essay agree). On consciousness I did like; "If they think there is something more, then they are falling for an illusion."

But two questions;

Re; "no scientific explanation is required beyond what can be provided by psychology and biology. I assume you didn't mean to 'exclude' Physics and QM? (both smaller scale than biology and important in neurology).

and; Re; 'there is evidence that an RNA-only world was sustained' I'm interested (I do discuss replication/mutation) Can you identify where and/or give any link?

Well done. I'd be interested in your views on mine, which I'm sure you'll find interesting but is a bit 'testing' (in more ways that one!) and includes a simplest possible classical reproduction of the full quantum state predictions!

Best of luck. I wonder if there's a realistic chance this year of getting into the ..of course not. Silly me!


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Peter Jackson replied on Mar. 3, 2017 @ 19:19 GMT
...that'll be that quantum uncertainty again then! I was definitely logged in when I started writing!


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Author Philip Gibbs replied on Mar. 3, 2017 @ 21:01 GMT
Hello Peter, it is good to be back in a new essay contest.

My statement "no scientific explanation is required..." is causing some confusion. I was just trying to say that there is no magic element involved. This statement has to be taken in the context of what I wrote about consciousness in the main part of the essay. I should have explained it more clearly.

I do think QM has some relevance to consciousness, but not in the extraordinary kind of way that people like Penrose do. I think our consciousness in a quantum world is a sum over many possible experiences. A deterministic intelligence in a computer might be less conscious if it is not connected to the quantum world by its senses. Well it is just my view.

The RNA-world idea is fascinating. I wish I had a second life to spend studying biology rather than physics so that I could know more about it. I have not been very good with references but start in wikipedia and follow the numerous sources in there

By the way, when I talk of bootstrapping I am thinking of how a computer starts up. I short piece of hardwired code tells it to read and run a longer code segment in the operating system on disk. This can happen through several levels. My view is that the fine-tuning in physics is like a short piece of code that sets off evolution and then reasoning in the brain. Perhaps the analogy is not that perfect. Bootstrapping can also mean a top-down causality and yes there is some of that too.

I will of course be reading you essay and I look forward to it.

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Rick Searle wrote on Mar. 3, 2017 @ 23:26 GMT
Dear Philip E. Gibbs:

I greatly enjoyed your essay. In fact your observation that: “There are many who look to religion for answers to these questions, but in the past the actions of Gods were needed to explain many things that are now understood through science ” is the jumping off point for my own essay in the contest “From Athena to AI” which I would be greatly honored for you to read and comment upon.

I love the fact that you decided to go deep and attempted to answer the question: “Why is there something and why is it as it is?”, which I myself avoided not only because I find it unanswerable, but find it beyond my limited ability to answer.

What I am curious is to how you answer the question is why “the ensemble of logical possibilities” exists at all? What, to paraphrase Stephen Hawking breathes fire into its existence in the first place?

Rick Searle

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Author Philip Gibbs replied on Mar. 4, 2017 @ 11:47 GMT
Thank you for this question. It is hard to get across a particular ontological position. Equations don't help much, but people's thoughts are influenced by particular words such as "existence" and "reality" I think you have to question what words like this mean to you. In my essay I have tried to use different language that might make people think differently.

I talk about "logical possibilities" to convey the idea that you don't have to think of these mathematical structures as existing. They potentially exist. Then I introduce the idea that actually existence is relative. We are embedded in one logical possibility and to us existence means anything that we can access within that world. Anything described within another logical possibility will think the same about its version of reality. I know people will say things like "that's circular" or "these are just words" or "Yes but what makes us exist anyway" I think you just have to recognise that the very question comes from within our psyche and is not necessary. It is possible to form a philosophical view in which there is no great mystery after all, even without religion.

Here is a link to what John Baez wrote when Max Tegmark first put his ideas forward. He quotes Wheeler's question that is similar to Hawking's. At that time I had already written about similar concepts under the title "Theory of Theories" but I added the idea that the form of the general theory for physics is determined by a principle of universality. Other people are now starting to think in a similar way (I rarely get cited but never mind) I think this is leading to a consistent philosophical picture that will fit in with the mathematical developments that are now emerging

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Author Philip Gibbs replied on Mar. 4, 2017 @ 11:50 GMT
I don't know why these links sometimes dont work. The links were


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Rick Searle replied on Mar. 6, 2017 @ 02:48 GMT
Thanks for the extensive response Philip.

Again, best of luck!

Rick Searle

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Rajiv K Singh wrote on Mar. 4, 2017 @ 12:28 GMT
Right from the beginning a 'feel good' factor existed through the article, when the author took us on a journey from fundamental laws to life. I read it like a beautiful story. But no where did the author allow us to go beyond the story line to actual connection of the causes to processes described. More or less, each step felt like a reasonable connection, without being able to see actually how....

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Author Philip Gibbs replied on Mar. 4, 2017 @ 16:19 GMT
Oops my reply to this went into a different thread below.

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Rajiv K Singh replied on Apr. 5, 2017 @ 05:20 GMT
Dear Philip Gibbs,

For long I could not locate your response, and I was not sure if you did response. I saw it only today. There should be a link appearing on mutually related pages. Your statements are placed in double quotes below.

"I think the topic question "How can mindless mathematical laws give rise to aims and intention?" requires a big picture answer that covers a long sequence of arguments from mathematical philosophy up to consciousness." This is precisely I mentioned to Brendan. May be this contest should have been conducted in two phases. In the first, one submits only 12-15,000 char long essay and the selected ones with longer version. But again, people have very limited patience to read alien ideas.

It seems, I could not manage to get attention of many who could evaluate critically with deeper understanding.

Oh!, I see, you also left academia to carry on your research agenda without any institutional constraints. As you seem to suggest, you have written books too. Is that how you make your living? I see, you have a namesake who has written many books, nearly a century ago. I left academia a decade and half ago, which seems to be causing my extinction.


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Author Philip Gibbs replied on Apr. 7, 2017 @ 10:56 GMT
Rajiv, I left academia early in my postdoc phase because I knew other postdocs who had been doing it for ten years with no prospect of a permanent position. Being able to network well is as important as doing good research and I was bad at networking. It then becomes very difficult to start a new career outside academia.

So I left and got a job in software engineering while I could and then worked hard at that for twenty years, doing maths and physics in my spare time, until I had enough financial security to stop and return to independent research full time. I now appreciate being able to follow my own research path without the need to impress others or follow the funding. I don't know anyone who can make enough money writing books or blogs to survive that way.

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Joe Fisher wrote on Mar. 4, 2017 @ 15:57 GMT
Dear Dr. Philip Gibbs,

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 Philip Gibbs replied on Mar. 4, 2017 @ 16:22 GMT
Thank you Joe Fisher. The catch in Einstein's quote is ".. but not simpler."

How simple can the universe be and still produce life without outside interference from a more complex realm? I will read your essay to find out.

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Author Philip Gibbs wrote on Mar. 4, 2017 @ 16:15 GMT
Rajiv, thank you for your kind comments. It gives me great pleasure that people enjoy my essay and it makes them think and ask searching questions. That makes me think more too and advances my own ideas. That is why I like these contests. As an independent researcher it is hard to get that kind of interaction any other way.

You asked for more details on the causal connections and I...

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Branko L Zivlak wrote on Mar. 4, 2017 @ 22:11 GMT
Dear Mr. Gibbs

I did not completly answered on your question at my forum.

How did you find the relationship between maths and physics in your essay?

This question can be answered in different ways.

Methodologically it is explained in my three FQXi essays.

Much more important means of explanation is through the process of scientific knowledge. But the process are...

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Wilhelmus de Wilde de Wilde wrote on Mar. 5, 2017 @ 17:06 GMT
Thanks a lot dear Philip, for your reaction on my participation.

The cause of the asymetric appearance of our reality lies in the difference between an emergent phenomenon and its "origin" Total Simultaneity.

TS is time and space-less (eternal and infinite an both singularity), the emergent phenomenon that we experience as reality is time an space restricted.

But as it originates (is entangled with) from a time and space-less entity it is only the NOW including MEMORY that we are aware of and not the eternity of this NOW in TS.

Every ENM is unique for ach agent, so different from each NOW, Past and Future.

best regards


essay:The Purpose of Life

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Satyavarapu Naga Parameswara Gupta wrote on Mar. 6, 2017 @ 11:41 GMT
Nice essay Gibbs,

It is a nice essay on different cosmological theories.

Your ideas and thinking are excellent…. ‘1. Yet three important gaps remain in our understanding of how it all happened. How was the universe created? How did the genesis of life come about? What is consciousness? Even if science can plug these gaps it leaves open the biggest question of all: Why is there...

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David Brown wrote on Mar. 6, 2017 @ 14:27 GMT
"The cosmos simply follows the laws of physics in random motion, increasing entropy until it reaches its final state." According to Einstein's field equations and string theory with the infinite nature hypothesis, our universe expands forever. What is the explanation for the space roar? Does the Koide formula suggests that there might be a modification of Einstein’s field equations? Consider...

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Jose P. Koshy wrote on Mar. 7, 2017 @ 14:54 GMT
Dear Philip E. Gibbs:

Quoting you, "If an artificial intelligence is able to interact with the universe and be aware of itself then it is certainly conscious." I fully endorse your view; consciousness is an emergent property. Nature allows intelligence and the best possible 'intelligence' evolves naturally and it has consciousness.

AI is our creation; we have to provide the environment for it; that is, AI evolves in an artificial environment. To 'interact with the natural universe' it will always need our help. To remove this middleman, we have to create an AI based on the structure nature has selected. That is, if ever humans create an 'AI' having consciousness, it will resemble humans; we will end up creating ourselves.

In my opinion, the theoretical existence of 'all possible universes' and 'all possible conscious beings' are identical and is the best premise to start with. However, at the end it may turn out that the laws of mathematics, together with top-down causal effects, restrict the possibility to just 'one unique structure for the universe' and 'one unique structure for the conscious beings'.

Jose P Koshy

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Author Philip Gibbs replied on Mar. 7, 2017 @ 19:54 GMT
Thank you, I think our views are not very far apart. My view is that when you take "all possible universes" (or as I prefer to say: "all logical possibilities") and start looking at the relationships between them, then that forms a unique structure. You can call it the universe, or the multiverse as you wish.

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Edward Kneller wrote on Mar. 7, 2017 @ 23:49 GMT

I like your early statement: ‘The universe must be read as a whole.’ I also agree with your insistence that ‘no miracle was required’. Maybe I could paraphrase: The universe is what it is – let’s go figure out why.

Like your work, my essay ‘The Cosmic Odyssey of Matter’ has a broad scope, from the early universe to its current state including conscious humans. However, I did not tackle the hard problem of ‘why consciousness (or goals)’, I simply formally described the progression that brought humans to this point. In doing so, I hope to contribute to ‘reading the universe as a whole’.

If you have a few minutes I would much appreciate your review of my essay.

Regards, Ed Kneller

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adel sadeq wrote on Mar. 9, 2017 @ 06:15 GMT
Hi Philip,

I hope you are not fatigued by now. We have discussed my past essays which we share the philosophy and some technicalities. I have made some significant developments since then. Particularly I generate Newton's law for gravity and I link the system to some more standard physics. And I think I now know how to almost directly translate the standard physics techniques ,like path integral and operators to my system. Please read the notes in the comments for some corrections.


my essay

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Author Philip Gibbs replied on Mar. 9, 2017 @ 07:49 GMT
Thank you, that sounds interesting. I will get to your essay in due course.

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Conrad Dale Johnson wrote on Mar. 10, 2017 @ 17:43 GMT

I applaud your clear-minded and well-written essay, and your ability to deal in a reasonable way with such a vast range of questions. There’s one point in particular I’d like to focus on – that “our universe is fine-tuned to make complex processes possible.”

I don’t think either of your alternative ways of explaining this are really helpful. I won’t bother to...

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Author Philip Gibbs replied on Mar. 10, 2017 @ 20:44 GMT
Conrad, thanks for your comments. Your essay sounds interesting so I look forward to reading it. I have a long list to go through.

As you point out my essay covers a wide range of subjects. The downside of this is that nothing is covered in enough detail so people rightly point out things I have said without sufficient justification. Fine-tuning is one of those. Of course several people have written whole books on that. Perhaps my controversial bit is the claim that chemistry is fine-tuned for life.

You say that a sufficiently large landscape is like waiting for an elephant to appear spontaneously. The amount of information needed to form an elephant spontaneously is enormous, even the information in an elephants DNA is a few gigabits, but I have said that the amount of information needs to pick our cosmology out of the landscape is just a few thousand bits. The complexity of the landscape is already enormous but not nearly as enormous as the complexity that evolution produces.

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Conrad Dale Johnson replied on Mar. 11, 2017 @ 12:21 GMT
Thanks, Philip. I see your point... but can you clarify something for me? If only a few thousand bits are needed to pick out our universe, it seems the "landscape" must already include a great deal of definition, i.e. a certain number of dimensions of continuous spacetime, certain specific types of quantum fields with all their rules of construction and interaction, basic parameters like mass and charge, linear and angular momentum, etc. So unlike Tegmark, for example, who allows for any mathematical system, perhaps your landscape is limited to string theory?

If you do have a way of defining a universe ex nihilo with so little information, that would be a strong argument against the thesis of my essay!

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Author Philip Gibbs replied on Mar. 11, 2017 @ 17:33 GMT
So the question is, how do you get from Max Tegmark's mathematical universe where any mathematical structure is as valid as our universe, to something like the landscape of string theory where all the basic principles of physics are already in place? I agree that this is a huge reduction from something that requires unlimited information to describe, down to something that requires only a few thousand bits.

I first proposed an outline solution to that problem over twenty years ago before Tegmark had even made his ideas public. You can still find it on at this link

I said more about it in the last essay and a little in this one.

My answer is that a principle of universality comes into play and a pre-geometric master-theory for physics emerges from the complexity of the system of all logical possibilities. Of course this is just a hypothesis and I cannot provide the mathematical details, but I think my arguments make the idea plausible. I would now identify this master-theory with something like M-theory but if M-theory is not right the idea may still work with whatever is right.

Note also that the few thousand bits only describes the low energy vacuum solution that determines the laws of particle physics in our cosmology. Within that solution many different histories are possible according to the laws of quantum physics, so the vastness of the original "multiverse" has not gone away. It is just being seen through the principle of universality that makes general principals of physics emerge.

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Alan M. Kadin wrote on Mar. 11, 2017 @ 15:38 GMT
Dear Dr. Gibbs,

I have been following your essays on FQXi for several years, and they are always interesting, clear, and provocative. This one is no exception.

I agree with most of your arguments, and my essay (“No Ghost in the Machine”) addresses similar issues.

However, while you conclude that

“Our conscious mind emerges from biology and psychology, requiring no further explanation, …”

I argue in contrast that such an explanation is essential. Further, our collective difficulties in understanding intelligence and consciousness are due to a series of illusions about their nature. I argue that consciousness may reflect a simple evolved brain structure based on a neural network that constructs a simplified virtual environment and recognizes self, other agents, and causality, thus creating a narrative. Such a structure may be emulated in electronic systems, enabling true artificial intelligence.

Alan Kadin

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Author Philip Gibbs replied on Mar. 12, 2017 @ 08:23 GMT
Thank you, I saw your essay already and agree with the message entirely. I hope to get back to it for full read.

When I said in my conclusion that “Our conscious mind emerges from biology and psychology, requiring no further explanation, …”, this did not get my message over very well. In fact it would have been better to say “Our conscious mind emerges from biology and psychology, requiring no ghost in the machine, …” but I didn't think of that at the time :-)

I am pleased you find my essays "interesting, clear, and provocative" especially provocative. Although my views are generally mainstream, I do try to shake things up in areas where our knowledge is very uncertain. I would much rather have an essay that people disagree with than one that fits other people's views. Prizes are nice but I don't write to win.

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Héctor Daniel Gianni wrote on Mar. 11, 2017 @ 23:52 GMT
Dear Philip Gibbs

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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Vladimir Rogozhin wrote on Mar. 12, 2017 @ 14:50 GMT
Dear Philip,

Excellent essay with in-depth analysis revealing the directional process of becoming the Universe that is aware of itself, with ideas and conclusions that will help us overcome the crisis of understanding in fundamental science through the creation of a new comprehensive picture of the world, uniform for physicists and lyrics filled with meanings of the "LifeWorld" (E.Husserl). I invite you to read and evaluate my ideas.

Yours faithfully,


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Tommaso Bolognesi wrote on Mar. 14, 2017 @ 14:00 GMT
Dear Philip,

your essay really covers a wide range of topics, and it must have been a pleasure to be able to concentrate in a single text the variety of things that have kept you busy in the last decades!

Talking about ‘pleasure’: the reason for the appearance and success of this ‘trick’ in the context of darwinian evolution (in sexual reproduction) is obvious. But you also write:

“Higher organisms such as ourselves have developed positive and negative emotions as one way of aiding survival but these also result in us setting ourselves goals that give us pleasure without affecting survival. These include the curiosity driven will to understand nature.”

I wonder whether one can really say that human curiosity to understand nature is completely independent from survival-related goals, and, in that case, what origin it might have…

I like the final parts of your text, and in particular I fully agree with:

“Does this imply that a simulated mind is not conscious? No, our brain is just a wet computer whose workings can be replicated electronically. If an artificial intelligence is able to interact with the universe and be aware of itself then it is certainly conscious.”

Although I tend to consider this as an obvious statement, I have recently experienced vigorous opposition against this viewpoint - still a form of human vanity? (but this is not too relevant to the focus of the context).

Best regards


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Author Philip Gibbs replied on Mar. 15, 2017 @ 22:19 GMT
I think it is true that many animals show genuine curiosity, especially when young. It may be part of the playfulness that teaches them about the world around them which helps them survive later on, especially for animals that need to use some ingenuity to hunt. So yes, that would make curiosity a survival related trait. Even the level of curiosity that humans exhibit could help us to learn and get on better as social animals. It's an interesting point that would be worth exploring at more length.

When I first saw this essay topic I was a bit stuck about how to tackle it. I thought of a few things including trying to find some kind of computer simulation that would demonstrate how negentropy could arise. That is just too hard, but I see your essay is looking at entropy in cellular automata so I will be interested to read it more fully. In the end I took the opportunity to give a high level view of how some of my favourite ideas hang together, and you are right that this was a pleasure once I got going.

Thanks for your comments

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james r. akerlund wrote on Mar. 22, 2017 @ 04:32 GMT
Hi Philip,

I have read your interesting article and I have some minor comments.

In your paragraph where you are explaining "Experience is a relative concept". I was reminded of a short story by Larry Niven (don't remember the title.) of a being that only existed if you believed it existed. The being would show up to eat you, but you wouldn't believe it existed and it would disappear. The being eventually went extinct.

Next comment. My problem with studying higher maths, including but not limited to Algebraic structures, Galois Theory, free Lie group, free Lie algebra, and Galois Theory of Grothendieck, is that all these maths do not need time for them to proceed. Time is something we tack on at the end. What if time is part of the very existence of the universe, part of it's space, part of it's very math? I have other objections to the higher maths also, but here is not the time nor the space to discuss them.

You do a good job presenting your case considering the limited knowledge base of your expected readers. Thanks for that, me being of limited knowledge.

Jim Akerlund

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Author Philip Gibbs replied on Mar. 23, 2017 @ 21:18 GMT
Jim, thanks for these interesting points.

The idea that something is real only if you believe it is not quite what I had in mind, but it is another interesting point.

On the subject of time, yes it is true that most mathematics does not require time. Of course we don't know how fundamental time is and I just hold one view that may or may not be correct. In my picture of reality time is emergent and yes, it emerges at quite a late stage in the ontology. In my view reality is based on logical possibilities described by mathematics. If this view is right then it is necessary and natural that time is not very fundamental at all, but it is very important to the development of life.

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Willy K wrote on Mar. 22, 2017 @ 08:47 GMT
Dear Gibbs

It is interesting that you bring up the possibility of us being inside a simulation. When I first heard of this possibility, I was shocked that intelligent people were devoting so much of their time to discussing this. If they were doing so, it must be a serious issue. But the more I thought about it, the more specious the argument became. I think there are two problems with the...

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Author Philip Gibbs replied on Mar. 23, 2017 @ 21:42 GMT
Willy, hopefully most intelligent people who discuss the simulation argument are clear that it cannot be right. There are a few people who think otherwise but that is a different game. Despite this, the simulation argument is very worthy of discussion and analysis. You see the argument begins with some philosophical assumptions, (not all of them explicitly stated) and proceeds to deduce that we...

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Willy K replied on Mar. 30, 2017 @ 08:42 GMT
Your arguments are well taken. Perhaps, I wrote my critique on simulation too hastily. I guess it is probably because I prefer empirical arguments a lot more. I tend to avoid arguments if they are purely logical and the empirical verification is unlikely to come about. But this doesn't look at the full picture since in many cases the empirical validation requires the development of rigorous logical models first. In many cases, those models resemble the simulation argument at first, but then develop into testable theories of reality. Thanks for triggering this thought process.

Best, Willy

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Author Philip Gibbs wrote on Mar. 23, 2017 @ 08:15 GMT
As we move into the last days of voting I would like to encourage everyone to use their right to rate essays. Please do so fairly on merit. Don't worry if you are not an expert. Use your own judgement and your own criteria based on how much you enjoyed them or learnt from each one.

Remember, the contest is about encouraging an exchange of original ideas and that is hard to achieve in any other way. If you get low ratings be philosophical about it. The best ideas are often not recognised at first. The essays will remain for the future and perhaps people will look back in years to come and remark on how foresighted some essays were, and how unfairly they were rated. Maybe the winners will turn out to be the least revolutionary. Time will be the best judge. Be patient and enjoy the contest now for what it is.

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Jochen Szangolies wrote on Mar. 24, 2017 @ 13:17 GMT
Dear Philip,

upon reading your essay, it becomes immediately clear that it's but one small window into a large tapestry of ideas, starting from the most general logical notions, eventually and hopefully culminating with a universe as we see it---or at least, some set of possible worlds, in which our universe is 'picked out' merely by the fact that we are its inhabitants.

I find the notion of 'relativized existence' you introduce for the purpose to be very appealing: as our universe is *the* universe to us, so may another universe be *the* universe to its denizens; yet, this doesn't imply that both necessarily co-exist. Indeed, they may both be the same degrees of freedom, scrambled up differently and viewed from a different vantage point. Just as the existence of the vase I dropped yesterday is relative to time (it exists for all t before yesterday, and does not exist for all bigger t), existence in the world you construct is relative to another indexical, indicating worlds instead of points in time, being perhaps a few-thousand bit string picking out a given world from the string landscape.

Now for a little bit of (hopefully constructive) criticism: although likely owing to the constrained nature of this contest, while a new idea tantalizingly flares up with every second sentence, there isn't enough space to work them out in sufficient detail to really assess their merit. Perhaps your essay might have benefited from a tighter focus on just that cluster of ideas relevant to the emergence of goal-direction. As such, I must admit to remaining a little mystified as to how, exactly, goals, intention, meaning etc. comes about.

Nevertheless, I do hope your essay does well in the contest!



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Author Philip Gibbs replied on Mar. 27, 2017 @ 20:18 GMT
A common criticism of my essay is that is does not go into enough detail on some point. Of course I acknowledge the validity of that criticism without reservation. Your particular point about goals, intention and meaning is similar to what a few others have said. This is very useful feedback. I should write more about those things but it would require another essay. In fact to do this justice I would have to write a book. Perhaps if I can clear my workload I will even do that sometime.

I am glad you took the point about relative existence. Again there is a lot more that can be said. I like the points you make about it. In fact the different realities can be thought of as separate or as part of one greater reality. Understanding both these views may be important philosophically. I also tried to give the idea that the multiverse is really just one universe of different histories. We know from quantum mechanics that the "other worlds" are interfering with our reality so that we are not just following a classical path through one possibility. The connections between them are important. Again all this requires expansion.

Thank you for your comments that have made me think a little more about these things.

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Vladimir F. Tamari wrote on Mar. 25, 2017 @ 08:25 GMT
Dear Philip

I inwardly bless you every time I upload an essay to viXra the anti-arXiv that you established! More power to you.

I enjoyed your essay. From beginning to end it read logically, smoothly and propelled the reader along in a sort of modern Creation story as Gilgamesh or Genesis were for humanity in the past. Your vision is firmly based in science, but has a sort of poetic resonance as well.

You refer to String Theory as a source of the right landscape for explaining how the Universe evolved from logical possibilities. Recently Gerard 't Hooft wrote a book showing how Quantum Mechanics can emerge from Cellular Automata. I found that encouraging as my own putative model 'Beautiful Universe' is a sort of CA as well. But first physics needs a vast spring cleaning - one that I outlined in my fqxi essay. I will be honored if you will have a look.

Best wishes,


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Author Philip Gibbs replied on Mar. 27, 2017 @ 20:03 GMT
Hi, Vladamir. I am glad you are in the contest again and I will certainly read your essay. Thank you for your kind comments.

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Robert Groess wrote on Mar. 25, 2017 @ 09:56 GMT
Dear Philip Gibbs,

Thank you for your eminently readable and wide ranging essay. I have an interesting question for you when you say, “Can our conscious minds be transferred or copied to computers, or continue to exist independently of contact with our universe?” What about a scenario where a human brain is replicated to the limits of classical physics. So every atom in every neuron is placed in the same relative position as the original, and all electrons inducing voltages are placed in the same configuration, would that result in an identical realization of the same consciousness?

I've seen this question been raised in other ways, but I think your essay is ideally geared to considering it head-on.

Thank you for the read, and wanted to let you know I have rated it in the meantime too.



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Author Philip Gibbs replied on Mar. 27, 2017 @ 20:01 GMT
My answer to your question would be yes. If you recreate a human brain at the atomic level you will create a second copy of the same consciousness that would be as much the same person as the original. That is provided you also create enough of the rest of the person for the brain to function. I would leave out the word "classical" because if you are talking about the atomic level then you are...

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Robert Groess replied on Mar. 29, 2017 @ 04:06 GMT
Dear Philip Gibbs,

Thank you for your time as regards your detailed reply. My motivation for asking the question is that I believe we can learn a lot about consciousness from such detailed considerations. So you are saying we do not even require that brain structure be replicated to the atomic level, just sufficiently well so that voltage gated pulse trains that flow through neurons in a similar brain topology will likely result in a system that we cannot distinguish by any physical experiments or interrogations from the original?

Thank you for your discussion and I appreciate the new perspective it has given me.



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Author Philip Gibbs replied on Mar. 29, 2017 @ 08:04 GMT
Robert, I am not necessarily saying that this is the case. I am just posing the question. I don't think there is a definitive answer because the question is in the realm of philosophy rather than hard science. I agree that we can learn a lot from these types of question. We will learn even more when some of these things become technically possible. I think different people will react differently according to their philosophical point of view and there is no right or wrong approach. The moral implications will however make it a very serious matter and some legal measures may be required. This will be the time when philosophy of consciousness becomes an applied discipline.

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Member Marc Séguin wrote on Apr. 6, 2017 @ 05:21 GMT
Dear Philip,

Congratulations for an ambitious, idea-packed essay! As our conversation in the last essay contest revealed, we share many common views about the fundamental nature of reality, and I found that you once again defended these views well. I find your ideas about the "great path-integral of the master theory" fascinating and intriguing, and I think they can play an important role in formulating a coherent "co-emergentist" ontolgy, where conscious agents and the laws of physics co-emerge from the infinite set of all abstract structures. (I elaborate on this hypothesis in my essay.)

My favorite part of your essay is the second half of the next-to-last page, where you explain why the hypothesis that we are living in a simulation does not make much sense if "we are observing the emergent properties of information being processed in the quantum ensemble of possible worlds". I tackle similar issues when I talk about "deluded observers" and the limits of our "patch of lawfulness" at the bottom of page 7 in my essay.

It is great to see you again in this contest, and I wish you at least as much success as last time!


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Author Philip Gibbs replied on Apr. 7, 2017 @ 10:38 GMT
Marc, it is good to see you here too. I commented last time round that I wanted to say something about consciousness so I made sure I kept some space for it this time round. It is very relevant to the topic. I am glad you noticed my argument about the simulations. You can see hoe this relates to your clone ideas which is why I was so excited about your essay last time.

Your co-emergence idea adds more to this way of thinking. I like it a lot.

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Ulla Marianne Mattfolk wrote on Apr. 6, 2017 @ 13:51 GMT
Hi, Philip.

You say: consciousness can be bootstrapped into existence with a minimum number of random events ...

But from what is consciousness made, or bootstrapped? What is the essence of the necessary memories, in this frame?


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Author Philip Gibbs replied on Apr. 7, 2017 @ 10:29 GMT
Ulla, thanks for your question. It is good to see you here.

My answer to your question is that everything up to consciousness emerges from its logical possibility. Nothing else needs to be added. I know this is a difficult philosophical position for some people but what else can the answer be? If consciousness or anything else arises from something else then that something else has to be explained too. Memories are of the utmost importance for consciousness but they are merely connections in the neural network that is our brain.

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Christian Corda wrote on Apr. 7, 2017 @ 08:45 GMT
Hi Phil,

Also this year, you realized an important contribution in FQXi Competition. I enjoyed very much in reading your Essay. In particular, I appreciated your focusing on cosmology and your stressing the importance of gravity in shaping the Universe. Finally, I agree with your positive final remark that "We have reached a rare level of intelligence on a rare planet in a rare universe." You deserve the highest score that I am going to give you. Congrats and good luck in the Contest, I hope you will have a chance to read our Essay on gravity-waves.

Cheers, Ch.

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Author Philip Gibbs replied on Apr. 7, 2017 @ 10:22 GMT
Thank you Christian. It is the last day of voting so I will be going round as many essays as I can today.

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Dizhechko Boris Semyonovich wrote on Apr. 7, 2017 @ 10:55 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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Gary D. Simpson wrote on Nov. 20, 2017 @ 13:44 GMT
Dr. Gibbs,

FYI, there is a new FQXi essay contest.

Best Regards,

Gary Simpson

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