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Dizhechko Semyonovich: on 4/7/17 at 7:18am UTC, wrote Dear Sirs! Physics of Descartes, which existed prior to the physics of...

Jarmo Mäkelä: on 4/6/17 at 10:39am UTC, wrote Hi, I really liked this essay. It was highly readable and clearly written....

Peter Jackson: on 4/4/17 at 11:53am UTC, wrote Sophia, I think you've reached your goal. Great essay, beautifully...

Janko Kokosar: on 4/1/17 at 13:29pm UTC, wrote Dear Sophia Magnusdottir I like how you were located the problem of...

Tejinder Singh: on 3/16/17 at 7:45am UTC, wrote Dear Sofia, I have enjoyed reading your thought-provoking and very...

Simon DeDeo: on 3/15/17 at 6:24am UTC, wrote Dear Sophia, I was pleased to see not just memory, but modeling, in your...

Stephen King: on 3/14/17 at 18:49pm UTC, wrote Dear Prof. Magnudottir, I would like to recommend the work of Louis...

Theophanes Raptis: on 3/14/17 at 14:11pm UTC, wrote Dear prof. Magnudottir Allow me to start this critical comment with the...


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Using precision thermometry to make mini heat engines, that might, momentarily, bust through the thermodynamic limit.

August 11, 2022

CATEGORY: Wandering Towards a Goal Essay Contest (2016-2017) [back]
TOPIC: I think, therefore I think you think I am by Sophia Magnusdottir [refresh]
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Author Sophia Magnusdottir wrote on Mar. 6, 2017 @ 17:31 GMT
Essay Abstract

Conceptual clarity is the foundation of scientific discourse. Therefore, I wish to propose a new way to speak about and quantify consciousness. This new definition is based on the ability of a system to accurately monitor and predict its environment and itself. While I am at it, I will also explain philosophical zombies, free will, and the purpose of life.

Author Bio

Sofia is a philosopher of science at the University of Gothenburg.

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sridattadev kancharla wrote on Mar. 6, 2017 @ 19:31 GMT
Dear Sophia,

Universe is an i-Sphere and we humans are capable of interpreting it as 4 dimensional dual torus inside a 3-Sphere, which consists of Riemann 2-sphere as Soul as depicted in S=BM^2 diagram in the attached doc. Soul is the simplest of the complex manifolds with in the 3-sphere, Mind and Body constitute the remaining complexity. Soul, Mind and Body are in a toroidal flux in human beings, exactly at the center of the 3-sphere one can experience the unity of the trinity and that is the now moment we experience. As there are 4 dimensions required for a 3-sphere, the regular 3 dimensions of space and the fourth dimension of time, it is obvious that the 2-sphere (Riemann sphere) of consciousness with in us is with out the time dimension and hence the saying "eternal soul". Poincare` conjecture implies that consciousness is homeomorphic (same or similar) in all beings manifested in all dimensions of the universe, as i have shown that Riemann sphere can serve as the fundamental unit of consciousness in There are no goals as such its all play.

PS: i thinks therefore we are VR(Virtual Reality), i "am" not GOD but i "is".



attachments: 9_zero__i__infinity.docx

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Erik P Hoel wrote on Mar. 6, 2017 @ 21:49 GMT
Hello Sofia,

Just finished your essay. I think you're completely correct that we need to start with an initial description of consciousness that fits your Q1-3 (even if we have no final definition yet).

Also, I thought this was an interesting statement: "Rocks rarely change internal states, hence cannot create models of their environment, at least not in the typical lifetime of solar systems."

In a sense this is correct, but only at a macroscale. At some physical microscale rocks are quite active: being shot with cosmic rays, breaking bonds, changes in the waveform, etc etc. It might even, in a sense, create a model of its environment (say, of the local wind patterns via erosion). So I had a question for you: do you think that inherently the sort of schema you're proposing breaks down into some form of panpsychism, precisely because of issues like this? Or is there some way to combat this 'slippery slope'?

Btw, my own essay is about questions of scale, and relates to Tegmark's and Tononi's work on integrated information theory: "Agent Above, Atom Below" (also a March 6th posting).

Enjoyed the essay - thanks so much,

Erik P Hoel

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Ines Samengo wrote on Mar. 7, 2017 @ 02:41 GMT
Hi, Sophia, I truly enjoyed your essay. Right from the title, I thought it could be related to mine, actually your very title has much to do with my very last sentence. What I wrote is focused on the observer, which is not the focus of yours, but I embrace most (if not all) of the ideas you offer. I liked a lot your definition of consciousness in terms of monitored/non-monitored, and predictive/non-predictive morphisms. Thanks for that!


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William Walker wrote on Mar. 7, 2017 @ 03:34 GMT
It's funny when I am HHHH. Puma Punku ;) I seem to understand everyone's essay and think that they could win this contest... and when I am down on the ground the next day... it seems like jibberish and they don't stand a chance against my simple English version of consciousness... that combines all theories into one... religion and science find a way to coexist with each other. In fact I include all religions - not just one - though It does seem like I focus on Christianity... realize I mean everyone.

Wow I got side tracked...

Just wanted to say I enjoyed your paper and good luck in the contest.

WillIAM Walker

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Natesh Ganesh wrote on Mar. 7, 2017 @ 05:54 GMT
Hi Sofia,

Thank you for an enjoyable essay!! Given the hard question that we are addressing in this contest, I think it's very important to clearly define what it is that we are after (something I wish I can always do better myself) and you have done a good job. I also like your Q1-3 test and tests of the same ilk, which would be I think would be very necessary tool going forward if we are to study consciousness. While our labels for certain terms (and the 4 levels of awareness) might differ, I find we are in agreement over most issues. I concur with your thoughts that the brain is some type of predictive estimator of its environment.

"The ability of the human brain to model its own self-modeling is presently poor. This is the very reason we’re having this essay contest."- This line reminded me of Seth Lloyd talking at a FQXi event about something very similar using the Hartmanis Stearns theorem from computer science. Here is the video link. I thought you might enjoy it.

I have a submission titled 'Intention is Physical', in which I take a slightly more mathematical and a physically grounded approach to the question at hand. The math is a necessary evil but I have tried my best to explain how some of the ideas we concur on can be understood from the simple equations. Please take a look if you have the time.

Any and all feedback is always welcome. Thanks.



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Lee Bloomquist wrote on Mar. 7, 2017 @ 08:52 GMT
Hello Sofia!

Just a small point.

"The rabbit brain must be able to obtain sufficiently accurate information about its environment, which means it needs an input channel"

The new born bunny takes its first breath. According to researchers on the olfactory system, it would then for the first time smell— itself!

"self = (self)"

In other words, the self senses the self.

Of course to survive, after that the bunny must necessarily get distracted by the environment.

But what a first moment!

Best Regards,


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Rajiv K Singh wrote on Mar. 7, 2017 @ 10:19 GMT
Hi Sophia,

You say, "Rocks rarely change internal states, hence cannot create models of their environment". As you also mentioned, "we would first have to distinguish connections between elements which carry information from those which carry supply. At present, however, it isn’t possible to clarify this definition".

Could we infer that we do not know how information is carried or processed? If so, then we cannot be sure if internal dynamics in a rock, jiggling of molecules and interacting with the neighbors, does not result in any information exchange. The rocks also receive inputs in the form of radiations from every where, and vibrations, and react to mechanical forces, which must get translated into the changes in jiggles.

In my essay though, I have attempted to show each state of matter represents information, and each interaction results in information processing. Though I agree with your point that a rock does not seem to have sufficient complexity in its function to represent self-similarity.

"This also means that generically a system can’t predict its own reactions with absolute accuracy. This is why we have the impression of free will". Sorry, I thought a fee will would have meant a model of predicting its own action and watching it being played out.

"Otherwise the moon could be said to have the goal of falling onto Earth." I thought, given your definition of a system with self-similar model, this example fails anyway.


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Rajiv K Singh replied on Mar. 7, 2017 @ 10:26 GMT
Oh! I am sorry, I meant --

Hi Sofia ...


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Graham Walker Cookson wrote on Mar. 7, 2017 @ 16:04 GMT
Thank you Sofia,

Great essay! You write with clarity and economics. Not exactly addressing the kernel of the essay’s question, but I do not care. Your ideas are very important nonetheless and cogent to the question. I am saving your essay in my personal library…again thank you.

I would have like it better if you had included the emergent level of ‘imagination’ in your essay. I am sure the nine page constraint was the only reason you did not go there. Also, the idea of continuous consciousness might need a caveat. The physical universe is huge, but on the quantum level discrete. Hence, any sub-system must be discrete. They are small points for completeness. Your essay is the best I have read so far. I think you have reached your goal…keep agonizing. Graham

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Stefan Keppeler wrote on Mar. 7, 2017 @ 17:13 GMT
Dear Sofia,

this was enjoyable to read. I've read other people arguing that we only fool ourselves into believing that we have free will, and I didn't find it convincing. In the context of your essay (impression of free will as a result of our self-models projecting different possible future evolutions of ourselves) it makes sense. I'm still not sure if I buy it, but at least you have a point. (Plus, you don't take up a final stance on whether we do have free will or not, if I understand you correctly.)

You write: "We do not normally speak of ‘goals’ when referring to non-conscious systems" -- Where would you put viruses or bacteria but also higher plants in your classification? Are they conscious? Do they have goals? I'd like to attribute goals to them but I think they would not end up "conscious" in your scheme. Maybe my confusion arises because you sometimes speak about "levels of consciousness" and sometimes about "levels of awareness", although I don't have the impression that you want to use these terms interchangeably. (In your figure "The 4 Levels of Awareness" which according to the text is a "four-level classification of consciousness" the first two levels are characterized as "unconscious".)

Your essay looks at the whole topic from a rather different angle than mine, but I like it.

Cheers, Stefan

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Dizhechko Boris Semyonovich wrote on Mar. 8, 2017 @ 09:05 GMT
Dear Sofia!

I think, therefore I am" (Cogito ergo sum) – so says Rene Descartes. Very interesting analysis in the spirit of radical Cartesian doubt and ideas to help find a way of understanding the essence of consciousness. It can be stated that the philosophy of Descartes continues to evolve. Can't say that about the physics of Descartes. I intend to revive it.

From New Cartesian Physic great potential in understanding the world. To show this potential in his essay I gave materialistic explanations of the paranormal and supernatural. Probably, I made a mistake that has bound New Cartesian physics with the paranormal and supernatural, because it does not attract the attention of others. Visit my essay and you will find something in it about New Cartesian Physic. Note my statement that our brain creates a picture of the outside world not inside and the outside in space. This space, according to Descartes, is identical matter.

Sincerely, Boris Dizhechko. (Note that I did not know English and use online translator)

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Jeffrey Michael Schmitz wrote on Mar. 10, 2017 @ 02:37 GMT
Dear Sofia,

This is a clear, well-written essay with a sense of humor that gets straight to the point. There are other essays that spend three pages on what “is” is, this essay has definitions, examples and a joke on the first page alone! Very well done.

Consciousness is not intelligence and the existence of consciousness alone does not explain the development of life. Consciousness can be thought of as self-aware or Cartesian (I think therefore I am) intelligence, a subcategory of intelligence. Consciousness also came late to the game with multicellular life, billions of years after life first appeared.

The mirror test is flawed because the test assumes human perception. A kitten will react to a mirror then after awhile realize the image is not a real cat and ignore the mirror from then on. Most dogs have no interest in a mirror because there is no smell only image. What would a dolphin do with a mirror?


Jeff Schmitz

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Jeffrey Michael Schmitz replied on Mar. 10, 2017 @ 02:47 GMT

I wish to add that fear of the other, as in a predator, is not possible without self-awareness. The mirror test is far too high of a bar for this simple and important function.

Best of luck with the contest,


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Joe Fisher wrote on Mar. 12, 2017 @ 15:50 GMT
Dear Dr. Sophia Magnusdottir,

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 @ 11:14 GMT
Nice essay Dr Sophia Magnusdottir,

Your ideas and thinking are excellent like,

1…. The definition should also enable us to answer following three representative questions:

Q1) Is an anesthetized person safely out so that they do not experience pain?

Q2) Is a person with locked-in syndrome self-aware and/or aware of their situation?

Q3) Has an artificial...

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Conrad Dale Johnson wrote on Mar. 14, 2017 @ 13:17 GMT
Sofia –

Your essay is certainly thought-provoking, and your writing just makes me happy. As to the topic, I’m not sure about your approach… but it’s way more sensible than most things I’ve read about so-called consciousness, including Tononi and Tegmark.

I fully agree that it makes no sense to describe consciousness apart from its connection to the world. One of the...

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Theophanes Eleftheriou Raptis wrote on Mar. 14, 2017 @ 14:11 GMT
Dear prof. Magnudottir

Allow me to start this critical comment with the assertion that most probably, there will only be free will in so far as the consciousness of the bearer will remain inapproachable by any mechanistic, mathematical approach which by definition stays indifferent to human pain. This I consider as closer to the truth even if "we, the humans" are nothing but mere robots,...

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Stephen Paul King wrote on Mar. 14, 2017 @ 18:49 GMT
Dear Prof. Magnudottir,

I would like to recommend the work of Louis Kauffman, found here:

Prof. Kauffman et al have worked out some informal and formal mathematics that support the idea of consciousness as a self (and other) modeling process.

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Member Simon DeDeo wrote on Mar. 15, 2017 @ 06:24 GMT
Dear Sophia,

I was pleased to see not just memory, but modeling, in your account. This reminds me of the predictive coding work, and Karl Friston (et al) with their theories in cognitive science. I'm particularly pleased by your hierarchy here of levels of prediction; experience as predicting not just the world, but our own internal responses to it.

We talk a lot about consciousness and awareness in terms of self-reference (e.g., the ability to point to terms in our own mind) but I had not seen it done for self-prediction. I'm in the middle of Andy Clark's new book on prediction and we'll see if he gets there too.



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Member Tejinder Pal Singh wrote on Mar. 16, 2017 @ 07:45 GMT
Dear Sofia,

I have enjoyed reading your thought-provoking and very well-written essay.

In my way of looking at things (which could be wrong), I would make a distinction between mind (with its thoughts) on the one hand, and consciousness on the other [in the human context].

The thinking mind derives itself from the physiological functionality of the underlying brain, and is aware of the flow of time.

On the other hand, for me, consciousness refers to a [hard to define] self-aware state, which is not associated just with the brain, but with the whole body as such. It can be felt but cannot be pinpointed to. Consciousness transcends mind and thinking, and is a state in which there is no perceived flow of time.

You probably disagree with the above, but I wonder what you think of the mind versus consciousness divide, and how does it fit in your scheme of things as laid out in your essay.

Thanks and regards,


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Janko Kokosar wrote on Apr. 1, 2017 @ 13:29 GMT
Dear Sophia Magnusdottir

I like how you were located the problem of consciousness.

I agree also with you that the true question is the level of consciousness not only “consciousness yes or no”.

You write that it is difficult to determine existence of consciousness around us. I agree, but we should also be aware that sense of objective material world around us cannot be easily determined. Namely, what we imagine as objective material world (bunch of atoms around us) are only almost empty space and forces between particles. What is stuff from which particles are built, is unknown.

What you think about free-will? Some scientists think that it does not exist.

I have a different solution of this problem. This is panpsychism and quantum consciousness, where free-will is what is a cause of quantum uncertainty. I claim that free-will is the basic thing which is obvious for consciousness. One classical computer (example for p-zombie) works only according to some software, thus according to some logical gates, or according to some classical random generator, which also works according to some logical gates. But quantum uncertainty does not agree with any logical gates.

More in my essay and in my other links.

Best regards, Janko Kokošar

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Peter Jackson wrote on Apr. 4, 2017 @ 11:53 GMT

I think you've reached your goal. Great essay, beautifully written. I also support Daniel Dennett's views which seem consistent with yours, and both with mine. Do you agree with his views?

I'm giving yours a high score as I think it's underrated, though here among mainly physicists philosophy is still far too often eschewed. You don't seem to have engaged, which is a shame as learning is a 2 way street, but I do hope you'll get to read and comment on mine.

Best wishes


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Jarmo Matti Mäkelä replied on Apr. 6, 2017 @ 10:39 GMT

I really liked this essay. It was highly readable and clearly written. An admirable attempt to define what we mean by consciuousness.


Jarmo Makela

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Dizhechko Boris Semyonovich wrote on Apr. 7, 2017 @ 07:18 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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