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Steve Agnew: on 8/17/19 at 20:57pm UTC, wrote Thanks for the nice conference...especially since the speakers did not...

Steve Agnew: on 8/9/19 at 2:36am UTC, wrote You are right...there are much better questions...here are the FQXi...

Eckard Blumschein: on 8/8/19 at 2:41am UTC, wrote "...the constitution of our intelligence? Philosophy, not physics" ?? The...

Steve Agnew: on 8/6/19 at 4:36am UTC, wrote Well...at least this list is more interesting than the kind of silly...

Eckard Blumschein: on 8/5/19 at 5:46am UTC, wrote "How is biological intelligence constituted so as to comprehend the...

Steve Agnew: on 8/4/19 at 21:32pm UTC, wrote Just noticed that the conference info had a very much nicer set of...

Steve Agnew: on 8/4/19 at 21:23pm UTC, wrote It would be interesting to know the process of selection of these...

Eckard Blumschein: on 8/4/19 at 6:27am UTC, wrote With Bine I meant the fostered by FQXI Sabine (alias bee) Hossenfelder. At...


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FQXi BLOGS
August 20, 2019

CATEGORY: Blog [back]
TOPIC: Survey on Foundational Questions from the 6th FQXi Conference, in Tuscany [refresh]
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FQXi Administrator Zeeya Merali wrote on Jul. 25, 2019 @ 10:44 GMT
Greetings from FQXi's 6th International Meeting, brought to you from Tuscany, Italy.

We’re currently coming to the end of another brilliant (though I admit I'm biased) FQXi conference, this time focused on Intelligence and Agency in the Physical World, sponsored by the Fetzer Franklin Institute.

But to give you a flavor of what we've been discussing, here are some of the questions the organisers put together in a survey. They polled the participants here — a mix of (mainly) physicists, mathematicians, philosophers, computer scientists and biologists. Their answers to the survey questions will follow soon. But before I reveal them, what are your thoughts?

1) Is there a hard problem of consciousness? (Y/N)

2) If the number of particles in a solar mass star is N, is the number of M physically instantiated stars in existence: is M < N, N < M < exp(N), exp(N) < N < infinity, or N = infinity?

3) You’ve traveled back in time to 1998, and are observing the Earth from Alpha Centauri. What is the probability that in 2000 George Bush is elected US president?

4) If we encountered ET intelligence, what parts of our math would it know? Logic? Algebra? Calculus? None of the above?

5) Do we need a Science Court? What would it do?

6) Is the universe a simulation? (near certain, probably, improbably, almost certainly not)

7) Is there a wavefunction for the entire universe? (Y/N)

8) What do you think of top-down causation, on a scale from (logically incoherent) to (self-evidently part of how things are)?

9) What is the resolution of the Fermi paradox?

10) You are given the choice between (a) a quantum gun that with p=0.5 kills you instantly and with p=0.5 does nothing, or (b) a classical poorly-aimed gun that with p=1/3 kills you, with p=1/3 injures you (bullet hits random location), and with p=1/3 misses you. Which do you choose? (You can vary the setup; the idea is to elicit whether one believes a real version of you always survives the quantum gun and whether this matters.)

11) Is it in principle possible, using a classical computer with the computational capacity of the observable universe, to simulate (via some set of evolution equations) an initial state of a flower seed, soil, water, and air, to see what color flowers bloom?

12) How does mind relate to the fundamental structure of the Universe?

13) And, only for the brave/foolhardy: Which of the versions of QM is best/truest/etc.?

Let me know your thoughts in the comments.

There will be whole bunch of material appearing on the community site over the next few days, including slides and audio of selected talks and analysis on the blog (by the excellent Ian Durham and George Musser). And of course, all the videos will be made available on our YouTube channel (but please be patient while we work on those). In the meantime, you can get a sense of the some of the themes and debates at the conference on Twitter #FQXi2019, where I’ve been live tweeting the meeting.

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Peter Warwick Morgan wrote on Jul. 25, 2019 @ 13:32 GMT
3) You’ve traveled back in time to 1998, and are observing the Earth from Alpha Centauri. What is the probability that in 2000 George Bush is elected US president?

Too much wine and beer may have been consumed in the construction of this question.

6) Is the universe a simulation? (near certain, probably, improbably, almost certainly not)

I really feel the need for an option like "Impossible to tell from inside the Cave".

7) Is there a wavefunction for the entire universe? (Y/N)

From inside the cave, N.

8) What do you think of top-down causation, on a scale from (logically incoherent) to (self-evidently part of how things are)?

How can we tell from the middle?

10) You are given the choice between (a) a quantum gun that with p=0.5 kills you instantly and with p=0.5 does nothing, or (b) a classical poorly-aimed gun that with p=1/3 kills you, with p=1/3 injures you (bullet hits random location), and with p=1/3 misses you. Which do you choose? (You can vary the setup; the idea is to elicit whether one believes a real version of you always survives the quantum gun and whether this matters.)

I can vary the setup??? I choose not to pull the trigger (about which the question says nothing).

13) And, only for the brave/foolhardy: Which of the versions of QM is best/truest/etc.?

et cetera or something.

I collapsed into having fun with it. After which I collapsed into wondering why I bothered with it.

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FQXi Administrator Zeeya Merali replied on Jul. 29, 2019 @ 14:58 GMT
It is true that these questions were constructed during conference excursions. And one group went on a wine-tasting excursion.. It may be worth trying to guess which questions came from that group. :P

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Rick Lockyer wrote on Jul. 25, 2019 @ 15:13 GMT
Peter, perfect!

With so many things we can know about the foundations of physics that are not adequately understood, why bother thinking about things we can never know with certainty that are built on multi layered speculation?

For fun:

1) overthinking it

2) M and N are independent unless you speculate they are not

3) time travel is not only a paradoxical impossibility it violates conservation of energy and entropy concerns. Why Bush? Hoping for a paradoxical outcome?

4) all but maybe not as we know them

5) sure, pack it with “settled science “ bigots. Maybe go back in time and pick up some village shamen that we’re able to bring back the sun after an eclipse

6) of what?

7) is there a wave function for anything?

8) I don’t think about it

12) the fundamental structure of the universe is independent of any singular mind

13) none

Rick

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FQXi Administrator Zeeya Merali replied on Jul. 29, 2019 @ 14:59 GMT
On (3), I think the idea is that the outcome was so close, it might conceivably be different, if played out again.

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Robert H McEachern wrote on Jul. 25, 2019 @ 16:32 GMT
9) Intelligent life-forms decline to be seen anywhere near events like these.

Rob McEachern

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FQXi Administrator Zeeya Merali replied on Jul. 29, 2019 @ 15:00 GMT
May well be true...

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Georgina Woodward wrote on Jul. 26, 2019 @ 02:03 GMT
3. Looks like an attempt to compound time travel and Andromeda paradoxes. Travel to a material past is not possible as it is non existent. The material configuration that was that time has reconfigured not made copies of itself. Travel to Alpha Centuri is not time travel. Being 4.367 light years from Earth there will be a signal transmission delay of 4.367 years. What an observer sees or hears has no effect on a material event that has already happened. If a signal pertaining to the election was sent to and is received in the Alpha Centuri star system (4.367 years later), it is an observation product that will be generated. Which is not the same as the material event happening. The material election event and the information pertaining to the distant observer are uncorrelated. The probability is 100 percent as the material event has already happened.

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FQXi Administrator Zeeya Merali replied on Jul. 29, 2019 @ 15:01 GMT
It is very strangely constructed. I think maybe they were hoping that by saying it that way, you wouldn't be able ti assume that things would necessarily play out identically as the first time (when you watched the events play out on Earth).

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Georgina Woodward replied on Jul. 30, 2019 @ 00:43 GMT
Fake news could be sent to Alpha Centuri, in which case a different outcome could be perceived. That does not alter the material event that actually happened. However since in this scenario there is the ability to travel to Alpha Centuri it is not an event that happened on our Earth. That being so perhaps there are other differences too, such as how recounts are conducted. Not enough info about this alternative Earth to give a probability.

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Roger Granet wrote on Jul. 26, 2019 @ 02:50 GMT
1) Is there a hard problem of consciousness? (Y/N)

A. It's hard but soluble. It's not hard in the conventional sense that there's something mysterious about "qualia". The feeling you get when you smell something nice like a rose is a combination of:

- The physiological effects on your cells of the odor receptors being activated by the rose odorants.

- Activation of the...

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Steve Agnew wrote on Jul. 26, 2019 @ 04:41 GMT
These questions just do not seem that interesting to me...

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Steve Agnew replied on Aug. 4, 2019 @ 21:23 GMT
It would be interesting to know the process of selection of these questions. Was it a small committee...was it one person...was it a show of hands...was it all of the above? The questions just do not seem that interesting and that seems amazing with so many very smart people.

It appears that all of these smart people are simply bored to tears with addressing that same old simple unanswerable questions yet again and felt better with new and even more completely unanswerable questions...

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Steve Agnew replied on Aug. 4, 2019 @ 21:32 GMT
Just noticed that the conference info had a very much nicer set of questions:

This multidisciplinary gathering will bring together the FQXi membership along with more top minds to address foundational questions in this intersection, such as:

How is biological intelligence constituted so as to comprehend the physical world, and how is our understanding of physics shaped by the constitution of our intelligence?

What are fundamental limits to computation?

What does it mean for agents to make choices in a world ruled by natural law?

What sorts and levels of intelligence are physically possible?

Can we have a rigorous theory of informational correlates of conscious activity that would allow us to assess the consciousness of other minds and intelligences?

How intertwined are intelligence and computation, or intelligence and consciousness, or intelligence and choice/agency?

Are there fundamental physical principles or analogies that can help us understand the constraints on, or functioning of, mental systems?

How does mind relate to the fundamental structure of the Universe?

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Eckard Blumschein replied on Aug. 5, 2019 @ 05:46 GMT
"How is biological intelligence constituted so as to comprehend the physical world, and how is our understanding of physics shaped by the constitution of our intelligence?"

This question was tackled with some admittedly not generally accepted success in Il Ciocco 20 years ago: NATO Advanced Study Institute on Computational Hearing.

Being aware of perhaps reasonable observations and ideas like e.g. Laniakea and Steinhardt's big bounce instead of big bang, a supervoid, etc. I suspect any mere speculations to be unfounded if they resemble religions. Why else should there be aliens?

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Member Matthew Saul Leifer wrote on Jul. 26, 2019 @ 10:51 GMT
5) If it is specified that Sabine Hossenfelder will be the sole judge in Science Court then I will sign up for it.

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FQXi Administrator Zeeya Merali replied on Jul. 29, 2019 @ 15:02 GMT
That's a great choice. A nice calming, non-divisive voice. (We love Sabine.)

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Lorraine Ford wrote on Jul. 26, 2019 @ 22:24 GMT
1) Is there a hard problem of consciousness? Answer: No. Underlying the higher-level qualia/ experience of living things, the foundational qualia are categories of information: i.e. the foundations of qualia are relationships. We give these foundational categories names like “mass”, “wavelength” and “position”; and we represent their relationship structure with equations and numbers. Clearly, the higher-level qualia/ experience of living things derives from building new relationships that logically analyse and collate the foundational categories of information; we represent these relationships with algorithms.

You can’t separate matter from its conscious and creative aspects: matter builds and knows relationship, and thereby builds a stable world: there is no magic “emergence” of consciousness. The foundational qualia are the “living” subjective experience of the foundational relationships which physics might represent with algorithms, equations and numbers; the symbols that represent algorithms, equations and numbers are merely “dead” symbolic representations of the “living” relationships that are actually subjectively experienced by matter in the universe.

4) If we encountered ET intelligence, what parts of our math would it know? Logic? Algebra? Calculus? None of the above? Answer: All of the above because our mathematical and algorithmic relationships reflect, and are symbolic representations and extensions of, the types of underlying relationships that already exist in our physical bodies and the rest of the universe.

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Lorraine Ford replied on Jul. 26, 2019 @ 22:26 GMT
8) What do you think of top-down causation, on a scale from (logically incoherent) to (self-evidently part of how things are)? Answer: Contrary to what physicist George Ellis seems to believe, the topology of a deterministic landscape is completely smooth with no distinguishing features whatsoever: no portion of a deterministic landscape can be identified as “top-down causation”, “downward causation” or “algorithm”. I.e. nothing can evolve from a deterministic landscape because it is completely featureless.

Genuine top-down causation/ evolution requires the input of new information (representable as new numeric, mathematical or algorithmic relationships) to a system. Genuine top-down causation/ evolution requires the creative/ causal power to create new relationship.

11) Is it in principle possible, using a classical computer with the computational capacity of the observable universe, to simulate (via some set of evolution equations) an initial state of a flower seed, soil, water, and air, to see what color flowers bloom? Answer: No. Existing law of nature relationships give a stable structure to the world, and determine outcomes for matter; but matter itself continually determines some aspects of its own outcomes (representable as new algorithms, equations and numbers). I.e. matter genuinely participates in the evolution of the universe, making outcomes inherently unpredictable.

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Lorraine Ford replied on Jul. 30, 2019 @ 22:35 GMT
Why physics is stupid:

Though seemingly immaterial, relationships exist. These relationships, together with numbers that have changed, are the cause of black holes and atomic explosions. Physics represents these relationships with equations, numbers and the delta symbol.

Physics is stupid because it assumes that these relationships can exist without anything in the universe knowing about them in any sense. This is the faulty premise behind Question 1: that consciousness is a separate phenomenon, not connected to the universe’s knowledge of its own relationships.

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Georgina Woodward wrote on Jul. 27, 2019 @ 02:24 GMT
Question 6 asks " Is the universe a simulation?" It does not specify if the universe in question is the one that materially exists and in which physics sand chemistry happen or the seen, visible universe. All images of the 'visible universe, whether product of a human sensory system as the night sky is observed, astronomers photograph, artistic rendition of astronomic data or computer generated image -all are simulations. All are products from signals that have taken different lengths of time to arrive at the observer's location, so portray temporal spread. I.e. not uni-temporal (same time everywhere). Unlike the existing material universe, Which is uni-temporal, not spread out over time.

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FQXi Administrator Zeeya Merali replied on Jul. 29, 2019 @ 15:03 GMT
Hi Georgina,

I think in that case, the ambiguity might have been intentional, so that participants might come up with a range of answers.

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Georgina Woodward replied on Jul. 29, 2019 @ 23:55 GMT
Thank you for your reply Zeeya. I don't know the mind of the question writer. However I think it unlikely an intentional ambiguity was included. The term 'universe' is most usually unqualified by what is meant by it. The unspoken assumption being that the material universe in which we exist is the universe we see via various means. The lack of differentiation of what materially exists sand observation products leads to the various paradoxes of Relativity and there seaming to be time travel possibility.

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Eckard Blumschein wrote on Jul. 28, 2019 @ 03:24 GMT
Steven Greenberg invited me to Il Ciocco twenty years ago because I as a nobody supported his still valid but still non-mainstream arguments. Having looked in vain at the 2019 list of participants and panelests for Bine, I focused on Anthony Aguerre and found an interesting to me link to "future of life" which seems to ignore Alan Kadin.

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Eckard Blumschein replied on Aug. 4, 2019 @ 06:27 GMT
With Bine I meant the fostered by FQXI Sabine (alias bee) Hossenfelder. At least the title of her recent video sounds provocative: "Was läuft falsch in der gegenwärtigen Physik?"(YouTube, Uni Stuttgart, 14.05.2019)

When Aguirre guided me to the FLI, I hoped for serious answers at least to Greta's naive Fridays for future. I referred to Alan Kadin's FQXI essay "Just too many people". Well, for instance Nigeria's population is currently tenfold as large as 100 years ago. The same for many other countries: Philippinos were in 1918 almost 11 Mio, today 106 Mio.Bejing is planned to include more than 100.000.000 citizen. Niger developed from 2.4 Mio in 1950 to 20.7 Mio in 2018. The key problems are birth rates far in excess of two children per woman, more importantly the strive of the poor because overpopulated ones for a luxurious perspective too, and ultimately the lack of a reasonable non-traditional ethics that sets a limit ot the desirable growth.

Even optimists are correct, and there will be "only" 11,200,000,000 people in 2100, this would be a horrible catastrophy if everybodey did on average consume and produce as much waste as do US citisen (personal fingerprint fife as high as the current global average). This year, Earth Overshoot Day (formerly Ecological Debt Day) was in July.

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Joe William Fisher wrote on Jul. 29, 2019 @ 15:44 GMT
Dear Dr. Merali,

The only physical fact the physicists have ever been able to establish am that the real Earth had a real VISIBLE surface for MILLIONS of years before any theoretical physicists ever appeared on that real VISIBLE surface and began taking unnatural guesswork surveys concerning invisible finite quantum particle agglomeration. NATURE provided only one VISIBLE universal physical structure. There has only ever been, and there will only ever be one unified VISIBLE infinite surface ETERNALLY occurring in one infinite dimension that am always mostly illuminated by finite non-surface light. Why do white male theoretical physicists prefer to only guess about unnatural conditions?

Joe Fisher, Realist

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Steve Agnew wrote on Aug. 17, 2019 @ 20:57 GMT
Thanks for the nice conference...especially since the speakers did not really did limit to just the listed questions but rather covered the regular stuff about measurement of free will and consciousness. All in all, a very fun conference...

Please be certain to cover Mile Gu's very nice talk on quantum agents uses his past work on quantum causal asymmetry. Gu's work shows that quantum precursors reduce the information needed for prediction from purely classical precursors. This should really be the whole theme of the conference since it would be nice to have the other heavyweights comment on Gu's really nice work.

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