Taking emergence really seriously

I'd go for that if he could give an informal proof of its untenability. His inability to solve the problem in his lifetime is not such a proof.

Anyway, I really misspoke. He is not saying that consciousness is not brain function. He is saying that some theory such as IIT is required to get consciousness out of information in the brain. And if that theory is general, then it pertains to all matter, not just brains. Such a theory may indeed be required. In the meantime, I think he should be careful not to sound like he is suggesting that something spooky is necessary. Note that nowhere in that interview does he give a hint about any proposal.

I apologize for misrepresenting Koch's view.

~~ Paul
define "spooky".
 
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Sciborg_S_Patel

I don't know why Koch should be "careful", which I find a bizarre (& possibly silly) comment, but if "spooky" means immaterial I think it's too late:

A Neuroscientist’s Radical Theory of How Networks Become Conscious

WIRED: How did you come to believe in panpsychism?

Christof Koch: I grew up Roman Catholic, and also grew up with a dog. And what bothered me was the idea that, while humans had souls and could go to heaven, dogs were not suppose to have souls. Intuitively I felt that either humans and animals alike had souls, or none did. Then I encountered Buddhism, with its emphasis on the universal nature of the conscious mind. You find this idea in philosophy, too, espoused by Plato and Spinoza and Schopenhauer, that psyche — consciousness — is everywhere. I find that to be the most satisfying explanation for the universe, for three reasons: biological, metaphysical and computational.
Is Consciousness Universal?

The Austere Appeal of Panpsychism

Taken literally, panpsychism is the belief that everything is “enminded.” All of it. Whether it is a brain, a tree, a rock or an electron. Everything that is physical also possesses an interior mental aspect..

I will defend a narrowed, more nuanced view: namely that any complex system, as defined below, has the basic attributes of mind and has a minimal amount of consciousness in the sense that it feels like something to be that system. If the system falls apart, consciousness ceases to be; it doesn't feel like anything to be a broken system. And the more complex the system, the larger the repertoire of conscious states it can experience.

My subjective experience (and yours, too, presumably), the Cartesian “I think, therefore I am,” is an undeniable certainty, one strong enough to hold the weight of philosophy. But from whence does this experience come? Materialists invoke something they call emergentism to explain how consciousness can be absent in simple nervous systems and emerge as their complexity increases. Consider the wetness of water, its ability to maintain contact with surfaces. It is a consequence of intermolecular interactions, notably hydrogen bonding among nearby water molecules. One or two molecules of H2O are not wet, but put gazillions together at the right temperature and pressure, and wetness emerges. Or see how the laws of heredity emerge from the molecular properties of DNA, RNA and proteins. By the same process, mind is supposed to arise out of sufficiently complex brains.

Yet the mental is too radically different for it to arise gradually from the physical. This emergence of subjective feelings from physical stuff appears inconceivable and is at odds with a basic precept of physical thinking, the Ur-conservation law—ex nihilo nihil fit. So if there is nothing there in the first place, adding a little bit more won't make something. If a small brain won't be able to feel pain, why should a large brain be able to feel the god-awfulness of a throbbing toothache? Why should adding some neurons give rise to this ineffable feeling? The phenomenal hails from a kingdom other than the physical and is subject to different laws. I see no way for the divide between unconscious and conscious states to be bridged by bigger brains or more complex neurons.

A more principled solution is to assume that consciousness is a basic feature of certain types of so-called complex systems (defined in some universal, mathematical manner). And that complex systems have sensation, whereas simple systems have none. This reasoning is analogous to the arguments made by savants studying electrical charge in the 18th century. Charge is not an emergent property of living things, as originally thought when electricity was discovered in the twitching muscles of frogs. There are no uncharged particles that in the aggregate produce an electrical charge. Elementary particles either have some charge, or they have none. Thus, an electron has one negative charge, a proton has one positive charge and a photon, the carrier of light, has zero charge. As far as chemistry and biology are concerned, charge is an intrinsic property of these particles. Electrical charge does not emerge from noncharged matter. It is the same, goes the logic, with consciousness. Consciousness comes with organized chunks of matter. It is immanent in the organization of the system. It is a property of complex entities and cannot be further reduced to the action of more elementary properties. We have reached the ground floor of reductionism.
 
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Paul C. Anagnostopoulos

Nap, interrupted.
Member
I don't know why Koch should be "careful", which I find a bizarre (& possibly silly) comment, but if "spooky" means immaterial I think it's too late:
Yes, immaterial.

I don't see anything immaterial in his discussion. He's proposing an alternative sort of panpsychism based on integrated information. We'll see where that goes.

https://sbs.arizona.edu/project/consciousness/report_poster_detail.php?abs=1846
http://www.scottaaronson.com/blog/?p=1799

~~ Paul
 
I think Koch is not making sense when he says,

"As far as chemistry and biology are concerned, charge is an intrinsic property of these particles. Electrical charge does not emerge from noncharged matter. It is the same, goes the logic, with consciousness. Consciousness comes with organized chunks of matter. It is immanent in the organization of the system. It is a property of complex entities and cannot be further reduced to the action of more elementary properties."

He says it is the same, but what he is describing is not the same. Charge is intrinsic to particles of matter, electrons and protons, and you can explain how living organisms can manipulate charge by manipulating particles of matter. But he says consciousness is not intrinsic to matter only to complex entities and he gives is no explanation of how organizing matter into complex systems causes consciousness, temporarily, in unconscious matter.

Unless he can explain how subjective experience, (why the color blue looks blue), arises from matter, he is not saying anything, he is just waving his hands and promising.

A much better explanation is that consciousness is fundamentally different from matter and is not dependent on matter for its existence. This is supported by scientific evidence. The cosmological evidence, the fine-tuning of the universe to support life and the big bang show the universe was designed and created by a transcendent intelligence, a conscious entity that exists outside of space-time. The scientific evidence from quantum mechanics shows that matter is derivative from consciousness not the other way around. Quantum mechanics shows that consciousness can collapse a wave function in a double slit experiment, sustain a wave function via the quantum zeno effect, and cause properties of matter to be determined as seen in quantum entanglement. There are also many independent forms of empirical evidence that consciousness survives the death of the body. This includes shared NDEs and NDEs that occur when there is insufficient electrical activity in the brain to support consciousness; mediumship such as proxy sittings, drop-in communicators, and cross correspondences; multiple witness apparitions; shared death-bed visions; and children who remember past lives including those with birth marks on their body where they sustained an injury in th past life. Etc.

Nobel prize winning scientists who believed the evidence shows that the universe was designed or that consciousness is fundamental and matter is derivative from consciousness include: Max Planck, Erwin Schrödinger, Werner Heisenberg, Albert Einstein, Guglielmo Marconi, Brian D. Josephson, William Phillips, Richard Smalley, Arno Penzias, Charles Townes, George Wald, Arthur Compton, Antony Hewish, Christian Anfinsen, Walter Kohn, Arthur Schawlow, other great scientists who believed the same thing include: Charles Darwin, Kurt Gödel, Sir Fred Hoyle, John von Neumann, and Wernher von Braun.
 
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I think Koch is not making sense when he says,

"As far as chemistry and biology are concerned, charge is an intrinsic property of these particles. Electrical charge does not emerge from noncharged matter. It is the same, goes the logic, with consciousness. Consciousness comes with organized chunks of matter. It is immanent in the organization of the system. It is a property of complex entities and cannot be further reduced to the action of more elementary properties."

He says it is the same, but what he is describing is not the same. Charge is intrinsic to particles of matter, electrons and protons, and you can explain how living organisms can manipulate charge by manipulating particles of matter. But he says consciousness is not intrinsic to matter only to complex entities and he gives is no explanation of how organizing matter into complex systems causes consciousness, temporarily, in unconscious matter.

Unless he can explain how subjective experience, (why the color blue looks blue), arises from matter, he is not saying anything, he is just waving his hands and promising.

A much better explanation is that consciousness is fundamentally different from matter and not dependent on matter for its existence. This is supported by scientific evidence, the cosmological evidence, the fine-tuning of the universe to support life and the big bang show the universe was designed and created by a transcendent intelligence, and the scientific evidence from quantum mechanics which shows that consciousness can collapse a wave function in a double slit experiment, cause properties of matter to be determined as seen in quantum entanglement, and sustain a wave function via the quantum zeno effect. There are also many independent forms of empirical evidence that consciousness survives the death of the body. This includes shared NDEs and NDEs that occur when there is insufficient electrical activity in the brain to support consciousness; mediumship such as proxy sittings, drop-in communicators, and cross correspondences; multiple witness apparitions; shared death-bed visions; and children who remember past lives including those with birth marks on their body where they sustained an injury in th past life.
Of you can have mind inherent in matter. I remember Dean responding to one of your posts on his blog in such a way.

I think it is more likely that mind and matter are two sides of the same coin. I.e., both emerge out of "something else," perhaps pure awareness, or consciousness. From this perspective mind cannot be independent of matter, and vice versa.
 
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Sciborg_S_Patel

Radically-Emergent Theism

I've had a draft post saved for almost a year, since John Shuck, Gavin Rumney, andDavid Williams wrote pieces about emergence and God. One possible view of God is that God is the highest level of emergent order of the universe or multiverse. This viewpoint is sometimes labeled “Radically Emergent Theism,” although nowadays I think that using “panentheism” rather than “theism” might be more apt, even if this is a very specific brand of pantheism.

It seems like the sort of viewpoint that cannot be ruled out in any meaningful way, and so ought to be considered as a possibility even by those whose instinct is to deny that there could ever be a God of any sort.

What do you think? Do you exclude the possibility of such a transcendent reality, and if so, what religious, scientific, empirical, or other grounds do you appeal to in order to justify doing so?
 
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