Qualia, Information, and Brain

August 24, 2018 Leave a comment

Is it possible that qualia are properties of experience that don’t affect information processing in the brain?

Yes. Sort of. Information processing does get affected, but only because it consists of qualia processing qualia. Let me explain.

The idea that the brain is ‘processing information’ is only true metaphorically. The brain is composed of concrete physical structures, not abstract logical functions. To say that there is information processing in the brain is like saying that there is profit in a dry cleaning business. It’s true in an informal, naive sense, but there’s no ontological difference between ‘profit’ and the excess of dollar bills in the cash register or the electronic states in a computer when the owner checks their bank account. The profit is an idea that we have about how the business is running, but the business itself doesn’t know that it’s profiting.

The same confusion exists when we talk about ‘information’ being processed ‘in’ a brain or computer. We are dazzled by both the depth of knowledge required to understand neurology or computer engineering, and by the feeling we get when we use sophisticated, trendy terms like ‘information processing’, so we don’t generally question the nature of information itself. If we did question it, we would find that there is no good reason to consider information anything more or less than the property of a mental experience in which our thinking is informed – that is, when our thinking seems like it has acquired new and potentially useful thoughts. The physical world of brains and computer hardware, if it were strictly physical and unconscious, would have no use for any such mental property as information, since every aspect of the world would be governed by deterministic forces and blindly probabilistic causality branches. If you have charge and momentum, mass and energy, etc, then there is no need for any kind of signals or accounting. The gears would simply turn because they have to, not because there is some process of accounting and comparison telling the charge to change polarity or strength.

To sum up – there is no need to invoke any informative entity to explain any physical process in a physical universe. Physical processes, especially on the quantum level, certainly remind us of how we think and are informed, but if such a process were informing itself nonlocally or faster than light, retrocausally etc, there is no compelling reason to label it ‘physical’. In fact, when we cross the classical limit into quantum theory, we have left all pretense of materiality behind and have moved into a realm of pure abstraction…interpretations of interpretations. It is just as useful to think of the quantum world as microphenomenal (based on low level experiential interactions, aka sensory-motive qualia) is it is to think of quantum as microphysical (form/field-force) or information-theoretic. If we are going to insist on quantum mechanics existing in the absence of all awareness, then we would have to understand exactly why and how it could ever appear that it does not.

Physical mechanisms should reduce to chain reactions of forms or forces. The should not need to know or detect anything. There should not be any role for a conscious perceiver or participant in shaping their behaviors. Church-Turing Thesis, which is considered to be one of the foundational pillars of computer science and of all computing that really exists today, shows that any problem which is computable can be executed by blind mechanical functions. Just as we can solve any simple arithmetic problem by counting on our fingers, all problems that can be solved by computation will be equally valid when we use properly configured physical switches, gears or electronic substances that can be set in a way that causes other settings to change or prevent change. As long as *we* (conscious seers, counters, and thinkers) can see and count and logically think about the significance of the result of such switches switching, the result will be reliable and potentially useful to us (informative).

In other words, computer science proves that computation need not involve any information processing at all, but rather only a chain reaction of changing formations. A physical machine has no ‘in’ or ‘out’, no ‘ones and zeros’, only charged field surfaces and volumes in motion or stasis. A ‘program’ is literally nothing but the sequence of moving parts of a machine.

Anyhow, now that we have made clear why it is not logical or parsimonious to conflate any physical phenomenon in a physical world with the presence of disembodied ‘information’, we can do the same thing with qualia. This has been done several times in the history of philosophy – Searle’s Chinese Room, Leibniz Mill, Plato’s Cave, etc. Alfred Korzybski’s phrase ‘the map is not the territory’ is a bit more general, so it applies to both the relation of information to physics, information to qualia, and physics to qualia. Information is an intellectual map* of a territory that is composed of either physical or mental qualia. Physics is a perceptual map of hypothetical qualia.

I know that it will sound outrageous to many readers to assert that physics is the map and qualia is the territory, but that is only because our physical theory includes the fallacious premise that it is not a theory. The only thing that we know for sure about physical phenomena is that they are reliable features of most of our waking experience – they are a category of qualia which subjectively seems to transcend our subjectivity, but so do other non-physical things like math and logic. In my understanding, it makes more sense that all phenomena are more like qualia or ‘dream-stuff’, then they are like ‘star-stuff’ or ‘number-stuff’**.

The irony is that it is pragmatic logic that tells us this. We don’t have to believe in anything supernatural or mystical to understand it. All that we have to ask is how the physical brain’s activity would change if there were no such thing as sight or sound or feeling. Would the rhodopsin molecules in the retina not become isomerized by a certain range of electromagnetic stimulation? Would the same neurons not release glutamate that cascades into other molecular releases along the optic nerve and visual cortex? No, logically, nothing would change if there were no such things as colors, shapes, and images. As long as there are atoms, molecules, cells, and bodies (setting aside for the moment the fact that they too are only known to be tangible-touchable qualia), nothing about the behavior of those bodies would change. Nothing about the way that chemical reactions in the brain ‘process information’ would change. If we believe that qualia does not have to exist, then we cannot logically justify that qualia could possibly exist. Neither information processing or formation collisions could logically lead to any ‘emergent properties’ without qualia/consciousness, but both physics and information could be derived by splitting and masking properties of qualia.

*an informational map is itself made of the intellectual qualia of thinking. I use the pretentious term ‘cognitive-cogitative’ qualia to reveal the parallels that I suggest between thinking and other qualia modalities, such as ‘visible-optical’, ‘aural-sonic’, and ‘personal-social’. More on that here.

**regardless of how many dreamers we believe the universal dream belongs to. If Monotheism were true, the physical universe would be part of the dream of a single God. If theism were false, the belonging relation may not need to exist at the absolute level. Experiences of God, or of being God could still exist, but they would just be features of an even larger dream in which are also dreams in which those experiences of divinity cannot be accessed. My absolute truth here is that what can always be accessed is qualia. Whether we believe in God or gods or computation, its all forms of qualia.

 

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Visual Walkthrough of Multisense Realism Cosmology

June 22, 2018 Leave a comment

Here is a step by step look at Multisense Realism cosmology. In contrast to physicalism or computationalism, which assume a cosmos where unconscious phenomena such as matter or information exist against a background of nothingness, MSR (Multi Sense Realism) assumes a cosmos where it is impossible for nothingness to exist. Physicalism and computationalism see nothingness as always being present beyond the boundaries of whatever thing exists. Outside of the event horizon of the big bang would be nothingness. If a universal machine breaks, it would remain inert forever.

MSR reasons that since there is no nothingness each and every given thing returns to the totality eventually. The whole idea of nothingness as a metaphysical default is replaced with an ‘everythingness’ of a particluar kind. The everythingness discussed here is not an exotic supernatural theory, but a logical extension of this premise: our local experience is a limitation imposed on a totality of experience rather than an addition to a universe or nothingness which precedes experience.

Under this view, there is no ‘nothing’, and there is no ‘being’ or ‘existence’, there are only greater and lesser degrees to which ‘everything’ is presented as these or those things, and all things are experiences. This ‘everything’ is not a static category containing fixed possibilities, but an irreducibly creative and participatory phenomenon.

The idea here is that we can use the self-transcendent properties of consciousness to understand that consciousness itself cannot be transcended. An individual may transcend their own individuality, just as the sense of sight can provide the functional loss of sight through the visible image of total blackness. By analogy, we can understand that the cosmos can present absolute chaos or nothingness as an experienced quality with itself, but the capacity to experience and present experiences cannot be founded in chaos or non-sense. The actuality of sense can only escaped in a qualified way, as a possibility which is suggested qualitatively through sense experiences that are limited by duration or location. Nature isn’t simply a realizer of possibilities or potentials, it is a creative performance of experiential what-hows, where-whens, and which-whys that are proprietary and unique as well as generic and repeating.

1. In the first image, Sight is shown in the context of other senses.

sight_in_context

Insight One: Note that blindness is shown outside of the circle of sight and that black and white are shown within the sight circle as the taijitu (yin yang) symbol. The intent here is to illustrate that while total darkness can stand in for blindness for all practical purposes, darkness is still a quality of seeing. Darkness is visible and requires the sense of visibility (sight) to exist. Absolute blindness* can be neither light nor dark. It is, like the view you have now through the back of your head, simply not accessible.

Consequence of Insight One: If only one sense were available, there would be no way to get outside of it, so it would not be conceivable as an entity. If we were born with only the sense of sight, and could not feel, think, move, know, etc, then for there would be no ‘us’, and there would only be visible things: images, colors, visible patterns and shapes. Sight can only be conceived of because we have other senses to compare it to, including access to a conceptual sense within which such a comparison can take place. The conceptual sense or thinking is a special sense-making or meta-sensory kind of sense which we have access to, but it not synonymous with ‘us’. We think, but we are more than thinkers. We feel, we experience, and we experience ourselves as a character in that experience. This meta-sensory kind of sense is, for us, synonymous with human subjectivity, however the MSR view is that it is ultimately no different than any other kind of sense experience in which other sense experiences are nested. The feeling of being ourselves is, regardless of being a feeling of “having” other feelings, is itself also only a ‘feeling’.

Another consequence of Insight One is to apply the relation of darkness, light, and sight as a direct analogy to the relation of personal unconsciousness, personal consciousness, and consciousness in general. By doing this, we can understand that personal unconsciousness is in only a conscious experience in which a loss of personal consciousness is inferred to have occurred in our past. That is not the same as the absence of all consciousness. Our death is not the same as the absence of all life, just the appearance of such an absence from within another life. MSR proposes that trans-personal experience is the sole underlying fact and fabric of nature, so that even the absence of all biological life would not be the absence of all experience. Life is a kind of experience, but experience is more fundamental than what we call ‘life’.

2. The next image should be used as a direct analogy to the first. The label “Our Life” refers not to our body or ourself-at-this-moment, but to the totality of our experience as individual human beings. “Our Life” is to Sight as the perceptions and events of our lives are to colors and visible shapes.

Sight -> Colors and visible patterns
Our Life -> Personal percpetual experiences

Our life includes various personal experiences, including experiences of gaining and losing degrees of access to that personal experience. It is like the how brightness and contrast use the degree of visibility as a visible quality. Our personal life does not, however, include any experience of its complete and eternal cessation, just as no picture can make blindness visible. This is good news: In order for death to be eternal, it cannot ever be experienced personally. If eternal death exists, it can only ever be inferred within life, and the closest we can ever come to that would be to feel that we are about to die. For death to truly exist in any personal way, it cannot be eternal. It can only exist as an experience in which transpersonal consciousness presents an end or transition out of personal consciousness.

life_in_context

Continuing with the analogy between the first and second diagrams “our death” is to “our life” as “blindness” is to “sight”. Instead of other senses beyond the central scope (circle) of sight, there are in the above second diagram other life experiences beyond the scope of our life. Awake and asleep take the place of black and white, where ‘asleep’ is an informal way of referring to our transpersonal experience-of-having-lost-experience, or personal experience of inferring a loss of personal experience (i.e. dreamless sleep, general anesthesia, coma, etc). Dreams perhaps can be seen like the white dot in the middle of the black yin region of asleep. A hint that even within our unconsciousness there is access to the totality of experience, albeit contracted and isolated. To extend that metaphor further, the black dot in the middle of the ‘awake’ yang region could be the awareness of the blind spots in our waking consciousness, from the Jungian shadow to the cognitive and perceptual gaps that scientific study reveals.

sight_in_context

life_in_context

3. Up until this point in the walk through, all that has been described is uncontroversial. Nothing new has been invented or proposed, except the particular graphic arrangement and explanation of how commonly understood phenomena relate to each other. In this third diagram, new, hypothetical elements have been added within the central circle of “Our Life”. These black ovals containing ‘cow’, ‘cell’, and ‘tree’ signify that the presence of things in our life which we can see and touch are only a surface of a larger experience which we cannot access directly. The green lines or rays are intended to suggest that the relation between what we experience as a cow is actually a perceptual reduction and inversion of some aspect of ‘cow life’ which is available to our life.

2life_in_context

We see and touch a cow. We assume that the cow we see and touch is experiencing a cow’s life. The proposition being considered here, is that this is not the case. From an MSR perspective, it is not the cow that we see and touch which is experiencing a life. What we see, hear, and touch is a walking, mooing, stinking cow shaped body that we call a cow. Just as our own walking, talking, stinking body is not what lives our personal life, we should flip our orientation on how we understand all bodies and objects if we want to be scientific about it. Rather than seeing an animal’s body as the source of its life and experience, we should see it body as a presentation of how one life experience overlaps and underlaps with another. The body is what is left when the two perceptual filters that share a common perceptual language of touch interfere with each other. It’s a mask that presents as a visible-tangible object or body within our visual and tactile perception, which is within our life.

This is a dramatic departure from other popular models of consciousness. Computationalist and physicalist models of consciousness consider directly experienced qualities emergent phantasms. They are thought to be somehow generated by the brain or function of certain kinds of hypercomputing machines, of which the brain is one. Eastern mysticism similarly conceives of the universe that we experience perceptually as maya, an ‘illusion’. The MSR approach considers another possibility, which is that realism and illusion themselves are only experiential qualities, not ontological facts. In other words, the naive perception that we have of the world is truly much smaller than the totality of all perception, but it is just as real as anything ever could be. There is no illusion, no dream, except in the context of a greater ‘dream’ in which the previous one is dis-illusioned. Every dream is reality until a greater dream promotes itself to reality by demoting the previous reality to a dream.

There may be an absolute final dream/reality, and that could be God, or the Universe, but if emergent/illusory views of qualia are true, we can have no access to it. Under physicalism or computationalism, any resemblence to ‘reality’ is taken on faith that some of our experienced illusion happens to correspond with what has never been and can never be experienced in any way. Even the existence of the brain itself, and matter, would have to be acknowledged to be mere phantasmal figments of representation. When pressed, it must be acknowledged that our faith in the intensely convincing realism of matter and the brain has no scientific basis. We can be and usually are equally convinced by the realism of dream worlds also. It is reasonble to conclude, I think, that if any part of our experience is unreal, and its unreality is untestable, then we have to doubt realism itself in order to be think about reality realistically. Since, however, we cannot doubt our own ability to doubt (as Descartes pointed out), we can open the door to all of our direct sense and sense-making experience as being genuine in their own context. Reality in the absolute sense is that realism is a byproduct of multiple, overlapping levels of sense and sense making experience.

To sum up the analogy out so far:

Thesis: Sights (colors, brightness, images, visible shapes)
Qualified antithesis: Darkness (the color of blackness that functions as blindness)
Absolute antithesis: Blindness (the invisible negation of all colors etc, including blackness)

Thesis: Our Life (personal perceptions, sights, sounds, feelings, thoughts, places, things)
Qualified antithesis: Personal unconsciousness (dreamless sleep, near death experience)
Absolute antithesis: Our death (the unexperienced cessation of our life)
When it comes to the big picture of all of existence, an antithesis can only follow a thesis, and if consciousness/awareness/sense/qualia exists, it can only be the thesis.

4. If we now go back to the original diagram on sight and import the objects (cow, tree, cell) from the third diagram into it, we can see how sight, combined with cognitive sense, can be used to symbolize extra-visual sense experiences. Without the cognitive sense, it would be impossible to draw a picture of sound, or touch, or blindness. We can only draw pictures that are limited to what can be seen. In order for a picture to be perceived as a picture of something else, we have to have access to a mind-like sense making capacity where various separately siloed experiences can be associated semiotically. If we have heard sound through human ears, we can see an image and recognize it as a picture of a man holding his ears.

sight_of_other_senses

We make a semiotic connection between various types of experience that make up our life, but that connection is not revealed as such. Instead, the semiotic connection is presented, rather miraculously, as a united perceptual gestalt. These pixels for example are presented as irreducible gestalts called letters, and the letters are read as irreducible gestalts called words. The gestalts do not appear to be composed of their parts, and indeed the gestalts cannot be justified as functionally necessary, but rather all gestalts are either wholes or parts of whatever perceptual context is elevated at the moment.

5. Finally, in this fifth diagram of the walk through, we see that the lime green color used previously to connote the circle of a given scope of sense now fills the diagram completely.

totality_map

This is to suggest the Absolute Totality is not an emptiness that consciousness projects experiences onto, but rather the opposite – consciousness carves experiences out of itself by modulating its own scopes or degrees of sensitivity. The labels refer not to objects like stars, planets, or cells, but to experiences on the astrophysical, geological, or biological scale of time. Time and scale are understood to be divergent properties of this nesting and modulation of sensitivity. Each shell/sheath/holon is not a physical domain but a temporally formatted ‘gear’ which expands or contracts access to the totality. Within any given shell, other shells are presented as indirect experiences, such as static objects, or barely perceptible influences such as intuition or synchronicity. Each holon, like the Net of Indra, reflects its own limitations back to itself in the form of experiencing limited versions of the other holons. Our life does not last for billions of years, so we perceive experiences that do occur on such a slow scale as objects like planets, stars, and galaxies. Our perception is too slow to perceive experiences occurring on the subatomic level, so we have to imagine them according to mathematical patterns we infer from observing the behavior of instruments that we can see and touch directly.

What has been described here is not as complex as it may seem. It’s really a simple application of the common sense idea shown in the first diagram, that while darkness ‘rhymes’ with blindness, and is functionally identical to it, there is an aesthetic difference between blindness and the seeing absolute darkness which is more fundmental. All that we have to do to understand the MSR model is to carry this view of how sense can be transcended indirectly through another sense, but all sense can never be transcended absolutely. The rest of the MSR metaphysics fall out naturally from there.

A sense-based view of nature can accommodate experiences of the universe as both a unintentional mechanical process, and as an intentional creation of God, and as God him/itself. It can accommodate experiences of a life where one is certain that the universe is exclusively one of those three things and then one can also experience becoming certain that they were wrong. The only thing that the sense based, MSR view does not accommodate is eternally non-experiential phenomena such as ‘information’ or ‘physical matter’ that is independent of all experienced qualities. Those kinds of ideas refer to something that would truly be supernatural and impossible. They are, like the worlds drawn by M.C. Escher, based on importing suggestions and associations of tangible experiences into a less tangible sense modality – vision.

sight_in_context

life_in_context

totality_map

Experience is not a hologram, but worlds imagined through the conceptual lenses of theoretical physics or cognitive science are. By recognizing that the absence of direct experience is only an idea within a specialized, sense-making type of sense experience, we can find our way out of the mad labyrinth that has been set built through modern and ancient systems of impossible metaphysics. The scientific revolution gave us one piece to the puzzle, in showing us that the world we experience objectively can give us more truth than we can experience and imagine subjectively. Multisense Realism is an effort to provide another puzzle piece – a scientific skepticism of both objectivity and subjectivity which resolves the hard problem of consciousness by proposing that the totality necessarily includes and is greater than either category of experience, but cannot include the eternal absence of experience.

Craig Weinberg 6/22/2018

*absolute blindness may not correspond to actual human experiences of blindness which may or may not include some visible phenomena. Human blindness is an impairment, whereas absolute blindness would be the possible only in a universe in which sight had never become possible.

On Wavicles

June 16, 2018 Leave a comment

Is material reality made up of particles or waves or both?

I think that the truth is that we’ve got it wrong. The universe is an experiential phenomenon that transcends realism, so it cannot be reduced to geometry. When we do reduce it to geometry in our interpretation, we get the geometric equivalent of an imaginary number. We get an impossible contradiction of diametrically opposed shapes…points in a void or ‘waves’ of energetic nothingness.

Combined with clues like special relativity, quantum contextuality, and Gödel’s incompleteness, I think it should be almost obvious that nature is answering the question of what matter is made of by demonstrating that the question cannot be answered in that way. It is like trying to look for parts of a rainbow inside the water vapor of clouds.

Continuum of Perceptual Access

April 7, 2018 1 comment

This post is intended to bring more clarity to the philosophical view that I have named Multisense Realism. I have criticized popular contemporary views such as computationalism and physicalism because of their dependence on a primitive of information or matter that is independent of all experience. In both physicalism and computationalism, we are called upon to accept the premise that the universe is composed solely of concrete, tangible structures and/or abstract, intangible computations. Phenomena such as flavors and feelings, which are presented as neither completely tangible nor completely intangible are dismissed as illusions or emergent properties of the more fundamental dual principles. The tangible/intangible duality, while suffering precisely from the same interaction problems as substance dualism, adds the insult of preferring a relatively new and hypothetical kind of intangibility which enjoys all of our mental capacities of logic and symbolism, but which exists independently of all mental experience. When we try to pin down our notions of what information really is, the result is inevitably a circular definition which assumes phenomena can be ‘sent’ and ‘received’ from physics alone, despite the dependence of such phenomena on a preferred frame of reference and perception. When one looks at a system of mechanical operations that are deemed to cause information processing, we might ask the question “What is it that is being informed?” Is it an entity? Is there an experience or not? Are information and matter the same thing, and if so, which of them make the other appear opposite to the other? Which one makes anything ‘appear’ at all?

The answers I’ve heard and imagined seem to necessarily imply some sort info-homunculus that we call ‘the program’ or ‘the system’ to which mental experience can either be denied or assumed in an arbitrary way. This should be a warning to us that by using such an ambiguously conscious agent to explain how and why experience exists, we are committing a grave logical fallacy. To begin with, a principle that can be considered experiential or non-experiential to explain experience is like beginning with ‘moisture’ to explain the existence of water. Information theory is certainly useful to us as members of a modern civilization, however, that utility does not help us with our questions about whether experience can be generated by information or information is a quality of some categories of experience. It does not help us with the question of how the tangible and intangible interact. In our human experience, programs and systems are terms arising within the world of our thinking and understanding. In the absence of such a mental experience context, it is not clear what these terms truly refer to. Without that clarity, information processing agents are allowed them to exist in an unscientific fog as entities composed of an intangible pseudo-substance, but also with an unspecified capacity to control the behavior of tangible substances. The example often given to support this view is our everyday understanding of the difference between hardware and software. This distinction does not survive the test of anthropocentrism. Hardware is a concrete structure. Its behavior is defined in physical terms such as motion, location, and shape, or tendencies to change those properties. Software is an idea of how to design and manipulate those physical behaviors, and how the manipulation will result in our ability to perceive and interpret them as we intend. There is no physical manifestation of software, and indeed, no physical device that we use for computation has any logical entailment to experience anything remotely computational about its activities, as they are presumed to be driven by force rather than meaning. Again, we are left with an implausible dualism where the tangible and intangible are bound together by vague assumptions of unconscious intelligibility rather than by scientific explanation.

Panpsychism offers a possible a path to redemption for this crypto-dualistic worldview. It proposes that some degree of consciousness is pervasive in some or all things, however, the Combination Problem challenges us to explain how exactly micro-experiences on the molecular level build up to full-blown human consciousness. Constitutive panpsychism is the view that:

“facts about human and animal consciousness are not fundamental, but are grounded in/realized by/constituted of facts about more fundamental kinds of consciousness, e.g., facts about micro-level consciousness.”

Exactly how micro-phenomenal experiences are bound or fused together to form a larger, presumably richer macro-experience is a question that has been addressed by Hedda Hassel Mørch, who proposes that:

“mental combination can be construed as kind causal process culminating in a fusion, and show how this avoids the main difficulties with accounting for mental combination.”

In her presentation at the 2018 Science of Consciousness conference, Mørch described how Tononi’s Integrated Information Theory (IIT) might shed some light on why this fusion occurs. IIT offers the value Φ to quantify the degree of integration of information in a physical system such as a brain. IIT is a panpsychist model that predicts that any sufficiently integrated information system can or will attain consciousness. The advantage of IIT is that consciousness is allowed to develop regardless of any particular substrate it is instantiated through, but we should not overlook the fact that the physical states seem to be at least as important. We can’t build machines out of uncontained gas. There would need to be some sort of solidity property to persist in a way that could be written to, read from, and addressed reliably. In IIT, digital computers or other inorganic machines are thought to be incapable of hosting fully conscious experience, although some minimal awareness may be present.

The theory vindicates some panpsychist intuitions – consciousness is an intrinsic, fundamental property, is graded, is common among biological organisms, and even some very simple systems have some. However, unlike panpsychism, IIT implies that not everything is conscious, for example group of individuals or feed forward networks. In sharp contrast with widespread functionalist beliefs, IIT implies that digital computers, even if their behavior were to be functionally equivalent to ours, and even if they were to run faithful simulations of the human brain, would experience next to nothing.” – Consciousness: Here, There but Not Everywhere

As I understand Mørch’s thesis, fusion occurs in a biological context when the number of causal relationships in the parts of a system that relate to the whole exceed the number of causal relationships which relate to the disconnected parts.

I think that this approach is an appropriate next step for philosophy of mind and may be useful in developing technology for AI. Information integration may be an ideal way to quantify degrees of consciousness for medical and legal purposes. It may give us ethical guidance in how synthetic and natural organisms should be treated, although I agree with some critics of IIT that the Φ value itself may be flawed. It is possible that IIT is on the right track in this instrumental sense, but that a better quantitative variable can be discovered. It is also possible that none of these approaches will help us understand what consciousness truly is, and will only confuse us further about the nature of the relation between the tangible, the intangible, and what I call the trans-tangible realm of direct perception.

What I propose here is that rather than considering a constitutive fusion of microphenomenal units into a macrophenomenal unit in which local causes and effects are consolidated into a larger locality, we should try viewing these micro and macro appearances as different orders of magnitude along a continuum of “causal lensing” or “access lensing“. Rather than physical causes of phenomenal effects, the lensing view begins with phenomenal properties as identical to existence itself.  Perceptions are more like apertures which modulate access and unity between phenomenal contexts rather than mathematical processes where perceptions are manufactured by merging their isolation. To shift from a natural world of mechanical forms and forces to one of perceptual access is a serious undertaking, with far-ranging consequences that require committed attention for an extended time. Personally, it took me several years of intensive consideration and debate to complete the transition. It is a metaphysical upheaval that requires a much more objective view of both objectivity and subjectivity.  Following this re-orientation, the terms ‘objective’ and ‘subjective’ themselves are suggested to be left behind, adopting instead the simpler, clearer terms such as tangible, intangible, and trans-tangible. Using this platform of phenomenal universality as the sole universal primitive, I suggest a spectrum-like continuum where ranges of phenomenal magnitude map to physical scale, qualitative intensity, and to the degree of permeability between them.

For example, on the micro/bottom scale, we would place the briefest, most disconnected sensations and impulses which can be felt, and marry them to the smallest and largest structures available in the physical universe. This connection between subatomic and cosmological scales may seem counterintuitive to our physics-bound framework, but here we can notice the aesthetic similarities between particles in a void and stars in a void. The idea here is not to suggest that the astrophysical and microphysical are identical, but that the similarity of their appearances reflects our common perceptual limitation to those largest and smallest scales of experience.  These appearances may reflect a perception of objective facts, or they may be defined to some degree by particular perceptual envelope propagates reports about its own limits within itself. In the case of a star or an atom, we are looking at a report about the relationship between our own anthropocentric envelope of experience and the most distant scales of experience and finding that the overlap is similarly simple. What we see as a star or an atom may be our way of illustrating that our interaction is limited to very simple sensory-motor qualities such as ‘hold-release’ which corresponds to electromagnetic and gravitational properties of ‘push-pull’. If this view were correct, we should expect that to the extent that human lifetimes have an appearance from the astro or micro perspective, that appearance would be similarly limited to a simple, ‘points in a void’ kind of description. This is not to say that stars or atoms see us as stars or atoms, but that we should expect some analogous minimization of access across any sufficiently distant frame of perception.

Toward the middle of the spectrum, where medium-sized things like vertebrate bodies exist, I would expect that this similarity is gradually replaced by an increasing dimorphism. The difference between structures and feelings reaches its apex in the center of the spectrum for any given frame of perception. In that center, I suspect that sense presentations are maximally polarized, achieving the familiar Cartesian dualism of waking consciousness as is has been conditioned by Western society. In our case, the middle/macro level presentation is typically of an ‘interior’ which is intangible interacting with a tangible ‘exterior’ world, governed by linear causality. There are many people throughout history, however, who have reported other experiences in which time, space and subjectivity are considerably altered.

While the Western view dismisses non-ordinary states of consciousness as fraud or failures of human consciousness to report reality, I suggest that the entire category of transpersonal psychology can be understood as a logical expectation for the access continuum as it approaches the top end of the spectrum. Rather than reflecting a disabled capacity to distinguish fact from fiction, I propose that fact and fiction are, in some sense, objectively inseparable. As human beings, our body’s survival is very important to us, so such that phenomena relating to it directly would naturally occupy an important place in our personal experience. This should not be presumed to be the case for nature as a whole. Transpersonal experience may reflect a fairly accurate rendering of any given perceptual frame of reference which attains a sufficiently high level of sensitivity. With an access continuum model, high sensitivity corresponds to dilated apertures of perception (a la Huxley), and consequently allows more permeability across perceptual contexts, as well as permitting access to more distant scales of perceptual phenomena.

The Jungian concept of archetypes and collective unconscious should be considered useful intuitions here, as the recurring, cross-cultural nature of myth and dreams suggest access to phenomena which seem to blur or reveal common themes across many separate times and places. If our personal experience is dominated by a time-bound subject in a space-bound world, transpersonal experience seems to play with those boundaries in surreal ways. If personal experiences of time are measured with a clock, transpersonal time might be symbolized by Dali’s melting clocks. If our ordinary personal experience of strictly segregated facts and fictions occupies the robust center of the perceptual continuum, the higher degrees of access corresponds to a dissolving of those separations and the introduction of more animated and spontaneous appearances. As the mid-spectrum ‘proximate’ range gives way to an increasingly ‘ultimate’ top range, the experience of merging of times, places, subjects, objects, facts, and fiction may not so much be a hallucination as a profound insight into the limits of any given frame of perception. To perceive in the transpersonal band is to experience the bending and breaking of the personal envelope of perception so that its own limits are revealed. Where the West sees psychological confusion, the East sees cosmic fusion. In the access continuum view, both Eastern and Western view refer to the same thing. The transpersonal opportunity is identical to the personal crisis.

This may sound like “word salad” to some, or God to others, but what I am trying to describe is a departure from both Western and Eastern metaphysical models. It seems necessary to introduce new terms to define these new concepts. To describe how causality itself changes under different scales or magnitudes of perception, I use the term causal lensing. By this I mean to say that the way things happen in nature changes according to the magnitude of “perceptual access”. With the term ‘perceptual access’, I hope to break from the Western view of phenomenal experience as illusory or emergent, as well as breaking from the Eastern view of physical realism as illusory. Both the tangible and the intangible phenomena of nature are defined here as appearances within the larger continuum of perceptual access…a continuum in which all qualitative extremes are united and divided.

In order to unite and transcend both the bottom-up and top-down causality frameworks, I draw on some concepts from special relativity. The first idea that I borrow is the notion of an absolute maximum velocity, which I suggest is a sign that light’s constancy of speed is only one symptom of the deeper role of c.  Understanding ‘light speed’ as an oversimplification of how perception across multiple scales of access works, c becomes a perceptual constant instead of just a velocity. When we measure the speed of light, we may be measuring not only the distance traveled by a particle while a clock ticks, but also the latency associated with translating one scale of perception into another.

The second idea borrowed from relativity is the Lorentz transformation. In the same way that the special relativity links acceleration to time dilation and length contraction, the proposed causal lensing schema transforms along causality itself along a continuum. This continuum ranges from what I want to call ultimate causes (with highest saturation of phenomenal intensity and access), to proximate causes (something like the macrophenomenal units), to ‘approximate causes’. When we perceive in terms of proximate causality, space and time are graphed as perpendicular axes and c is the massless constant linking the space axis to the time axis. When we look for light in distant frames of perception, I suggest that times and spaces break down (√c ) or fuse together ().  In this way, access to realism and richness of experience can be calibrated as degrees of access rather than particles or waves in spacetime. What we have called particles on the microphysical scale should not be conceived necessarily as microphenomenal units, but more like phenomenal fragments or disunities that anticipate integration from a higher level of perception. In other words, the ‘quantum world’ has no existence of its own, but rather supplies ingredients for a higher level, macrophenomenal sense experience. The bottom level of any given frame of perception would be characterized by these properties of anticipatory disunity or macrophenomenal pre-coherence. The middle level of perception features whole, coherent Units of experience. The top or meta level of perception features Super-Unifying themes and synchronistic, poetic causality.

To be clear, what I propose here is that perceptual access is existence. This is an updated form of Berkeley’s “Esse est percipi” doctrine, where “to be is to be perceived” which does not presume perception to be a verb. In the access continuum view, aesthetic phenomena precede all distinctions and boundaries, so that even the assumption of a perceiving subject is discarded. Instead of requiring a divine perceiver, a super-subject becomes an appearance arising from the relation between ultimate and proximate ranges of perception. Subjectivity and objectivity are conceived of as mutually arising qualities within the highly dimorphic mid-range of the perceptual spectrum. This spectrum model, while honoring the intuitions of Idealists such as Berkeley, is intended to provide the beginnings of a plausible perception-based cosmology, with natural support from both Western Science and Eastern Philosophy.

Some examples of the perceptual spectrum:

In the case of vision, whether we lack visual acuity or sufficient light, the experience of not being able to see well can be characterized as a presentation of disconnected features. The all-but-blind seer is forced to approximate a larger, more meaningful percept from bits and pieces, so that a proximate percept (stuff happening here and now that a living organism cares about) can be substituted. Someone who is completely blind may use a cane to touch and feel objects in their path. This does not yield a visible image but it does fill in some gaps between the approximate level of perceptual access to the proximate level. This process, I suggest, is roughly what we are seeing in the crossing over from quantum mechanics to classical mechanics. Beneath the classical limit there is approximating causality based on probabilistic computation. Beyond the classical limit causality takes on deterministic causality appearances in the ‘Morphic‘ externalization and will-centered causality appearances in the ‘Phoric‘ interiorization.

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In other words, I am suggesting a reinterpretation of quantum mechanics so that it is understood to be an appearance which reflects the way that a limited part of nature guesses about the nature of its own limitation.

In this least-accessible (Sempahoric, approximate) range of consciousness, awareness is so impoverished that even a single experience is fragmented into ephemeral signals which require additional perception to fully ‘exist’. What we see as the confounding nature of QM may be an accurate presentation of the conditions of mystery which are required to manifest multiple meaningful experiences in many different frames of perception. Further, this different interpretation of QM re-assigns the world of particle physics so that it no longer is presumed to be the fabric of the universe, but is instead seen as equivalent to the ‘infra-red’ end of a universal perceptual spectrum, no more or less real than waking life or a mystical vision. Beginning with a perceptual spectrum as our metaphysical and physical absolute, light becomes inseparable from sight, and invisible ranges of electromagnetism are perceptual modes which human beings have no direct access to. If this view is on the right track, seeing light as literally composed of photons would be category error that mistakes an appearance of approximation and disunity for ‘proximated’ or formal units. It seems possible that this mistake is to blame for contradictory entities in quantum theory such as ‘particle-waves’. I am suggesting that the reality of illumination is closer to what an artist does in a painting to suggest light – that is, using lighter colors of paint to show a brightening of a part of the visual field. The expectation of photons composing beams of light in space is, on this view, a useful but misguided confusion. There may be no free-standing stream of pseudo-particles in space, but instead, there is an intrinsically perceptual relation which is defined by the modality and magnitude of its access. I suggest that the photon, as well as the electromagnetic field, are more inventions than discoveries, and may ultimately be replaced with an access modulation theory. Special relativity was on the right track, but it didn’t go far enough as to identify light as an example of how perception defines the the proximate layer of the universe through optical-visibile spatiotemporalization.

Again, I understand the danger here of ‘word salad’ accusations and the over-use of neologisms, but please bear in mind that my intention here is to push the envelope of understanding to the limit, not to assert an academic certainty. This is not a theory or hypothesis, this is an informal conjecture which seems promising to me as a path for others to explore and discover. With that, let us return to the example of poor sight to illustrate the “approximate”, bottom range of the perceptual continuum. In visual terms, disconnected features such as brightness, contrast, color, and saturation should be understood to be of a wholly different order than a fully realized image. There is no ’emergence’ in the access continuum model. Looking at this screen, we are not seeing a fusion of color pixels, but rater we are seeing through the pixel level.  The fully realized visual experience (proximate level) does not reduce to fragments but has images as its irreducible units. Like the blind person using a cane, an algorithm can match invisible statistical clues about the images we see to names that have been provided, but there is no spontaneous visual experience being generated. Access to images through pixels is only possible from the higher magnitude of visual perception. From the higher level, the criticality between the low level visible pixels and images is perhaps driven by a bottom-up (Mørchian) fusion, but only because there are also top-down, center-out, and periphery-in modes of access available. Without those non-local contexts and information sources, there is no fusion. Rather than images emerging from information, they are made available through a removal of resistance to their access. There may be a hint of this in the fact that when we open our eyes in the light, one type of neurochemical activity known as ‘dark current’ ceases. In effect, sight begins with unseeing darkness.

 

Part 2: The Proximate Range of the Access Continuum

At the risk of injecting even more abstruse content (why stop now?), I want to discuss the tripartite spectrum model (approximate, proximate, and ultimate) and the operators √c, c, and c²*. In those previous articles, I offered a way of thinking about causality in which binary themes such as position|momentum, and contextuality|entanglement on the quantum level may be symptoms of perceptual limitation rather than legitimate features of a microphysical world. The first part of this article introduces √c as the perceptual constant on the approximate (low level) of the spectrum. I suggest that while photons, which would be the √c level fragments of universal visibility, require additional information to provide image-like pattern recognition, the actual perception of the image gestalt seems to be an irreducibly c (proximate, mid-level) phenomenon. By this, I mean that judging from the disparity between natural image perception and artificial image recognition, as revealed by adversarial images that are nearly imperceptible to humans, we cannot assume a parsimonious emergence of images from computed statistics. There seems to be no mechanical entailment for the information relating bits of information to one another that would level up to an aesthetically unified visible image. This is part of what I try to point out in my TSC 2018 presentation, The Hard Problem of Signaling.

Becuase different ranges of the perceptual spectrum are levels of access rather than states of a constitutive panpsychism, there is no reason to be afraid of Dualism as a legitimate underlying theme for the middle range. With the understanding that the middle range is only the most robust type of perceptual access and not an assertion of naive realism, we are free to redeem some aspects of the Cartesian intuition. The duality seen by Descartes, Galileo, and Locke, should not be dismissed as naive misunderstandings from a pre-scientific era, but as the literal ‘common-sense’ scope of our anthropic frame of perception. This naive scope, while unfashionable after the 19th century, is no less real than the competing ranges of sense. Just because we are no longer impressed by the appearance of res cogitans and res extensa does not mean that they are not impressive. Thinking about a cogitans-like and extensa-like duality as diametrically filtered versions of a ‘res aesthetica’ continuum works for me. The fact that we can detect phenomena that defy this duality does not make the duality false, it only means that duality isn’t the whole story. Because mid-level perception has a sample rate that is slower than the bottom range, we have been seduced into privileging that bottom range as more real. This to me is not a scientific conclusion, but a sentimental fascination with transcending the limits of our direct experience. It is exciting to think that the universe we see is ‘really’ composed of exotic Planck scale phenomena, but it makes more sense in my view to see the different scales of perception as parallel modes of access. Because time itself is being created and lensed within every scale of perception, it would be more scientific avoid assigning preference frame to the bottom scale. The Access Continuum model restores some features Dualism to what seems to me to be its proper place: as a simple and sensible map of the typical waking experience. A sober, sane, adult human being in the Western conditioned mindset experiences nature as a set of immaterial thoughts and feelings inside a world of bodies in motion. When we say that appearances of Dualism are illusion, we impose an unscientific prejudice against our own native epistemology. We are so anxious to leave the pre-scientific world behind that we would cheat at our own game. To chase the dream of perfect control and knowledge, we have relegated ourselves to a causally irrelevant epiphenomenon.

To sum up, so far in this view, I have proposed

  1. a universe of intrinsically perceptual phenomena in which some frames of perception are more localized, that is, more spatially, temporally, and perceptually impermeable, than others.
  2. Those frames of perception which are more isolated are more aesthetically impoverished so that in the most impermeable modes, realism itself is cleaved into unreal conjugate pairs.
  3. This unreality of disunited probabilities is what we see in poor perceptual conditions and in quantum theory. I call these pairs semaphores, and the degree of perceptual magnitude they embody I call the semaphoric or approximate range of the spectrum.
  4. The distance between semaphores is proposed to be characterized by uncertainty and incompleteness. In a semaphoric frame of visible perception, possibilities of pixels and possible connections between them do not appear as images, but to a seer of images, they hint at the location of an image which can be accessed.
  5. This idea of sensitivity and presentation as doors of experience rather sense data to be fused into a phenomenal illusion is the most important piece of the whole model. I think that it provides a much-needed bridge between relativity, quantum mechanics, and the entire canon of Western and Eastern philosophy.
  6. The distinction between reality and illusion, or sanity and insanity is itself only relevant and available within a particular (proximate) range of awareness. In the approximate and ultimate frames of perception, such distinctions may not be appropriate. Reality is not subjective or relative, but it is limited to the mid-range scope of the total continuum of access. All perceptions are ultimately ‘real’ in the top level, trans-local sense and ‘illusion’ in the approximate, pre-local sense.
  7. It is in the proximate, middle range of perception where the vertical continuum of access stretches out horizontally so that perception is lensed into a duality between mechanical-tangible-object realism and phenomenal-intangible-subject realism. It is through the lensing that the extreme vantage points perceive each other as unreal, naive, or insane. Whether we are born to personally identify with the realism of the tangible or intangible seems to also hang in the balance between pre-determined fate and voluntary participation. Choosing our existential anchoring is like confronting the ‘blue dress’ or ‘duck-rabbit’ ambiguous image. Once we attach to the sense of a particular orientation, the competing orientation becomes nonsense.

Part 3: The Ultimate Range of the Access Continuum

Once the reader feels that they have a good grasp of the above ideas of quantum and classical mechanics as approximate and proximate ranges of a universal perceptual continuum, this next section can be a guide to the other half of the conjecture. I say it can be a guide because I suspect that it is up to the reader to collaborate directly with the process. Unlike a mathematical proof, understanding of the upper half of the continuum is not confined to the intellect. For those who are anchored strongly in our inherited worldviews, the ideas presented here will be received as an attack on science or religion. In my view, I am not here to convince anyone or prove anything, I am here to share a ‘big picture’ understanding that may only be possible to glimpse for some people at some times. For those who cannot or will not be able to access to this understanding at this time, I apologize sincerely. As someone who grew up with the consensus scientific view as a given fact, I understand that this writing and the writer appear either ridiculously ignorant or insane. I would try to explain that this appearance too is actually supportive of the perceptual lensing model that I’m laying out, but this would only add to feelings of distrust and anger. For those who have the patience and the interest, we can proceed to the final part of the access continuum conjecture.

I have so far described the bottom end of the access continuum as being characterized by disconnected fragments and probabilistic guessing, and the middle range as a dualistic juxtaposition of morphic forms and ‘phoric’ experiences. In the higher range of the continuum perceptual apertures are opened to the presence of supersaturated aesthetics which transcend and transform the ordinary. Phenomena in this range seem to freely pass across the subject-object barrier. If c is the perceptual constant in which public space and private time are diametrically opposed, then the transpersonal constant which corresponds to the fusion of multiple places and times can be thought of as . We can construct physical clocks out of objects, but these actually only give us samples of how objects change in public space. The sense of time must be inferred by our reasoning so that a dimension of linear time is imagined as connecting those public changes. This may seem solipsistic – that I am suggesting that time isn’t objectively real. This would be true if we assumed, as Berkeley did, that perception necessarily implies a perceiver. Because the view I’m proposing assumes that perception is absolute, the association of time with privacy and space with publicity does not threaten realism. Think of it like depth perception. In one sense we see a fusion of two separate two-dimensional images. In another sense, we use a single binocular set of optical sensors to give us access to three-dimensional vision. Applied to time, we perceive an exteriorized world in which is relatively static and we perceive an interiorized world-less-ness in which all remembered experiences are collected. It is by attaching our personal sense of narrative causality to the snapshots of experience that we can access publicly that a sense of public time is accessed. In the high level range of the continuum, time can progress in circular or ambiguous ways against a backdrop of eternity rather than the recent past. In this super-proximate apprehension of nature, archetypal themes from the ancient past or alien future can coexist.  Either of these can take on extraordinarily benevolent or terrifying qualities.

Like it or not, no description of the universe can possibly be considered complete if it denies the appearance of surrealities. Whether it is chemically induced or natural, the human experience has always included features which we call mystical, psychotic, paranormal, or religious. While we dream, we typically do not suspect that we are in a dreamed world until we awake into another experience which may or may not also be a dream. It is a difficult task to fairly consider these types of phenomena as they are politically charged in a way which is both powerful and invisible to us. Like the fish who spends its life swimming in a nameless plenum, it is only those who jump or are thrown out of it who can perceive the thing we call water. Sanity cannot be understood without having access to an extra-normal perspective where its surfaces are exposed. If a lack of information is the bridge between the approximate and the proximate ranges of the access continuum, then transcendental experience is the bridge between the proximate and the ultimate range of the continuum. The highest magnitudes of perception break the fourth wall, and in an involuted/Ouroboran way, provide access to the surfaces of our own access capacities.

Going back to the previous example of vision, the ultimate range of perception can be added to the list:

  • √c  – Feeling your way around in a dark room where a few features are visible.
  •  Seeing three-dimensional forms in a well lit, real world.
  • – Intuiting that rays, reflections, and rainbows reveal unseen facts about light.

It is important to get that the “²” symbolizes a meta- relation rather than a quantity (although the quantitative value may be useful as well). The idea is that seeing a rainbow is “visibility squared” because it is a visible presence which gives access to deeper levels of appreciating and understanding visibility. Seeing light as spectral, translucent images, bright reflections, shining or glowing radiance, is a category of sight that gives insight into sight. That self-transcending recursiveness is what is meant by : In the case of seeing, visible access to the nature of visibility. If we look carefully, every channel of perception includes its own self-transcendent clues. Where the camera betrays itself as a lens flare, the cable television broadcast shows its underpinnings as freezing and pixellating. Our altered states of consciousness similarly tell us personally about what it is like for consciousness to transcend personhood. This is how nature bootstraps itself, encoding keys to decode itself in every appearance.

Other sense modalities follow the same pattern as sight. The more extreme our experiences of hearing, the more we can understand about how sound and ears work. It is a curious evolutionary maladaptation that rather than having the sense organ protect itself from excessive sensation, it remains vulnerable to permanent damage. It would be strange to have a computer that would run a program to simulates something so intensely that it permanently damages its own capacity to simulate. What would be the evolutionary advantage of a map which causes deafness and blindness? This question is another example of why it makes sense to understand perception as a direct method of access rather than a side effect of information processing. We are not a program, we are an i/o port. What we call consciousness is a collection of perceptions under an umbrella of perception that is all-but imperceptible to us normally. Seeing our conscious experience from the access continuum perspective means defining ourselves on three different levels at once – as a  partition of experience within an eternal and absolute experience, as a c level ghost in a biochemical machine, and as a √c level emergence from subconscious computation:

  • √c (Semaphoric-Approximate)  – Probabilistic Pre-causality
  •  (Phoric|Morphic-Proximate) – Dualistic Free Will and Classical Causality
  • (Metaphoric-Ultimate) – Idealistic or Theistic Post-Causality

Notice that the approximate range and ultimate ranges both share a sense of uncertainty, however, where low level awareness seeks information about the immediate environment to piece together, high level awareness allows itself to be informed by that what is beyond its directly experienced environments. Between the pre-causal level of recombinatory randomness and the supernatural level of synchronistic post-causality is the dualistic level, where personal will struggles against impersonal and social forces.  From this Phoric perspective, the metaphoric super-will seems superstitious and the semaphoric un-will seems recklessly apathetic. This is another example of how perceptual lensing defines nature. From a more objective and scientific perspective, all of these appearances are equally real in their own frame of reference and equally unreal from outside of that context.

Just as high volume of sound reveals the limits of the ear, and the brightness of light exposes the limits of the eye, the limits of the human psyche at any given phase of development are discovered through psychologically intense experiences. A level of stimulation that is safe for an adult may not be tolerable for a child or baby. Alternatively, it could be true that some experiences which we could access in the early stages of our life would be too disruptive to integrate into our worldview as adults. Perhaps as we mature collectively as a species, we are acquiring more tolerance and sensitivity to the increased level of access that is becoming available to us. We should understand the dangers as well as the benefits that come with an increasingly porous frame of perception, both from access to the “supernatural” metaphoric and “unnatural”, semaphoric ranges of the continuum. Increased tolerance means that fearful reactions to both can be softened so that what was supernatural can become merely surreal and what was unnatural can be accepted as non-repulsively uncanny. Whether it is a super-mind without a physical body or a super-machine with a simulated mind, we can begin to see both as points along the universal perceptual continuum.

Craig Weinberg, Tucson 4/7/2018

Latest revision 4/18/2018

*Special Diffractivity: c², c, and √c, Multisense Diagram w/ CausalityMSR Schema 3.3Three-Phase Model of Will

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The Hard Problem of Signaling

April 4, 2018 1 comment

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PDF – The Hard Problem of Signaling TSC2018

 

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The Hard Problem of Signaling is the notion that it is not only the connection between brain and mind which suffer from an Explanatory Gap, but that the very same gap exists between all physical entities and all semantic entities. Where David Chalmers’ Hard Problem of Consciousness has to contend with side issues of human neurology’s unique complexity and complex uniqueness of human subjectivity, the gap between mechanism and signal, or formation and information can be asserted using only the self-sufficiency of physics plus Occam’s Razor.The work of Gödel, Turing, and Kleene enabled us to reduce all of computation to mechanical behaviors, we overlook the fact that there is a missing ingredient which would be necessary to reverse that reduction. Philosophically, we are left with a crypto-dualism between physics and computation in which information “about” physical events somehow survives the causal closure of physics, yet are not tainted as phenomenal experience has been by being labeled supernatural or subjective.Physics and computer science both give us an a masculine absolutist universe of “effects without affects”. To correct this bias and restore the unity of the tangible and the intangible, we must begin to realize that effects can ultimately only exist as changes in some ‘medium of affect’ (sensory-aesthetic presentation). By recognizing the hard problem of signaling, we acknowledge the equal role of affect in defining and relating all phenomena to each other.
FISHIAL RECOGNITION
Do neural nets dream of electric fish? In the Western and Central Pacific, where 60% of the world’s tuna is caught, illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing practices are threatening marine ecosystems, global seafood supplies and local livelihoods.In 2017, The Nature Conservancy launched a competition to track fishing boats and repurpose facial recognition algorithms to identify illegally-caught fish.² With a super-human ability to track data about what fish are being caught and to alert the appropriate wardens to take action, it may appear that such a system has an almost omniscient grasp of the fishing industry and the environment, however it would be silly to imagine that this data could give any insight into the nature of fish themselves or the human demand for them.We can think of the behavior of a machine which is designed to simulate intelligence as being like a mirror to the world of natural intelligence. While the simulation is useful to extend our understanding of the world and of simulation, it is important not to mistake the map for the territory. We should understand that between the concrete territory that physics gives us, and the abstract map that computer science discovers, there can be no bridge without consciousness. It is not a conceptual bridge or a mechanical bridge, it is a metaphorical bridge, held together with direct participation and perception.
PRIMORDIAL DUCK SOUP
If it eats like a duck and poops like a duck, does it know what direction to fly in the Winter? In 1739, Jacque de Vaucanson unveiled Canard Digérateur (Digesting Duck), a life-size mechanical duck which appeared to eat kernels of grain, then metabolize and defecate them.³Vaucanson describes the duck’s innards as a small “chemical laboratory.” But it was a hoax: Food was collected in one container, and pre-made breadcrumb ‘feces’ were dispensed from a second, separate container. On the surface, Vaucanson’s Digesting Duck appeared to be a compelling reconstruction of a real duck. The analogy to AGI here is not to suggest it is possible that the appearance of an intelligent machine is a mere trick, but that the issue of artifice may play a much more crucial role in defining the phenomenon of subjectivity than it will appear to in observing the biological objects associated with our consciousness in particular. Consciousness itself, as the ultimate source of authenticity, may have no substitute.
OVERLOOKING THE LOOKING GLASS
If a doll can be made to shed tears without feeling sad, there is no reason to rule out the possibility of constructing an unfeeling machine which can output enough human-like behaviors to pass an arbitrarily sophisticated Turing Test. A test itself is a method of objectifying and making tangible some question that we have.Can we really expect the most intangible and subjective aspects of consciousness to render themselves tangible using methods designed for objectivity? When we view the world through a lens — a microscope, language, the human body — the lens does not disappear, and what we see should tell us as much, if not more, about the lens and the seeing as it does about the world. If math and physics reveal to us a world in which we don’t really exist, and what does exist are skeletal simulating ephemera, it may be because it is the nature of math and physics to simulate and ephemeralize.The very act of reduction imposed intentionally by quantifying approaches may increasingly feed back on its own image the further we get from our native scope of direct perception. In creating intelligence simulation machines we are investing in the most distanced and generic surface appearances of nature that we can access and using them to replace our most intimate and proprietary depths. An impressive undertaking, to be sure, but we should be vigilant about letting our expectations and assumptions blind us.Not overlooking the looking glass means paying attention in our methods to which perceptual capacities we are extending and which we are ignoring. Creating machines that walk like a duck and quack like a duck may be enough to fool even other ducks, but that doesn’t mean that the most essential aspects of a duck are walking and quacking. It may be the case that subjective consciousness cannot be engineered from the outside-in, so that putting hardware and software together to create a person would be a bit like trying to recreate World War II with uniforms and actors. A person, like a historical event may only arise in a single, unrepeatable historical context.Our human experience caries with it a history of generations of organisms and organic events, not just as biological recapitulations, but as a continuous enrichment of sensory affect and participation. Humanity’s path diverged from the inorganic path long, long ago, and it may take just as long for any inorganic substance to be usable to host the types of experience available to us, if ever. The human qualities of consciousness may not develop in any context other than that of directly experiencing the life of a human body in a human society.

 

(QUOKKA)

Yes. That’s a quokka. Indigenous to Western Australia, they have been called ‘The Happiest Animal on Earth’. He is here to remind you that pictures don’t have to be happy to make you feel happy. If delving into the world of weird ideas about the nature of consciousness makes you happy, you can find me, Craig Weinberg around the internet ats33light.org on sites like Quora and Kialo. Thanks for stopping by and reading the fine print!

Information does not physically exist​

December 31, 2017 Leave a comment

mapterrAlfred Korzybski famously said “the map is not the territory”. To the extent that this is true, it should be understood to reveal that “information is not physics”. If there is a mapping function, there is no reason to consider it part of physics, and in fact that convention comes from an assumption of physicalism rather than a discovery of physical maps. There is no valid hypothesis of a physical mechanism for one elemental phenomenon or event to begin to signify another as a “map”.​ Physical phenomena include ‘formations’ but there is nothing physical which could or should transform them ‘in’ to anything other than different formations.

A bit or elementary unit of information has been defined as ‘a difference that makes a difference’. While physical phenomena seem *to us* to make a difference, it would be anthropomorphizing to presume that they are different or make a difference to each other. ​Difference and making a difference seem to depend on some capacity for detection, discernment, comparison, and evaluation. These seem to be features of conscious sense and sense making rather than physical cause and effect.​ The more complete context of the quote about a difference which makes a difference has to do with neural pathways and an implicit readiness to be triggered.

In Bateson’s paper, he says “In fact, what we mean by information—the elementary unit of information—is a difference which makes a difference, and it is able to make a difference because the neural pathways along which it travels and is continually transformed are themselves provided with energy. The pathways are ready to be triggered. We may even say that the question is already implicit in them.”​ In my view this ‘readiness’ is a projection of non-physical properties of sense and sense making onto physical structures and functions. If there are implicit ‘questions’ on the neural level, I suggest that they cannot be ‘in them’ physically, and the ‘interiority’ of the nervous system or other information processors is figurative rather than literal.​

My working hypothesis is that information is produced by sense-making, which in turn is dependent upon more elemental capacities for sense experience.​ Our human experience is a complex hybrid of sensations which seem to us to be embodied through biochemistry and sense-making experiences which seem to map intangible perceptions outside of those tangible biochemical mechanisms. The gap between the biochemical sensor territories and the intangible maps we call sensations are a miniaturized view of the same gap that exists at the body-mind level.

Tangibility itself may not be an ontological fact, but rather a property that emerges from the nesting of sense experience. There may be no physical territory or abstract maps, only sense-making experiences of sense experiences. There may be a common factor which links concrete territories and abstract maps, however.​ The common factor cannot be limited to the concrete/abstract dichotomy, but it must be able to generate those qualities which appear dichotomous in that way.​ To make this common factor universal rather than personal, qualia or sense experience could be considered an absolute ground of being. George Berkeley said “Esse est percipi (To be is to be perceived)”, implying that perception is the fundamental fabric of existence. Berkeley’s idealism conceived of God as the ultimate perceiver whose perceptions comprise all being, however it may be that the perceiver-perceived dichotomy is itself a qualitative distinction which relies on an absolute foundation of ‘sense’ that can be called ‘pansense’ or ‘universal qualia’.​

In personal experience, the appearance of qualities is known by the philosophical term ‘qualia’ but can also be understood as received sensations, perceptions, feelings, thoughts, awareness and consciousness. Consciousness can be understood as ‘the awareness of awareness’, while awareness can be ‘the perception of perception’.​Typically we experience the perceiver-perceived dichotomy, however practitioners of advanced meditation techniques and experiencers of mystical states of consciousness report a quality of perceiverlessness which defies our expectation of perceiver-hood as a defining or even necessary element of perception. This could be a clue that transpersonal awareness transcends distinction itself, providing a universality which is both unifying, diversifying, and re-unifying.​ Under the idea of pansense, God could either exist or not exist, or both, but God’s existence would either have to be identical with or subordinate to pensense. God cannot be unconscious and even God cannot create his own consciousness.

It could be thought that making the category of perception absolute makes it just as meaningless as calling it physical, however the term ‘perception’ has a meaning even in an absolute sense in that it positively asserts the presence of experience, whereas the term ‘physical’ is more generic and meaningless.​ Physical could be rehabilitated as a term which refers to tangible geometric structures encountered directly or indirectly during waking consciousness. Intangible forces and fields should be understood to be abstract maps of metaphysical influences on physical appearances. What we see as biology, chemistry, and physics may in fact be part of a map in which a psychological sense experience makes sense of other sense experiences by progressively truncating their associated microphenomenal content.

Information is associated with Entropy, but entropy ultimately isn’t purely physical either.​ The association between information and entropy is metaphorical rather than literal.​ The term ‘entropy’ is used in many different contexts with varying degrees of rigor. The connection between information entropy and thermodynamic entropy comes from statistical mechanics. Similar statistical mechanical formulas can be applied to both the probability of physical microstates (Boltzmann, Gibbs) and the probability of ‘messages’ (Shannon), however probability derives from our conscious desire to count and predict, not from that which is being counted and predicted.

“Gain in entropy always means loss of information, and nothing more”. To be more concrete, in the discrete case using base two logarithms, the reduced Gibbs entropy is equal to the minimum number of yes–no questions needed to be answered in order to fully specify the microstate, given that we know the macrostate.” ​- Wikipedia

Information can be considered negentropy also:

“Shannon considers the uncertainty in the message at its source, whereas Brillouin considers it at the destination” – physics.stackexchange.com

Information is surprise

Thermodynamic entropy can be surprising in the sense that it becomes more difficult to predict the microstate of any individual particle, but unsurprising in the sense that the overall appearance of equilibrium is both a predictable, unsurprising conclusion and it is an appearance which implies the loss of potential to generate novelty or surprise.​ Also, surprise is not a physical condition.​

Heat death is a cosmological end game scenario which is maximally entropic in thermodynamic terms but lacks any potential for novelty or surprise. If information is surprise, then high information would correlate to high thermodynamic negentropy.​ The Big Bang is a cosmological creation scenario which follows from a state of minimal entropy in which novelty and surprise are also lacking until the Big Bang occurs. If information is surprise, then low information would correlate to high thermodynamic negentropy.​

The qualification of ‘physical’ has evolved and perhaps dissolved to a point where it threatens to lose all meaning.​ In the absence of a positive assertion of tangible ‘stuff’ which does not take tangibility itself for granted, the modern sense of physical has largely blurred the difference between the abstract and concrete, mathematical theory and phenomenal effects, and overlooks the significance of that blurring. Considering physical a category of perceptions gives meaning to both categories in that nature is conceived as being intrinsically experiential with physical experiences being those in which the participatory element is masked or alienated by a qualitative perceiver-subject/perceived-object sense of distinction. The physical is perceived by the subject which perceives itself to possess a participatory subjectivity that the object lacks.

Information depends on a capacity to create (write) and detect (read) contrasts between higher and lower entropy. In that sense it is meta-entropic and either the high or low entropy state can be foregrounded as signal or backgrounded as noise. The absence of both signal and noise on one level can also be information, and thus a signal, on another level.​ What constitutes a signal at in the most direct frame of reference is defined by the meta-signifying capacity of “sense” to deliver sense-experience. If there is no sense experience, there is nothing to signify or make-sense-of. If there is no sense-making experience, then there is nothing to do with the sense of contrasting qualities to make them informative.

The principle of causal closure in physics, would, if true, prevent any sort of ‘input’ or receptivity. Physical activity reduces to chains of causality which are defined by spatiotemporal succession. A physical effect differs from a physical cause only in that the cause precedes the effect. Physical causality therefore is a succession of effects or outputs acting on each other, so that any sense of inputs or affect on to physics would be an anthropomorphic projection.​

The lack of acknowlegement of input/affect as a fundamental requirement for natural phenomena is an oversight that may arise from a consensus of psychological bias toward stereotypically ‘masculine’ modes of analysis and away from ‘feminine’ modes of empathy. Ideas such as Imprinted Brain Theory, Autistic-Psychotic spectrum, and Empathizing-Systemizing theory provide a starting point for inquiries into the role that overrepresentation of masculine perspectives in math, physics, and engineering play in the development of formal theory and informal political influence in the academic adoption of theories.

Criticisms? Support? Join the debate on Kialo.

MSR Time Diagram

November 16, 2017 Leave a comment

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