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A Conscious Systems Metaphor

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Why the natural world does not work without qualia and consciousness of them
Stephen R. Deiss (deiss@appliedneuro.com), Applied Neurodynamics, Encinitas, CA (a non-prophets organization)
Toward a Science of Consciousness 2006, Tucson Convention Center, April 4-8, 2006, Tucson, AZ

I have been to the Pantpsyc mountain top! ( st , ot ) = f ( st-1 , it-1, ot-1 ) Therefore, I AM !

01.09 Poster 45

Laws of Nature are not Real
The Laws of Nature are reifications of general patterns abstracted from phenomena repeatedly experienced or indirectly measured and recorded. That is, they do not exist in a Platonic realm, nor in the Mind of God, nor in a transcendental realm. They have no power nor causal necessity. They are useful provisional human conceptual inventions. This view goes beyond the Regularist rejection of Necessitarianism1 and solves many problems. Without prescriptive laws enforcing causal necessity, nature is on its own with nowhere to turn. (1-800-ASK-DIOS is no longer in service.) How then do natural systems behave and change?

Yeh, Yeh, We know all about systems !
Sure “we” do, J. Did you ever think about what it would be like to be the whole universe deciding what to do next? OK, of course not. Well did you ever think about what it would be like being an electron in a hydrogen atom hit from outside by a photon? What will you do? The only information available is local (ignoring non-locality for now). Electrons interact with proximal photons by definition. A photon is something that can make a difference to an electron (which is a photon sensor) by interacting with it. Electrons “sense” photons. On sensing the photon, the electron jumps to an excited quantum level. Sometime later “it decides” to radiate that photon and fall back into lower orbital. Why does it absorb, and why does it later emit. This seems a mystery at present, but perhaps there is something happening that is just beyond experimentalist probing eyes. Perhaps the electron has some internal structure or state that guides the observed events. Quantum mechanics assigns a probabilistic structure to the event and works with averages. It has no explanation of how nor when the electron chooses to emit the photon nor of the averages. In 1900 physics had no concept of the internal structure of atoms, nor of nuclei. Now things make a little more sense, but mysteries remain like our electron. Maybe strings are part of the answer being able to resonate only in certain modes. Maybe they combine and separate according to unknown constraints within the fundamental particles constituted as string systems. What we do know is that if there are no laws of nature, the electron has to decide when to jump and emit on its own. The only way to do that in nonmystical ways is to go by internal local constraints. All e- electrons seem built alike and have the same internal constraints though their state may differ. If a particle differs in these constraints, it will not behave like an electron. When the electron acts, it is constrained by recent history as encoded in present state and summarized by equations. It knows it is excited and knows what to do about it. This competence is a kind of knowledge, like knowing how to ride a bike. In a primitive way the electron knows about its state and acts upon that with initiative. The electron senses its environment at the moment it interacts with the photon. The conclusion is electrons are sentient and self-aware agents. Is it just a crude analogy or a metaphor to say that the electron senses, knows and decides in self-referencing ways? I argue that this is an apt metaphor of what is going on in the hydrogen atom with the electron because the electron is self-determined, and not governed by laws.
The brain as an internally constrained dynamical system has experiences when the system updates memory and creates a unified action. If memory is disrupted, so is consciousness.
2. ongoing Memory activations (state)
(system)

Is the electron conscious?
Something internal to the electron must be guiding what it does. If the photon had no effect on the electron, it is effectively “blind” to photons. Once the photon is absorbed, something inside the electron guides the emission. Is this anything like our conscious sensation and decision making? The knee-jerk answer is not at all. Nevertheless, consider that what the electron is doing is a highly simplified analog of what we do when we take in information and make decisions based upon our state of knowledge and motivation. A human amnesic may not remember any personal facts yet still be conscious. The electron may not have a long memory, may have very few degrees of freedom in state update or behavior, but it uses what it does have and only that to behave, just as we do. Without laws of nature dictating what to do it acts on internally constrained nature recursively defined. Why wouldn‟t it be conscious?

Sorry - naïve science is still a religion
For centuries science has distanced itself from supernaturalism. A key step in the continuation of this process is to leave behind the notion of transcendental laws of nature that govern by necessity.

The universe runs itself by recursion
The answer posed here is that nature must be internally constrained and self referencing in a recursive way. This also provides a basis for giving explanations of nature. Recursive systems behave based upon their internal state structure at a point in their history and the context they are in. The system has a habitual or adaptive reaction to the context stimulus. The system‟s reaction to the context follows from how the system is defined by subsystems that give its identity. Subsystems that define a system explain its functionality because they constrain behavior. If the system did not act that way, it would not be the same system, by definition. Take apart the subsystems recursively, keep going down to the most fundamental levels of natural phenomena, and at some point there may be an ultimate fundamental set of constraints. But these are not laws governing nature, they are nature, at its most fundamental essence by recursive definition. In theory this is ultimate reality.

How many sentient beings dance on a pin head?
If we reject laws of nature radically and demand that all of nature at all levels be self determined by recursively defined internal constraints, it makes sense to consider the electron sentient, self referencing, and spontaneous (free) in acting out its natural “self.” The ability to interact with a photon or another electron or a proton, etc, gives the electron sentience. We do not know what it is like for an electron to experience the photon collision, but we do know what it feels like when a lot of photons hit our skin or retina. We experience the qualia of warmth or visual colors. Consider that the electron may have low grade qualia. The ability to use its state encoded past history in producing the next state and behavior gives it crude memory even if it does not have the structure for a remembered past, elaborate plans or imagined futures. The fact that it is acting out its own nature spontaneously presumably without any or with a minimum of conflict to settle makes it free from its own perspective. It just so happens that electrons have a lot fewer degrees of freedom than we do , and their behavior is extremely stereotypical. This is a difference in degree not a difference in kind.

Once we accept this, science changes in such a way as to allow for consciousness in the natural world and a real Science of Consciousness becomes possible. A new “systems monism” lurks here going beyond physicalism and undermining eliminative materialism. When we explain things recursively rather than using causal reductionism and laws, sentience is everywhere in nature. There is not a mental and a physical realm or a conscious realm that has to emerge from a purely physical realm, even though complexity often does. Consciousness is present everywhere systems interact. Self knowledge is present in dynamic state. Actors reside in dynamics. More complex systems have more state to reference.

What it all means
One of the things that lead to this viewpoint was realization that we find meaning in our experiences by virtue of the associations we make from them. Perception, understanding language, and just interpreting events to stay alive all involve inferences. We are stressed when our inferences are inconsistent to cause us cognitive dissonance, ambiguity and indecision. Our harried social lives create a lot of such stress daily such that it is a major health problem in our complex societies. The success of mindfulness meditation for many people results from short circuiting obsessive worry from ambiguous inference loops. Still, most people want something more than just a calm mind. True peace of mind may only come from feeling and believing oneself at home in the universe and among fellow men. We live in a worldview now dominated by a vision of consciousness as an oddball phenomenon of nature. Man is thought possessed of this “emergent property” of consciousness shared only with our more advanced primate cousins and a few other life forms. Everything else in nature is just cellular, chemical, or very passive physical systems, all dominated by laws that came from no one knows where. It seems that this new self similar recursive systems view might provide a seed for a different way of seeing ourselves, our freedom in nature, and our relationship to other life and “nonliving” systems. The associative inferences that follow might give life new meaning.
A few background references: 1. Fieser, J. & Dowden, B. eds., The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, (link), 2006. 2. Mumford, S., Laws in Nature, Routledge, London, 2004. 3. Skrbina, N., Panpsychism in the West, MIT Press, 2005. 4. Squire, L., et. al. eds., Fundamental Neuroscience, Academic Press, 2002.. 5. Arbib, M., ed., Handbook of Brain Theory and Neural Networks, MIT Press, 2002. 6. Padulo, L,. & M.A. Arbib, M., System Theory, Philadelphia, W.B. Saunders, 1974. 7. Rosenberg, G., A place for consciousness, Oxford University Press, 2004. 8. Deiss, S. , What it All Means: Search for the UNCC, (unpublished), 2005. 9. Lakoff, G., Johnson, M., Philosophy in the Flesh, Basic Books, 1999.

So What !
If we follow all the implications of a natural world without divine or lawful guidance to the natural conclusion, everything changes. This leads to solutions for the intractable problems of consciousness and qualia. Other benefits follow helping to dissipate the conceptual wall that separates us from nature and that gives rise to dualistic experience. All the bits and pieces of nature have a sort of self-determination, they are self directed. Many pieces act the same, and that is because they are built the same way, hence constrained the same way from inside. To see how this comes about the systems metaphor needs to be reworked in this new framework. Classically a system consists in a set of states, output behaviors, relevant inputs, and an update function that “controls” it. The update function, often a set of differential equations, specifies how the system state variables change, and how the output evolves as the system encounters new input contexts. A set of simultaneous differential equations like this is a description of mutual constraint satisfaction. The new view here is that constraints come from recursion to a lower subsystem level of constraints to be satisfied.

Nature’s Self-Similarity
This leads to the conclusion that consciousness, qualia, and choice are ubiquitous in nature differing mainly in degrees of freedom. If electrons could not sense, reference themselves, and chose to act, the universe stops. This same recursive structure pervades all of nature, giving us a self-similar view of nature everywhere. No “spiritualism” is required.

Feynman diagram of photon absorption and emission:
4. System f(s,i,o) application (experience) experience interpreted to „reality‟

1. Bunch of photons (input)

3. Bunch of nerve impulses (output) (sleight oversimplification)

ooooh, ahhhh

The e- system has a memory of state that by some unknown theoretical process internally constrains how it interprets, reacts, and experiences those few diffs (eg., g) that make a diff.

Quantum coin toss, or hidden dynamics. g (output) e- (system)
ooof

eyikes

sigh

e-

(input) g (ongoing state memory changes)

A Conscious Systems Metaphor States s include “memory” and transition (s,i s, s,i o) “expectations.” Inputs i interact with the system to make “qualitative differences” (QD). Function f “interprets” QD‟s constrained by state “memorexpectations” s to make new outputs o and memories s as a conscious interpretation. When f is active the system is consciously interpreting its environment. The f is recursively defined by internal component subsystems. The f is not a prescription; it is a description of the system.


				
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