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That indicates we need a whole new conceptual/metaphorical scaffolding to allow us to reason without having to solve the equations - and we don't have that.

Could "a whole new conceptual/metaphorical scaffolding" be identified with Gaianne's "utter rearrangement of [the Western] mind"/"metaphysics" (though maybe I should not be identifying "mind" and "metaphysics" here)?

If so, then if and when we find such a new scaffolding/metaphysics, how can this help us address

the circumstances of peak oil, climate change, biosphere destruction, and consequent civilization collapse
?

Also, why exactly is our current conceptual/metaphorical scaffolding not already sufficient for undertaking these challenges?

Truth unfolds in time through a communal process.

by marco on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 10:37:12 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, the problems with QM are probably different to the problems
] with the other issues: basically we're really bad with systems and feedback and loops and things.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 10:48:21 AM EST
[ Parent ]
bruno-ken:

If so, then if and when we find such a new scaffolding/metaphysics, how can this help us address

the circumstances of peak oil, climate change, biosphere destruction, and consequent civilization collapse
?
I don't see how, and neither Emil Moller nor Gaianne have explained quite how it would.

We have met the enemy, and he is us — Pogo
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 11:22:19 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The flip answer:  Well, and IS our current conceptual scaffolding meeting these challenges?  

Clearly it is not.  

Indeed it is the mind that we ALREADY HAVE that has led us into our troubles.  So we need to alter or augment that mind in some way that will work.  

This comes even before worrying about how we might communicate and implement such mind.  

That is: I am seeking to cast a wider net.  

There are two places I know to look:  Peoples who already are (or were) sustainable; and the unregarded places our own studies point to.  The latter may seem esoteric, but considering they demand a new mental structure (and we know we need one) they might (by luck) suggest the things we actually need.  (Reality is your friend.)  

There may be other places to look.  

The Fates are kind.

by Gaianne on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 11:23:51 AM EST
[ Parent ]
How about decoherence?

Seriously, I cannot imagine how ecology or political economy can depend on insights from Quantum Mechanics.

We have met the enemy, and he is us — Pogo

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 11:37:24 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Let's assume that the next evolution of QM begins to decode, or even decodes, consciousness.  We may even find action at a distance being the binding agent of consciousness, as speculated for over three decades now by the wild crew from the Physics Consciousness Research Group begun at Esalen in the mid-70's.  btw, Nick Herbert, Fred Wolf, Gary Zukav, Fritjof Capra, Saul Paul Sirag and Jack Sarfatti (the gluon), now leaders in the exposition of the physics of consciousness, were all together there, and having survived decades of internecine warfare, are still more or less together (with a glaring exception, or two.)  At the same time, physicists as diverse as David Bohm and Brian Josephson were, and remain, in constant contact with the group, as it continues to this day informally.

back to Mig's question.  since environmental destruction is caused by a civilization which doesn't know itself, nor its relationship to its surounding; then a healthy dose of conscious evolution would enable the "New Deal/Apollo" program of renewable energy to be not supported, but demanded by the general population.

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Anaïs Nin

by Crazy Horse on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 12:02:37 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Dude, Sarfatti believes that he received a phone call from a sentient computer orbiting the earth on a spacecraft from the future and that he got all his insights from it.

We have met the enemy, and he is us — Pogo
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 12:10:14 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Dude, that doesn't make his equations any less precise, nor his insights less valid.   He doesn't say he got his insights from the sentient computer, only that it began his path.  He even admits the phone calls, which his mother also heard, could have come from some strange intelligence plot cooked up by an agency here or there.

But there's a whole 'nother side to him and his work.  Some of his insights he got while doing the grunt work for Abdus Salaam's Nobel.  That Sarfatti worked for Salaam doesn't invalidate his Nobel.  Brian Josephson remains in constant contact with him, despite sarfatti's sentient computer.  That doesn't invalidate the Josephson Junction.  and for what it's worth, Sarfatti is a center of the physics consciousness world.

Full disclosure.  I can't argue physics, because i'm not, nor ever will be one in this lifetime.  Sarfatti is a close friend of mine for nearly 30 years.  I stayed at his house in November, so i'm prejudiced.  I have seen him at his most brilliant, and i have seen him at his most manic.  But as Jack himself often says, it doesn't matter if he's crazy, it matters if the equations check out.

And i do have personal knowledge of how much equation checking is being done at high levels around the world.

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Anaïs Nin

by Crazy Horse on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 12:26:38 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I think we should not engage in a war by proxy between your friend and my PhD advisor, which is what this would devolve into.

We have met the enemy, and he is us — Pogo
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 12:33:38 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Though it would never be a war with you anyway.  Preconceived ideas are always the hardest to give up.  But i bet we could have a very interesting evening together.

The real point was not about Sarfatti, but about the physical roots of consciousness, and the possible effect of the now common "paradigm shift" in human thinking.  And how that shift would affect every aspect of civilization.

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Anaïs Nin

by Crazy Horse on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 12:49:14 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Preconceived ideas are always the hardest to give up.

Now, what is that meant to mean?
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 12:53:18 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Like imprinting, Migeru's understanding of the reality swirling around the wave function of Sarfatti's life is informed by the PhD advisor's view, just as mine is informed by hanging out with the entire crew of psychotic boddhisatvas.

People in general do not change views easily, as there's always some extra attachment.  "No, we have to take Little Round Top, said Lt. General Pickett."  or perhaps, "No, Pope, the sun does not move around the earth."

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Anaïs Nin

by Crazy Horse on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 01:39:59 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Sarfatti believes that he received a phone call from a sentient computer  

I don't worry about where my insights come from, only whether they're any good.  

Sadly, I'm sure people would rather believe a sentient computer than Sarfatti himself.  

The Fates are kind.

by Gaianne on Thu Jan 3rd, 2008 at 04:30:01 PM EST
[ Parent ]
We might want to start with understanding the brain at the cellular level.

you are the media you consume.

by MillMan (millguy at gmail) on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 02:31:03 PM EST
[ Parent ]
There is a lot of talking about the consequences of QM when we don't really understands most of what happen in scales between molecules and the whole organism. Apparently, a recent discovery was how water reacts in the presence of an electron...

Un roi sans divertissement est un homme plein de misères
by linca (antonin POINT lucas AROBASE gmail.com) on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 02:35:56 PM EST
[ Parent ]
We're going to have a far easier time examining the brain at the cellular level first. If that doesn't explain it to a satisfactory extent, we can dig further.

I'm immediately skeptical of Crazy Horse on this: his comment has dualism written all over it, with the material/immaterial mapping to the microscopic/macroscopic world of physics. That would be neat if true, but I'd rather reject more likely candidates first.

you are the media you consume.

by MillMan (millguy at gmail) on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 03:58:41 PM EST
[ Parent ]
My continuing point exactly...

You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 02:41:23 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Not that simple.

The Mind reconfigures neural pathways.  Among those so configured are the pathways to/from the diencephalon where the Thalamus and Hypothalamus major control areas for the endocrine system are.  

Thus, what you think may become what you are.

Also, the Thalamus is the 'ante room' to the two cerebral hemispheres where higher cognitive functions are located.  As the body does its 'thing' messages are passed to the Thalamus through the Central Nervous System and the biochemical signals of the endocrine system.  Together these 'inform' the Thalamus which then transmits messages to the cerebral hemispheres.

Thus, what you are may become what you think.

Out of the googleplex of messages being transmitted eventually some of what you think will become what you are.  Out of the googleplex of messages being transmitted eventually some of what you are will become what you think.

On a simplistic level, the homeostasis system will generate signals to the Thalamus which send signals to the cerebral cortex which will result in the thought, "Let's go out for a pizza."

It works the other way as well.  That's how we can make the decision to hold our breath so we don't drown while swimming under water.

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 09:56:18 PM EST
[ Parent ]
How does this involve quantum mechanics?

you are the media you consume.

by MillMan (millguy at gmail) on Thu Jan 3rd, 2008 at 12:59:24 AM EST
[ Parent ]
At any level from chemical or electrical activity within brain cells to the unfolding and decay of galaxies, the basic building blocks are in action according to their QM or post-QM laws?

Newton's Gravity still affects brain components.  Why not other physical aspects?

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Anaïs Nin

by Crazy Horse on Thu Jan 3rd, 2008 at 02:52:13 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Quantum effects can be ignored in transistors down to a certain size, that is, above the feature size cutoff, starting from maxwell's equations we can predict the transistor's behavior mathematically among all the transistor's variables we are concerned with to the degree of precision we want. Below the cutoff, quantum effects have a non-negligible impact on a number of variables we do care about and Maxwell's equations are not good enough for our purposes.

Similarly we may or may not need quantum mechanics to describe consciousness to an extent we are satisfied with. If it turns out our brains store data in quantum states, for example (admittedly I know very little about QM), then sure, QM will have to be into incorporated into an adequate description of consciousness.

I'm not equating transistors or logic gates to neurons, by the way. I'm claiming that in a universe with no apparent absolutes, pinning down assumptions through approximate models is all we can do, that this is useful, and that less sophisticated models, even those that have been superseded by models that work in a broader range of cases, can be adequate for our purposes.

you are the media you consume.

by MillMan (millguy at gmail) on Thu Jan 3rd, 2008 at 03:49:28 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Quantum effects can be ignored in transistors down to a certain size  

Not quite:  Transistors only work BECAUSE of quantum effects.  

Without quantum effects we would still be using vacuum tubes.  

The Fates are kind.

by Gaianne on Thu Jan 3rd, 2008 at 02:14:06 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Comment specific to the "...understanding the brain at the cellular level."  You can't understand the brain at that level.  All you understand is the diffusion of neuro-transmitters across the synaptic cleft, the electo-chemical interactions along and across the myelin sheath, & so on.  It's like trying to understand an automobile by looking at the alloys used in the metal and the petrochemicals used in the plastic.  

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre
by ATinNM on Thu Jan 3rd, 2008 at 03:07:52 AM EST
[ Parent ]
What are the deeper levels involved?

you are the media you consume.

by MillMan (millguy at gmail) on Thu Jan 3rd, 2008 at 03:57:51 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I don't understand your question.  

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre
by ATinNM on Thu Jan 3rd, 2008 at 05:27:03 AM EST
[ Parent ]
If we use QM, what else can we look at?

you are the media you consume.

by MillMan (millguy at gmail) on Thu Jan 3rd, 2008 at 01:23:52 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Anything. Just enumerate a set of states and postulate a set of transition amplitudes.

We have met the enemy, and he is us — Pogo
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Jan 3rd, 2008 at 01:27:59 PM EST
[ Parent ]
since environmental destruction is caused by a civilization which doesn't know itself, nor its relationship to its surounding  

I don't have anything to add; I just want to highlight it.  

Anything that can cut through the willful ignorance of this civilization is to the good.  

The Fates are kind.

by Gaianne on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 03:05:10 PM EST
[ Parent ]
So, if you understood mind, you would understand that they are related.  

Of course, we don't:  That is the problem I started with.  

But for my part, I am willing to SEEK understanding.  

How will an understanding of Quantum Mechanics inform ecology and political economy?  

We won't know unless it happens.  

The Fates are kind.

by Gaianne on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 12:11:35 PM EST
[ Parent ]
That begs the question. It is possible that you're right, then again it is possible that it isn't. Don't dodge the question, though, decoherence is a significant enough effect that quantum mechanical entanglement only survives into the mesoscopic level in carefully designed experimental conditions.

Entanglement doesn't imply superluminal communication, by the way.

We have met the enemy, and he is us — Pogo

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 12:19:10 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Doesn't mean superluminal communication isn't there anyway.  But i'm not qualified to discuss physics with people as educated as Migeru in the field.  I'd only like to point out that there are physicists with much more experience who take various versions of the action at a distance theories very seriously.

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Anaïs Nin
by Crazy Horse on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 12:41:00 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Any experimental verification of superluminal communication? That would have earned a couple of Nobel Prizes by now.

Instead, quantum optics has provided esperimental verification of Bell's inequalities, Hardy's theorem, the Kocken-Specker theorem, interaction-free measurement [which is not interaction-free], quantum teleportation [which is not teleportation but subluminal communication]...

There are enough wonders in empirically established quantum mechanics already.

We have met the enemy, and he is us — Pogo

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 12:45:33 PM EST
[ Parent ]
This is pretty far off topic.  

However:  I do not know enough physics to know if it is possible; only enough to know how I would try to do it.  The basic idea would be to use the difference between the interference patterns that can be generated when particles do not choose, versus the lack of interference pattern that occurs when they are forced to choose.  Obviously the particles would be in batches--sequences--long enough to reliably create such patterns.  

Of technical problems, there should be many.  

Theoretically, it would be very interesting.  

The earth is only 21 light-milliseconds across.  I don't think it will improve cellphones much.  

The Fates are kind.

by Gaianne on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 01:15:13 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, you yourself said elsewhere in this thread that since the 70's, theory had outstripped experiment.

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Anaïs Nin
by Crazy Horse on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 01:48:42 PM EST
[ Parent ]
That is not a good thing. Theory has gone on without new experimental input. And I'm talking only about the standard model of particle physics. On quantum consciousness there is no real experimental lead because our understanding of consciousness is very poor on all levels.

We have met the enemy, and he is us — Pogo
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 01:54:20 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Migeru:
Any experimental verification of superluminal communication?

Kind of.

And also here.

I can understand the group velocity argument, but what bothers me is that the rationale for 'proving' that superluminal communication can't happen seems very similar to the one that was being used to 'prove' with absolute relativistic certainty that the group velocity has to be less than c.

This doesn't 'prove' anything about what's possible, but it does make me suspicious of the rigour of the arguments that are being used.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 04:59:35 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Oh, that!Faster than a Speeding Light Wave - UFO Evidence
Researchers have now measured many group velocities higher than c. "It's just not true what they say in the textbooks," says Raymond Chiao of the University of California at Berkeley. For example, a Gaussian shaped light pulse can travel faster than c through some highly absorbing materials. The explanation is that the central piece of the pulse is attenuated more than the earliest piece. Although the pulse shape is unchanged, it comes out smaller, and the "leading edge" of the input pulse is transformed to become the peak of the emerging pulse, a process called "reshaping." So no part of the pulse is actually transmitted faster than c, says Chiao.
That doesn't constitute a test of superluminal transmission of information, though I can imagine an experiment being designed on the basis of this phenomenon.

We have met the enemy, and he is us — Pogo
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 05:24:41 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I understand that the unmitigated connections are at the quantum level, so when you say they don't rise above the mesoscopic, that does not come as any particular shock.  

You are asking me to explain how a new theory of Quantum Mechanics would allow Quantum Mechanics to solve our problems.  But there is no way I would expect that.  

And not only because our problems are not going to get solved.  

Rather, my guess is that a correct understanding of Quantum Mechanics would be a new model of the world, and that model would suggest many things, not only about Quantum Mechanics.  It would suggest things that would compel us to CORRECT OUR BEHAVIOR.  

What might those things be?  We'll know if it happens.  

The Fates are kind.

by Gaianne on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 12:57:51 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I feel compelled to take a stab at a diary on quantum mechanics and ontology.

We have met the enemy, and he is us — Pogo
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 01:01:01 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Hooray!

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 01:17:01 PM EST
[ Parent ]
You do have a degree in philosophy, right? I'll need backup.

We have met the enemy, and he is us — Pogo
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 01:26:15 PM EST
[ Parent ]
okay, I'll move to the office and get all the big books out.

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 01:29:36 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Only after I've posted the diary, though :-)

We have met the enemy, and he is us — Pogo
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 01:41:55 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Well it is only upstairs, if I can get the pile of cats off me.

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 01:43:38 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Are you Dr. Strangelove in disguise?

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 03:45:14 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Football chant?

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 08:15:34 PM EST
[ Parent ]
By the way, the problem that decoherence attempts to solve is how it is possible that out of quantum mechanics arises a macroscopic world that is more or less consistent with the Western metaphysics you lambast.

That is the real problem. How do you construct a metaphysics that at the same time contains heuristics for the microscopic and for the macroscopic.

I agree with a lot of people that quantum gravity is likely to result in this new heuristics, but I honestly fail to see how 1) any quantum gravity is going to be testable other than by internal consistency (which you lambast), that is, how experiments are going to be accessible; 2) how knowledge of quantum gravity could affect (or would have affected) political economy.

Feynman once said that the problem with hard-nosed scientists is not that they lack imagination but that what they imagine is constrained by everything they know to be approximately true.

We have met the enemy, and he is us — Pogo

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 01:06:03 PM EST
[ Parent ]
"other than by internal consistency (which you lambast)"  

???

The Fates are kind.

by Gaianne on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 02:11:29 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Maybe I misread you as to at what point Mathematics went wrong.

We have met the enemy, and he is us — Pogo
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 02:15:35 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, my complaint was, that 30 years after Goedel showed mathematics was not exactly planted on solid bedrock, mathematicians were still pretending that it was.  

I had no complaint about internal consistency--but what we were getting was faith.  In a sense there was no choice about that, but I thought that in that case we should own up to it.  

Then again, a non-formal proof of consistency, might serve, but--and now I am wandering off-topic, perhaps those funny little symbols were not as important as everybody thought?  I was slowly coming around to the intuitionist view that mathematics should be comprehensible.  Even if the intuitionists treated Cantor very badly--which they did--they weren't wrong about everything.  Hilbert's project had its uses, but the core of it had failed.  It was time to let mathematics be done in a style appropriate to its content.  

So during this period, it was the logicians, not the mathematicians, who were my guides.  They wanted proof of consistency but knew they had not gotten it, and owned up.  They knew they needed to do something about it, too, even if what they did lay outside of logic.  

The Fates are kind.

by Gaianne on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 02:51:24 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Personally I think we'd be well served by taking a constructivist approach to mathematics. A lot of the apparent paradoxes and monsters of functional analysis go away if you take a constructivist approach. Which, in fact, is good for applied mathematics such as physics because a lot of conundrums just melt away.

We have met the enemy, and he is us — Pogo
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 03:10:32 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Gaianne:
It would suggest things that would compel us to CORRECT OUR BEHAVIOR.  

It's actually not hard to understand what the problem is. Although the Western Mind (including Colman's, at a guess) shrinks back in horror from mysticism and explicit dualism, it still works on the assumption that Mind is separate from Reality, and that the only way to understand Reality is by making Mind (i.e. abstracted pattern recognition) and Reality as separate as possible.

You can experiment on Reality, but you're not allowed to admit that you take part in the experimental experience directly. That's called being subjective, and it's a terrible sin.

Put simply, we don't see ourselves as an organic part of the physical world. We see ourselves as separate and detached from it. It happens to us and around us, but it's not a deeply felt or experienced part of us.

So physics is still a theory of distant-mindedness rather than a theory of participation, and Goedel is the inevitable result of trying to find a theory of mind which isn't grounded in experience - a castle in the air with no foundation, because foundational axioms are based in participation and experience and can't be derived from pure pattern matching.

Relativity and QM have been suggesting - inconclusively, so far - that participation is a pre-requisite for deep understanding.

This is very uncomfortable for rational dualists, and they're still not sure what to make of it.

Inevitably the disconnection leads to ravings and mania like the international economic system, where pure algorithms of value disconnect from reality so completely that they're in serious danger of destroying themselves.

This won't change until the detachment ends. It doesn't have to end in a naive participation mystique, because that's often every bit as superficial as it seems to be. Doing lots of drugs and saying 'Hey, wow, that's like, really cool' isn't any more insightful and useful than it seems to be.

But the common factor among mystics is that they don't feel the separation, either between themselves and physical reality, or between themselves and others. And that makes them consicous participants with a personal relationship to their surroundings, rather than slightly confused and anxious passengers who feel embattled and detached from them.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 05:23:42 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Excellent, tbg, the future is participative, or there is no future...

"The future is already here -- it's just not very evenly distributed" William Gibson
by ChrisCook (cojockathotmaildotcom) on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 05:34:10 PM EST
[ Parent ]
but you achieve it.  

Very neat and clean.  :)

The Fates are kind.

by Gaianne on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 06:32:39 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Although the Western Mind (including Colman's, at a guess) shrinks back in horror from mysticism and explicit dualism, it still works on the assumption that Mind is separate from Reality, and that the only way to understand Reality is by making Mind (i.e. abstracted pattern recognition) and Reality as separate as possible.

Thank you for attributing idiotic views to me. I always appreciate that, especially when they're diametrically opposed to my actual views.  I guess I'll just have to become a mystic so I can truly understand things. <sigh>

Turns out that earlier I was discussing with Migeru in IM that the distinction between observer and the observed is entirely artificial. Mind you, mysticism doesn't help at all, because it moves the observer further from the observed, not closer - the observer is really outside reality, floating around in a higher state of consciousness with the other enlightened souls, man.

by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 07:38:21 PM EST
[ Parent ]
the distinction between observer and the observed is entirely artificial.

Could you develop that point further, or any chance of posting that segment of your IM chat?

(Or maybe Migeru is already planning to include it in his diary on quantum mechanics and ontology?)

Truth unfolds in time through a communal process.

by marco on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 08:10:30 PM EST
[ Parent ]
No, the diary on ontology is going to be on boring stuff such as
what is an object?
take the physics of quasiparticles and the whole idea of objects falls apart
what constitutes the identity of an object?
take the physics of fermion, boson, anyon statistics and compare with maxwell-boltzmann; take the Gibbs paradox

but if these topics are a prerequisite for discussing ontology, who can take part in the discussion?

it takes the fun out of philosophy
</lecture>

As for the requested discussion on the separation between subject and object:
Migeru: it's funny how QM philosophical problems always end up at the conscious observer
... but I think it's about philosophy, not about quantum consciousness
Colman: Yes.
Migeru: it's like the philosophhy of probability: it's also broken
Colman: It's an artificial split between system and observer. Or somethign along those lines.
Migeru: do you know about the holographic principle in quantum gravity?
Colman: I've heard of it. But I forget...
Migeru: it says roughly... you can put a boundary wherever you want
the area of the boundary is a bound on the information entropy of either half
it appears likely to be a key principle of the new theory
but quite what it has to do with consciousness...
though it does seem to have something to do with these boundaries between systems
Colman: Hm.
Migeru: subject and object, etc
Colman: Could do. The distincition is artifical.
Migeru: the problem is
since we don't understand consciousness
we can't do a toy model of a self-aware entity
Colman: No.
Migeru: so there's no way to put that in QM
and talking about QM as the basis of consciousness just confuses things even more!
Flame away!

We have met the enemy, and he is us — Pogo
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 08:21:53 PM EST
[ Parent ]
How is the Philosophy of probability broken?

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 08:31:14 PM EST
[ Parent ]
One of the main ways IMHO is that the frequentist probability interpretation confuses the definition of probability with the operational way in which probabilities are measured. It takes the law of large numbers as the definition of probability, which makes the conceptual edifice dangerously close to circular.

A big problem with the interpretation of Quantum Mechanics is actually disentangling the philosophy of probability from specifically quantum mechanical conceptual problems.

We have met the enemy, and he is us — Pogo

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 08:35:27 PM EST
[ Parent ]
now that's going to take at least a pint, a bath, and an hour of thinking to come up with an answer to.

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 08:52:44 PM EST
[ Parent ]
You guys are in danger of disappearing up your own arses, so a bath would be good.  I'm told that long threads are almost always the result of flame wars and there hasn't been a bit of excitement here all night!  Can someone please light a fire under these guys so I can scramble some lieutenants?

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 09:17:53 PM EST
[ Parent ]
But aren't there interpretations which don't assume consciousness is necessary?

This seems to be a good thing because otherwise you end up in a solipsistic universe, where you personally are a cause of the Big Bang and all 13 and a bit billion years of everything that happened afterwards. (For varying and approximate values of 'you', at least.)

Assuming consciousness is essential seems to be another spin around the implicit dualism of mind over matter. Although it looks as if it's saying that mind and matter are linked, the implication is really that matter only appears when mind decides it does - which could be a little bit suspect, I think.

How much of a mind do you need before it's conscious enough to start deciding observables?

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 08:53:28 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Why would it have to be you? perhaps your existence is only guaranteed by the existence of another individual who is the actual observer. That would mean that the biblical "thou shalt not kill" might be to guarantee your own existence  and that of the universe, by maintaining the life of the observer.

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 09:03:26 PM EST
[ Parent ]
That's why I asked about how much consciousness you need.

There's a neat paradox which says that if you try to kill yourself in a quantum experiment, you can't do it. If you did you wouldn't be able to observe the result of the experiment. So it would never happen.

Your colleagues meanwhile can see a quantum suicide note, and possibly a dead body.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 09:21:13 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The flip side of that one is that we're all immortal, we only see other people die and there's at least one history of the universe in which the observer persists.

We have met the enemy, and he is us — Pogo
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 09:22:33 PM EST
[ Parent ]
So that makes the worlds militarists, those who are not taking Pascal's wager in that form.

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 10:42:47 PM EST
[ Parent ]
You're right, there are interpretations that do not require a conscious observer: "consistent histories" for instance. But here's the thing: most of these interpretations address primarily the problem of decoherence, that is, the passage from quantum-mechanical interference of complex amplitudes to classical addition of real (and positive) probabilities. What none of them address is the (not quantum-mechanical but probabilistic) problem of actuality (which of the actual histories is realised), which is basically the (probabilistic, not quantum mechanical) problem of assigning a probability to a single event.

Finally, there's an additional twist to this whole discussion which is that decoherence is supposed to be about breaking entanglement, a concept which figures prominently in gaianne's writeup and seems central to the "everything is connected" woo-woo (excuse me) narratives. Now the twist is that entanglement itself is not well defined. It is possible to write down a state of three particles such that depending on the result of a measurement made on A, B and C may or may not be entangled (and cyclic permutations of A, B and C). So, "connectedness" of A, B and C means that "connectedness" of B and C depends on what happens to A far away. This state is called sometimes a Borromean state, by analogy with the borromean rings which are not linked pairwise, but are linked as a set of three.

Back to the beginning, consciousness is not essential but unless a conscious observer is involved, philosophical problems with quantum mechanics seem rather mild to nonexistent, which again suggest a philosophical problem, not a problem with quantum mechanics. The central question is: how are entanglement or interference perceived? Remember Bohr's "no phenomenon is a phenomenon unless it is an observed phenomenon".

We have met the enemy, and he is us — Pogo

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 09:20:25 PM EST
[ Parent ]
"'woo woo' is not shorthand, it's rudeness."--Bertrand Russell

http://www.watchingyou.com/woowoo.html

There are 41 statements to the Woo Woo credo, many of which demonstrate that it is a term coming out of Usenet flamewars--or somesuch.  To understand if a person is a woo woo, one would have to run their comments via the list--and if they matched up, you can then call them "woo woos" and start an argument--it's an argumentative term, with some humour but clearly aimed at a certain Usenet type of character (the kind who reports you to the sys admin etc.)  The list does have some enjoyable moments.  I recommend numbers 4, 8, 9, 12, 22...wow, 22!  But I don't recommend using it as shorthand because it is clearly meant to be derogatory.


Don't fight forces, use them R. Buckminster Fuller.

by rg (leopold dot lepster at google mail dot com) on Thu Jan 3rd, 2008 at 04:55:21 AM EST
[ Parent ]
But there's another interpretation which is a kind of extremist Copenhagen view. It says that QM is a tool which calculates probabilities. And that's all it is.

It doesn't try to define what really happens, it doesn't assume that wave functions are 'real' or even that they evolve. All it says is that if you measure a system at time t, the probabilities of the different outcomes are the real part of etc.

The fact that states can be in various baroque non-local superpositions before the interaction doesn't change this. The probabilities will still be consistent and computable.

Migeru:

What none of them address is the (not quantum-mechanical but probabilistic) problem of actuality (which of the actual histories is realised), which is basically the (probabilistic, not quantum mechanical) problem of assigning a probability to a single event.

"It's random within probabilistic constraints" seems to be all that QM can tell you.

There may be a theory which defines the ontology in more detail. But QM doesn't seem to be it.

The only difference between an observer and a non-observer is that the observer is consciously aware of a measured value. But that doesn't define the value.

What's annoying about QM is that it tries to conflate different issues. There's a difference between the physical interaction needed to make a measurement and the mental process of experiencing the measurement. There's also non-locality, which supposedly makes everything very spooky and has somehow - for some reason which has never been properly explained, because it's not really needed - been linked to mental experience, even though it's completely distinct.

Consciousness
Micro to macro amplification ('measurement')
Non-locality etc
'It's all one' woo woo

are all different. I'll take the middle two. I won't accept the other two until someone does an experiment in which two observers measure two contradictory observables from the same quantum system at the same time.

Migeru:

Remember Bohr's "no phenomenon is a phenomenon unless it is an observed phenomenon".

That's almost makes sense, but doesn't, because in the limit it says that nothing in the universe exists unless it's observed. Which seems unlikely - otherwise you're back to solipsism again, with every possible wave function in the entire history of the universe converging on your viewpoint.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Thu Jan 3rd, 2008 at 06:13:12 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Great comment.

Regarding Bohr, isn't that very similar to what Kand said about noumenon and phenomenon? Aren't there serious epistemological issues at the core of all this?

ThatBritGuy:

"It's random within probabilistic constraints" seems to be all that QM can tell you.

There may be a theory which defines the ontology in more detail. But QM doesn't seem to be it.

The only difference between an observer and a non-observer is that the observer is consciously aware of a measured value. But that doesn't define the value.

Which is why I want to make a diary referring to a number of out-there models and experiments from Quantum Mechanics and ask people to hash out the ontology. Because things like "what is an object" are not quite clear. And it is a lot easier to say "the universe is purely relational" than to build any useful model out of that insight, which is why a lot of physicist will talk in those terms around a pool table, but few papers get written.

We have met the enemy, and he is us — Pogo
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Jan 3rd, 2008 at 06:21:27 AM EST
[ Parent ]
And it is a lot easier to say "the universe is purely relational" than to build any useful model out of that insight, which is why a lot of physicist will talk in those terms around a pool table, but few papers get written.

sniff, sniff  Chris, is that you cooking up another batch of your pudding somewhere?

Truth unfolds in time through a communal process.

by marco on Thu Jan 3rd, 2008 at 06:48:39 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Migeru:
Regarding Bohr, isn't that very similar to what Kand said about noumenon and phenomenon? Aren't there serious epistemological issues at the core of all this?

That depends what you expect physics to do. There's a difference between explaining reality, modelling reality, and defining reality.

I think realistically (sic) the best you can hope for is models of increasing sophistication and usefulness. Explaining reality is best left to theologians. (Not that they have a clue either, but it keeps them busy.)

No one should be trying to define reality, ever, but it's easy to fall into the trap of believing that a theory with predictive power is what's going on ontologically.

Too much physics is still cursed by Platonism. According to Penrose et el., models supposedly float around outside reality telling it what to do.

But there's a huge gap between using experimental recipes to predict what's going to happen next, and assuming there's a Central Recipe Database running things behind the scenes.

One is pattern recognition, the other is metaphysics. One assumes that reality works consistently and the consistency can be enumerated. The other makes unwarranted assumptions about the mechanisms which create that consistency.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Thu Jan 3rd, 2008 at 10:19:21 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Colman:
Turns out that earlier I was discussing with Migeru in IM that the distinction between observer and the observed is entirely artificial.

It's not artificial, it's a useful way of relating to the world.

What it isn't is the only useful way of relating to the world.

And there's a bit of a gap between thinking it as an interesting concept and living it, even a little.

Colman:

Mind you, mysticism doesn't help at all,

If you know it's all lazy woo woo by definition, it wouldn't.

Colman:

the observer is really outside reality, floating around in a higher state of consciousness with the other enlightened souls, man.

It's lucky you never find any of that in science, isn't it?

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 08:34:39 PM EST
[ Parent ]
mysticism doesn't help at all, because it moves the observer further from the observed, not closer - the observer is really outside reality, floating around in a higher state of consciousness with the other enlightened souls, man.  

This is a very strange description of mystical experience.  It is not like anything I know, or anything I have heard of.  Where does it come from?  

The Fates are kind.

by Gaianne on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 09:22:56 PM EST
[ Parent ]
participation is a pre-requisite for deep understanding.

This is very uncomfortable for rational dualists, and they're still not sure what to make of it.

Inevitably the disconnection leads to ravings and mania like the international economic system, where pure algorithms of value disconnect from reality so completely that they're in serious danger of destroying themselves.

This passage helped me finally to understand (I think) the root of Gaianne's concern about our metaphysics and its adequacy (or lack thereof) to equip us for dealing with social and environmental crises.

But maybe I missed this earlier because, agreeing with you that

the Western Mind ... shrinks back in horror from mysticism and explicit dualism,

I do not believe that the Western mindset can be equated with "rational dualism" (which indeed is not adequate for dealing with the results of modern science and logic, nor with the real world crises we face).

I would go further that if

it [the Western Mind] still works on the assumption that Mind is separate from Reality, and that the only way to understand Reality is by making Mind (i.e. abstracted pattern recognition) and Reality as separate as possible

then even this is a modern manifestation of a Platonist, Manichean hold-over that has persisted in our culture in various forms (with some tragic consequences), but is divergent from a more fundamental Western "metaphysics" that construes reality as both spiritual and material (in a complementary, non-contradictory relationship), and that understanding comes from both personal reflection and contemplation as well as from experience and participation within the material world and within society among other people.

Truth unfolds in time through a communal process.

by marco on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 10:22:10 PM EST
[ Parent ]
How will an understanding of Quantum Mechanics inform ecology and political economy?  

Query: does QM 'work' when the Object - never mind Action - is described by Second Order, or higher, Collections (not Sets) of Strange Attractors?

My guess: No.  (But I'm willing to be corrected.)

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 10:16:38 PM EST
[ Parent ]
But isn't it already possible that we already have what we need in our current conceptual scaffolding (though I would call it a ethical or political rather than metaphysical scaffolding), but that these are being neglected and even repressed?

I refer to values such as cooperation, democracy, freedom, community, pluralism, solidarity, compassion, future preference (relevant to sustainability and solidarity with our descendants), and even (albeit to a lesser degree than in other cultures perhaps) a respect for and fondness for nature.

These are all to be found in the Western tradition (although again, I realize they are not really metaphysical in nature.)  If we revive and revalue them, then I think we will be well equipped to address the challenges you raise.

One point that might bear on the metaphysical is the Western notion of truth, and it just occurred to me now that here a revision or expansion of this notion could conceivably enhance, though not radically alter, in a positive way our conceptual equipment to deal with real world crises.

Our metaphysical outlook has always held that there is a truth, a meaning, a goal to existence, and that this truth is learnable, but not with completeness, finality, or certainty.  Also, this truth is approached not only through divine revelation (the exceptional, almost mythological case), but through individual, personal effort and through reiterative, communal, collective effort.  Furthermore, the social dimension of the unfolding of truth involves both competition and cooperation.  To claim to have obtained final truth is to commit the Greek sin of hubris or the Judaeo-Christian sin of pride (which caused Lucifer to forfeit his box seat in Heaven).  This conception of truth is at the basis of the modern scientific enterprise in which truth is progressively approached, through competition and cooperation, through ever increasing and ever refining knowledge, with the ever present caveat that science is never fully achieved and that no matter how good a theory is, it may always be disproved by a new experiment or displaced by a better theory.

This conception of truth as unfolding in time through a communal process is thus hopeful and optimistic, and affirms that there is an ordered, external reality that is not arbitrary, chaotic, and meaningless.

The irony is that Gödel's theorems, as well as quantum mechanics, violently rattle our simple understanding of what truth is, and force us to reexamine it.  It may even cause us to question the fundamental premise that truth exists at all.  But I do not think these discoveries require that we reject truth, but rather that we enrich our understanding of the nature of truth.  In particular, based on my purely lay reading of quantum mechanics and logic (including a college course in first order logic), I think quantum mechanics and Gödel's theorems can contribute positively to our metaphysics with the following:

  • the rejection of absolute, mutually exclusive duality ("Do I contradict myself? Very well then I contradict myself, (I am large, I contain multitudes.)")
  • the role of subjectivity and consciousness, maybe even sentience, in the constitution of reality
  • the confirmation that truth can never be expressed finally and exhaustively ("There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy")
  • that the discovery, unfolding of truth cannot be automated, but requires the continual participation of conscious intelligence
  • reality is not pre-determined
  • reality may contain multiple "truths" ("reject the tyranny of the or, embrace the genius of the and")

In short, what these scientific/mathematical "crises" may offer our metaphysics is
  • a more important place for the active engagement and consciousness of people
  • more room for creativity and consideration of alternatives (solutions as well as points of view)
  • open-ended optimism and hopefulness

I am no scientist or mathematician (to my great regret), so I may be totally off base here.  But if not, these seem like they could be very helpful for us in dealing with the real world challenges that face us indeed.

Truth unfolds in time through a communal process.
by marco on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 12:33:28 PM EST
[ Parent ]
A superb contribution. You've revealed many of the things that I struggle to write about.

You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 01:15:01 PM EST
[ Parent ]
These ideas are nothing more than a regurgitation of what I have read elsewhere.  But if they resonate, then I am glad (and relieved) that I am not the only one who found value in them.

Truth unfolds in time through a communal process.
by marco on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 11:13:55 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Brilliant indeed, Bruno-Ken.  

I optimistically believe that through the use of the emerging partnership-based models - within which risk and reward are shared equitably - we will come to understand that Ethical is, in fact, Optimal.

"The future is already here -- it's just not very evenly distributed" William Gibson

by ChrisCook (cojockathotmaildotcom) on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 01:34:34 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Thanks, but I promise you, the credit definitely goes elsewhere.

I optimistically believe that through the use of the emerging partnership-based models - within which risk and reward are shared equitably - we will come to understand that Ethical is, in fact, Optimal.

And I suspect that part of that success will come through the eventual replacement of the self-oriented profit motive with an other/community-oriented giving/helping/support motive underlying economic transactions.

Truth unfolds in time through a communal process.

by marco on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 11:24:58 PM EST
[ Parent ]
... 'social consequence'?

That is,

'our mind' => 'social outcomes'

... in a way that our mind is independent of social outcomes?

That is,

'social outcomes' =/> 'our mind'

As a fundamental premise, this seems to me to be dramatically Newtonian/Cartesian.

More likely:

... => 'our mind' => 'social outcomes' => 'our mind' => 'social outcomes' => ...

... that is, a self-reproducing system, so that fundamentalist, analytical causality is insufficient to map to the problem at issue, and we require a living systems reasoning instead.


I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 07:23:40 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Not to make presumptions about your argument, but we certainly have a tendency to believe that minds belong to individual people, running on individual brains in individual bodies--and that isn't right at all.  There is some of that, yes, but it is pretty irrelevant to the problems of climate change, biosphere destruction, and economic disaster that constitute the visible surface of our looming difficulties.  

These are created by mind, mind that does not belong to individual brains in individual bodies, but flows across them creating real actions by real people stretching across some centuries and more or less culminating now.  This mind has indeed created the problems, through the nature of the thoughts it perpetuates and the actions it has induced.  And it is still doing it, right now.  

Now it is a mistake to think we are separate from this--for we are participating in it.  Our individual minds may recognize the disaster we are involved in (some do, some don't), but the mind we are part of all together does not.  There are several reasons for this, but one of them is the metaphysics of this mind--a metaphysics we all share.  This lies a bit below the level of visibility--the metaphysics we are happily arguing about do not reach quite that deep.  My tactic is that by arguing about--or sharing--our little metaphysics, the deeper levels might start to show.  

It is needful that they show, that they are revealed to us, the participants who never think about them.  

When I said there are things we want to save, but we don't know what CAN be saved, there are two meanings to this.  There are things that simply cannot (are unable) to make the transition into the new age.  But secondly, there are things which we think we want to save, but are actually part of the destructive process itself.  We don't know what these things are, but we should make a point to know before we set about trying to save them.  We need to know what things belong to the destructive process.  

This then has its mirror:  What does life require of us?  Life needs to outwit the mind causing the destruction.  How do we help it do that?  

Is it "social?"  Oh, yes.  

The Fates are kind.

by Gaianne on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 09:08:14 PM EST
[ Parent ]
... as opposed to whatever it is that our brains do when they do things.

I do not see the benefit in "explaining" social systems by loose metaphors to one of the aspects of our own biology that we most struggle with understanding, unless deliberate obscurity is the goal.

However, that is an aside ... if it is a loose metaphorical social "Mind" being discussed, then, while it is true:

"Mind" => thoughts/actions

it is equally true that

thoughts/actions => "Mind" ...

... so "Mind" recreates itself ...

"Mind" => thoughts/actions => "Mind"

... and patterns of thoughts/actions recreate themselves ...

thoughts/actions => "Mind" => thoughts/actions

... and the simple externally-driven system turns into the classical living system, open to material cause, but recursively closed to efficient cause.

That is, a concrete, self-reproducing, matter/energy processing system ...

... for which the simple linear mechanical Newtonian causation, in which material, formal, and efficient cause all collapse into a single type of cause-effect relationship, is inadequate.


I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 09:51:10 PM EST
[ Parent ]
These are created by mind, mind that does not belong to individual brains in individual bodies, but flows across them creating real actions by real people stretching across some centuries and more or less culminating now.

If you insist on mis-using terminology confusion will be your reward.

What you are describing is intellectual continuity within a particular culture.  

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 10:31:34 PM EST
[ Parent ]

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