What separability tells us about consciousness

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What separability tells us about consciousness

Postby Dave_C on December 30th, 2018, 9:31 am 

A few years ago, I attempted to publish the attached paper with several journals. After being turned down and getting little feedback, I decided to rewrite the paper which I’ve been doing ever since. I’m posting here to get some preliminary feedback prior to pushing on any further, but I do plan to make updates as necessary and try to get feedback from a number of those whose work I’ve quoted. Here's a link to the paper:
https://drive.google.com/open?id=1vGya6 ... RY8l-PgVud

When reviewing the paper, I’d be very grateful for any feedback you might have along the lines of:
1) Is the paper understandable? Why/why not? What do you understand well? What don’t you understand well?
2) Is the overall layout and way it is presented helpful? Does the work flow well from one section to another and from one concept to another?
3) If you’re familiar with any of the references, do they make sense to be introduced where they are? Do you know of other references that might be pertinent?
4) Are the sections long enough to explain each concept or too short? Remember, the audience for this is primarily those who have an academic background in philosophy of mind so it may seem difficult to slog through at times.
5) Do you follow the predictions made at the end? This was added recently and is rather short, but the paper is already too long for some journals and I’ve seen much smaller sections in some of the referenced articles that focus on predictions.

I’d also be interested in any assistance or suggestions getting this published. Some thoughts for a next step include:
1) Post on ResearchGate.com.
2) Post on arxiv.org. I’m unfamiliar with this site though and see it doesn’t really cater to philosophy.
3) Other avenues?
I think my primary issue to this point is a lack of qualifications. I only hold a bachelor’s in engineering.

It’s a rather long paper at 12,000 words, though this includes the bibliography. I’m not in a rush to move on at this point so feel free to take your time. I don’t expect feedback on this the same way as we get feedback on other posts.

Best regards,
Dave.

Abstract:
In the field of engineering and many of the sciences that use classical physics for analysis, computational schemes use the concept of finite volumes because they break down a physical system into smaller parts that allow the governing equations and the phenomena sought to become calculable. These methods follow a common reductive philosophy based on the separability of classical mechanics. This paper reviews and further refines this concept so it can be used to examine the computational theory of mind. What we discover is that classical physics fails to allow for counterfactual dependencies. To maintain these dependencies would require a modification to classical physics to include a special signal which is unmeasurable and has no physical influence. To avoid these special signals it is argued, one must identify a nonseparable physical substrate on which consciousness can supervene, and it is here we find a substrate for phenomenal consciousness and a potential way forward.


Bibliography:
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Bishop, J. M. (2002). Dancing with pixies: Strong artificial intelligence and panpsychism. Views into the Chinese room, 360-378.
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Markram, H. (2006). The blue brain project. Nature Reviews Neuroscience, 7(2), 153-160.
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Keywords: phenomenal consciousness, philosophy of mind, counterfactual dependencies, downward causation, emergence, compartment model, computationalism, neuron, classical mechanics physics, separability, non-reductive physicalism, panpsychism, symbol grounding problem
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Re: What separability tells us about consciousness

Postby davidm on December 30th, 2018, 11:46 am 

I just skimmed the opening to get a feel for what this is like, and immediately this popped out at me: “This statement, once understood, is exceptionally inciteful…”

Inciteful of what? Rage?

The word, of course, is insightful.

Also, as a veteran reader at arxiv.org and the Phil Sci archive, I think 12,000 words is pretty long compared with most works. You’d probably benefit from editing the work down.

A longtime New York Times editor, I am looking for freelance editing/writing work (all writers need editors). I also have a very good grasp of the literature of the philosophy of consciousness and the mind, including, of course, Chalmers’ Hard Problem.
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Re: What separability tells us about consciousness

Postby TheVat on December 30th, 2018, 1:05 pm 

I will read it, this being a topic of interest to me in my brushes with AI (and threads here, of course) and cognitive sciences.

I suspect many typos like "inciteful" are more prevalent now with voice-to-text software and also slow-learning auto-correct.

It's great to hear from you, Dave C. By an odd coincidence, there are multiple citations of David Chalmers in your bibliography.
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Re: What separability tells us about consciousness

Postby Dave_C on December 30th, 2018, 4:53 pm 

Hi davidm. The Phil Sci Archives looks like a possible lead on where to post but I don't know if it really fits their format/site. Some sites are for professionals only and you need credentials to get in, which seems true for publishing in most journals.

Regarding length, I've shortened it about 1500 words since the first go around, and that was difficult. I'm sure it could be shortened quite a bit but sometimes the author is the least able to see where to cut. I'd be very interested in any recommendations you can make.

Hi Vat, Any comments or criticisms would be appreciated, I'm always open to suggestions.
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Re: What separability tells us about consciousness

Postby PaulN on January 6th, 2019, 1:21 pm 

I have done work in this field as it relates to Turing-ready AI, and have read some of your bibliography already. JM Bishop's paper, Dancing with Pixies, is a good way to ease into this topic. I will have a look at your paper, as I'm interested in holisms and downward causation. For me, acceptance of Bell's nonlocality is a path to accepting a nonseparable physical substrate and some form of functionalism. It seems possible to me that rudimentary mental states could supervene even on very simple inorganic transitions, like the warming of a pebble by the sun or electron transfers in a rain cloud.
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Re: What separability tells us about consciousness

Postby Dave_C on January 6th, 2019, 7:24 pm 

Hi Paul. Yes, Bishop does not support the requirement for counterfactuals. He, along with Hillary Putnam, Tim Maudlin, Block and many others, see a serious issue with the requirement put forth by Chalmers and others that for p-consciousness to emerge from those computational interactions, the computation must not only "mirror the causal structure of the physical system" but the causal structure must also provide for these "non-entered computational states". This is actually a very serious issue with computationalism and any kind of AI which purports to produce phenomenal consciousness and the primary one I provide an argument against. Strong emergence and downward causation are never predicted by any classical mechanical theory and I discuss this along with weak emergence. Thanks in advance for any comments you can provide.
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Re: What separability tells us about consciousness

Postby TheVat on January 7th, 2019, 1:52 pm 

You're spending a lot of time on control volumes, as I suspected you might, given your previous contributions here at SCF. If I survive that section, it will probably clarify understanding of the locality v nonlocality issues in computationalism. Though, TBH, I wonder how much of that lesson is needed to underscore the disjunction between classical mechanics and strong emergence. I will keep plugging away (and want to look at some of the bibliography material, too).

It does seem clear that you can't trap a holistic phenomenon with a reductive net. If the human brain is too "hot, noisy, and wet" for any sort of quantum superpositions to be harnessed, that will leave the problem of what sort of creature a strong emergence is.
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Re: What separability tells us about consciousness

Postby Dave_C on January 7th, 2019, 7:32 pm 

Hi Vat. Thanks for the comments, they are very helpful. I agree, the section on CV’s should be a page. I’ve actually cut it down considerably since the first draft, I know it’s an issue. Problem is, I don’t know how I can reduce it further. Computationalism today is a ‘non-reductive’ concept despite the fact it’s completely reductive. Neuron interactions are obviously separable, but the concept of non-reductionism is utterly ingrained in the literature. As Jaegwaon Kim puts it,
Expressions like “reduction,” reductionism,” reductionist theory,” and “reductionist explanation” have become pejoratives not only in philosophy, on both sides of the Atlantic, but also in the general intellectual culture of today. They have become common epithets thrown at one’s critical targets to tarnish them with intellectual naivete and backwardness. To call someone “a reductionist,” in high-culture press if not in serious philosophy, goes beyond mere criticism or expression of doctrinal disagreement; it is to put a person down, to heap scorn on him and his work. … If you want to be politically correct in philosophical matters, you would not dare come anywhere near reductionism, nor a reductionist. …

Kim is correct. We don’t have any kind of reductive theory of mind despite the fact we have neuroscientists like Markram working on separable, reductive models of the brain based on the control volume concept. If we want to model the brain, or parts thereof, we use CV’s(ie: compartments). If we want to theorize about p-consciousness, we ditch the concept and start babbling about non-reductionism, strong emergence and downward causation, highly nonlinear dynamical systems, and other alternative facts. How do you challenge the status quo when something as simple as the separability of classical physics is not just ignored, it's rewritten? I don’t mean that as a rhetorical question. If you have any ideas, take a step back and consider the larger picture. How does one get past the very deep layer of nonsense bandied about in the literature?

Regarding the “hot, noisy, and wet” problem, the paper actually started out years ago as an attempt to refute computationalism. This is what it developed into. I think the suggestion that DNA may have the capacity for quantum coherence is going to be a contentious, but the conclusion seems to follow from the evidence. I don’t think DNA is necessarily the only potential substrate but it would resolve the symbol grounding problem, problems around counterfactual sensitivity and has ‘other features’ going for it. Finally, if DNA is the substrate, there are some obvious predictions that are testable in principal if not in practice just yet.
Edit: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quantum_biology#DNA
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Re: What separability tells us about consciousness

Postby PaulN on January 11th, 2019, 1:34 pm 

I'm to the point in the paper where you start identifying the problems with a special signal. It seems to me that you could much shorten your exposition on control volumes and the jet example, and go more directly to weak emergence, strong emergence, downward causation, and so on. I think readers don't need much to get up to speed on the separability concept and may not need a long section that is more in the domain of engineering than of philosophy of mind. It is useful, but I think less is more here. I could also see some value to an early and succinct definition of counterfactuals, e.g. "The basic idea of counterfactual theories of causation is that the meaning of causal claims can be explained in terms of counterfactual conditionals of the form “If A had not occurred, C would not have occurred”.

(more comment to come, as I get into the second half of your paper...)
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Re: What separability tells us about consciousness

Postby Dave_C on January 11th, 2019, 8:25 pm 

PaulN, Thanks very much for your comments. Much appreciated. Looks like I have another vote now for cutting back the length of that section. I guess I’ll have to find a way… suggestions are welcome.

I like your idea of adding a definition regarding counterfactuals as it’s used in slightly different ways by different philosophers, so I think what needs emphasis regards the perceived need for non-entered computational states that both Chalmers and especially Bishop argue about. Tim Maudlin also has a very nice paper about this.

I’ve been looking around for the perfect reference that shows why computationalism requires counterfactual dependencies but haven’t really found one that is more succinct than those I’ve already quoted. I’ve tried to make the case to show why counterfactual dependencies are so critical to computationalism. I’d be interested in knowing if it works for you… As you (and TheVat) read the paper, consider how well does it present the need for CD’s given computationalism? I guess I’ve gone down the path of showing how dissociated CV’s should produce all the same phenomena as associated ones (this assumes the CV’s go through the same physical states of course).

Below is a comment from Chalmers I thought very helpful.
“… prima facie when you move from a standard computational set-up to your recordings, you lose counterfactual sensitivity, which many hold is crucial to mentality. so the failure of the latter to support consciousness doesn't immediately entail the failure of the former. there's discussion of issues of that sort in my paper "does a rock implement every FSA?", on my website.”

PS: Did you send me an email just a few days ago?
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