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TGD Inspired Theory of Consciousness
Note: Newest contributions are at the top!
There are moments when any-one gets deeply frustrated to the situation in what one might call "my own field". For almost two decades ago this kind of deep frustration plus certain personal experiences were the reasons why I started to work with quantum consciousness and quantum biology. For few years ago my attention was directed again to particle physics and basic mathematical challenges of TGD. The last year has been very intense since LHC and Fermilab and also some other experiments have been feeding data directly relevant for TGD. The effective neutrino superluminality was a pleasant surprise which might eventually force even the most bullish colleagues to accept TGD if they want to continue doing funded physics.
The rather recent events - here I mean the really weird censoship in Science2.0 using various dirty tricks that one might expect only a 12 year old computer nerd to use - have however re-created the frustrated feelings again. Is it really true that people calling themselves theoretical physicist are not able to do anything else than rehashing theories which have been dead for decades? Just a look at hep-th in arXiv.org makes me depressed. I can only wonder in what is the world these fellows are living in. Even worse, some colleagues seem to spend their time to silly censoring tricks in blogs! It is really frustrating to see how low the intellectual standards in particle physics theory nowadays are.
For these reasons I was very happy when I discovered that Sean Carroll in Cosmic Variance gave links to really interesting talks in Time conference arranged by fQXI. I have not been too happy for the elitistic nature of these conferences making impossible the communication of really new theoretical ideas. By listening the brilliant talk by neuroscientist David Eagleman, I however learned that this conference made possible communication of extremely interesting experimental findings about the relation of the time of physicist to the subjective time. I sincerely hope that my colleagues would listen this talk and realize that there are fascinating problems to be solved. There is simply no theory and therefore no list of dead theories among which graduate student is allowed to choose as in theoretical physics.
Eagleman together with other neuro scientists make distinction between time and subjective time and the experimental work has revealed that this relationship looks very complex and is poorly understood. One of the key realizations forced by TGD inspired theory of consciousness - in a well-defined sense a generalization of quantum measurement theory - is that geometric time (the time of field equations) and subjective time (experienced time) are two differentnotions. The challenge is to understand how they relate and under what conditions and in what approximation their identification performed routinely my the naive colleagues is possible. This was an excellent reason for continuing listening and I warmly recommend this for the reader. Also the other lectures might be equally rewarding. In the following I just represent TGD based interpretation of the findings and suggest that the reader would not take it too seriously and would try to build his or her own interpretation.
Eagleman talks about what he calls relativity of subjective time. This has of course nothing to do with the relativity of the geometric time. At the basic level subjective time need not even allow any metric measure (as is the case in TGD where subjective time corresponds to a sequence of quantum jumps).
1. Flash-lag effect and its modification
Eagleman tells first about very simple visual illusion known as flash-lag effect. One rotates a small circle around a circular orbit. As the circle passes the horizontal line there is a flash of light in the middle of the circle. If our perception were ideal the flash would be perceived in the middle of the circle. The circle is perceived to be 5 degrees ahead of the flash.
The first explanation to come in mind is that brain anticipates the motion of the flash and represent it to us in a position in which it would be in nearby future. Eagleman decided to test this proposal and studied three different situations. Two of them correspond to a circle rotating in opposite directions and the third one to a situation in which the circle stops at the position of the flash. The theory predicts that the circle is perceived to be ahead in all situations since the perveiver should not know anything about what happens in future. The surprise was that there was no flash-lag when the circle stopped. As if the brain would know what happens in the nearby future.
This kind of observation is not new. I remember more than a decade old experiment studing the galvanic response created by emotionally very provocative picture appearing as an odd-ball in a series of neutral pictures. This kind of response was observed. The mystery was that it was observed before the picture was seen! The result was of course not taken seriously by serious scientists. When a serious scientist associates something with the word "parapsychology" he loses totally ability to rational thinking and begins to rage.
The conclusion is that our moment of subjective time seems to have a finite duration about 80 ms and all events that occur in this time interval are associated with one and same moment of subjective time. This time interval would correspond to 12.5 Hz frequency. In TGD framework the interpretation could be in terms of the time scale assignable to causal diamond (CD) identified as intersection of future and past directed light-cones, which serves as imbedding space-correlate for the moment of consciousness: this time would be the temporal distance between the tips of CD.
The fractal hierarchy of quantum jumps within quantum jumps (identifiable as with a hierarchy of selves withing selves) has the hierarchy of CDs as an imbedding space correlate. For electron the time scale of CD is 100 seconds. What is troubling is that 80 ms corresponds to a time interval which is by 20 per cent shorter. One could of course assign this time scale to some cyclotron frequency in TGD framework but I would be very happy if it would correspond to a time duration of electron's CD.
As Eagleman tells, perception involves gaps. For instance, during saccadic motion necessary for visual consciousness (the explanation in TGD framework is that the conscious experience is associated with nondeterministic change, quantum jump) visual system is not on. We do not however perceive these gaps although we perceive the gaps created by putting lights off. Could it be that the gaps are absent because the 100 ms CDs in the sequences have overlap producing on the average 80 ms intervals without overlap? Could the absence of gaps also tell us that it is retina and various sensory organs which build the fundamental qualia and that brain only constructs a cognitive representation about it decomposing the world to objects with certain properties and names and also builds all kinds of useful associations? This picture applies to all sensory qualia in TGD Universe and one can circumvent various objections against it in terms of TGD view about time.
2. We live in the past: but in what sense?
One surprising fact about consciousness is that we live in the past. The justification for this in terms of standard neuroscience, where brain builds both sensory and cognitive representations of the external world, does not require refined arguments.
Neural communications are extremely slow using light-velocity as the standard. The velocities of nerve pulses are between 1-100 m/s as compared with the light velocity 3× 108 m/s. The communication of the sensory data to brain takes time which can be of order second. The data coming from various sensory organs with varying velocities must be processed and combined to single view about external world at associative cortex. This takes time since it is the slowest signalst that determine the time used for the processing. Eagleman gives a humorous example: tall people should live father in past than the short ones since it takes longer time for neural signals from feet to arrive from cortex to the brain! Different sensory inputs must be also combined together in a realistic manner.
Is the brain really able to meet this enormous challenge? The representation about the external world is not enough: this representation must be also realistic and 80 ms seems to represent the maximum duration of moment of sensory consciousness. Is the velocity of nerve pulses quite too slow to achieve this? And is information processing based on nerve pulse conduction really fast enough?
3. Kublai Khan's problem and three more surprises
Eagleman tells about the problem of emperor Kublai Khan. At that time people did not have internet and being a head of an empire of the size of Asia posed many problems. Kublai Khan used emissars travelling around the empire and bringing news about what happened. The problems was the correct integration of these data: the news about ending of some local war somewhere could arrive before the news telling that it had begun! Brain is faced with a similar problem. When the television came, one of the big problems was thought to be the synchronization of pictures and sound. It however turned out that brain takes care of this problem if the picture and sound to be associated with each other are withing 80 milliseconds. The moment of subjective time has this duration.
That we live in past was the first surprise of neuroscience already discussed. Eagleman tells about three more big surprises of neuroscience.
3.1. Time perception recalibrates
The brain must build a logical story about sensory data coming through different sensory channels. To achieve this time perception recalibrates. When one comes from bright sunlight to a dim room, the response function of retina gets slower. This does not however happen at the level of conscious experience. A simple test is a sequence of button clicks causing a flash of light. Experimenter can cheat the subject person by producing the light flash with a delay. Surprisingly, the subject person notices nothing. What is even more surprising that when one adds to the sequence of click-flash pairs an odd-ball for which flash is not delayed, the flash is experienced to take place earlier than clicking! Again a direct evidence for the TGD prediction that our perceptive field is 4-dimensional.
In this kind of situation the natural conclusion of subject person would be that it was not me who did the click. Some other agent caused the flash whereas my own attempt fails. Eagleman suggests that schizophrenia might be a disorder of time perception. Person would attribute his own thoughs sometimes heard as internal voices to some external subjects since the time order is pathological. Maybe. What is known that schizophrenics have very sharp sensory perception which cannot be cheated and that there might be no re-calibration. Eagleman talks about temporal inflexibility. This is of course just a suggestion as Eagleman emphasizes. I am not enthusiastic about this kind of interpretation: the bicameral views of Jaynes fit much better with the idea that magnetic body uses biological body as sensory receptor and motor instrument.
3.2. Time is not one thing
Time perception is much more complex than one might think: it involves many aspects such as duration, simultanety, flicker rate, time ordering. What brain does is the analysis of the sensory imput, and its reconstruction from the resulting small pieces. This is very much what is done in the processing of the raw sound (and also pictures) in movies. This applies also to time perception. In TGD framework also the feedback from brain is essential and basic communications would take place using light. Nerve pulse patterns would serve quite different purpose and are also hopelessly slow for building the percept.
3.3. The rate of time flow correlates with the rate of neural metabolism
There is large number of findings supporting the few that the experienced rate for the flow of subjective time correlates with the rate of neural metabolism and therefore with the intensity of consciousness.
a) Slowing down of the subjective time
Slowing down of subjective time flow is familiar to anyone. This can happen in troublesome situation or in so called flow state. Interestingly, also in very boring situations (say waiting for some-one to come) the same can happen. From my own experience I would say that the slowing down of subjective time characterizes very intense conscious experiences involving intense concentration. But why it would occur when you are bored: perhaps just because you are so intensely conscious about how boring your life is just now. You are not drowsy: you are inpatient and irritated.
Various explanations have been proposed. The proposal that the slowing down of time is analogous to the slowing down of the magnetic tape reducing the frequencies of sounds fails. Another explanation could be in terms of increased time resolution and also I have proposed this explanation. This explanation was tested.
Eagleman did an experiment which could be also seen as a tongue-in-cheek variant of Galileo's famous experiment in which he dropped various objects from the tower or Pisa and measured the time of fall and observed that it does not depend on the weight of the material object. Eagleman dropped subject persons instead of stones!
First of all Eagleman constructed an instrument which he calls perceptive chronometer producing random sequence of digits. In the simplest situation only single digit appeared alternatively as its positive or negative. As the rate of digits exceeds certain critical rate -presumably rather near to 12.5 Hz under normal circumstances- it becomes impossible to distinguish between subsequent digits: one sees only single fuzzy digit. The critical duration for the digit defines a natural unit of subjective time. The idea is to calibrate the rate of the chronometer in such a manner that the subject person is not able to distinguish between digits but that only a small reduction of the digit rate makes this possible. In this kind of situation it is enough to make the person scared and see whether he becomes able to distinguish between subsequent digits.
What Eagleman wanted to test was whether this time resolution increases when a person is really scared. If so, the subjective time measured using this critical unit would be longer in scaring situations. The method of really scaring was ingenious: drop the person from quite high a tower! During the free fall the person first found the critical time resolution of his visual perception which became the time unit used to measure the time of fall. The rate for Person reported his time resolution in two cases: when another person was falling and during own fall. The resolution increased during own fall: the falling time was estimated to be about 36 per cent longer for own falling down using the resolution as a unit.
What does this mean? It seems that the rate of the experienced time flow depends on the level of neural activity. In TGD framework the proper measure of subjective time is single quantum jump (recall that they form fractal hierarchy): this would be the tick of subjective clock. The larger the number of these ticks in a given interval of geometric time, the longer the experienced time duration is. More abstractly: the number of sub-CDs within CD representing mental images of self would provide a measure for the number of ticks during single CD.
Since metabolic energy is the necessary prerequite for the build-up of sensory and cognitive representations (mental images), the prediction is that the rate with which metabolic energy is used by brain correlates directly with the rate of the experienced time flow. When the subject person is falling from a tower, the rate of brain metabolism is higher than normally so that the observations can be understood in terms of the theory. As a matter fact, the correlation of the subjective duration with neural activity is well-known in neuroscience and Eagleman gives a long list of examples.
b) Odd ball effect
In this experiment the subject person perceives a series of figures. The figures are identical apart from some odd-balls between the repeating ones. The duration of odd-ball is experienced to be longer than that of the repeating picture although it is the same. The explanation would be that brain wants to save energy. Less metabolic energy for repeating items and nore metabolic energy for odd-balls, which literally wake-up the partially sleeping brain. The rate of neural metabolism correlating with the intensity of conscious experience (and number of quantum jumps per unit of geometric time/density of sub-CD:s within CD) seems to correlated directly with the experienced slowing down of time.
To sum up, the findings discussed by Eagleman are not easy to understand in the standard conceptual framework of neuroscience. The basic assumptions of TGD inspired theory of consciousness make the explanation trivial. In particular, the hierarchy of quantum jumps containing quantum jumps (of selves having sub-selves with subselves interpreted as mental images of self) and having as an imbedding space correlate the hierarchy of CDs within CDs, explains the correlation of neural metabolic energy consumption with the experienced rate for the flow of subjective time. The higher the density of sub-CDs within CD representing mental images, the higher the intensity of conscious experience,the higher the consumption of metabolic energy to build mental images, and the shorter the average time interval taken by given mental image and serving as a natural unit of subjective time and the longer the experienced duration of time interval.
For background see the chapter About the Nature of Time.
I have discussed in the chapter About the Nature of Time of "Matter, Mind, Quantum" how the arrow of geometric time as a correlate for the experienced arrow of geometric time might be selected in TGD Universe. The discussion does not touch the question what arrow of time means at the level of quantum states. Therefore the notion of negative energy signal propagating backwards in geometric time crucial for TGD inspired quantum biology remains somewhat fuzzy.
The recent progress in the understanding of the basic properties of zero energy states makes it possible to understand what arrow of geometric time and the notion of negative energy state and signals propagating to the direction of geomeric past mean at the level of zero energy states. This understanding has surprisingly non-trivial philosophical implications. In the following I shall briefly the quantum view about arrow of time.
Arrow of time as an inherent property of zero energy states?
The basic idea can be expressed in very conscise form. In positive energy ontology arrow of time characterizes dynamics. In zero energy ontology arrow of time characterizes quantum states.
Does state function-state preparation sequence correspond to alternating arrow of geometric time?
The state function reduction at light-like boundary of CD implies delocalization at the opposite boundary. This inspires so fascinating questions.
The arrow of geometric time and the arrow of logical implication
If physics is mathematics in the sense that there is nothing behind quantum states regarded as purely mathematical objects, Boolean logic must have a direct manifestation in the structure of physical states. Physical states should represent quantal Boolean statements which get their meaning via quantum jumps. In TGD framework WCW ("world of classical worlds") spinor fields represent quantum states of the Universe and WCW spinors correspond to fermionic Fock states for second quantized induced spinor fields at space-time surface. Fock state basis has interpretation in terms of Boolean algebra. In positive energy ontology the problem is that fermion number as a super-selection rule would allow very limited number of Boolean statements to be represented. In ZEO the situation changes.
The fermionic parts of positive and negative energy parts can be seen as quantum superpositions of Boolean statements with fermion number in given mode (equal to 0 or 1) representing yes/no or true/false. Also various spin like quantum numbers associated with oscillator operators have same interpretation. Zero energy state could be seen as quantum superposition of pairs of elements of Boolean algebras associated with positive and negative energy parts of the zero energy state.
The first - and incorrect - interpretation is that zero energy state represents a quantum superposition of equivalent statements a↔ b and thus abstraction A<---> B involving several instances of A and B. The breaking of time reversal invariance allowing localization to definite fermionic quantum numbers at single end of CD only however implies that quantum states can only represent abstraction of logical implication to A→ B rather than equivalence. p-Adic physics for various primes p (see this) would represent correlates for cognition and intentionality.
For background see the chapter About the Nature of Time.
Generalization of thermodynamics allowing negentropic entanglement and a model for conscious information processing
Costa de Beauregard considers a model for information processing by a computer based on an analogy with Carnot's heat engine (see this). I am grateful for Stephen Paul King for bringing this article to my attention in Time discussion group and also for inspiring discussions which also led to the birth of this section. As such the model Beauregard for computer does not look convincing as a model for what happens in biological information processing.
Combined with TGD based vision about living matter, the model however inspires a model for how conscious information is generated and how the second law of thermodynamics must be modified in TGD framework. The basic formulas of thermodynamics remain as such since the modification means only the replacement S→ S-N, where S is thermodynamical entropy and N the negentropy associated with negentropic entanglement. This allows to circumvent the basic objections against the application of Beauregard's model to living systems. One can also understand why living matter is so effective entropy producer as compared to inanimate matter and also the characteristic decomposition of living systems to highly negentropic and entropic parts as a consequence of generalized second law.I do not bother to type further and give instead a link to the article Generalization of thermodynamics allowing negentropic entanglement and a model for conscious information processing at my homepage and also to the chapter Negentropy Maximization Principle.