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Foundations of Mind I

Cognition & Consciousness

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Sean Ó Nualláin

This is the introduction to the special edition on Foundations of Mind: Cognition and Consciousness and the introduction to the conference at UC University at Berkeley on which the edition is based.

Mapping The Whole in EveryOne: An Essay on Non-Existence as the Engine and Axis of Existence

Sperry Andrews, Steven Salka

It is argued that an effective way to view consciousness is as a "superposition" of existence and nonexistence, producing an indivisible experience of "nonlocal being", plus who and what we perceive ourselves to be (local observers). This relationship between an observer-based localization and the nonlocal whole is examined. Using ideas from general relativity and quantum mechanics (QM), we suggest how a space-time continuum (GR)-including QM probability and uncertainty, as properties of consciousness-may have arisen as dynamic complementarities. Opportunities to contemplate the origins of existence are investigated, and corresponding experimental studies are suggested.

Evidence of Macroscopic Quantum Phenomena and Conscious Reality Selection

Cynthia Sue Larson

The purpose of this paper is to present an overview of emergent examples of macroscopic quantum phenomena. While quantum theory asserts that such quantum behaviors as superposition, entanglement, and coherence are possible for all objects, assumptions that quantum processes operate exclusively within the quantum realm have contributed to on-going bias toward presumed primacy of classical physics in the macroscopic realm. Non-trivial quantum macroscopic effects are now recognized in the fields of biology, quantum physics, quantum computing, quantum astronomy, and neuroscience, with implications for medicine, psychology and sociology. Robust examples of macroscopic quantum coherence and entanglement contain unmistakable biological advantages, such as are observed in the green sulphur bacteria photosynthesis transfer mechanism, and in the navigational system of the European Robin. Macroscopic quantum processes in the form of an olfactory electron tunneling mechanism best account for the otherwise inexplicable difference observed in the odor of identically-shaped molecules. Evidence of reverse-direction causality is apparent in experiments with large numbers of photons and human subjects. Entanglement, retrocausality, and superposition of states are suggested as causal factors to account for increases in efficacy of the placebo effect. Alternate histories of "flashbulb memories" and embodied cognition are considered as possible examples of superposition of states in a holographic multiverse in which the many worlds of the multiverse and the many worlds of quantum mechanics might just be one and the same thing.

Is the Universe a Vast, Consciousness-created Virtual Reality Simulation?

Bernard Haisch

Two luminaries of 20th century astrophysics were Sir James Jeans and Sir Arthur Eddington. Both took seriously the view that there is more to reality than the physical universe and more to consciousness than simply brain activity. In his Science and the Unseen World (1929) Eddington speculated about a spiritual world and that "conscious is not wholly, nor even primarily a device for receiving sense impressions." Jeans also speculated on the existence of a universal mind and a non-mechanical reality, writing in his The Mysterious Universe (1932) "the universe begins to look more like a great thought than like a great machine."

In his book QED Feynman discusses the situation of photons being partially transmitted and partially reflected by a sheet of glass: reflection amounting to four percent. In other words one out of every 25 photons will be reflected on average, and this holds true even for a "one at a time" flux. The four percent cannot be explained by statistical differences of the photons (they are identical) nor by random variations in the glass. Something is "telling" every 25th photon on average that it should be reflected back instead of being transmitted. Other quantum experiments lead to similar paradoxes. To explain how a single photon in the two-slit experiment can "know" whether there is one slit or two, Hawking and Mlodonow write:

In the double-slit experiment Feynman's ideas mean the particles take paths that thread through the first slit, back out though the second slit, and then through the first again; paths that visit the restaurant that serves that great curried shrimp, and then circle Jupiter a few times before heading home; even paths that go across the universe and back. This, in Feynman's view, explains how the particle acquires the information about which slits are openŠ.

It is hard to imagine a more absurd physical explanation. We can think of no way to hardwire the behavior of photons in the glass reflection or the two-slit experiments into a physical law. On the other hand, writing a software algorithm that would yield the desired result is really simple.

A digital reality whose laws are software is an idea that has started to gain traction in large part thanks to an  influential paper in Philosophical Quarterly by Oxford professor Nick Bostrom. Writing in the New York Times John Tierney had this to say:

Until I talked to Nick Bostrom, a philosopher at Oxford University it never occurred to me that our universe might be somebody else's hobby. But now it seems quite possible. In fact, if you accept a pretty reasonable assumption of Dr. Bostrom's, it is almost a mathematical certainty that we are living in someone else's computer simulation.

An alternate view (and more optimistic view) is that there exists a great consciousness whose mind is the hardware, and whose thoughts are the software creating a virtual universe in which we as beings of consciousness live.

Mind/Body/Spirit Complex in Quantum Mechanics

Justin M. Riddle

Prevailing theories of consciousness may be characterized as either a physicalist view of mind with material building blocks that grow in complexity unto an emergent conscious experience, or as a dualistic model in which mind-body interaction is taken as the interface of conscious intent and unconscious bodily processing. Roger Penrose supports a model of consciousness that goes beyond dualism by adding a third domain [19]. The Three World model describes interconnected yet independent aspects of consciousness: Physical, Mental & Platonic. These three worlds are grounded in the three axioms of quantum mechanics: measurement, superposition and entanglement. The Mental World corresponds to the superposition principle in which all possible future realities are superposed as potentials before a choice is made. The superposition is analogous to the choices we make everyday. In the Physical World, the measurement principles states that the quantum system must collapse the superposed possibilities into a single actuality. The most peculiar phenomenon in quantum mechanics is entanglement. Quantum systems may be entangled in a timeless and spaceless way such that they will still be connected despite separation in space or time. The Platonic World is akin to entanglement, because mathematics and conceptual forms are unchanging regardless of space or time. Finally, a new model called Fractal Trialism is proposed which describes how there is a nested trialism within each of the three worlds in order to elaborate their interconnectedness. This model describes digital computers, quantum computers and shared experience.

Reductionism and Practicality

Kevin Smith, Edward Vul


Like most domains of science, the study of the mind has been tackled at many scales of analysis, from the behavior of large groups of people (economics and ecology), to the diffusion of ions across cellular membranes (molecular biology and biophysics).  At each of these scales, researchers often believe that the critical phenomena of interest, and the most powerful explanatory constructs and mechanisms, reside at their scale of analysis, with finer scales argued to be incapable of predicting the interesting phenomena, while coarser scales are purported to miss critical mechanistic subtleties.  Here we argue by analogy that, for better or worse, researchers at all scales are correct: phenomena at each scale of analysis are intractable from other scales; thus, while reductionism is a useful scientific goal, it will not obviate the need for macroscopic research, constructs, and formalisms.

Acausality and the Machian Mind

John W. Jameson

In this paper we propose a mechanism in the brain for supporting consciousness. We leave open the question of the origin of consciousness itself, although an acausal origin is suggested since it should mesh with the proposed quasi-acausal network dynamics.  In particular, we propose simply that fixed-point attractors, such as exemplified by the simple deterministic Hopfield network, correspond to conscious moments.  In a sort of dual to Tononi's Integrated Information Theory, we suggest that the "main experience" corresponds to a dominant fixed point that incorporates sub-networks that span the brain and maximizes "relatedness." The dynamics around the dominant fixed point correspond in some parts of the system to associative memory dynamics, and to more binding constraint satisfaction dynamics in other areas. Since the memories that we are familiar with appear to have a conscious origin, it makes sense that a conscious moment itself corresponds in effect to what amounts to memory recollection.  Furthermore, since Hopfield-like networks are generative, a conscious moment can in effect be seen as a living, partially predicted memory. Another primary motivation for this approach is that alternative states can be naturally sensed, or contrasted, at the fixed points.


Dream Things True: Nonviolent Movements as Applied Consciousness

Jack DuVall

Nonviolent movements have become a new form of human agency. Between 1900 and 2006, more than 100 such movements appeared, and more than half were successful in dissolving oppression or achieving people's rights. Movements self-organize to summon mass participation, develop cognitive unity in the midst of dissension,  and build resilient force on the content of shared beliefs. Some movements may even be a new venue for consciousness that "grows to something of great constancy" as Shakespeare said about "minds transfigured so together."

Giving Naturalism a Chance: Interactivism, Emergence, and Nonlinearity

Robert L. Campbell


This paper offers a defense of naturalism, which might improve its chance of being adopted as a direction, both for theory and for empirical research.  This defense responds in particular to three themes:: the emergence of mind (as opposed to nonemergence or reductionism), the pervasiveness of nonlinearity in biology and psychology, and the need for levels and degrees of self (as opposed to a human self that is self-evidently unitary, or a self that turns out to be illusory, or a concealment of what is truly there).

Information, Physics and the Representing Mind

Kathryn Blackmond Laskey

A primary function of mind is to form and manipulate representations to identify and choose survival-enhancing behaviors. Representations are themselves physical systems that can be manipulated to reason about, predict, or plan actions involving the objects they designate. The field of knowledge representation and reasoning (KRR) turns representation upon itself to study how representations are formed and used by biological and computer systems. Some of the most versatile and successful KRR methods have been imported from computational physics. Features of a problem are mapped onto dimensions of an imaginary physical system in which solution quality is inversely related to energy. Simulating the fictitious physical system on a digital computer yields a low-energy, and hence high-quality, solution to the original problem. This paper suggests a rethinking of the traditional metaphor of cognition as execution of algorithms on a digital computer.  It may be both more fruitful and more accurate to conceive of representation as mapping problem features to an energy surface, learning as identifying representations that map good solutions to low free energy, and problem solving as efficient search for low free energy states. This conception of cognition is in natural accord with Stapp's theory of efficacious conscious choice.

Consciousness Began with a Hunter's Plan

Walter Freeman

Animals search for food and shelter by locomotion through time and space. The elemental step is the action-perception cycle, which has three steps. In the first step a volley of action potentials initiated by an act of search (sniff, saccade, etc.) triggers the formation of a macroscopic wave packet that constitutes the memory of the stimulus. The wave packet is filtered and sent to the entorhinal cortex, where it is combined with wave packets from all sensory systems. This triggers the second step forming a unified memory that is passed through the hippocampal formation where it is assigned a place in the life-long memory of the subject. In the third step the output of the entorhinal cortex triggers the formation of a global wave packet that synchronizes the oscillatory activity of most of not all of the cerebral cortex. This shared oscillation caries a pattern of amplitude modulation, that can be observed non-invasively from the scalp EEG of human volunteers perceiving the stimulus and correlated with the stimulus. The same dendritic electric currents that drive the output of the brains of the wave packet drive the observed EEG signs. Therefore I postulate that the global wave packet, the third step in the cycle requiring only 0.2 seconds expresses the memory of the global accommodation that initiates the next action-perception cycle. Some unspecified fraction of the AM pattern is available to me the observer, and some other unspecified fraction of the total activity in the subject who is expected to respond to the stimulus. There is reason to hope that these fractions will coincide often enough to support refinements in techniques for extending these correlates of consciousness.

Beyond the Stalemate: Conscious Mind - Body - Quantum Mechanics - Free Will - Possible Panpsychism - Possible Interpretation of Quantum Enigma

Stuart Kauffman

 I wish to discuss a large, interwoven set of topics pointed at in the title above. Much of what I say is highly speculative, some is testable, some is, at present, surely not. It is, I hope, useful, to set these ideas forth for our consideration. What I shall say assumes quantum measurement is real, and that Bohm's interpretation of Quantum Mechanics is not true. The Stalemate: In our contemporary neurobiology and much of the philosophy of mind post Descartes we are classical physics machines and either mindless, or mind is at best epiphenomenal and can have no consequences for the physical world. The first main point of this paper is that we are not forced to this conclusion, but must give up total reliance on classical physics.

Force of Consciousness in Mass Charge Interactions

Wolfgang Baer

Primitive awareness leading to consciousness can be explained as a manifestation of internal forces between charge and mass. These internal forces, related to the weak and strong forces, balance the external forces of gravity-inertia and electricity-magnetism and thereby accommodate outside influences by adjusting the internal structure of material from which we are composed. Such accommodation is the physical implementation of a model of the external physical world and qualifies as Vitiello's double held inside ourselves. We experience this accommodation as the conscious experience in front of our noses. Neural pulse traffic is interpreted as unconscious signal processing activity happening between this internal accommodation and our external interface of sensors and actuators.

Symbolic and Cognitive Theory in Biology

Sean O Nuallain

In previous work, I have looked in detail at the capacity and the limits of the linguistics model as applied to gene expression. The recent use of a primitive applied linguistic model in Apple's SIRI system allows further analysis. In particular, the failings of this system resemble those of the HGP; the model used also helps point out the shortcomings of the concept of the "gene". This is particularly urgent as we are entering an era of applied biology in the absence of theory, and indeed an era with a near-epidemic of retracted papers. There are a few workarounds proposed. One is to add to the nascent field of biosemiotics a more explicit concern with syntax. At the time of writing, Apple is being sued for false advertising of its iphone 4s, with the associated claim that apple had solved many of the problems of natural language processing by computer (nlpbc). The system was bought by Apple from a company called SIRI, and in turn was based on the notion, trumpeted by the prior art in a company called Dejima, that nlpbc could be done by keywords alone. Yet the hype resembles nothing so much as the misrepresentation of the Human Genome Project (HGP) fed to the media in the glory days at the beginning of this millennium, and it says a lot for the status of scientists in society that they have avoided Apple's fate. In this paper, a short review of several current themes in theoretical and applied biology is first proposed. Then the tensions implicit in the notion that the "gene" is simultaneously to be identified as a unit of inheritance and spatially located over spatially well-defined nucleotides is explored and the notion is found to be incoherent. An expanded notion of inheritance is proposed in the context of a focus on inheritance as necessarily involving species, population and organism over time. While it is premature to talk about a paradigm shift, it is certainly arguable that biology urgently needs a sophisticated theory of how symbols work substantially more sophisticated than that implicit in the HGP; Biosemiotics affords a framework in which this might be tried. Indeed, as this paper concludes, there may yet be room for a "Bionoetics", a perspective in which biological explanation can be extended to include cognition in all its forms. Finally, a working sketch of a modeling environment written in LISP, one that shows promise in reflecting the complexities discussed in the paper, is included.

Relating Language to Other Cognitive Systems: An Abridged Account

Leonard Talmy

An important research direction in cognitive science consists of cross-comparing the forms of organization exhibited by different cognitive systems, with the long-range aim of ascertaining the overall character of human cognitive organization.  Relatively distinct major cognitive systems of this sort would seem to include: (different modalities of) perception, motor control, affect, reasoning, language, and cultural structure.  The general finding is that some properties of organization are shown by only one system, some by several, and some by all.  This arrangement is called the "overlapping systems model of cognitive organization".  This paper demonstrates the model by comparing properties of organization across language and vision. Language is first shown to represent certain features of cognitive organization not well realized in vision, such as the representation of "reality status", with such member notions as factual, conditional, potential, and counterfactual.  In turn, vision is shown to represent certain features of organization not well realized in language, such as symmetry, rotation, dilation, and pattern of distribution.  Finally, both language and vision are shown to represent certain features of organization in common, such as the schematization of spatial relations between objects.


Mind, Brain, and Neuroscience

Henry P. Stapp

Quantum mechanics as conceived by Niels Bohr and formulated in rigorous terms by John von Neumann is expressed as quantum neuroscience: a description of the relationship between certain conscious experiences of an observer that are described in terms of the concepts of classical physics and neural processes that are described in terms of the concepts of quantum physics. The theory is applied to recent neuroscience data to determine the rapidity of the observer's probing actions that is needed to account for the capacity of a person's mental intentions to influence that person's bodily actions in the intended way.

Why Tononi is Wrong; Epileptic Seizure is More Complex Either than Sleep or the Resting State

Sean O Nuallain, Tom Doris

ECOG data obtained from a patient under conditions of resting brain, sleep and epileptic seizure were analyzed. Contrary to some theorists, the seizure state was found to be informationally the most complex of the three states.

Complexity Biology-based Information Structures can explain Subjectivity, Objective Reduction of Wave Packets, and Non-Computability

Alex Hankey

Background: how mind functions is subject to continuing scientific discussion. A simplistic approach says that, since no convincing way has been found to model subjective experience, mind cannot exist. A second holds that, since mind cannot be described by classical physics, it must be described by quantum physics. Another perspective concerns mind's hypothesized ability to interact with the world of quanta: it should be responsible for reduction of quantum wave packets; physics producing ‘Objective Reduction' is postulated to form the basis for mind-matter interactions. This presentation describes results derived from a new approach to these problems. It is based on well-established biology involving physics not previously applied to the fields of mind, or consciousness studies, that of critical feedback instability.

Methods: ‘self-organized criticality' in complexity biology places system loci of control at critical instabilities, physical properties of which, including information properties, are presented. Their elucidation shows that they can model hitherto unexplained properties of experience.

Results: All results depend on physical properties of critical instabilities. First, at least one feed-back or feed-forward loop must have feedback gain, g = 1: information flows round the loop impress perfect images of system states back on themselves: they represent processes of perfect self-observation. This annihilates system quanta: system excitations are instability fluctuations, which cannot be quantized. Major results follow:

1.    Information vectors representing criticality states must include at least one attached information loop denoting self-observation. 

2.    Such loop structures are attributed a function, 'registering the state's own existence', explaining

a.    Subjective ‘awareness of one's own presence'

b.    How content-free states of awareness can be remembered (Jon Shear)

c.    Subjective experience of time duration (Immanuel Kant)

d.    The ‘witness' property of experience - often mentioned by athletes ‘in the zone'

e.    The natural association between consciousness and intelligence

This novel, physically and biologically sound approach seems to satisfactorily model subjectivity.

Further significant results follow:

1.    Registration of external information in excited states of systems at criticality reduces external wave-packets: the new model exhibits ‘Objective Reduction' of wave packets.

2.    High internal coherence (postulated by Domash & Penrose) leading to a. Non-separable information vector bundles. b. Non-reductive states (Chalmers's criterion for experience).

3.    Information that is: a. encoded in coherence negentropy; b. non-digitizable, and therefore c. computationally without digital equivalent (posited by Penrose).

Discussion and Conclusions: instability physics implies anharmonic motion, preventing excitation quantization, and totally different from the quantum physics of simple harmonic motion at stability. Instability excitations are different from anything hitherto conceived in information science. They can model aspects of mind never previously treated, including genuine subjectivity, objective reduction of wave-packets, and inter alia all properties given above.

Nothingness and Science (A Propaedeutic)

Michael Christian Cifone

We characterize science in terms of nihilism: the nihilism of science is something faced not in what science implies, but as the very essence of science as such. The nihilism of science is the birth of the truth of Nietzsche's announcement "God is dead" from within science as it must now face its repressed subjective core. But in truth, as the Psychoanalytic tradition has determined, it is subjectivity itself that is a bottomless searching-the subject is itself born from nothing. In this way it becomes clear that the nihilism of science is in fact the birth of a nothingness as the essence of science insofar as it embraces the nothingness of its own (repressed) subjectivity. Therefore, we show that the proper determination of the crisis of science is not made via phenomenology, as Husserl attempted in the early 20th century, but can only be made properly in a philosophical-psychoanalytic register. This nihilism is encoded within science in its very modality of thought (which also indicates its existential condition as a whole), as Heidegger well understood: science thinks by means of "representation", and it is this "representational thinking" which prevents the expression of the repressed core of subjectivity. Therefore, by overcoming representation, it is seen that science will no longer be in despair to determine itself as a self, but come to see that this self, grounded in nothingness, in fact becomes its greatest and final expression, that is, as a self rooted not in an unending yearning (desire) for the transcendent certainty of a ground, but in a productive desire (a "groundless" becoming)-self as will-to-create, will-to-power (to return to Nietzsche). This transition from the self as rooted in Desire qua lack to a self as determined by an infinitely productive desire is shown to be, in fact, the transition from Lacan to Deleuze. Once this transition is accomplished, it becomes clear that the anti-representational mode of thinking, accompanied by the productive self as will-to-power, determines science not from a transcendent metaphysic (i.e., as a metaphysically "grounded" praxis), but as an aesthetically determined modality of pure creativity-i.e., as an art. We then conclude by speculating on the proper form of art that this new science should take. We see that anti-representational thinking, rooted in the self as infinite creativity (as will-to-create), is determined not by concepts, but by play ("agon") or performances (performance as concept). Perhaps, then, we should consider music as determining the proper artistic form of this new kind of science? In this way we finally come to see the possibility for the first time of music as a new kind of science.

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