What Is Consciousness? (Philosophy / Neuroscience / Quantum)

What is consciousness? It is not as Descartes, “Cartesian doubt”, which says, “I think, therefore I am”, i.e. Descartes tried to doubt his own existence, but found that even his doubting showed that he existed, since he could not doubt if he did not exist. Now, Kauffman and Roli answered this question. Not as Descartes “Cartesian doubt”, but as how organisms find their way in their world.

According to them, finding one’s way involves finding possible uses of features of the world that might be beneficial or avoiding those that might be harmful.

“Possible uses of X to accomplish Y” are “Affordances”. The number of uses of X is indefinite, the different uses are unordered and are not deducible from one another. All biological adaptations are either affordances seized by heritable variation and selection or, far faster, by the organism acting in its world finding uses of X to accomplish Y.

Based on this, they make four major claims:

  • Strong AI is not possible.
  • Brain-mind is not purely classical.
  • Brain-mind must be partly quantum.
  • Qualia are experienced and arise with our collapse of the wave function.

“Our Brain-Mind entangles with the world in a vast superposition. We try to and do collapse the wave function to a single state. We experience that state as a “qualia”.”

But, does we have any evidences that qualia is associated with collapse of wave function? Yeah, not just one, we have many. First, qualia are never superpositions. From this, one can say that consciousness plays some role in the collapse of the wave function. Second, finding novel affordances is not deductive. Collapse of the wave function is also not deductive. Our experienced qualia are not deductions. Means, our ideas, grasping the point, creativity etc. are not deductions. Third, our analysis of the incapacity of universal turning machines and any classical system to see affordances has a further implication.

“Artificial Intelligence is wonderful, but algorithmic. We are not algorithmic. Mind is almost certainly quantum, and it is a plausible hypothesis that we collapse the wave function, and thereby perceive affordances as qualia and seize them by preferring, choosing and acting to do so. We, with our minds, play an active role in evolution. The complexity of mind can have evolved with and furthered the complexity of life. At last, since Descartes lost his Res Cogitans, Mind can act in the world. Free at last”

— concluded authors of the study

Reference: Stuart A. Kauffman and Andrea Roli, “What Is Consciousness? Artificial Intelligence, Real Intelligence, Quantum Mind, And Qualia”, Arxiv, 2021. https://arxiv.org/abs/2106.15515

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