Re: 2001 Foresight Gathering and theories of the mind

From: Mitchell Porter (
Date: Fri Apr 27 2001 - 01:13:27 MDT

Anders Sandberg said

>Hmm, suppose I entangle two particles - they become a monad. Then I
>entangle more and more particles with each other, and they also join the
>monad (this could for example be the Schrödinger's cat experiment). What
>happens when they lose entanglement - does the monad split? Doesn't seem
>to be allowed by your above statements. Presumably all of the universe
>was entangled during the early Big Bang, but it is today not a single

If you go from having two monads to having one, then either
one has ceased to be, its degrees of freedom having been
assimilated by the other, or both have ceased to be, having
been replaced by a new one. Since my point in postulating
monads is to permit realism about such "illusions" as
persistence of a self over time, I had better favor the
former interpretation - it's not much use if monads can't
interact without being annihilated.

Similarly, "two systems becoming disentangled" under
this interpretation must correspond to the creation
of a monad, and a decrease in the complexity of the

I don't have any opinions about how the origin of the
universe looks in this picture. But there are certainly
cosmological scenarios which don't start with universal
entanglement (e.g. "eternal inflation").

> > 2. The individual self is a single quantum monad
> > in a very complex state. A momentary state of
> > consciousness is a momentary state of the monad that
> > is you.
>If my monad is entangled with a spin of an atom, it would have a
>different state than if it is not entangled. Would you claim it is
>impossible to entangle my monad without me becoming conscious of it, or
>is it possible to entangle me "behind my back"? In the second case,
>there seem to be state information in the monad which does not affect
>consciousness, and hence the issue becomes what distinguishes the
>consciousness information in a monad from non-conscious information. The
>first case seems rather unlikely to me, since one could construct
>devices which acts as a Schrödinger's cat box on my physical brain (and
>hence on the entangled consciousness monad) while not giving me any
>sensory information (because (say) it is sitting on my exposed cortex
>and I don't have a mirror).

Let's distinguish consciousness and self-consciousness.
(Some people would rather say awareness and self-awareness,
and would designate only the latter by 'consciousness',
but for me, consciousness includes any form of awareness.)
Consciousness without self-consciousness might be found
in a state of 'pure perception', without any 'reflection'
present. Such a state could change, and you wouldn't *know*
it had changed. So it seems your conscious (but not your
self-conscious) information can be altered without you
noticing. Whether there's non-conscious information as well,
I don't know.

>Also, why one monad? Why can't I have ten consciousness monads in

You could, but it would be crowded. And remember, the evidence
for monads (until such time as quantum coherence is found in
the brain in a big way) is the subjective evidence. Do you
have subjective evidence that there's more than one person
responsible for your acts or thinking your thoughts?

>To my knowledge - I am collaborating with MRI people - no psychological
>effects are observed beside the ones expected from being confined in a
>small space in a loud machine and subjected to medical or psychological

Transcranial magnetic stimulation can affect conscious states
though, so maybe it's a matter of degree. (On the other hand,
the TMS effects that I know about, in binocular rivalry, might
be the result of determining causal inputs to the monad -
the unconscious preprocessing that's upstream of the Cartesian
theater - rather than direct intervention.)

>The states MRI sets up are rather simple, so I doubt they would
>correspond to your complex states, but they seem rather likely to
>disrupt complex quantum states they couple to. Whether they couple
>depends on how your coherenence is implemented in the brain, but if it
>involves electrical fields somewhere - rather likely given the nature of
>the brain - then there ought to be a coupling.

Well, my favorite proposal is that the 'quantum numbers of
consciousness' are winding numbers of currents in the
microtubules. To change them, an external field would
have to induce virtual currents with nontrivial topology
(i.e. currents winding around the microtubular cylinder).
Below a certain field strength, this wouldn't happen.

>In the end it seems like this model is vulnerable to produce zombies.
>The MRI would disrupt the consciousness coherence, which would
>presumably quickly reform only to be disrupted again in the next MRI
>cycle. So personal continuity is an illusion, and memories of the
>experience are laid down without you being conscious through it all.
>This seems to imply that there could be decoherent zombies around.

The current Hameroff-Penrose model is a bit like that -
it has a string of consciousness events, rather than anything
like a persisting monad. But I'm more interested in working
out what it would take for the subjective continuity of
experience to *not* be an illusion.

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