Re: 2001 Foresight Gathering and theories of the mind

From: Ken Clements (
Date: Mon Apr 16 2001 - 13:46:23 MDT

Mitchell J Porter wrote:

> A week from now, the Foresight Institute will be running
> a big brainstorming session on the future (see
> There's no way I can be there, but I'm sure a number of
> people on this list will be, so I'm going to say here
> what I'd like to have said there, and maybe it will make
> its way there and make a difference.
> My aim would be to get people to consider, as a serious
> possibility, that the mind is essentially quantum in
> some regard. This is not a wild contingency or an idle
> speculation; it's only a few steps away from things we
> already know, and if true it is likely to have profound
> consequences for the shape of things to come.

Thank you for the comment, Mitch. I see that Hal has already addressed
much of your post, but I would like to add a few things here. First,
you need to tell us more about what you are calling "mind" so we have
some way of generating falsifiable predictions about it. You also talk
about "thoughts" without a bright line test that would say what kind of
behavior is thought vs something like reflex. Also, where on the
evolutional continuum is the bright line where creatures got minds and
started having thoughts? When in your own personal development from a
single cell did you get a "mind" and have "thoughts"?

One very hard thing for me to buy in the Quantum Mind speculation is
that somehow the quantum coherence involved is not impacted by the
strong magnetic fields used to image living chemistry in an MRI
equipment. Small frogs have been magnetically levitated by very high
fields ( without loss of neural
activity. Humans have remained conscious through exposure to lethal
levels of ionizing radiation that interacts directly to introduce
disorder on the quantum level. However, micrograms of LSD can
restructure your consciousness through straightforward chemical paths.

Brain imaging technology now lets us watch neural activity as people
process information. Your "mind" may look like one unfathomable whole
from the inside, but people's brain activity looks more and more
mechanistic when view by researchers from the outside. We know that a
specific brain structure is responsible for generating the "self." If
this is damaged, you may still be able to answer questions on an IQ
test, but 'you' are gone.

As for the limitations of computer science re explaining thinking,
please remember that throughout history science could not explain
things, until it could. Consider how much the last 50 years of genetics
have explained. We are just getting to the point of being able to
understand how flat worms work. Do you expect we are going to go
marching up the chain of phylogeny and suddenly hit a snag because the
models do not include quantum computing?

If you have more information that fills in some of these gaps, please
let me know.


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