Consciousness and Penrose's new theory of quantum mechanics

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Sir Roger Penrose's New Time-Jumping, Multiverse-Killing, Consciousness-Spawning Theory Of Reality

One science writer's take on Sir Roger Penrose's new quantum theory (at https://www.forbes.com/sites/andreamorri...7e9416209b ). Assuming the summary is accurate, it turns out that the new theory doesn't in the slightest explain what consciousness basically is - it just postulates that it (whatever it ultimately is) is magically created by a newly envisioned quantum mechanical process. Kind of disappointing that it doesn't really say much about consciousness - just how it is created by an objective physical process. Of course this approach leaves it open whether consciousness can only be destroyed by another quantum mechanical process, or whether it is eternal subsequent to its creation, etc.

It definitely seems that this theory of a magical quantum mechanical consciousness creation mechanism rules out any possible spiritual reality being the basis of consciousness. In this Penrose could be seen as primarily a  materialist, although interestingly his theory seems to allow free will since the essence of consciousness is left totally mysterious.

Quote:"Penrose takes a hard pass on Many Worlds or ideas about conscious ghosts in the quantum machine as a way to bridge this gap. His bridge is neither an illusion nor a ghost. For Penrose, wave function collapse is a real, physical, objective phenomenon: a gravitational field can’t tolerate being in a quantum superposition, eventually collapsing the particle’s wave function. According to Penrose, gravity-induced wave function collapse involves a process that jumps the particle back in time, retroactively killing off possible quantum realities in under a second. This reality-annihilating backward-jumping makes it as though only one, fixed classical reality ever existed.

Sorry multiverses. But the death of multiverses allows for the birth of consciousness. Penrose’s theory proposes that each gravity-induced collapse causes a little blip of proto-consciousness: micro-events that get organized by biological structures called microtubules inside our brains into full-bodied awareness. A conscious observer doesn’t
cause wave function collapse. A conscious observer is caused by wave function collapse."
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As a non-physicist...the article author seems to confuse Many Worlds Interpretation with a sub-variant, the Many-Minds Interpretation.

Also AFAIK Orch-OR is not a new theory, but possible Penrose has significantly altered it in more recent years.

Regarding Penrose's own words:

Quote:“That's making consciousness do the job of collapsing the wave function without having a theory of consciousness,” says Penrose. “I'm turning it around and I'm saying whatever consciousness is, for quite different reasons, I think it does depend on the collapse of the wave function. On that physical process.”

AFAIK Penrose has had this view for years. Orch-OR depends on collapse not being due to consciousness, but rather consciousness is due - in part - to the collapse.

On whether this is a "physical" process in the Physicalist/Materialist sense....this seems to be something both Penrose and Hammeroff shift on, as I've seen Hammeroff write stuff that seems more Panpsychist or Dualist and Penrose write stuff that is Panpsychist or Platonist.

In any case, my uneducuated guess is that Orch-OR is probably wrong on particulars but will be seen as a precursor to some other theory that relates brain structure to consciousness at the quantum biology level.

(Also I think retro-causation has problems with setting up a coherent causal chain, as noted by the philosopher Braude.)
'Historically, we may regard materialism as a system of dogma set up to combat orthodox dogma...Accordingly we find that, as ancient orthodoxies disintegrate, materialism more and more gives way to scepticism.'

- Bertrand Russell


(This post was last modified: 2023-10-26, 01:04 AM by Sciborg_S_Patel. Edited 2 times in total.)
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I enjoyed reading the piece in Forbes article. Penrose clearly states he is a physicalist and don't believe in a non-physical cause for consciousness. Still I don't understand how this conforms with his view that consciousness is non-computational.
(2023-10-26, 01:08 PM)sbu Wrote: I enjoyed reading the piece in Forbes article. Penrose clearly states he is a physicalist and don't believe in a non-physical cause for consciousness. Still I don't understand how this conforms with his view that consciousness is non-computational.

I don't think Penrose is a physicalist, he's defended Platonism too many times and has pondered whether indeterministic particles are making conscious decisions.

At the very least what he calls "physical" seems different than your usual materialist-atheist evangelical.
'Historically, we may regard materialism as a system of dogma set up to combat orthodox dogma...Accordingly we find that, as ancient orthodoxies disintegrate, materialism more and more gives way to scepticism.'

- Bertrand Russell


(2023-10-26, 06:06 PM)Sciborg_S_Patel Wrote: I don't think Penrose is a physicalist, he's defended Platonism too many times and has pondered whether indeterministic particles are making conscious decisions.

At the very least what he calls "physical" seems different than your usual materialist-atheist evangelical.

From what I've seen of interviews with Penrose he regards himself as a materialist and a "soft" atheist but is more open than most to the possibility that he could be wrong. I got the impression that it wouldn't make a whole lot of difference to his thinking if he were to discover something that challenged or even disproved his materialism. He's a scientist, not a philosopher, so he works in a physical framework and tries to make sense of the world using the tools available to him in that framework. His work on quantum consciousness was in collaboration with Hameroff who has a different philosophy but they worked together towards developing their scientific theory.
I do not make any clear distinction between mind and God. God is what mind becomes when it has passed beyond the scale of our comprehension.
Freeman Dyson
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(2023-10-26, 07:19 PM)Kamarling Wrote: From what I've seen of interviews with Penrose he regards himself as a materialist and a "soft" atheist but is more open than most to the possibility that he could be wrong. I got the impression that it wouldn't make a whole lot of difference to his thinking if he were to discover something that challenged or even disproved his materialism. He's a scientist, not a philosopher, so he works in a physical framework and tries to make sense of the world using the tools available to him in that framework. His work on quantum consciousness was in collaboration with Hameroff who has a different philosophy but they worked together towards developing their scientific theory.

Well perhaps he's changed his mind but I've seen him write/talk about Platonism a few times. IIRC he even speculated our moral and aesthetic values could come from some Platonic realm.

Hammeroff is admittedly the one who speaks more about spiritual realities and consciousness being some kind of fundamental constituent to reality.

I do like that he and Hammeroff can find common ground on Orch-OR, as I do think the very basic ideas of quantum biology and the importance of microtubules will have import even if the actual Orch-OR theory does not pan out.
'Historically, we may regard materialism as a system of dogma set up to combat orthodox dogma...Accordingly we find that, as ancient orthodoxies disintegrate, materialism more and more gives way to scepticism.'

- Bertrand Russell


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(2023-10-26, 07:50 PM)Sciborg_S_Patel Wrote: Well perhaps he's changed his mind but I've seen him write/talk about Platonism a few times. IIRC he even speculated our moral and aesthetic values could come from some Platonic realm.

Hammeroff is admittedly the one who speaks more about spiritual realities and consciousness being some kind of fundamental constituent to reality.

I do like that he and Hammeroff can find common ground on Orch-OR, as I do think the very basic ideas of quantum biology and the importance of microtubules will have import even if the actual Orch-OR theory does not pan out.

I looked for some of the interviews I have watched but I'm not sure I have found the one I was thinking of. Nevertheless, you get a good idea of his worldview (or uncertainty) from this clip ...

https://youtu.be/Daq5hr6V3sI?si=IkJcggNu1k7PeC-l
I do not make any clear distinction between mind and God. God is what mind becomes when it has passed beyond the scale of our comprehension.
Freeman Dyson
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(2023-10-26, 08:34 PM)Kamarling Wrote: I looked for some of the interviews I have watched but I'm not sure I have found the one I was thinking of. Nevertheless, you get a good idea of his worldview (or uncertainty) from this clip ...

https://youtu.be/Daq5hr6V3sI?si=IkJcggNu1k7PeC-l

The question he was asked presents materialism and belief in God as opposites. This seems to exclude a middle ground in which there is a spiritual realm of some sort coupled in some way to our physical realm. Its 'political structure' can come later. Maybe most of us accept some concept of an abstract God, but I'd just like RP to accept the idea of a spiritual realm.

David
(This post was last modified: 2023-10-28, 05:14 PM by David001. Edited 1 time in total.)
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(2023-10-28, 05:11 PM)David001 Wrote: The question he was asked presents materialism and belief in God as opposites. This seems to exclude a middle ground in which there is a spiritual realm of some sort coupled in some way to our physical realm. Its 'political structure' can come later. Maybe most of us accept some concept of an abstract God, but I'd just like RP to accept the idea of a spiritual realm.

David

I'll try to find the exact book in which he speculated morals and aesthetics may come from a Platonic realm.
'Historically, we may regard materialism as a system of dogma set up to combat orthodox dogma...Accordingly we find that, as ancient orthodoxies disintegrate, materialism more and more gives way to scepticism.'

- Bertrand Russell


(2023-10-28, 05:21 PM)Sciborg_S_Patel Wrote: I'll try to find the exact book in which he speculated morals and aesthetics may come from a Platonic realm.

The Forbes article clearly states Penrose is a physicalist:

Quote:Okay, I’m the conservative person,” laughs Penrose upon learning of Hoffman’s view. Penrose is a physicalist. Whatever consciousness is, he’s convinced it can be explained by the laws of physics, and he’s fairly confident our current theories give us at least some idea of what those laws are. “It’s hugely tempting to go off in a wild direction,” says Penrose, highlighting the risky business of trying to account for consciousness scientifically. He raises a concern that throwing around mathematical terminology can make a theory seem more credible than it is. Experiments are the anchor for any scientific theory. Hypotheses must be tested and the model subjected to experimental falsifiability to qualify as a scientific theory. It must have the potential to be disproven in order to distinguish itself from pseudoscience. According to Penrose, there’s a risk of getting caught up in the beauty of a precise mathematical theory. “I think it's dangerous,” says Penrose, “It could be that there's a deeper beauty which tells you why the thing you thought was true is not true.” Given the track record of experimental success for both classical physics and quantum mechanics, and the lack of evidence needed to replace all of physics with a conscious agent, Penrose doesn’t see the rush to flip the table on spacetime. “It's just that the laws of physics may be more puzzling than we think they are,” says Penrose.

The mathematical theory he refers to is that of Donald Hoffmann who uses Markov chains (a mathematical framework usually used in insurance) to model consciousness.
(This post was last modified: 2023-10-28, 05:32 PM by sbu. Edited 1 time in total.)

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