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Consciousness, quantum physics and Buddhism

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What is consciousness?

And how do I really know you are conscious? This is the problem of solipsism. I know your brain is very similar to mine as you look like a human, sound like one and give an expression of someone with brain like other humans. By mathematical induction then, there is a perfectly reasonable inference that you too are conscious.

Some 10,000 laboratories worldwide are pursuing distinct questions about the brain and consciousness across a myriad of scales and in a dizzying variety of animals and behaviours. According to most computer scientists, consciousness is a characteristic that emerges from of technological developments. Some believe that consciousness involves accepting new information, storing and retrieving old information and cognitive processing of it all into perceptions and actions. If that’s right, then one day machines will indeed be the ultimate consciousness. They’ll be able to gather more information than a human, store more than many libraries, access vast databases in milliseconds and compute all of it into decisions more complex, and yet more logical, than any person ever could.

Consciousness could be explained by “integrated information theory,” which asserts that consciousness is a product of structures, such as a brain, that can store a large amounts of information, have a critical density of interconnections and thus enable many informational feedback loops. This theory provides a means to assess degrees of consciousness in people, animals (lesser degree than humans) and even machines/programs (for example, IBM Watson and Google’s self-taught visual system). It proposes a way to measure it in a single value called Φ (phi) and helps explain why certain relatively complicated neural structures don’t seem critical for consciousness. For example, the cerebellum, which encodes information about motor movements, contains a huge number of neurons, but doesn’t appear to integrate the diverse range of internal states that the prefrontal cortex does.

The more distinctive the information (of the system), and the more specialised and integrated the system is, the higher its Φ (and anything with a Φ>0 possesses at least a shred of consciousness). Over the past few years, this theory has become increasingly influential and is championed by the eminent neuroscientist Christof Koch. The problem is that even though Φ promises to be precise, it’s so far impossible to use it for practical calculations related to human or animal brains, because an unthinkably large number of possibilities would have to be evaluated.

Accordingly, consciousness is a property of complex systems that have a particular “cause-effect” connections. If you were to build a computer that has the same circuitry as the brain, this computer would also have consciousness associated with it. It would feel like something to be this computer, like each human does. Hofstadter’s Mind’s I has a collection of essays about mind (an emerging property of brain function) and how feedback loops are essential for this emergence.

Another viewpoint on consciousness comes from quantum theory, the most profound and thorough theory about nature of things. According to the orthodox Copenhagen Interpretation, consciousness and the physical world are complementary aspects of the same reality. When a person observes, or experiments on, some aspect of the physical world, that person’s conscious interaction causes discernible change. Since it takes consciousness as a given and no attempt is made to derive it from physics, the Copenhagen theory postulates that consciousness exists by itself but requires brains to become real. This view was popular with the pioneers of quantum theory such as Niels Bohr, Werner Heisenberg and Erwin Schrödinger.

The interaction between consciousness and matter leads to paradoxes that remain unresolved after 80 years of debate. A well-known example of this is the paradox of Schrödinger’s cat, in which a cat is placed in a situation that results in it being equally likely to survive or die – and the act of observation itself is what makes the outcome certain.

The opposing view is that consciousness emerges from biology, just as biology itself emerges from chemistry which, in turn, emerges from dissipative systems, according to physicist Jeremy England. It agrees with the neuroscientists’ view that the processes of the mind are identical to states/processes of the brain. It also agrees with a more recent interpretation of quantum theory motivated by an attempt to rid it of paradoxes, the Many Worlds Interpretation.

Modern quantum physics views of consciousness have parallels in ancient philosophy. For example, Copenhagen theory is similar to the theory of mind in Vedanta – in which consciousness is the fundamental basis of reality, on par with the physical universe. On the other hand, England’s theory resembles Buddhism as Buddhist hold that mind and consciousness arise out of emptiness or nothingness.

A strong evidence in favour of Copenhagen theory is the life of Indian mathematician Srinivasa Ramanujan, who died in 1920 at the age of 32. His notebook, which was lost and forgotten for about 50 years and published only in 1988, contains several thousand formulas, without proof in different areas of mathematics, that were well ahead of their time. Furthermore, the methods by which he found formulas remain elusive. He claimed they were revealed to him by a goddess while he was asleep.

Thinking deeper about consciousness leads to the question of how matter and mind influence each other. Consciousness alone cannot make physical changes to the world, but perhaps it can change probabilities in the evolution of life and thus quantum processes? The act of observation can freeze and even influence atoms’ movements, as shown in 2015. This may very well be an explanation of how matter and mind interact.

 

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what is money?

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Banks create money based on borrowers’ promise (in exchange for bank loans) to pay back, i.e. money is created out of debt.

The Bible:“One person pretends to be rich, yet has nothing; another pretends to be poor but has great wealth” (Proverbs 13:7). Or: “The rich rules over the poor, and the borrower becomes the lender’s slave.”(Proverbs 22:7).

Buddhism states  money complex is a demonic religion – demonic because it cannot absolve our sense of lack.

French classic-liberal Bastiat‘s collection includes an Achilles-Tortoise-styled polemic about money.

P.S. Bush’s grandfather used money helping Hitler rise to power.

Written by Hayk

September 8, 2011 at 6:39 am

how capitalism relates to shminovation and bible

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Innovation, shminovation. We’re obsessed with innovation. But why care about innovation? Perhaps because it’s comfortable to think innovation is panacea for our social stagnation or economic graveyard called capitalism? Indeed, if capitalism, it must be  messy to drive innovation.

Ask yourself, how many Fortune-500 firms breathe innovation? Only few. In them “innovation initiatives face their stiffest resistance after they show hints of success.

But, not all lost: creative capitalism + social  innovation = new social enterprise. Sure, capitalism. Even Bible indirectly condones value-based, compassionate capitalism, for which we need to be deliberate and motivated.

Oh, capitalism inspires poetry too.

Written by Hayk

August 24, 2011 at 7:04 am

How religiousness affects economic development

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In 2007, I was writing an essay I submitted for St Gallen university’s prestigious annual symposium. Instead of conventional and well-trodden topics such as leadership/entrepreneurship, I vied to seek out correlations between a nation’s religiousness, leadership, availability of natural resources and economic development.

Based on extensive research of modern Norway, KSA, Hittites and post-Gutenberg Europe, the essay concluded (formula is pretty straightforward):

D = 0.25*N-R + 0.3*R + 0.45*L

where

  • D=development (probability)
  • N-R=natural-resources
  • R=religiousness (if religion is dogma/fixed, R<0)
  • L=leadership

I didn’t win – Churchill’s infamous words came to mind:

A modest little person, with much to be modest about.

Your thoughts?

Written by Hayk

August 17, 2011 at 10:57 am

Noah, human irrationality and vision of Communist America

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Noah got drunk drinking wine (yayin) – God told him to enjoy it. Bible says that God gave wine to make men glad.

Wine makes us irrational, or does it? Even without it, there is much evidence that we are irrational. Halo effect, cognitive dissonance, Chameleon effect (mimicking increases/decreases likability), and so on and forth.

How else to explain Yo-Yo world cups since 1932?

Talking of irrationality, Trotsky  conducted a thought-experiment about America becoming a Communist country. He predicted that, by 2037, America will produce a new breed of Man and in Communistic America, Americans will stop chewing gum in 3 years!

Written by Hayk

August 15, 2011 at 12:50 pm

Absurd laws in England and disbelief in American Constitution

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In England, there are some absurd laws:

  • It is illegal to die in the Houses of Parliament
  • A pregnant woman can legally relieve herself anywhere she wants

In America, absurdity=(religion+politics)/law. Nixon was Quaker, hosting religious services in White House. Reagan’s NS sessions were held in presence of religious scholars and based on notions like Paradise. Bush admitted taking his instructions from God. According to one survey, 65% of Americans believe Founding Fathers intended America to be Christian, and 55% believe Constitution establishes a Christian nation. Hogwash.

Information from religious search engines will show what your startup can learn from religion. Good luck.

Written by Hayk

August 14, 2011 at 7:32 am