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Posted by Paul R. Martin on January 30, 2002 19:45:38 UTC

Hi Richard,

***My hypothesis is that consciousness is uncollapsed quantum waves. Hopefully coherent ones if we are to do any useful thinking.***

Okay, but I don't see how that explains anything.

In my philosophy course, I learned that at different times in history, it was in vogue to compare the mind with whatever was the most advanced artifact of the time. At one time, the mind was likened to a Jacquard loom. Early in the 20th century it was compared to a telephone crossbar switch. Later, to a digital computer, and now it is being compared to either a neural net computer or a quantum computer.

I think it is time to make a comparison with some of our other gadgets, in particular to cell phones and virtual reality games. (I am getting around to addressing your hypothesis, believe it or not,)

The key aspect of the cell phone that I think is missing from most models of the mind is its radio communication. So let me simplify and use just the example of a transistor radio to illustrate the problem I have with your hypothesis as being an explanation.

Suppose you demonstrated a radio to a person who had absolutely no knowledge of radio transmission, and asked them to figure out how it worked. Let's say you tuned the radio to a station playing a Beethoven symphony.

With the right instrumentation, you could discover that the sound of the symphony was coming from the speaker. But that's no explanation. What makes the speaker vibrate?

Further probing reveals the audio output circuit in which the flow of electrons oscillates in exactly the right pattern to produce the sound of the music. But that's no explanation. What makes the electrons oscillate like that?

Further probing reveals that the pattern of oscillations in the audio circuit is simply a generalization, or integration, of a very much higher frequency oscillation in the RF circuit (we'll skip the IF circuit for simplicity). But that's no explanation. Where does that pattern of modulation of the RF come from?

Still further probing reveals that it comes from the amplification of a very weak signal coming from the tuner circuits. But that's no explanation. Where does that weak signal come from?

Further probing of the radio will not reveal where that signal comes from. So we are left to conclude, as your hypothesis of uncollapsed quantum waves does, that this must be the fundamental origin of the Beethoven symphony.

Of course, as we know about the radio, the device itself does not tell the whole story, nor will the radio work at all without an equally complex device (the transmitter) cooperating with it. The transmitter, as far as the user of the radio is concerned, is completely unknown and inaccessible yet it is vital to the radio's operation.

Now, to fully understand the radio, we need to investigate what is going on outside the radio itself. There are two general approaches to this that I will sketch out.

We may trace the source of that signal back through the EM radiation, the RF output circuits of the transmitter, the amplifier and audio input circuits of the transmitter, the audio output circuits of the tape player, the magnetic patterns on the tape, the signals on the recording heads when the tape was made, the air vibrations in the studio, the mechanical vibration of clarinet reeds and violin strings, conversions of musical notes on paper to muscle actions of the musicians, patterns of printed notes copied from manuscript to manuscript, and finally back to the writing down of the original notes by Ludwig himself.

A second approach, which might be more satisfactory, would be to explain, at a functional level, a radio station, its library of recorded music, a recording studio, a symphony orchestra, a musical score, and a composer.

Either approach would satisfactorily explain the origin of the sounds coming from the radio, and both explanations together would allow for the clearest understanding. But in no case can the radio be understood without understanding something of what is going on outside the radio.

I think that we are up against an identical problem in our attempts to understand the mind. I think that if we are able to probe the brain to its ultimate depth, and discover that the origin of our thoughts is in the coherent collapse of wave functions in the dimers of neuron microtubules, or in some critical chemical reaction in the synapses, or whatever, we will be in the same position as trying to understanding a radio without going outside of that tuner circuit.

In short, I think we should consider the brain as a communication device which is in touch with some conscious entity outside of, not only the body, but also outside of our 4-D space-time continuum.

At least, I think we should consider the possibility.

Warm regards,

Paul

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