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Comment author: bigbad 17 January 2010 02:53:19PM 4 points [-]

High status individuals, being older, tend to rely on memory more than creativity to solve problems. As a result, their first response to a given situation is often slightly mistuned; the first answer they remember was appropriate to a similar situation but often slightly inappropriate to the current situation.

Comment author: bigbad 20 December 2009 05:08:33AM 3 points [-]

I'm a chemist; we actually have to use quantum physics on a routine basis. The main reason many-worlds never got traction is that it doesn't make a testable prediction. Most physicists realize that making a model of reality that predicts experiment (as far as possible) is, well, science; BSing about what the implications are is more of a late night and beer thing.

In other words, if the model implies that there may be other worlds, but they can't conceivably be detected, then who cares?

One last thing: there's some pretty good evidence of nonlocal physics these days. It's inconsistent with general relativity, but no biggie. We already knew that general relativity and quantum physics were incompatible. The current situation in physics (for the last 30 years or so) is considerable confusion at the level of fundamental theory, but extremely robust models for every actual physical situation that we can probe. The robustness of the models is exactly what has halted progress.

Comment author: Roko 11 December 2009 07:16:44AM *  2 points [-]

All possible worlds are real, and probabilities represent how much I care about each world.

Right, so maybe we need to rethink this whole rationality thing, then? I mean, since there are possible worlds where god exists, under this view, the only difference between a creationist and a rational atheist is one of taste?

To me, the god world seems much easier to deal with and more pleasant. So why not shun rationality all together if probabilities are actually arbitrary - if thinking it really does make it so?

Comment author: bigbad 12 December 2009 05:54:49PM 0 points [-]

You seem to be confusing plausibility with possibility. The existence of God seems plausible to many people, but whether or not the existence of God is truly possible is not clear. Reasonable people believe that God is impossible, others that God is possible, and others that God is necessary (i.e. God's nonexistance is impossible).

Comment author: bigbad 12 December 2009 05:46:01PM 0 points [-]

It depends. We use the term "probability" to cover a variety of different things, which can be handled by similar mathematics but are not the same.

For example, suppose that I'm playing blackjack. Given a certain disposition of cards, I can calculate a probability that asking for the next card will bust me. In this case the state of the world is fixed, and probability measures my ignorance. The fact that I don't know which card would be dealt to me doesn't change the fact that there's a specific card on the top of the deck waiting to be dealt. If I knew more about the situation (perhaps by counting cards) I might have a better idea of which cards could possibly be on top of the deck, but the same card would still be on top of the deck. In this situation, case 1 applies from the choices above.

Alternately consider photons going through a double slit in the classical quantum physics experiment. If the holes are of equal size and geometry, a photon has a 50% chance of passing through each slit (the probabilities can be adjusted, for example by changing the width of one slit). One of the basic results of quantum physics is that the profile of the light through both slits is not the same as the sum of the profiles of the light through each slit. In general, it is not possible to say which slit a given photon when through, and attempting to make that measurement changes the answer. In this situation, case 3 of the above post seems to apply.

My point is that the post's question can't be answered for probabilities in general. It depends.

Comment author: Mitchell_Porter 06 December 2009 08:47:58AM 10 points [-]

Parapsychology is one of the very few things we can reject intuitively, because we understand the world well enough to know that psychic powers just can't exist.

Do you think it is possible that we are "living in the Matrix"? If so, then you should consider something functionally indistinguishable from psychic powers to be possible.

Comment author: bigbad 07 December 2009 11:24:43PM 4 points [-]

If we are, in fact, living in the Matrix, then science has already characterized the rules of the simulation rather well. Barring further interference by the sysadmin/God/whatever, it should continue to operate by mechanistic, semipredictable rules. Science has little to say about one-time interventions from outside observable reality, whether you call them "Matrix hacks", "miracles", or what you will. Regarding such matters, the null hypothesis has yet to be convincingly falsified, but absence of proof is not proof of absence.

Comment author: arundelo 07 December 2009 12:02:24AM *  4 points [-]

A discussion on Hacker News contained one very astute criticism: that some things which may once have been considered part of parapsychology actually turned out to be real, though with perfectly sensible, physical causes.

What gwern said.

Comment author: bigbad 07 December 2009 11:11:36PM *  8 points [-]

As Feynman said, one of the characteristics of the truth is that, as you look more closely at it, it gets clearer. Most of the parapsych crowd tends to report results that are have a 1% probability of occurring randomly, after having done hundreds of experiments and failing to report the rest. The difference is that the level of confidence in the best experiment in a real effect doesn't scale simply with the number of experiments. A real effect should show millions-to-one odds in a few trials, once solid experimental procedures have been devised.

Comment author: Mitchell_Porter 17 October 2009 04:37:19AM 0 points [-]

It's the relations between the parts which are crucial to this argument, not the parts in themselves. I'm saying that at the level of experience the relations between the parts are not spatial. This discussion becomes unfortunately complicated because so much of conscious experience takes place in subjective space. A genuine monadologist could invert my original statement and say that space only exists inside monads, with the external connections between monads being causal rather than spatial.

But let's go back to the beginning. I have my conscious experience of the world, which is some complicated mixture of sensations, diverse conceptual positing of objects and situations, and private intentionality (thinking, willing, remembering, etc). This is all always there, and then on top of that I can be intermittently aware of particular parts or aspects of it (attention). And I'd better not leave myself out of this list of ingredients: there is a sense that someone or some entity is the entity that thinks, wills, attends.

Then, I have my physical model of the world, which might be atoms in space, or amplitudes in configuration space, and I seek to identify the experience above with some subset of the posited physical world. On both sides of the equation we have things in relation to each other, so we need a mapping not just between things but between relations. In fact, if it's going to be an identity theory, and not just property dualism, we don't just want a mapping, we want to be able to say that the things and relations on one side are exactly the same things and relations appearing on the other side.

So my proposition is that it is extremely problematic to identify the constituting relations of consciousness - the relations between its parts at the level of experience - with spatial relations. The constituting relations of consciousness are something like: subjective spatiality, subjective simultaneity, gestalt unification of sensations into a sensory form, conceptual association of posited properties with sensory gestalts, logical and other conjunctions of things as the compound objects of thoughts, attention to an object of thought under a particular propositional attitude, presence of all this to the observer-self - and that's bound to be an incomplete list.

If we were going to say that consciousness consists of things in strictly spatial relations to each other, then every one of those relationship types would have to be identical with a particular spatial relationship. Now as kpreid has pointed out, things in space can have other sorts of relations to each other, such as causal relationships. So the opportunities for a spatial reductionist are a little broader, but not inspiringly so.

However, if we turn to the quantum option, and specifically entanglement: a quantum state - conceived abstractly, rather than in terms of amplitudes over configurations - is something of a black box. All the physics is telling us is that these states have certain causal relationships to each other, but nothing about their intrinsic qualities. So the idea is to use the manifest nature of consciousness, that which can be seen at the level of appearances, as a clue to what's actually inside one of those black boxes. It's not that quantum physics looks especially more like consciousness than classical physics; it is that classical physics does not look like consciousness, and quantum physics looks like nothing. So instead I want to see if there's a perspective from which consciousness looks like quantum physics, e.g., like a big quantum tensor factor from an entangled physical brain.

Comment author: bigbad 17 October 2009 07:56:59PM 4 points [-]

Brain functional MRI scans show that, to the best available resolution, conscious states are highly correlated with events in space.

The brain operates by electrical and chemical signals, so a complex circuit seems like a better physics-based model of consciousness than what you propose.

Comment author: bigbad 17 October 2009 07:46:54PM 9 points [-]

Why would you try to approach consciousness this way, as opposed to through neuroscience? Neuroscience has been making some real progress lately; what is it that you think this approach could add?

I can't help but notice that the "self-monad" looks a lot like a "soul" in a thin, crispy quantum shell. What are the differences? Are there differences? Dressing it up this way allows you to do math with the monad. Does that math tell you anything? Especially, can any testable prediction come out of this?

You describe how to think like a quantum monadologist. If you answer these questions, I'll be able to decide if thinking like a quantum monadologist is worth attempting.

In response to The Shadow Question
Comment author: bigbad 14 October 2009 03:09:45AM 0 points [-]

Babylon 5?

Comment author: bigbad 13 October 2009 12:35:58AM 17 points [-]

I've always found "Just be yourself" to be particularly unhelpful advice.

"Just be Brad Pitt" is better advice, but still not helpful.

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