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Consciousness and Special Relativity?

  1. Jan 9, 2010 #1
    The brain is an area of neurophysiology activity. Neurophysiology activity consists of electrochemical reaction. Thus at any given time, the brain state is defined by a subset of electrochemical reactions, derived from a large set of possible reactions.
    Consider the phenomenon of a conscious thought. As at any given time the brain physical state consists of a collection of electrochemical reactions (events), it can be inferred that they are collectively responsible for the conscious thought. This means that at least in part, simultaneous events are responsible for thought. In other words, thought creates a connection between simultaneous events. This is in contradiction to the consequences of special relativity, which states that the fastest connection between events is the speed of light and thus excludes the possibility of connection between simultaneous events.
    Consider the memorizing of, say, the value 5. This would necessarily involve more than I point in space as, say, if it is assumed a single electron records 5 by taking a particular potential. Then it by itself cannot define (or know) 5, as its magnitude would be defined only with respect to another datum or event defined as a unit potential, thus involving at least 2 simultaneous events.
    Consider the experience of vision. While we focus our attention on an object of vision, we are still aware of a background and, thus, a whole collection of events. This would mean at least an equal collection of physical events in the brain are involved.
    Consciousness is 4 Dimensional
    Take the experience of listening to music. It would mean being aware of what went before. Like vision, it would probably mean that while our attention at any given time is focused at that point in time, it is aware of what went before and what is to follow. In other words, it spans the time axis. Many great composers have stated that they are able to hear their whole composition. Thus their acoustic experience is probably like the average person's visual experience. While focusing at a particular point in time of their composition, they are nevertheless aware of what went before and what is to come. The rest of the composition is like the background of a visual experience. Experiencing the composition in this way, they are able to traverse it in a similar fashion to which a painting is observed. In this sense, an average person in comparison can be seen as having tunnel hearing (like tunnel vision) when it comes to music, thus making it very difficult for him or her to reproduce or create new music. It can be seen that consciousness is a 4-D phenomenon.
    Contradiction with Special relativity?
    As stated previously Special relativity states that the fastest connection between events is the speed of light. This proposition excludes the possibility of connections between simultaneous events. Simultaneous events are also known as space-like separated events in special relativity. Yet from the description given above it can be seen that consciousness creates a connection between simultaneous events in the brain. The contradiction with special relativity will remain, independent of the rate of propagation of nerve impulses, provided that this rate is equal to or less than the speed of light.
     
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  3. Jan 9, 2010 #2
    How does the above lead to:

     
  4. Jan 9, 2010 #3

    Dale

    Staff: Mentor

    The speed of light and the size of the brain are such that it would take less than a nanosecond for light to go from one side to the other. Do you really believe that a neural activation on one side of the brain can affect neural activity on the opposite side of the brain in less than a nanosecond? Given that a single neuron's action potential takes a few milliseconds (a few million nanoseconds) I find the suggestion of FTL communication within the brain to be completely absurd.
     
    Last edited: Jan 9, 2010
  5. Jan 9, 2010 #4

    We have subjective experience of a "Thought". Now the physical basis of this at any instant is physically space-like separated neural events. As such the "Thought" creates a connection between space-like separated events by its very existence. Please note neural events at any given time T0 will give rise to more neural event at a subsequent time. That is not the issue. The issue is that while giving rise to other events this simultaneous events are at that instant also fully responsible for the existing "Thought" at that instant.
     
    Last edited: Jan 9, 2010
  6. Jan 9, 2010 #5
    Neural activity will give rise to more neural activity that is fine. But what this activity is doing in addition, is giving rise to consciousness at every instant. Consciousness for its existence needs a multitude of these neural events at every instant. It is this that is a contradiction
     
  7. Jan 9, 2010 #6

    Q_Goest

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    Hi fdesilva,
    why do the events need to be simultaneous? Is there precedent for making this assumption? I think this is something akin to 'common sense' but not supported by any evidence.
     
  8. Jan 10, 2010 #7
    Hi
    Q1. Do you agree that at any given time there are a multitude of neural events?
    Q2. Do you agree that at any given time these events (or a subset of them) are responsible for "thought" or conscious experiance?

    If you say yes to the above, you are saying simultaneous events give rise to "thought".
    If not please explain the relation ship between 1 and 2 as you think can take place without involving simultanous events.
     
  9. Jan 10, 2010 #8
    It seems that anything that has the word "consciousness" is a pseudoscience(metaphysics). There's actually a LOT of people that "believes" in consciousness (they seems to end post with love&peace, light... some random stuff. (a lot on facebook physics groups)).

    Also they think that "What the beep do we know" is a real science video, and your thought can effect water crystals... (of course, non of them has a physics degree.)

    Have anyone read "The Lost Symbol" by Dan Brown? There's a lot of "noetic" science, consciousness and he talks about mysticism and physics as one. Its really frustrating to read, he states that its all "facts". General public might see it as true.
     
  10. Jan 10, 2010 #9
    Hi Bright Wang
    My question to you is as follows?
    1. Are you conscious? (Conscious as defined in http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Consciousness)
    2. If yes to 1 then in what component of your body does this consciousness take place?
    3. If the answer to the above is the brain then what activity in the brain is responsible for it?
    4. How is that activity distributed over space and time and whats its relationship to consciousness?
     
  11. Jan 10, 2010 #10


    This is a video of David Bohm talking about consciousness (actually perception) and special relativity. It's not exactly what you were talking about but it might be relevant.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 25, 2014
  12. Jan 10, 2010 #11
    I'll try to answer these questions here...

    1. ... of?
    2. Brain
    3. A brain activity is not necessarily a thought so consciousness is not really linked with thoughts. Ok, thoughts help.

    Now I ask you... What's a thought? Just a "brain activity"? Why is the language involved?
    Lowering or even stopping that inner voice ( so no thoughts in there) makes no difference in being aware (conscious) of the world around you. You are bombarded 24/7 of external stimuli so you are conscious still.

    4. "That activity" is distributed like this: A -> B. You have one thought (A), a trigger word in there that leads you do another thought (B). What's the relationship? They merely analyze and interpret the world you " see it" through your senses and this involves thinking and memory too. Is there any contradiction as you stated before? It's an ongoing process of producing and analyzing. Think of it like an equation... if you change smth in the left part of "=", smth is changing in the right side and vice versa.

    Yaay! 1st post.. new here, btw..hello! :D
     
  13. Jan 10, 2010 #12

    Q_Goest

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    The YouTube video by Madness above is a good primer for this.

    Our perception of the world appears to be a unified one. For example, we may be aware of the phone ringing while we are eating and talking to a friend, and all the experiences (hearing, smelling, seeing, all feelings) that make up this apparantly single, unified perception appear to coincide. How the brain manages this feat isn't understood, so we call it "the binding problem". That isn't to say that the single, unified experience we think we have is real, in fact there is much evidence that it isn't actually a unified one, it only appears to be.

    One of the papers referenced by http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Binding_problem"[/URL] seems to be relavent to this.
    [url]http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v421/n6921/abs/nature01285.html[/url]
    There is a considerable amount of work done on the issue of how the brain creates this illusion of a unified experience, and as far as I know there is no evidence to suggest the perception is 'real' in the sense that we have a single, unified experience. And if we don't have a single, unified experience, then we don't need to theorize any kind of faster than light signals to explain this perception.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 4, 2017
  14. Jan 10, 2010 #13

    Dale

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    No, it is not a contradiction. There are many examples of FTL things which are perfectly compatible with SR, you can do a brief search of the SR/GR sub-forum. SR says only that if event A causes event B then B must be in or on the future light cone of A. It is perfectly compatible with SR to define the state of some system as an integral over some spacelike volume, as long as there are no events within the system that are causally connected in a spacelike manner. Also, note that it perfectly acceptable in SR for both A and B to cause C even if A and B are spacelike separated.

    Here you are defining the consciousness as being the state of the brain's electrochemistry. There is nothing wrong with that nor is there anything incompatible with SR in that. The only way it would be incompatible with SR is if you were to identify some specific electrochemical event on one side of the brain which was the cause of some other specific electrochemical event on the other side of the brain less than a nanosecond later.

    If you have such evidence then please cite it, otherwise your claim is ludicrous. Also, note that with your definition of consciousness different observers will disagree on the state of consciousness of any given subject.
     
    Last edited: Jan 10, 2010
  15. Jan 10, 2010 #14

    Dale

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    I agree with both for the sake of argument. As long as the simultaneous events don't "give rise" to each other there is no violation of SR here.
     
  16. Jan 10, 2010 #15
    They don't "give rise" to each other, they "give rise" to something bigger at the same time (not to the future or the past) which is the "Thought" or the whole conscious experiance. Now you need to keep in mind what exactly you mean by "Thought" or conscious experiance. You need to keep in mind your own subjective experiance of consciousness. Now keeping in mind your subjective experiance, you need to ask your self "if this experiance, is caused by simultaneous events in the brain does it violate SR?"
     
  17. Jan 10, 2010 #16

    Dale

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    That is fine, that is not a violation of SR, particularly not the way that you have defined "thought".

    I cannot subjectively judge time anywhere near on the order of a nanosecond, so I certainly don't have any subjective experience that would even remotely suggest a violation of SR. In fact, I think it is safe to say that my subjective experience is around 6 orders of magnitude away from violating SR.
     
    Last edited: Jan 10, 2010
  18. Jan 11, 2010 #17
    I have a thread dealing with the same theme but approaching from a different perspective. It states that nothing actually exists except information (perhaps quantum information). Everything we experience is simply an interpretation of that information. Check out my thread for more info:

    https://www.physicsforums.com/showthread.php?t=368284
     
  19. Jan 11, 2010 #18
    So are you saying that you agree in that, at any given time t0 a set of space-like separated events (nothing more nothing less) is responsible for or is one and the same as, your subjective experience of consciousness at that time t0 , however you do not see that as violating what is possible in SR?
     
  20. Jan 11, 2010 #19

    Dale

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    Yes. I would say "responsible for" rather than "ithe same as". Here is what I am saying precisely:

    1) If you define "thought" the way you have here as "the state of all electrochemical reactions in the brain at a given time", then the fact that two spacelike separated electrochemical events each change the thought is clearly not a violation of SR as it does not imply any FTL communication (because the thought occupies the whole volume of the brain).

    2) In order to demonstrate a FTL connection between the physical thought and the subjective experience you would need to show that the subjective experience changed less than a nanosecond after some change in the thought. My own personal subjective experience cannot discriminate time that precisely (milliseconds rather than nanoseconds). So there is no evidence of FTL communication there either.
     
  21. Jan 11, 2010 #20
    How can a signal travel between a "physical thought" (or physical brain activity as you defined it) and a subjective experience. A subjective experience isn't located at any point in space, so there isn't even a conceptual measure of the distance travelled here.
     
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