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Is there a difference between Emergence & QM Amplification?

  1. Dec 18, 2014 #1
    I recently read the published article:

    Stuart Hameroff, How quantum brain biology can rescue conscious free will. Front Integr Neurosci. 2012; 6: 93. PMCID: PMC3470100
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3470100/

    From this it seems that current neuroscience views consciousness as an emergent phenomenon. The alternate stance proposed by Hameroff and other proponents of a quantum mechanics (QM) version of consciousness is that the brain acts to amplify quantum effects.

    Clearly it is not known at this stage if QM is required to explain consciousness or not. From this article, and others not referenced, it seems there are two opposing viewpoints:

    1) That consciousness may be an emergent phenomena.
    or
    2) That consciousness is an amplified quantum effect (i.e. macroscopic; amplify quantum effects into particular classical states) , such as seen in lasers or liquid helium whose unique behavior is critically dependent on QM.

    My question is: What is the difference between emergence, and amplification of QM effects? Would not the amplification of QM effects be an emergent property?

    Thank-you!
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 18, 2014 #2
    I have not read Hameroff's book. However, I presume that the "amplification of quantum effects" would refer to the same quantum phenomenon that occurs in any highly complex system, where in a submicroscopic quantum event can result in dramatic macroscopic changes in the system... essentially the "butterfly effect" produced in a chaotic system. Yet, while this phenomenon is often functionally unpredictable due the complexity of the system involved, it is none the less, in principal, fully reducible to the summation of its constituent and "bottom-up" causative components.

    In comparison, emergence typically refers to a qualitative "upper level" change that arises in a system that is not reducible to the constituent "lower level" processes of the system. This refers to a system in which the whole is fundamentally more than the sum of its parts. In fact, some also argue that this new qualitative change in the system can result in "top-down" causation that goes beyond a simple feed back loop of the lower level events.

    Many have suggested that quantum uncertainty and a Copenhagen type of "observer dependent" quantum collapse leave room for free will to have a causative role in neural activity in the brain. Unfortunately, I'm afraid that most neurophysiologists would contend that the molecularly functional neural tissue is too warm and too massive for this to occur. They would argue that quantum decoherence (and resultant quantum collapse) occurs at a level before a nerve synapse can be suspended in a "fire/not fire" quantum superposition. This would, sadly, not allow for "free will" to exist in any causative manner.
     
  4. Dec 18, 2014 #3
    Yet, all that said, I can't help believing (hoping?) that there is more to this story. If the quantum nature of existence allows for free will, it seems that it would require that the conscious perception of information is what is "real"... that matter and energy are only information that is experienced by a conscious entity. This obviously runs far into philosophy, and is therefore probably not an appropriate discussion for this forum. However, it often seems that science and philosophy merge incestuously when it comes to subject of "consciousness", and what the "substantive" nature of existence is.
     
  5. Dec 18, 2014 #4

    Pythagorean

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    There's two types of emergence: weak and strong - in the case of weak emergence, we have system properties in an ensemble of particles that aren't a property of any individual particle. It is the geometry, the dynamics, the interaction of the particles in space and time that we are observing, and it is distinct from the properties of individual particles. But these system properties don't have any "cause" that can't be explained in the reductionist view, only "effect" that can be observed in the system view.

    Whereas, in strong emergence, the so-called "higher level" phenomena (the emergent phenomena) can have an effect on the particles.

    So far, we haven't observed strong emergence in our universe. And you've probably heard the controversy from neuroscientists about free will. The evidence suggests that consciousness doesn't have a downward effect either (there is no soul causing behavior) rather that consciousness is a weakly emergent phenomena that arises from certain configurations of matter (just like every other emergent phenomena like pressure or waves).
     
  6. Dec 18, 2014 #5
    Thanks Feeble Wonk! Do you have any citations that discuss this?

    In regards to your descriptions:

    Would this be what Pythagorean refers to as "weak" emergence?

    And would this then be "strong" emergence?

    see:
     
  7. Dec 18, 2014 #6
    Thanks Pythagorean! Always great info.

    Do you have any citations where the difference between "weak" and "strong" emergence is discussed?

    Also, do you have citations for this? Is there a reason why strong emergence hasn't been observed (i.e. no way to measure?)?
     
  8. Dec 18, 2014 #7

    Pythagorean

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    To your first request:
    http://cse3521.artifice.cc/Chalmers-Emergence.pdf

    As for your second request, there's no way to prove a negative - evidence of strong emergence is what would need to be provided. In the same vein though, just because a reduced description is missing, doesn't mean one will not eventually be found. That's why strong emergence is generally a topic of philosophy. Examples of weak emergence are, of course, everywhere.
     
  9. Dec 18, 2014 #8
    My apologies testingus. I think my presumption that the "quantum amplification" concept was similar to the butterfly effect in a chaotic system was incorrect. Read Wikipedia's entry on "Quantum Amplifier". Wikipedia's article on Emergence also does a pretty good job of differentiating strong and weak versions of emergence, consistent with Pythagorean's explanation.
     
  10. Dec 18, 2014 #9
    Are macroscopic quantum phenomena, such as lasers and superfluidity, examples of weak emergence?
     
  11. Dec 18, 2014 #10

    Pythagorean

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    Yes. One photon doesn't make a laser beam, one particle of helium doesn't make a fluid. But, both can be described in terms of the interaction of their constituent particles.
     
  12. Dec 18, 2014 #11
  13. Dec 18, 2014 #12

    atyy

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    [/PLAIN] [Broken]

    Orch-OR is a form of pan-psychism, and says that consciousness is not emergent, but a fundamental element like an electron. Orch-OR postulates that collapse is consciousness.

    Of course, this doesn't explain why different spatiotemporal patterns (in the most general sense) of collapse lead to different types of conscious experience. This is one reason Orch-OR has been criticized by people like Feferman, and also why your question is a good one. Orch-OR doesn't seem any different from saying that oxygen atoms are fundamentally conscious, and that human brains have a certain type of consciousness because they have a certain spatiotemporal pattern of oxygen. If you disrupt oxygen in the brain, you'll get as much support for that hypothesis as disrupting microtubules.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 7, 2017
  14. Dec 19, 2014 #13
    Well... I can't claim to understand the Orch OR theory well enough to defend it. But, my understanding was that one of Hameroff's primary reasons to initially believe that the microtubules were involved in conscious experience was because anesthesia supposedly targets the microtubules selectively, and that this suspends consciousness while leaving subconscious neurological function largely unaffected. In contrast, disrupting oxygen supply to the brain would obviously effect both conscious and unconscious function. That said, I'm still confused as to the mechanism by which Orch OR is thought to manifest consciousness, or allow "top down" causative free will.
     
  15. Dec 19, 2014 #14

    Pythagorean

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    Anesthesia still doesn't have a known mechanism, just theories. It's a little bit convenient for Hammeroff to find a link in a phenomena for which the mechanism hasn't been established. Such as he's done with consciousness, his flavor of QM, and now apparently anesthesia.
     
  16. Dec 19, 2014 #15
    Just for the sake of discussion... Can anyone enlighten me as to the mechanism by which Orch OR is claimed to result in consciousness, and how that would allow a causative free will to exist within the known laws of physics?
     
  17. Dec 19, 2014 #16

    atyy

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    Anesthesia also affects the spatiotemporal pattern of oxygen in the brain, eg. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19351356 (the fMRI signal is based on oxygen). So the problem with your argument is that you are thinking of gross disruptions to oxygen. You have to think of subtler ones.

    OR itself is consciousness. Just like oxygen. Or whatever one's favourite X is. As Feferman (and others) have argued, these hypotheses don't explain anything, although they may not be falsified by current data.

    http://math.stanford.edu/~feferman/papers/penrose.pdf
    Feferman, Penrose's Goedelian argument
     
    Last edited: Dec 19, 2014
  18. Dec 19, 2014 #17
    OK... but again... just for the sake of discussion, if we accept that orchestrated reduction results in a coherent quantum state of conscious experience, that would seem to only apply to the experience itself. How would the conscious entity be given a causative free will?
     
  19. Dec 19, 2014 #18

    atyy

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    I don't think Penrose is necessarily arguing that consciousness involves causative freewill.
     
  20. Dec 19, 2014 #19
    I don't know about Penrose, but Hameroff apparently believes that free will can be achieved by Orch OR. I realize I could probably get the answer I'm looking for if I dug up this article, but I was hoping that someone might already have an understanding of what they were claiming, and possibly be able to give an opinion as to whether they thought it was even feasible.
     
  21. Dec 19, 2014 #20

    Pythagorean

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    I think the only reason for this speculation is that classical systems are typically considered deterministic, so don't allow for free will. Even many classical stochastic systems are just simplifications of a many-bodied deterministic system.

    QM is thought to be inherently non-deterministic (the whole Einstein-Bell debate) so it could allow for free will.
     
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