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Tools for Consciousness, Control Volumes

  1. Nov 11, 2005 #1


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    This thread contains section 2 and part of section 1 of a 5 section paper I'm writing regarding consciousness. Section 2 is intended to create a more general theory around something used in engineering called "control volumes". I've also included part of section 1, the abstract, to provide a bit of an introduction to the concept of control volumes. Since the post is rather long, I've broken it into two posts.

    I'd like to get feedback on:
    1. . the overall paper. General comments and questions are welcome.
    2. . where there might be better philosophical terms or concepts that could be applied to and incorporated into the paper. Are there for example, any existing concepts like this one, and if so what are they? I'd very much appreciate any applicable internet sites you can offer.
    3. . what references need to be included. The paper has a number of foot note markings such as [1] which are intended to mark existing concepts and where references might be included. If you have any suggestions as to what those references could be I'd appreciate the help.
    4. . any suggested rewrites. Feel free to pick apart any section and rewrite it.

    Many thanks


    Table of Contents

    1.0 Abstract

    2.0 Definitions - Control Volume Language
    2.1 Control Volume Definition
    2.2 Control Surface Definition
    2.3 Causal Action Definition
    . 2.3.1 Cumulative Causal Actions
    . 2.3.2 Pass Through Causal Actions
    2.4 Control Mechanism Definition
    2.5 Physical and Analytical Control Volumes Definition
    . 2.5.1 Physical Control Volume
    . 2.5.2 Analytical Control Volume


    1.0 Abstract:

    The concept of control volumes is used primarily in thermodynamics and fluid dynamics analysis and it is there we can find the most thorough treatment of the concept. [1] Very similar forms of the concept have been created and applied to almost all areas of engineering and science. These concepts have gone by a variety of names such as "finite element analysis [2]", "free body diagrams [2a]", "nodal analysis [2b]" and other names. Such concepts are used as tools to reduce a larger two or three dimensional space to small chunks. The concept stems directly from the concept that any system can be reduced and any phenomena which 'emerges' from such a collection, must also emerge from the collection of control volumes.

    This paper is intended first to generalize and expand on the concept of control volumes to the point it may be applied to any and all physical interactions. To achieve this goal, a method of applying the theory for all possible physical interactions will be proposed and outlined. The theory is based on the reductionist philosophy that anything can be broken down into its constituent parts, along with the causal relationships operating on those various parts, and the function of those parts can explain any and all phenomena which evolves.

    Control volume theory may be applied to both real, physical entities and imaginary mathematical entities. The theory is applicable to both, it is not just a mathematical tool. When used as a mathematical tool however, specific mathematical relationships used to model physical laws have been excluded from this paper. It is left to others to determine how best to apply the theory where it may be of use as a mathematical tool. Such a task is beyond the scope of this paper.

    This theory is intended for application to macroscopic volumes of space and matter only, and not exceedingly small parts in which quantum mechanical interactions might play a role. When referring to "macroscopic volumes of space and matter" what is being referred to are three dimensional volumes of space or large enough chunks of matter within which quantum mechanical interactions are thought to have no significant affect, such that one can make accurate predictions regarding the time evolution of the space and matter under consideration.

    Once the theory has been fleshed out, it can be used as a tool to examine any given mechanism to determine if a phenomenon can emerge from the interaction of various macroscopic volumes of space and matter. This is essentially a reductionist's tool, though it is limited to relatively large chunks of space and matter under relatively common conditions where quantum mechanical affects are not needed to determine the time evolution of those chunks. It may be used where only strict causal relationships between those chunks need to be considered.
  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 11, 2005 #2


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    Section 2

    2.0 Definitions - Control Volume Language: Causal relationships have been recognized throughout history. Before science ever became a household word, causal relationships were being sought. Sacrifices to Gods were efforts to apply causal relationships to nature. Since then, man has learned that the sacrifice of our first born is no longer needed to appease some God, and luckily for many of us, such ceremonies have been outlawed.

    Causal relationships involving the supernatural have been dismissed by science, however there are other variations on the theme - specifically, the difference between a loose causal relationship and a strict one. A loose causal relationship, for example, would suggest that one has a higher risk of lung cancer from smoking cigarettes, or the cost of goods will rise when supply is low and demand is high. Loose causal relationships are those where an effect does not arise directly from a cause, but arises because of a series of events touched off by a given cause.

    For the purposes of this discussion regarding control volumes, only strict causal relationships will be considered, those where an effect is directly initiated from a cause, generally called a "strict" cause and effect relationship. [8?] Where the term "causal relationship" or "cause and effect" appears, these terms will be meant to indicate strict cause and effect. These types of relationships are the most fundamental. They rely on determinate mechanisms where an effect follows directly from a cause. [9?] Furthermore, strict cause and effect relationships are mathematically calculable to within a high degree of accuracy. [10?] One example of a strict cause and effect relationship is gravitational attraction such as given by Newton's law of universal gravitation and modified by Einstein. [11?] Other examples regard electric fields operating on charges[12?], heat energy causing a mass to increase in temperature [13?], or where conservation of momentum, energy or mass [14?] can be applied.

    Computers are governed by strict cause and effect relationships. Computer switches provide calculable results. So a computer is a determinate mechanism, governed by strict cause and effect relationships. [15?] Similarly, the human brain might be considered to be governed by strict cause and effect relationships [16?], which is a second premise to be explored in this paper.

    Arguably, the most fundamental concept in science is the concept of cause and effect. The concept has become so entrenched in modern science it has virtually become an axiom. [17?] For a considerable time, "hidden variables" were suggested and tested for in an effort to locate a cause and effect relationship at the quantum level. Although quantum mechanics has provided some indication that cause and effect fails at extremely small scales, every indication suggests that statistically, cause and effect holds true at the macroscopic level.

    Cause and effect is a fundamental premise used to support the concept of strong AI and the computational mind. [18?] One assumption made by strong AI is that the brain operates at a macroscopic level and is effectively governed by causal relationships. [19?] Chemical interactions, electrical signals, and other cause and effect mechanisms are the only significant ones relied upon by the brain to create the phenomenon of consciousness, according to strong AI. [20?] Note that this one assumption is insufficient to make the strong AI claim, though it is a fundamental claim which can be examined once the tools of control volumes are provided to better characterize causal relationships.

    This section is intended to review and expand the concept of a control volume as is typically used in thermodynamics and fluid dynamics. To do so, the definitions of existing terminology as well as some new words will be provided, followed by a discussion. The concept of control volumes is derived directly from the concept of cause and effect. More accurately, the rules of cause and effect are more rigorously defined and elaborated on using control volumes. These rules are derived from classical physics, and would need some consideration before being used at a quantum mechanical level.

    2.1 Control Volume Definition: A control volume is a three dimensional region of space which exists over time. [1] It is therefore a volume which takes into consideration the three dimensions of space, and one of time. This region can be any real or imagined volume containing any combination of matter and energy, and it evolves over time in a way which is governed by whatever cause and effect relationships that region of space is subjected to. It does not need to be rectangular in shape, it may have any arbitrary shape which best suits it's environment and the purpose for which it is created. A control volume could be the size and shape of neuron or an octopus for example.

    The purpose of a control volume is to isolate the contents such that one can better determine how various inputs might affect what is inside. Generally, the control volume is considered an analytical tool, and a mathematical analysis is done on what is inside the volume. If a large number of volumes exist, computers are often employed to perform a numerical analysis on the volumes in order to understand how they interact.

    Control volumes can also be real, physical volumes of space. They need not be imaginary, mathematical representations of a space. Real, physical control volumes are actually quite common. They are used regularly, for example when a scientist performs a specific experiment in the lab where a specimen is undergoing carefully controlled testing, that test can be viewed as being performed inside a control volume. There, the control volume might be a ball bearing being tested under load and being spun on a shaft for wear rate testing, or a model aircraft put inside a wind tunnel. In these cases the environment the specimen is being exposed to is carefully controlled to duplicate a specific, real life situation. The carefully controlled volume of space the specimen is being subjected to can then be defined as a control volume.

    The control volume concept provides a powerful tool that allows one to ignore extraneous affects on everything outside of the volume. For example, one might mistakenly believe a phenomenon is influenced by any given number of factors. By creating a control volume around the region of space with which we are interested, the contents are isolated, and cause and effect relationships must be found that act on what is inside the control volume. Effects beyond this boundary can not influence what goes on inside, a control volume can only be influenced by what enters or acts directly on the volume.

    This local affect is another key feature of a control volume. That key feature is it's locality, the control volume is assumed to be influenced only by the local affects operating on that volume. Further discussion of local affects will be presented as new concepts are provided.

    2.2 Control Surface Definition: A control volume is isolated by a control surface. [1] That boundary is an imaginary, 2 dimensional surface, infinitely thin, such that one control volume can be created adjacent to another with no distance between the two. The surface is the border around the volume, like the thin skin of a balloon. The purpose is to provide a surface around a control volume which can be used to locate and identify any mechanism which might have an influence on the control volume. Mass, energy, force, electrical flux, or any phenomenon which causes an effect can act at the control surface. The result of that effect can be seen inside the control volume.

    Effects which are caused by the control volume must also cross the control surface. If the control volume has an effect on its surroundings, that effect must pass through the control surface. The surface might be thought of as being analogous to a bank ledger, in which all influences such as heat or force, might (first) be identified as entering or exiting the control volume, and then (second) be tallied up in order to determine the overall affect on the volume. This often requires conservation laws such as conservation of energy, mass or momentum.

    Again, this is due to locality. A control volume is only influenced by what crosses its control surface, and conversely a control volume can only affect its surroundings by operating across the control surface.

    To extend this concept to the interaction between two points in space separated by other cause and effect relationships, one can further break down each cause and effect relationship between the two points, put them inside their own control volume, and examine the effect of each at a control surface. Just as a series of dominoes fall over because each domino is given a push by another, a series of control volumes will be affected by its neighboring control volume through the control surface. A control volume can be drawn around each domino, and forces or momentum identified which cause a domino to fall over. Similarly, each falling domino has an effect on its control surface which results in a force being applied to its neighboring control volume.

    2.3 Causal Action Definition: A causal action can represent any of a wide variety of physical interactions. Matter and energy at the macroscopic level interacts in a way that is generally considered causally determinate in the sense that interactions follow natural, deterministic principals at a macroscopic level. There are only two properties of nature which can give rise to causal actions. They include:
    1. Matter
    2. Energy

    Gravitational, electric and magnetic fields have been lumped into the "energy" category for the sake of convenience. They might equally be broken out but for the purposes of this paper, such fields will be generally defined as a form of energy.

    Causal actions arise from the interaction of one of these properties of nature with a control volume. If matter or energy crosses a control surface, it is defined as a causal action operating on the control volume. These causal actions will result in physical affects inside the control volume in ways dependant on how these physical affects interact with other matter.

    What happens inside a control volume is only affected by what causal actions cross the control surface, so again we find that causal actions are local. Nothing can affect the volume which doesn’t either occur inside the volume, or affect the volume at the control surface. What happens inside the control volume happens because of some causal action on the control surface and not some causal action a distance away.

    Causal actions can also be broken up into inputs and outputs. Inputs are those causal actions which originate from outside the control volume. Outputs originate from inside. Inputs create an effect on what is inside the control volume, outputs are inputs for a neighboring control volume.

    For the sake of completeness we will clarify one point regarding inputs and outputs. Feedback due to an output can be considered input. A causal action which is an output may have an immediate response which can be considered an input. For example, if a control surface surrounds a ship floating near a pier, and a man on that ship takes a pole and puts one end on the pier to push, then in order to properly model the control volume, the pole must have some resistance to being pushed. The pole extends through the control surface, so in order to properly model the control volume, when the end of the pole rests on a solid object such as the pier, there is also an instantaneous feedback which accompanies the man pushing on the pole. To properly duplicate this control action, the pole should feel to the man as if it is actually touching an immovable object just like the pier. We may 'cut' the pole at the control surface, but what remains inside the control volume must react in a manner identical to how it reacts without the control surface encompassing the man and the boat. To do that, any output which requires a feedback must have that feedback provided, and that feedback may be considered an input.

    Any causal action can also be placed into one of two categories called "cumulative causal actions" and "pass through causal actions". Hopefully the descriptive names will aid in understanding the difference. To clarify, these two categories will now be defined.

    2.3.1 Cumulative Causal Actions: Cumulative causal actions are those causal actions made up of bits of matter and/or energy which enter a control volume and interact with what is inside in a way which creates a significant effect. Here, the term 'significant' is very important. One must determine if the causal action affecting the control volume actually changes anything in that control volume of interest or not. For example, if we draw a control surface around a switch inside a computer chip and apply an electric potential to that surface such as to actuate the switch, that causal action could be defined as a cumulative causal action. That causal action changed the switch position and had a significant effect inside the control volume.

    When a significant change occurs inside a given control volume, the control volume often has an effect on surrounding volumes as well. In this sense, the affect is cumulative. Some causal actions may impact a given control volume, and that impact may lead to output causal actions becoming input for the surrounding control volumes. There is likely to be a change in the original causal action which is affected by the given control volume. But that change then passes on to the next control volume, similarly affecting it. Eventually, a number of control volumes in a row can be affected by some cumulative causal action, like a Rube Goldberg experiment or a series of dominoes falling. Cumulative causal actions often change from one volume to another.

    2.3.2 Pass Through Causal Actions: Pass through causal actions are those causal actions made up of bits of matter and/or energy which enter a control volume and have no significant impact on the volume. Again, the term significant is very important here. One must determine if the causal action affecting the control volume actually changes anything in that control volume of interest or not. If there is no change, the causal action can generally be considered to be a "pass through" causal action.

    To illustrate pass through causal actions, the example of a control surface surrounding a switch will be used once more. If an electromagnetic signal such as the radio transmission from a local radio station enters the control volume, but has no affect on the position of the switch, that signal is a pass through causal action. Pass through causal actions are very common. Heat might also be used as an example. If heat is a causal action acting on a switch, the temperature may rise, but if there is no affect on the switch, we could also term this a pass through causal action.

    2.4 Control Mechanism Definition: The purpose of a control volume is to isolate what is inside and find cause and effect relationships which will directly influence the evolution of what is inside the volume over time. However, nature is not always so kind as to provide such simple circumstances that a single volume is sufficient. A second purpose is to simplify a larger volume by dividing the larger volume into smaller volumes. A volume made up of a set of control volumes will be defined as a control mechanism, so a control mechanism is nothing more than a set of control volumes with which we have an interest.

    That set of control volumes could be the parts of an aircraft for example, and that aircraft would then represent a control mechanism. If an aircraft experiences fatigue failure or wing flutter, one could also break that aircraft down into either physical control volumes or analytical control volumes and expose each control volume to exactly those conditions experienced during flight. And when this set of control volumes was thus exposed, the phenomenon of fatigue failure or wing flutter would be exactly duplicated in a lab or by computational analysis of the analytical control volumes. Thus, the aircraft is defined as a control mechanism and control mechanisms can be broken down into control volumes with control surfaces around each volume and causal actions applied on each surface. In the case of the aircraft, causal actions may include vibrating or oscillating forces, aerodynamic pressure or loads, temperature or pressure variations, or any of the wide number of physical forces the aircraft is exposed to.

    2.5 Physical and Analytical Control Volumes Definition: One other observation can be made, and that is that there are analytical control volumes and physical control volumes. A brief mention of the differences between these two is worth mentioning so as to highlight the differences and similarities. Note that neither of these types of CV's are typically mentioned as such within the sciences, but the concepts governing them are intuitively understandable.

    2.5.1 Physical Control Volume: We often use physical control volumes without calling them such. We'll perform an experiment on something in a very controlled way so we might be sure of everything that happens. The experiment must be repeatable, so any variable that may affect the experiment is carefully controlled, and the result is predictable. If we come up with highly variable results, the variability generally depends on some cause which crept into the experiment without our knowledge such as unknown causal actions or errors in measurement.

    A physical control volume often represents a small part of an overall phenomenon. The experiment itself is often times performed because it represents what happens to a very specific part of something about which we need to learn. There are a variety of reasons for wanting to perform an experiment on just a small part of a given system, such as economic or safety related reasons. Performing an experiment on a specific bolt that holds an aircraft engine onto a wing to determine how long it will last before breaking in the given environment is much safer and less costly than installing that bolt on an actual aircraft and flying it around until the bolt breaks while taking data on such things as stress, corrosion or other factors which may impact the bolt's strength. So a physical control volume is a control volume that contains actual matter and energy and inputs are controlled in a very precise way in order to duplicate all phenomena to the degree of accuracy being sought.

    2.5.2 Analytical Control Volume: If an actual, physical system or a hypothetical physical system is to be analyzed, we often use an analytical control volume to apply equations to. An analytical control volume is an imaginary volume of space that exists only as a mathematical model. This is the more common use of the term "control volume", where a physical system is imagined that equations might be applied. The analytical control volume exists only as a mathematical tool to model what actually, physically might happen in a given circumstance.

    Regardless of which type of control volume we are interested in applying, the definitions provided here are applicable to both types. We may apply mathematical formulas for an analytical volume, or we may apply actual forces, electromagnetic fields or other causal actions to a physical control volume. In either case, the discussion to follow applies to both types of control volumes.
  4. Nov 16, 2005 #3


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    Ok, I know this is a long thread, and kinda boring :zzz:

    Thing is, we all use 'tools' for stuff and they aren't always that interesting. I hated math, but it's a tool we all need for engineering.

    I will say this, the next section (3) is a whole lot more interesting. It goes through how to 'use' the tools of control volumes and their very strange properties. Yes, they actually have some unseen properties that can be made use of for the study of consciousness. Those properties might be discussed in acadamia, and every engineer I've talked to seems to know of them, but I've not seen them written down anywhere. They also need to be proven. Section 3 does that.

    But first, the tool needs to be well defined, a hammer is more than something to hit nails with, a saw does more than cut wood, and CV's do more than just thermo problems.
  5. Nov 16, 2005 #4
    It's a brilliant article for actually abstracting and understanding the universe, but I'm not sure what use it would have for the real world scientists working out consciousness.

    These types of causal actions, are usually apparent to a scientist after some testing, a scientist need not keep this article in mind, to solve the mystery of consciousness.
    As for philosophers, I am one of those who think only science can solve it, and not the minds logic and reason.

    However this might change when section 3 is up, so I' eagerly awaiting it.
  6. Nov 16, 2005 #5


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    Octel, thanks for the very kind words. Have you heard of the "Blue Brain" project? The first steps will model neocortical columns in the brain in order to learn more about how these things function. Although I haven't seen anything that explicitly states they are using something akin to control volumes, I must assume they are. It then seems fairly obvious that one could model the entire brain's function using control volumes, but as I'm sure you know, this requires computational power we presently don't have.

    The idea of presenting the terminology (above) that can be used to talk about how things are modeled is intended to provide a basis for further discussion. Hopefully, this discussion of CV's can help refine that terminology and the philosophy of how CV's can be used to model a control mechanism.

    Any suggestions as to where this section could be improved would be appreciated.
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