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Thread: free will

  1. #121
    know nothing pensive_pilgrim's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dirac View Post
    There is a lot of agreement that 'observation' collapses the wavefunction, but the word is not meant in the colloquial sense (at least, not anymore).

    You cannot recreate the double slit experiment unless you physically interfere with a measurement device. If you don't physically interfere with the wavefunction it will not collapse. We do recognise that the measurement device interferes with the result, that is the whole point of the double slit experiment; I'm not sure how that implies a hidden variable.
    You asked "why bring consciousness into it? Why could it not be the interaction of the particle with ... a measurment device) which causes the collapse?".

    If such an interaction were something that could be predicted by classical physics, it would be a local hidden variable. Something we just haven't discovered yet that behaves deterministically.

    It's not all that relevant how I interact with the measurement device. If I set up a camera and then later retrieve the tapes and view them on a TV, that's analogous to me looking through a lens and waiting for light that reflected off of an object to focus on my retina and form an image in my brain. The constant is that I must consciously interact with the measurement device. A measurement device is only such when we use it as such.

  2. #122
    Aporia Dysphoria Dirac's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by pensive_pilgrim View Post
    You asked "why bring consciousness into it? Why could it not be the interaction of the particle with ... a measurment device) which causes the collapse?".

    If such an interaction were something that could be predicted by classical physics, it would be a local hidden variable. Something we just haven't discovered yet that behaves deterministically.

    It's not all that relevant how I interact with the measurement device. If I set up a camera and then later retrieve the tapes and view them on a TV, that's analogous to me looking through a lens and waiting for light that reflected off of an object to focus on my retina and form an image in my brain. The constant is that I must consciously interact with the measurement device. A measurement device is only such when we use it as such.
    I never meant to imply that such an interaction could be predicted by classical physics, nor am I implying that it collapses deterministically.

    I agree that we couldn't know the results without consciously interacting with the measurement, but that seems basically tautological, and I don't see why you are so keen to view consciousness as the important step. Before human life evolved, was the whole earth in a quantum superposition of states?
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  3. #123
    know nothing pensive_pilgrim's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dirac View Post
    I never meant to imply that such an interaction could be predicted by classical physics, nor am I implying that it collapses deterministically.

    I agree that we couldn't know the results without consciously interacting with the measurement, but that seems basically tautological, and I don't see why you are so keen to view consciousness as the important step. Before human life evolved, was the whole earth in a quantum superposition of states?
    I see the decision to take a measurement as the important step. The results depend consistently on the point at which someone decides to take a measurement. The results don't appear to correlate with any other known variable. What else is there?

    As I've said, it's simply the best explanation I can see, and it appears to confirm my intuition and my interpretation of my own experiences. I'm not a physicist, I just failed out of an undergrad engineering degree. If there's another explanation that makes more sense I'd love to read about it.

    I honestly have no idea about the nature of the universe before life evolved. I do feel, based on my own experiences, that consciousness is not just a thing that exists in the human mind, or even limited to the brains of what we might call sentient life. I have experienced what some people call "universal consciousness". The most plausible answer I can think of to the question "why does anything exist" is "because it wants to". I don't think these are rock-solid unassailable ideas, they're just the best ones I've encountered so far.

  4. #124
    Aporia Dysphoria Dirac's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by pensive_pilgrim View Post
    I see the decision to take a measurement as the important step. The results depend consistently on the point at which someone decides to take a measurement. The results don't appear to correlate with any other known variable. What else is there?

    As I've said, it's simply the best explanation I can see, and it appears to confirm my intuition and my interpretation of my own experiences. I'm not a physicist, I just failed out of an undergrad engineering degree. If there's another explanation that makes more sense I'd love to read about it.
    Why say that results depend on sombody deciding to take a measurement? Why not say, 'when a measurement apparatus is interfering with the wavefunction'? I think the following makes more sense, and is a fairly orthodox way of viewing things:

    1. Macroscopic objects cannot be in a superposition of quantum states.
    2. A measurement apparatus is any object which takes a quantum state and renders it macroscopically observable.
    3. Therefore the wavefunction must collapse when 'observed', or a macroscopic object would be in a superposition of states.


    But, this picture is overly simplistic, it's just the way I thought of it as an undergrad. As I said before, there are interpretations of QM without wavefunction collapse so if you don't like it you could always choose one of those :P

    I honestly have no idea about the nature of the universe before life evolved. I do feel, based on my own experiences, that consciousness is not just a thing that exists in the human mind, or even limited to the brains of what we might call sentient life. I have experienced what some people call "universal consciousness". The most plausible answer I can think of to the question "why does anything exist" is "because it wants to". I don't think these are rock-solid unassailable ideas, they're just the best ones I've encountered so far.
    I could possibly get behind something like this, although does it not contradict your other point? If everything is conscious, how can the wavefunction ever be uncollapsed?

    BTW, this conversation is making me realise that there is loads of interesting physics that I don't really know. Would you (or anybody else reading this) be interested in me taking a more thorough look at the current state of the research and starting a dedicated thread about it? Some of this stuff has pretty poor 'layman's terms' explanations as far as I can google.
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  5. #125
    know nothing pensive_pilgrim's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dirac View Post
    Why say that results depend on sombody deciding to take a measurement? Why not say, 'when a measurement apparatus is interfering with the wavefunction'? I think the following makes more sense, and is a fairly orthodox way of viewing things:

    1. Macroscopic objects cannot be in a superposition of quantum states.
    2. A measurement apparatus is any object which takes a quantum state and renders it macroscopically observable.
    3. Therefore the wavefunction must collapse when 'observed', or a macroscopic object would be in a superposition of states.


    But, this picture is overly simplistic, it's just the way I thought of it as an undergrad. As I said before, there are interpretations of QM without wavefunction collapse so if you don't like it you could always choose one of those :P
    I'm not convinced of that first premise. What about this?


    I could possibly get behind something like this, although does it not contradict your other point? If everything is conscious, how can the wavefunction ever be uncollapsed?
    I didn't mean to say that everything is conscious. At least, not in the sense that rocks and trees are aware in the same way that a person or animal is. I would maybe say that consciousness is a thing we exist in (and of) and a brain is a powerful concentrator of consciousness. A decision is the phenomenon of the will directing consciousness. I think this phenomenon exists in varying degrees and isn't limited to brains, but is probably orders of magnitude greater in our brains than in anything we've discovered. I wish I had better words to work with in describing my thinking here.

    BTW, this conversation is making me realise that there is loads of interesting physics that I don't really know. Would you (or anybody else reading this) be interested in me taking a more thorough look at the current state of the research and starting a dedicated thread about it? Some of this stuff has pretty poor 'layman's terms' explanations as far as I can google.
    You'll get no argument from me. I find this stuff endlessly fascinating.

  6. #126
    tsuj a notelpmis QuickTwist's Avatar
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    After much thought on this topic, my stance has changed.

    I think the thing that determinism seems to ignore is the power of the mind. People do some pretty fucking outstanding things and I don't think this is just due to a ball rolling down a hill.

    To put it shortly, I think we have control over SOME things. To the extent that we have control I really don't know - it could be a lot (like 50% of our decisions) or it could be a very small number (like 2%).

    One thing to think about which I had a hard time explaining with a deterministic view, is that how the fuck did life get here simply by chance? Life is so fucking complicated it makes no fucking sense at all that we exist. That's without touching consciousness with a 10 foot pole. I think the universe wants us to exist - that we have a purpose in the universe - even if it is to be some kind of bizarre need for the universe to want something to discover it from within or some crazy thing like that.
    But your individuality and your present need will be swept away by change,
    and what you now ardently desire will one day become the object of abhorrence.
    ~ Schiller - 'Psychological Types'

  7. #127
    Aporia Dysphoria Dirac's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by pensive_pilgrim View Post
    I'm not convinced of that first premise. What about this?
    Sure it has been done, but by very carefully isolating the object from heat. In this article the scientist says exactly what I've been trying to say:

    "Most measuring instruments disturb the mechanical object by heating it up, and so destroy the very quantum effects being sought."


    I didn't mean to say that everything is conscious. At least, not in the sense that rocks and trees are aware in the same way that a person or animal is. I would maybe say that consciousness is a thing we exist in (and of) and a brain is a powerful concentrator of consciousness. A decision is the phenomenon of the will directing consciousness. I think this phenomenon exists in varying degrees and isn't limited to brains, but is probably orders of magnitude greater in our brains than in anything we've discovered. I wish I had better words to work with in describing my thinking here.
    Does it not make more sense to say that the brain is a generator of consciousness? I would argue that the consciousness we experience is an emergent property of the information processing in our brains, not something that our brains collect from a universal reservoir or something (which maybe isn't what you are saying).

    I find myself thinking in kinda panpsychic terms when I have thoughts like "how does an electron 'know' where the proton is?" Objects process information about their surroundings and have 'knowledge' of a kind - maybe?

    You'll get no argument from me. I find this stuff endlessly fascinating.
    I'll see if I can think of a good way to start it, although it might require a crash course is basic quantum mechanics which maybe be difficult to do.
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  8. #128
    know nothing pensive_pilgrim's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dirac View Post
    Sure it has been done, but by very carefully isolating the object from heat. In this article the scientist says exactly what I've been trying to say:

    "Most measuring instruments disturb the mechanical object by heating it up, and so destroy the very quantum effects being sought."
    I believe they are discussing the difficulty with observing this effect in a macroscopic object, not difficulties with observing the effect at all. After all, heat is an emergent property of a system of particles, and it wouldn't make sense to talk about the "temperature" of a particle like an electron when the particle is isolated enough to be observed individually.



    Does it not make more sense to say that the brain is a generator of consciousness? I would argue that the consciousness we experience is an emergent property of the information processing in our brains, not something that our brains collect from a universal reservoir or something (which maybe isn't what you are saying).
    I don't think consciousness originates in the brain for a couple of reasons. First, when you speak of "information processing" I'm assuming that the information you refer to comes from sensory inputs or genes. If our mental world arises from and depends on only these inputs, why does so much of it seem to be shared and to exist nowhere else but in that mental world? Take mathematics for example. We all conceptualize infinity. We all intuitively understand what a point is, or a perfect circle, even though these things exist nowhere. There have been no observations of a perfect circle ever. If such information is in our genes, shouldn't we have people with different ideas of a perfect circle? I posit that that is impossible. If we encountered aliens we would expect them to have the same knowledge of circles that we do. The circle exists only in the mental world but we all know about it and we know it doesn't depend on our perception. The world of forms, if you will. It seems evident to me that we live in this world as well as the physical one, and that we share it and it extends beyond the human brain.

    My second reason for not thinking it's an emergent property is that it doesn't seem to emerge from the information-processing systems we create, even when those are in many ways much more powerful than our brains. Computers never make decisions truly independently, they only operate with the motivations we build into them.

    A universal reservoir isn't really what I had in mind. My current model for this idea would be kind of like, there is a consciousness medium everywhere, like there is a medium for electromagnetism everywhere, and similarly an effect of consciousness like the electromagnetic field that exists everywhere in varying degrees. And perhaps our brains correspond to spikes in a kind of 'consciousness potential'. But this whole paragraph is pretty speculative and heavily intuition-based.

    I find myself thinking in kinda panpsychic terms when I have thoughts like "how does an electron 'know' where the proton is?" Objects process information about their surroundings and have 'knowledge' of a kind - maybe?
    I'm not sure I'm following. I know we say that objects process information. Can information exist without consciousness? It seems like it couldn't. I find myself thinking that for the electron to even contain the information that it is an electron, a decision must have been made for it to be so.

  9. #129
    Member mark esparza's Avatar
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    I read what you had to say on determinism when you first got here. It is nice to know someone else out in the world can see past this convincing illusion. I hate when people say it is an excuse to do bad things. That is the dumbest argument. It is not because people are dumb that they are stuck. All living things are 100% logical. At first glance it would seem they are logically impaired but on a closer look it all ads up. It is because people do not believe in Determinism they are always getting caught with their pants down. I think it would take a computer capable of recording the infinite variables that make up each second to predict the next in order to prove Determinism. That would be a waste of time. Not one person attempted to make a single comment for my original question. I was hoping to hear something new but I guess not. thank you for your input.

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