Some thoughts about consciousness

Thursday, 21 November 2013
The central point of Hofstadter´s book mentioned in my previous post was to see how an “I” is formed. I read some people found that the book "Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid" has no central point, and therefore he wrote “I am a strange loop”, which I haven´t read. As Wikipedia says “He demonstrates how the properties of self-referential systems, demonstrated most famously in Gödel's Incompleteness Theorem, can be used to describe the unique properties of minds.” 

Now I´m going to be rambling about some things that I´ve been thinking about. I find myself in a strange loop, so feel free to comment if you find them to be just a bunch of disconnected thoughts, with no consistency at all. I´m only human, and I think about the Universe in human terms. 

If you have read some of my previous posts, you will find that I am asking myself if the Universe can be self-computable? In order to be so, it should be complete and consistent. As Gödel´s theorems state, it cannot be proven within itself if the formal system is as complex as arithmetic. One possibility would be the fact that the Universe is an infinite process and can check its self-consistency ad-infinitum. By metathinking, It would reach the conclusion that It can be consistent in a finite amount of time, but It would not know it until reaching infinite time. We humans (or any intelligent being) could be the way the Universe tests its consistency constantly. Could we at some point compute the Universe? That would be the Universe computing itself. And we would be theorems and universal truths.

The Universe would reference itself by means of intelligent beings as us. Perhaps the self-reference is the beginning of All, and that´s why we see it so much in Nature. A way of attaining both finite and infinite. As William Blake would put it:

To see a world in a grain of sand 
And a heaven in a wild flower, 
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand, 
And eternity in an hour. 


Pedro said...

Hi Abi,

Although I read GEB during our first year at uni, I don’t think I really understood neither arrived to any conclusion (nevertheless it was quite inspiring and with beautiful illustrations). Probably I am not fit enough to give a sound answer to your question. I will try nevertheless.

My impression is that your ideas follow somehow this line of thoughts:

Let’s say that your starting point is that:
[0] the-universe is a computing system (maybe the “ultimate” computing system)

and you wonder whether:
[1] the universe is self-computable

what can only be the case if:
[2] the universe is complete and consistent

You point out that:
[3] assuming arithmetic complexity the answer to [2] can only be meta-computed by the universe in an infinite amount of time after computing an infinite number of tests.

what doesn’t discourage you to suggest the following possibility:
[4] the universe is executing an algorithm to compute an answer to [2]

Meanwhile you accept that:
[5] people are conscious beings

and also accept that:
[6] consciousness imply self-reference
[7] consciousness imply self-computation

and of course that:
[8] People are part of the universe

Finally, motivated by [0] … [8] you suggest that the manifestation of [4] can be described in the following way:

[9] We (people) are the computational elements ([5],[6],[7]) by which the universe references itself ([5], [6], [8]) in order to compute ([7]) an answer to [2].

Did I get you right?

If that is so, I cannot see any logical contradiction in your ideas. That said, I cannot see many logical implications neither. In particular [9] cannot be logically concluded from any or all of the other statements.

Indeed, most of the statements are either assumptions or your own suggestions:
- [1] and [2] are questions asked by you (or maybe by the universe).
- [3] is a sound statement.
- [5], [6], [7], [8] are your assumptions.
- [0] and [4] are your (not-proved) suggestions
- [9] is your final more elaborated suggestion.

Therefore, I must conclude that “I find them (your thoughts) to be just a bunch of CONnected but inconclusive thoughts”.

Personally, although I strongly agree with [8] ;-) and partially agree with [5] and [6], I find the rest to be fancy ideas but without having to be necessary true. I would say that at best they might be an extreme simplification of a much more, more complex aspect of the universe. And maybe it might be the case that the universe has little or nothing to do with your ideas. Of course that doesn’t stop them for being nice, likeable and interesting ideas (maybe a theme for a science fiction novel, they remind me a little some themes from Vernor Vinge?).

By the way, I think we are still quite limited creatures in terms when it comes to thinking. Probably there are more efficient (and pleasant) approaches when trying to appreciate the nature of the universe: (I really like this poem)


Abigail Jiménez said...

Yes, it was only some thoughts that were haunting me. I agree, we are very limited creatures :) Anyways, thanks for your comment, and the poem :)