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Is Consciousness a Side Effect of Entropy?

Discussion in 'Science and Technology' started by SalixIncendium, Jan 29, 2018.

  1. SalixIncendium

    SalixIncendium Sākṣī
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    A new study links consciousness to a law that governs the universe. It suggest that consciousness is a side effect of entropy, the increasing state of randomness in the universe, which is stated in the the second law of thermodynamics.

    "According to a team of researchers from France and Canada, our brains might produce consciousness as something of a side effect of increasing entropy, a process that has been taking place throughout the universe since the Big Bang."

    New research links human consciousness to a law that governs the universe

    The study suggests that waking states present higher entropy values, while unconscious states contain the lowest values of entropy.

    Here is a link to the actual study: Phys. Rev. E 94, 052402 (2016) - Statistical mechanics of consciousness: Maximization of information content of network is associated with conscious awareness

    While the article admits results are far from conclusive, I would be interested to here your thoughts on this. Would it make sense that our consciousness is a by-product of entropy? If so, what would the implications be for such a discovery?
     
  2. Revoltingest

    Revoltingest I have the kavorka
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    No.
    Note that human beings (& their brains) are not closed systems.
    (Humans are open systems....more complicated than closed ones.)
    Entropy isn't the cause of what we do, it's just a thermodynamic
    law we obey...just like the other laws (because they're physical laws).

    Note also that "information" in the sense of what we know is
    different from "information" in the context of statistical mechanics.
    I'm no expert on the latter (& rusty on classical thermodynamics),
    but the latter has to do with system microstates possible.
    "Entropy" in information theory is an analog, & different.
     
    #2 Revoltingest, Jan 29, 2018
    Last edited: Jan 29, 2018
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  3. Vouthon

    Vouthon In varietate concordia
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    I don't personally believe consciousness is an "epiphenomenon" (i.e. secondary effect as opposed to an independent quality) but I can't rule it out either, since our understanding of the experience of consciousness and why it arises in the human brain is so impoverished at this current time. We're very good at understanding things at the smallest, reductionist level (i.e. high energy particle physics) and very big things too, like stars and galaxies. But when it comes to complexity, in the form of conscious, intelligent life arising from an assortment of matter, we're still not very good.

    I suppose I veer more towards viewing consciousness as a distinct quality/substance or as something inherent in all matter in some kind of limited proto-form (like with the scientific theory of panpsychism). But I don't know the actual nature of it: maybe it is a result of entropy or an advanced network of synapses having reached a sufficient degree of complexity, but the jump between grey matter and tissue to qualia is difficult for me to fathom (i.e. why it feels like something to be that lump of grey matter and cells).

    To me, consciousness is probably not even algorithmic in nature - which is one reason why I'm dubious that we will ever manufacture self-aware, silicon-based AI/androids - although, again, I can't absolutely rule that out either.

    When all is said and done, I'm inclined to think that it isn't epiphenomenal but I honestly have no idea.
     
    #3 Vouthon, Jan 29, 2018
    Last edited: Jan 29, 2018
  4. ChristineM

    ChristineM "Be strong" I whispered to my coffee.
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    This is quite an old theory (2014) that suggests that entropy predicts life

    A New Physics Theory of Life

    Life is consciousness so sure, consciousness is an effect of the second law of entropy
     
  5. Brickjectivity

    Brickjectivity Veteran Member
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    From the article: "This finding prompted the researchers to suggest that consciousness might be a side effect of a system working to maximize information exchange. In other words, human consciousness emerges due to increasing entropy." I think they restated this incorrectly. Human consciousness emerges, but the researchers have not commented upon how. They have only commented upon the amount of entropy, and the terminology 'Information exchange' is not talking about ideas. Its talking about energy states: voltage distribution. Its from Information Theory and is not talking about ideas but just energy states, heat transfers. The way the article restates it is terribly misleading.

    Analogy of entropy and waking up: Waking brains are a bit like complex systems of fountains with a pump or like a huge marble run track. Think of your brainstem as the pump what creates surges of energy when then matriculates through your brain or as a bucket of marbles tipped over. The pump takes water pressure from the pump to bring the water up to the top, and then it can flow down in all sorts of paths; and that is analogous to your brain when you are waking up. When the water pressure is low it only flows down in so many paths, and this is analogous to times when your brain-stem is not working so hard, like when you are about to fall asleep at the wheel. Or think of a lot of marbles versus just a few marbles. If you have lots of marbles then they can stack on top of each other and cause lots more trouble. The pump of the fountain and bucket of marbles is analogous to the brain stem generating a stimulus and a voltage, that stimulus is what wakes us up in the morning and includes a voltage difference. All that energy has to go somewhere, and the more of it there is the more activity happens. That voltage difference creates a cascade of electrical discharges throughout a brain, analogous to a system of fountains, or it dumps lots of marbles that go schlepping into all sorts of slots, filling holes and rolling past marbles that have filled holes. In a system of fountains there is always higher entropy when the pump is turned on high and also in a marble-run if you dump lots of marbles in. There is always higher entropy when there is more energy being transferred from high to low, but it doesn't mean the system is attempting to achieve maximal information transfer. It is attempting to discharge, and actually is only forced to be mostly non-random by the structures it passes through. There is not a formation of consciousness without the structures. They have to be there, and there has to be energy dispersal through them.
     
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  6. David T

    David T Well-Known Member
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    GW333H277.jpeg
     
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  7. WalterTrull

    WalterTrull Godfella

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  8. Revoltingest

    Revoltingest I have the kavorka
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    I read the article, but it doesn't really present the argument that entropy causes life.
    I suppose that one could say that every physical law & constant together make
    life an emergent property of our universe.
     
  9. Sha'irullah

    Sha'irullah رسول الآلهة

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    Typically politics comes from entropy not consciousness. I believe the research is in my favor. :D
     
  10. ChristineM

    ChristineM "Be strong" I whispered to my coffee.
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    Its there in " This could mean that under certain conditions, matter inexorably acquires the key physical attribute associated with life."

    However here is the original paper

    https://arxiv.org/abs/1209.1179
     
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  11. Twilight Hue

    Twilight Hue The gentle embrace of twilight has become my guide

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    It's interesting. After all we are all subject to the laws and forces of nature. Given our chemical nature and the dynamic interrelationships that go on in our bodies as well as Universe throughout, it certainly is worth consideration.
     
  12. Revoltingest

    Revoltingest I have the kavorka
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    An easy way to understand entropy in the classical way is to imagine a simple scenario....

    We have 2 separate insulated barrels of water.
    One is hot....the other cold.
    They're a "closed system" because no heat is being conducted into or out of either barrel.
    This temperature difference can be used to do physical work using a simple Stirling engine.
    (The entropy of this pair of barrels can be calculated from tables for water.)
    Now we'll mix the water in the 2 barrels together, making them the same temperature.
    No longer can our Stirling engine extract energy for work.
    Energy was conserved, but even though not lost, it's no longer available to do work.
    This loss of "availability" (energy available to do work) is measured as an increase
    in entropy.
    Even if we used our Stirling engine to do work using the hot & cold barrels,
    the work done is always less than the availability lost. This is because no
    engine can be 100% efficient. This is called "irreversibility", ie, no closed
    system can go back the way it was (without outside energy being added).
    Thus, the future will always be different from the past. Which is why
    entropy is called the "arrow of time".

    Fortunately for us living things, we are an "open system" (as is Earth), with
    energy flowing to us all the time. Thus, our entropy doesn't tend to increase...
    ....unless you're starving in a desert.
     
    #12 Revoltingest, Jan 30, 2018
    Last edited: Jan 30, 2018
  13. Brickjectivity

    Brickjectivity Veteran Member
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    I want to add this relevant article about why people always worry, and its directly related to our energy saving brain chemistry. http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20180710-why-the-brain-always-finds-new-problems-and-threats

    The brain, according to this, prefers to save energy over making logical assessments of threats. People expand their view of what is threatening as threats become more rare! Instead of comparing a face before us to all faces, we compare them to faces in our recent context to save chemical energy -- calories. Watching a scary movie or listening to creepy sounds can make the dark seem scary when there is no actual increased danger. Worry about what might happen plagues us unnecessarily.
     
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