Is consciousness to be found in quantum processes in microtubules?

Discussion in 'Pseudoscience' started by Write4U, Sep 8, 2018.

  1. Write4U Valued Senior Member

    Continuing our journey.

    Microtubules as quantum systems?

    New results about microtubules as quantum systems
    Authors; Matti Pitkanen

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  3. Write4U Valued Senior Member

    And another step

    DNA as Topological Quantum Computer: Part I
    Author; Matti Pitkanen

    And microtubules copy DNA during mitosis.
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  5. C C Consular Corps - "the backbone of diplomacy" Valued Senior Member

    Since it is a recent Anil Seth interview, might be of at least slight interest here.
    - - - - - - - -

    Is consciousness more like chess or the weather?

    EXCERPTS: I caught up recently with Anil Seth to discuss his work on consciousness, AI, and the worrying intersection of his pair of passions—the possibility of creating conscious AI, machines that not only think but also feel...

    [...] Why do you think that consciousness isn’t some kind of complicated algorithm that neurons implement?

    This idea, often called functionalism in philosophy, is a really big assumption to make. Some things in the world, when you simulate them, run an algorithm, you actually get the thing. An algorithm that plays chess, let’s say, is actually playing chess. That’s fine. But there are other things for which an algorithmic simulation is just, and always will be, a simulation. Take a computer simulation of a weather system. We can simulate a weather system in as much detail as we like, but nobody would ever expect it to get wet or windy inside a computer simulation of a hurricane, right? It’s just a simulation. The question is: Is consciousness more like chess, or more like the weather?

    The common idea that consciousness is just an algorithm that runs on the wetware of the brain assumes that consciousness is more like chess, and less like the weather. There’s very little reason why this should be the case. It stems from this idea we’re saddled with still—that the brain is a kind of computer and the conscious mind is a program running on the computer of the brain.

    But the more you look into the brain, the less like a computer it actually appears to be. In a computer you’ve got a sharp distinction between the substrate, the silicon hardware, and the software that runs on it. That’s why computers are useful. You can have the same computer run a billion different programs. But in the brain, it’s not like that at all. There’s no sharp distinction between the mindware and the wetware. Even a single neuron, every time it fires, changes its connection strength. A single neuron tries to sort of persist over time as well. It’s a very complicated object. Then of course there are chemicals swirling around. It’s just not clear to me that consciousness is something that you can abstract away from the stuff that brains and bodies are made out of, and just implemented in the pristine circuits of some other kind of system.
    ... (MORE - rest of interview)
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  7. billvon Valued Senior Member


    That's a strange comparison to make. If you open up a chess-playing computer you won't see tiny chess pieces, either. So they are fairly similar; both simulations of a physical system, neither of them has any reality other than that internal simulation.

    Consciousness is much more like the weather in that we know every single thing we need to know about a chess game to simulate it. You could, for example, take any given position in a chess game, simulate every possible move both the computer and the other person could make in the future, and determine what moves are most likely to win. That takes a lot of computing power but is 100% deterministic.

    Weather is a chaotic system. When we simulate it we put in sparse data (temperature at a few locations, past weather, pressure readings, radiosonde readings etc) and then try to simulate it knowing we do not have all the data to start with. So it will be necessarily incomplete - which is why weather forecasts are not 100% accurate. That's similar to our understanding of the brain. We know a few things it's doing and can measure them - but most of what it does is opaque.

    A computer is not at all like a brain. But it is also not at all like a cold front. But it can simulate both to varying degrees of accuracy - which is the issue here.
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  8. Write4U Valued Senior Member

    Just out
    Forget AI; Organoid Intelligence May Soon Power Our Computers
    William A. Haseltine
    Apr 28, 2023,05:27pm EDT
    C C likes this.
  9. Write4U Valued Senior Member

    Do lab-grown brain cells contain microtubules?

    NIH scientists take totally tubular journey through brain cells
    Study may advance understanding of how brain cell tubes are modified under normal and disease conditions.

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    Fantastic Voyage. NIH scientists watched the inside of brain cell tubes, called microtubules, get tagged by a protein called TAT. Tagging is a critical process in the health and development of nerve cells. Roll-Mecak lab, NINDS, Bethesda, MD
  10. C C Consular Corps - "the backbone of diplomacy" Valued Senior Member

    John Searle said something similar in the past, about simulating the digestion of a pizza not being real digestion. An issue of resolution. A mundane computer simulation isn't reproducing everything down to the level of chemical composition of a pizza and the hydrochloric acid, enzymes, etc -- and beyond to particle substrates below that making the chemical interactions and biological cells ultimately possible. (Though still, not a conventionally tangible pizza one could hold in the hand and literally eat.)

    Seth is possibly alluding to something like that when he remarks "Then of course there are chemicals swirling around" -- i.e., neural structure being receptive to their contingent effects of the body's signaling molecules.

    But still, the basic aspects of cognitive activity (recognizing and understanding data and reacting to it) can be replicated at a computer's "coarse-grained" level, if not the monkey-wrench thrown in by circulating biochemicals, etc.

    A problem with these guys is that they continually keep using the umbrella term "consciousness", rather than narrowing down specifically to what they mean on this and that occasion. Accordingly, I don't see much point in trying to speculatively construe that it's visual, auditory, tactile, etc experiences of consciousness that they might be referring to at times rather than purely information processing "occurring in the dark" (so to speak).

    If they continually insist on being that obscure, then they are the source of others potentially misapprehending them (if/when that's even the case).
  11. Write4U Valued Senior Member

    I believe that consciousness is no more than an evolved response-ability to sensory and biochemical stimulus.

    When a Mimosa or a Venus flytrap reacts to an external disturbance is that an expression of sensory awareness?

    At what point does an organism experiencing a biochemical response become conscious of that response?
    Is that not just another example of evolutionary refinement of a basic chemical interaction.

    Autocatalytic chemical networks at the origin of metabolism
    Joana C. Xavier, Wim Hordijk, Stuart Kauffman, Mike Steel, and William F. Martin
    Published:11 March 2020


    When the autocatalytic process of a metabolic function goes wrong, this activates another biochemical response of neural discomfort (pain, nausea).

    Are the properties of life and consciousness not evolved refinements of sensory awareness and the production of action potentials in response to interaction of information?

    Autocatalytic Networks at the Basis of Life’s Origin and Organization
    Wim Hordijk1,* and Mike Steel2
    Author information Article notes Copyright and License information Disclaimer


    Keywords: autocatalytic sets, chemical organization, RAF theory, origin of life

    It seems to me that sensory awareness is a highly evolved system of autocatalytic processes that is being monitored and regulated by the homeostatic control systems. It seems plausible that this process has evolved into a sensitively aware and eventual conscious experience.
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  12. Write4U Valued Senior Member

    Transfer from:

    From Whitehead;
    Could this be what Penrose proposes, in that instead of observation being causal to quantum collapse, quantum collapse is causal to observation (experience)?
    I believe the warm, wet environment has been resolved.
  13. C C Consular Corps - "the backbone of diplomacy" Valued Senior Member

    Whitehead was mentioned a couple of times in "The Emperor's New Mind" (along with Russell). But curiously not in a direct relation to consciousness or process philosophy (IEP article).

    It is in Chapter 14 of Biophysics of Consciousness: A Foundational Approach (published in 2016) that an association between the two is made. Whitehead is referenced on pages 583, 584, and 519. The excerpt below is from page 519.

    Consciousness in the universe: An updated review of the "ORCH OR" theory (PDF)

    Consciousness results from discrete physical events; such events have always existed in the universe as non-cognitive, proto-conscious events, these acting as part of precise physical laws not yet fully understood. Biology evolved a mechanism to orchestrate such events and to couple them to neuronal activity, resulting in meaningful, cognitive, conscious moments and thence also to causal control of behavior. These events are proposed specifically to be moments of quantum state reduction (intrinsic quantum “self-measurement”). Such events need not necessarily to be taken as part of current theories of the laws of the universe, but should ultimately be scientifically describable. This is basically the type of view put forward, in very general terms, by the philosopher Whitehead (1929, 1933) and also fleshed out in a scientific frame-work in the Penrose–Hameroff theory of “orchestrated objective reduction” (“Orch OR”). In the Orch OR theory, these conscious events are terminations of quantum computations in brain microtubules reduced by Diósi–Penrose (DP) “objective reduction” (“OR”), and having experiential qualities. In this view, consciousness is an intrinsic feature of the action of the universe.

    A quantum biology subdiscipline is still emerging,

    (May 15, 2023) Quantum physics proposes a new way to study biology

    EXCERPTS: . . . In a complicated, noisy biological system, it is thus expected that most quantum effects will rapidly disappear, washed out in what the physicist Erwin Schrödinger called the “warm, wet environment of the cell.”

    [...] Chemists, however, have for a long time begged to differ. Research on basic chemical reactions at room temperature unambiguously shows that processes occurring within biomolecules like proteins and genetic material are the result of quantum effects.

    Importantly, such nanoscopic, short-lived quantum effects are consistent with driving some macroscopic physiological processes that biologists have measured in living cells and organisms. Research suggests that quantum effects influence biological functions, including regulating enzyme activity, sensing magnetic fields, cell metabolism and electron transport in biomolecules.

    The tantalizing possibility that subtle quantum effects can tweak biological processes presents both an exciting frontier and a challenge to scientists...

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  14. Write4U Valued Senior Member


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    My cup runneth over..
  15. Write4U Valued Senior Member

    And a long-awaited answer to the question of the electrical properties of microtubules.

    Microtubules as One-Dimensional Crystals: Is Crystal-Like Structure the Key to the Information Processing of Living Systems?

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    Figure 1. (a) Sketch of a microtubule. (b) Simple drawing of a single photonic crystal layered with 18° tilt.
    more ....

    Does this answer the question that the microtubule network is a viable model of data processing in the brain that must consequently be the functional substrate from which consiousness could emerge?
    Last edited: Jun 1, 2023 at 6:54 PM
  16. C C Consular Corps - "the backbone of diplomacy" Valued Senior Member

    It's a tentative step, but the idea of MTs even being information carriers still seems to be an uphill battle.

    Faintly similar to DNA computation, a team of researchers 20 or 30 years from now may have to literally use them in an extracellular context for information processing, to ultimately demonstrate the capacity (if any).

    Aside from the dominating neurocentrism preference, there's probably skeptical concern about motivated reasoning in these pursuits. Akin to how, in cosmology, Fred Hoyle and supporters never gave up on the steady state model.

    That there may be such a predilection for microtubules having purposes beyond architectural and intracellular transport roles, that it affects and steers setup and interpretation of results in some studies. But by the same token, the pessimism about cognitive bias seeping into such papers potentially also slowing incremental acceptance of positive indications in that direction (if any).
  17. Write4U Valued Senior Member

    Yes, I can see that in a case of an entirely new concept requiring a mental sea change, but MTs occupy the interior of all Eukaryotic cells, including plants. Why should there be resistance to a better defined knowledge of intracellular , intercellular, and specifically long-range neural communication processes and information sharing?

    It is these little analogies that pique my interest.

    And then there is the more formal explanation that describes the generalities in more detail. I am spellbound when processing this knowledge of how we acquire knowledge!

    Microtubules in neurons as information carriers
    Erik W. Dent, PhDcorresponding author1 and Peter W. Baas, PhD3
    Author information Copyright and License information Disclaimer

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    Figure 1
    Microtubules as information carriers in the axon and dendrite
    Schematic showing microtubules in the axon and dendrite of a stylized neuron. Note the small, stable translocating microtubules (orange) in the axon (left) and the dynamic microtubules invading dendritic spines (right). It is not yet known what proteins the small translocating microtubules in the axon may potentially bind and release (question mark). However, multiple studies have demonstrated dynamic microtubules are capable of polymerizing directly into dendritic spines, concentrating +TIP proteins (yellow stars) during polymerization and releasing them upon depolymerization. See text for details.
    [/quote]more .....
    Last edited: Jun 2, 2023 at 12:31 PM

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