Musings on AGI, Consciousness and Euryphysics

I am generally amused when I encounter people who take the possibility of a non-material aspect to the human mind as an argument against the potential of creating AI systems with general intelligence at the human level or beyond. This doesn't make sense to me. If an individual human mind has some aspect comprised of patterns in a particular material brain and body, and some aspect that in some sense goes beyond this material world – then why can't an individual AI mind also have both of these aspects?

The Dalai Lama once quipped, I assume tongue at least partly in cheek, that the minds of deceased computer programmers might end up reincarnated in AI software rather than in new human bodies. The interesting notion underlying this quip is that, once certain structures and dynamics (certain patterns) are created in our spacetime continuum, these patterns connect with other patterns in the eurycosm. Serving as a conduit for reincarnation-type dynamics is one potential kind of connection, but not the only one and (I would guess) likely not the most common one.

It seems quite plausible that certain types of cognitive patterns, when they appear in our spacetime continuum, intrinsically have more resonance with the patterns in the near eurycosm.But it seems a big leap beyond this to assume that  that the cognitive patterns associated with biological brains necessarily have more near-eurycosm resonance than the cognitive patterns associated with AGI systems implemented on digital computers.  We have absolutely no reason to believe this at the present time.

It could be that the patterns in quantum-computing systems intrinsically have more resonance with the patterns in the near eurycosm, as compared with patterns in classical, digital computing systems. Yet, the nature of the “quantum versus classical” dichotomy is not that clear, once one factors in the intrinsic observer-dependence of systems in the quantum perspective, and the existence of “classical” type systems that are clearly best modeled as “quantum” systems from the perspective of various observers.

One thing I will suggest here is that it's not biological-ness or quantum-ness that  correlates with greater resonance with the eurycosm -- but rather, knottiness.

What Kinds of Patterns Tend to Display Morphic Resonance?

To the extent that morphic resonance is a good way to think about the eurycosmic dynamics of mind beyond our spacetime continuum, these questions are related to the question of what kinds of systems and patterns tend to partake in morphic resonance phenomena?

In this vein I am reminded that the great modern Buddhist systems biologist Francisco Varela once wrote a paper attempting to “debunk” morphic resonance by asking why a computation in a computer didn't get faster as it executed repeatedly in a loop. This direction struck me as odd when I encountered it, because according to my knowledge of Rupert Sheldrake, he would not predict morphic resonance to occur in digital computer programs ... he really seems to believes "biology is special"  (that is a paraphrase, not a quote from Sheldrake, btw).

But I wonder in what sense biology really is special? I suspect it may just be that "massive self-organizing complexity relative to the observer” is special, and that biological systems tend to have this property whereas current digital computer systems don't...

I.e. perhaps what is special about biological systems, in this context, is that a biological pattern generally occurs interwoven with a mix of many other biological patterns. Perhaps morphic resonance in biological systems generally has to do with resonance of a whole self-organizing network of patterns, not just one particular “resonating” pattern. 

Indeed, this would seem to follow from the concept of abstract mathematical "knots" as I have introduced previously.   Since a knot has the property that slightly strengthening one relationship involved in the knot tends to slightly strengthen the others as well -- it follows that when one relationship in a knot gets boosted via morphic resonance, others will get boosted too.   So a collection of relationships joined in a knot, if they all are morphically resonating a bit, will then collectively morphically resonate a bunch more.   In other words, it seems to follow logically that: Knottiness amplifies morphic resonance.

Interestingly, it would follow from this that: Morphic resonance is more likely to occur among patterns that are associated with a system's overall integrity and growth, not just with arbitrary patterns....  Because patterns regarding a system's overall integrity and growth tend to be tightly interwoven with each other.  This would (ironically enough) suggest that morphic resonance might be connected with autopoiesis or “self creation”, a key aspect of Varela's own approach to modeling biological systems.  Autopoiesis is all about knottiness.

In accordance with this line of thinking, I suspect that AGI systems -- which, if they are operating under limited resources, as is almost necessarily going to be the case if they are operating within this spacetime continuum, are going to involve knotty pattern-sets -- will grab whatever “beyond this spacetime continuum” mind-aspects are there for the grabbing, in the same way that biological intelligences do. This is certainly not proven definitively, and to validate or explore this idea will require us to create advanced AGIs, measure their knottiness, and experiment with them in various complex ways.

The alternative hypothesis that there are some sort of subtle mind dynamics that only biological systems can take part in, feels significantly less plausible to me...

The So-Called “Hard Problem of Consciousness”, and Related Subtler Aspects of Human and AGI Consciousness

This network of issues ties in somewhat with what philosopher David Chalmers has called the “hard problem of consciousness” – which is pretty much just “How does one connect the subjective experience of consciousness, the 'qualia' or raw feeling of having an experience, with the physical and cognitive patterns and structures associated with experience?”

To resolve this problem in a reasonably compelling way, one has to somehow ground both qualia and physical/cognitive patterns in some common substrate. The most typical ways to do this are

  • to classify qualia as in some sense “illusions” generated by certain physical/cognitive processes
  • to aver that “everything is experience”, so that qualia are the ground of being, and physical/cognitive structures are seen as emergent from systems of qualia

I am obviously much more sympathetic to the latter perspective; although, regarding the former, I do find it interesting and important that some physical/cognitive systems can sometimes generate structures and dynamics that are isomorphic to “a system having subjective experience.”

In the eurycosmic view, “consciousness” or experience is viewed as a basic property or aspect that is associated with every entity that exists. However, the subjective experience of a system is not necessarily atomic and indecomposable. It may have multiple internal aspects. The complexity of these internal aspects gives rise to "problems of consciousness" that are much subtler than the dilemma Chalmers calls the "hard problem" (which is hard only in that it bumps up hard against modern materialist ideology, I suppose).

For instance, it occurs to me that it's possible to perceive any given entity in more or less eurycosmic ways: For instance, I suggest that we can talk about

  • Mixed observation.   When an observing system (such as a person) perceives an entity (say, a rock) in this spacetime continuum, they are perceiving (to some degree) both the aspects of the rock inside the spacetime continuum, and also the aspects of the rock outside of spacetime, in the eurycosm.
  • Spacetime-focused observation.   When the observer's attention focuses on the relationship between the rock and other entities in their spacetime-resident aspects, the observer's attention is focused more and more fully on the spacetime continuum. The aspects of the rock resident in the rest of the eurycosm fade from attention.
  • Intension-focused observation.   When the observer's attention focuses more on the abstract relations characterizing the rock and its relationships to other things, then the observer is more thoroughly filling their mind with the kind of self-organizing pattern-cluster that resonates with the eurycosm. Thus their mind will tend to wander more thoroughly into near-eurycosm pattern networks.

So if one accepts that “everything is consciousness”, the “hard problem” as Chalmers identifies it becomes irrelevant – but one does have an isomorphic problem, which is the relation between experiencing some entity as mainly spacetime-continuum-embedded, and experiencing that same entity as a cluster of "intensional" patterns, which resonate relatively strongly with patterns in the near eurycosm (i.e. the intensional pattern-set associated with an entity overlaps this spacetime continuum, but this overlap is just part of its story). The shift between these two different modes of experiencing an entity can be emotionally and psychologically dislocating, yet is not fundamentally conceptually problematic.

And coming back to our original theme, it may be that some entities are more easily and naturally experienced in their spacetime-continuum-embedded aspects, whereas some are more easily and naturally experienced in their eurycosmically-networked aspects. Specifically, I suggest that

Hypothesis: pattern-networks that are complexly knotted relative to a certain observer, tend to be more naturally experienced in their intension-focused, richly eurycosmically-networked aspects.

A consequence of this hypothesis would be that AGIs, just like complex biological systems, would be best considered as richly "resonating" with associated pattern-sets in the near eurycosm.

Why would this hypothesis be true?  Because knots amplify morphic resonance.   If an observer is focused on the complexly knotted patterns of a certain system, then this observer is in some way mirroring these patterns in his own mind, and he is then going to resonate with the associates of these patterns in the near eurycosm.   I.e. the resonance of the knotted patterns will spill over into the observer's mind and the observer will find himself with one mental foot in the near eurycosm.

Of course, any entity may be taken as the center of a collection of complexly knotted patterns.   A rock is a simple experience, or the nexus of a complex web of mental and supra-mental knots, depending on how one happens to experience it.
Once one gets beyond conceptually trivial “problems of consciousness” that are made to seem hard only via irrational attachment to na├»ve materialistic philosophies, many genuinely tricky and subtle aspects of human and AGI consciousness present themselves!

(P.S. As a personal aside, I have to add that I find this stuff uncommonly difficult to write clearly about.   Coining the word "euryphysics" was useful to me but doesn't go very far.   Our whole vocabulary for discussing physics, cognition and so forth is just not well adapted for a euryphysical point of view.   To be at all accurate, I keep having to describe "fundamentally simple" things in complex and contorted ways.  I almost want to invent a whole new language for discussing this stuff.  But then nobody would understand that language, so it wouldn't really solve the communication problem in a practical sense.   A euryphysics focused vocabulary within Lojban would be great, but again, would only be useful for communicating with the probably-5-or-so people who like both Lojban and weird cosmic philosophy.   Oh well.)

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