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Researcher: A “chemical brain” will solve the hard problem of consciousness

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Because silicon can’t, says chemist:

WHEN Lee Cronin was 9 he was given a Sinclair ZX81 computer and a chemistry set. Unlike most children, Cronin imagined how great it would be if the two things could be combined to make a programmable chemical computer.

Now 45 and the Regius Chair of Chemistry at the University of Glasgow, Cronin leads a research team of more than 50 people, but his childhood obsessions remain. He is constructing chemical brains, and has ambitions to create artificial life – using a radical new approach. Rowan Hooper, “Why creating a chemical brain will be how we understand consciousness” at New Scientist (paywall)

The problem with consciousness is not that we don’t understand how it originates but that we don’t even know what it is. The best explanation I (O’Leary for News) ever heard was: It is like looking into and out of a window at the same time. Possibly, the chemical brain will have an advantage in doing so. We will see.

See also: Post-modern science: The illusion of consciousness sees through itself

From Scientific American: “we may all be alters—dissociated personalities— of universal consciousness.”


Is artificial intelligence taking over? Or is a fashionable panic afoot?

7 Replies to “Researcher: A “chemical brain” will solve the hard problem of consciousness

  1. 1
    AaronS1978 says:

    From my understanding of chemical computers they are still using it silicon interface which is still required to do the computations. Although I might agree with him that you will not find consciousness in silicon, I am hard-pressed to think that there’s anyway to find consciousness in anything other than a living organism. And effectively what he saying is he is going to create life in a lab and prove his point.

    The first parts of the article seem to be way too much about how he such a brilliant individual and his parents had a hard time trying to deal with his incredible intelligence and his ability to make it difficult for others to do laundry.

  2. 2
    PaoloV says:

    “The problem with consciousness is not that we don’t understand how it originates but that we don’t even know what it is.”


  3. 3
    polistra says:

    It won’t do anything for consciousness, but it could move closer to live neural processes. As long as AI sticks with digital software it won’t get anywhere.

  4. 4
    bornagain77 says:

    It is interesting to note how often supposedly really smart people are the very same people who gullibly believe the most absurd things. (i.e. multiverses, parallel universes, Darwinian evolution, etc.. etc..),,,

    Like for instance the completely absurd and gullible belief, highlighted in the headline, (“A “chemical brain” will solve the hard problem of consciousness”), that consciousness is somehow reducible to really complex computing and/or to really complex chemistry.

    “No experiment has ever demonstrated the genesis of consciousness from matter. One might as well believe that rabbits emerge from magicians’ hats. Yet this vaporous possibility, this neuro-mythology, has enchanted generations of gullible scientists, in spite of the fact that there is not a shred of direct evidence to support it.”
    – Larry Dossey – Physician and author

    Despite how they, (i.e. really smart people), may try, (with really big words), to dance around this simple fact, the plain fact of the matter is that consciousness is not, and can never be, derivative from some material substrate, but consciousness itself must be the primary substratum from which everything else is derived.

    The founders of quantum mechanics, and others, put this ‘obvious’ and simple fact like this.

    “No, I regard consciousness as fundamental. I regard matter as derivative from consciousness. We cannot get behind consciousness. Everything that we talk about, everything that we regard as existing, postulates consciousness.”
    Max Planck (1858–1947), the main founder of quantum theory, The Observer, London, January 25, 1931

    “Consciousness cannot be accounted for in physical terms. For consciousness is absolutely fundamental. It cannot be accounted for in terms of anything else.”
    Schroedinger, Erwin. 1984. “General Scientific and Popular Papers,” in Collected Papers, Vol. 4. Vienna: Austrian Academy of Sciences. Friedr. Vieweg & Sohn, Braunschweig/Wiesbaden. p. 334.

    “In any philosophy of reality that is not ultimately self-defeating or internally contradictory, mind – unlabeled as anything else, matter or spiritual – must be primary. What is “matter” and what is “conceptual” and what is “spiritual” can only be organized from mind. Mind controls what is perceived, how it is perceived, and how those percepts are labeled and organized. Mind must be postulated as the unobserved observer, the uncaused cause simply to avoid a self-negating, self-conflicting worldview. It is the necessary postulate of all necessary postulates, because nothing else can come first. To say anything else comes first requires mind to consider and argue that case and then believe it to be true, demonstrating that without mind, you could not believe that mind is not primary in the first place.”
    – William J. Murray

    He goes toe-to-toe with science big wigs… and so far he’s undefeated. – interview
    Dr. Bernardo Kastrup: You see we always start from the fact that we are conscious. Consciousness is the only carrier of reality and existence that we can know. Everything else is abstraction; [they] are inferences we make from consciousness.

    Of related note to that plain and ‘simple’ fact is the fact that consciousness and free will are axioms within quantum mechanics.

    What Does Quantum Physics Have to Do with Free Will? – By Antoine Suarez – July 22, 2013
    Excerpt: What is more, recent experiments are bringing to light that the experimenter’s free will and consciousness should be considered axioms (founding principles) of standard quantum physics theory. So for instance, in experiments involving “entanglement” (the phenomenon Einstein called “spooky action at a distance”), to conclude that quantum correlations of two particles are nonlocal (i.e. cannot be explained by signals traveling at velocity less than or equal to the speed of light), it is crucial to assume that the experimenter can make free choices, and is not constrained in what orientation he/she sets the measuring devices.
    To understand these implications it is crucial to be aware that quantum physics is not only a description of the material and visible world around us, but also speaks about non-material influences coming from outside the space-time
    Also of related note to the fact that consciousness and free will are axioms within quantum mechanics is the fact that chemistry itself does not just simply ’emerge’ out of quantum mechanics.

    also see:

    Quantum mechanics: Pushing the “free-will loophole” back to 7.8 billion years ago – September 14, 2018

    Moreover, chemistry itself, (and the periodic table in particular), despite what may be popularly believed even among scientists themselves, simply is not ’emergent’ from quantum mechanics:

    Super-Saturated Chemistry – Marc Henry – Professor of Chemistry, Materials Science and Quantum Physics – Dec. 2016
    Excerpt: Physics claims to be the unique science of matter. All of the other sciences, physicists believe, are special cases of general relativity and quantum mechanics. It is this position of presumptive supremacy that drives the quest for a Theory of Everything.,,,
    Yet quantum mechanics cannot explain the periodic table of elements.,,,
    Even though Schrödinger’s equation gives a good account of simple systems, no inference is possible to more complex systems. An additional inductive step is necessary.12 With multi-electron systems, approximations must be made and validated by comparison with experiment, not through theory.13 It is a quite remarkable form of empirical mathematics.
    The quantities that interest chemists do not appear in Schrödinger’s equation,,,
    ,,,, The chemist is an artist of sorts, close in his own way to the mathematician, who is also able to create his own objects.3 Only their tools differ. Chemical activity produces about one million new molecules every year. In 1984, there were about ten million molecules; in 2015, one hundred million.4

    In fact when Godel’s incompleteness theorem was applied to the physics of quantum mechanics it was found that, besides chemistry itself, any macroscopic characteristic Darwinists might want to explain in, or of, the universe, (such as supposedly ’emergent’ consciousness from chemistry), was not reducible to their reductive materialistic framework.

    In the following article entitled ‘Quantum physics problem proved unsolvable’, which studied the derivation of macroscopic properties from a complete microscopic description, the researchers remark that even a perfect and complete description of the microscopic properties of a material is not enough to predict its macroscopic behaviour.,,, The researchers further commented that their findings challenge the reductionists’ point of view, as the insurmountable difficulty lies precisely in the derivation of macroscopic properties from a microscopic description.”

    Quantum physics problem proved unsolvable: Gödel and Turing enter quantum physics – December 9, 2015
    Excerpt: A mathematical problem underlying fundamental questions in particle and quantum physics is provably unsolvable,,,
    It is the first major problem in physics for which such a fundamental limitation could be proven. The findings are important because they show that even a perfect and complete description of the microscopic properties of a material is not enough to predict its macroscopic behaviour.,,,
    “We knew about the possibility of problems that are undecidable in principle since the works of Turing and Gödel in the 1930s,” added Co-author Professor Michael Wolf from Technical University of Munich. “So far, however, this only concerned the very abstract corners of theoretical computer science and mathematical logic. No one had seriously contemplated this as a possibility right in the heart of theoretical physics before. But our results change this picture. From a more philosophical perspective, they also challenge the reductionists’ point of view, as the insurmountable difficulty lies precisely in the derivation of macroscopic properties from a microscopic description.”

    Thus since consciousness and free will are to be considered axioms within quantum mechanics and yet the macroscopic property of chemistry, (or any other macroscopic property of the universe you may wish to explain), is not ’emergent’ from quantum mechanics, then it directly follows that consciousness can never be emergent from chemistry.

    Of related note to all this, the chemistry of the universe itself gives every indication that it itself was intelligently deigned by the Mind of God specifically so that the universe could host life, and could host human life in particular.

    Michael Denton’s Privileged Species Premieres in Seattle to a Packed House – November 14, 2014
    Excerpt: If life exists elsewhere (in the universe), its home would remind us of Earth and the aliens would reminds us of ourselves. The periodic table, so wonderfully concise, is a recipe for us. Oh, and for our way of life too. While focusing on the unique properties of water, carbon, and oxygen, Denton shows that the chemical elements appear beautifully structured to allow the development of technology, from our use of fire to the rise of computers.
    He emphasizes that this “stunning series of coincidences” is not a matter of scientific controversy, and in fact represents the great scientific discovery of the past century. It’s a matter of fact, not interpretation.
    Denton observed that properties of nature uniquely fit for life continue to be discovered regularly and he offered the prediction that in the upcoming century scientists will uncover more and more.

    Privileged Species – video (2015)

    The Place of Life and Man in Nature: Defending the Anthropocentric Thesis – Michael J. Denton – February 25, 2013
    Summary (page 11)
    Many of the properties of the key members of Henderson’s vital ensemble —water, oxygen, CO2, HCO3 —are in several instances fit specifically for warm-blooded, air-breathing organisms such as ourselves. These include the thermal properties of water, its low viscosity, the gaseous nature of oxygen and CO2 at ambient temperatures, the inertness of oxygen at ambient temperatures, and the bicarbonate buffer, with its anomalous pKa value and the elegant means of acid-base regulation it provides for air-breathing organisms. Some of their properties are irrelevant to other classes of organisms or even maladaptive.
    It is very hard to believe there could be a similar suite of fitness for advanced carbon-based life forms. If carbon-based life is all there is, as seems likely, then the design of any active complex terrestrial being would have to closely resemble our own. Indeed the suite of properties of water, oxygen, and CO2 together impose such severe constraints on the design and functioning of the respiratory and cardiovascular systems that their design, even down to the details of capillary and alveolar structure can be inferred from first principles. For complex beings of high metabolic rate, the designs actualized in complex Terran forms are all that can be. There are no alternative physiological designs in the domain of carbon-based life that can achieve the high metabolic activity manifest in man and other higher organisms.

    “If you wanted to produce carbon and oxygen in roughly equal quantities by stellar nucleosynthesis, these are the two levels you would have to fix, and your fixing would have to be just where these levels are actually found to be. Another put-up job? Following the above argument, I am inclined to think so. A common sense interpretation of the facts suggests that a superintellect has monkeyed with physics, as well as with chemistry and biology, and that there are no blind forces worth speaking about in nature.”
    Hoyle, Fred (1982) The Universe: Past and Present Reflections. Annual Review of Astronomy and Astrophysics 20: 1-35.


    Romans 1:20-22
    For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.
    For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools

  5. 5
    mike1962 says:

    Chemicals in a certain relation are my conscious experience of “blue?” No reason to accept this. Sounds like more buzzword pop “science” for the gullible.

  6. 6
    kairosfocus says:

    News, Haldane answered this decisively ninety years ago:

    “It seems to me immensely unlikely that mind is a mere by-product of matter. For if my mental processes are determined wholly by the motions of atoms in my brain I have no reason to suppose that my beliefs are true. They may be sound chemically, but that does not make them sound logically. And hence I have no reason for supposing my brain to be composed of atoms. In order to escape from this necessity of sawing away the branch on which I am sitting, so to speak, I am compelled to believe that mind is not wholly conditioned by matter.” [“When I am dead,” in Possible Worlds: And Other Essays [1927], Chatto and Windus: London, 1932, reprint, p.209. (NB: DI Fellow, Nancy Pearcey brings this right up to date (HT: ENV) in a current book, Finding Truth.)]


  7. 7
    EricMH says:

    If consciousness could be reduced to a physical process, then we can duplicate the process and someone could be conscious of being in two different locations instantaneously and achieve faster than light information transmission.

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