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Roger Penrose On Why Consciousness Does Not Compute - Issue 47: Consciousness


Once you start poking around in the muck of consciousness studies, you will soon encounter the specter of Sir Roger Penrose, the renowned Oxford physicist with an audacious--and quite possibly crackpot--theory about the quantum origins of consciousness. He believes we must go beyond neuroscience and into the mysterious world of quantum mechanics to explain our rich mental life. No one quite knows what to make of this theory, developed with the American anesthesiologist Stuart Hameroff, but conventional wisdom goes something like this: Their theory is almost certainly wrong, but since Penrose is so brilliant ("One of the very few people I've met in my life who, without reservation, I call a genius," physicist Lee Smolin has said), we'd be foolish to dismiss their theory out of hand. Penrose, 85, is a mathematical physicist who made his name decades ago with groundbreaking work in general relativity and then, working with Stephen Hawking, helped conceptualize black holes and gravitational singularities, a point of infinite density out of which the universe may have formed. He also invented "twistor theory," a new way to connect quantum mechanics with the structure of spacetime. His discovery of certain geometric forms known as "Penrose tiles"--an ingenious design of non-repeating patterns--led to new directions of study in mathematics and crystallography. The breadth of Penrose's interests is extraordinary, which is evident in his recent book Fashion, Faith and Fantasy in the New Physics of the Universe--a dense 500-page tome that challenges some of the trendiest but still unproven theories in physics, from the multiple dimensions of string theory to cosmic inflation in the first moment of the Big Bang.

Global Bigdata Conference


News concerning Artificial Intelligence (AI) abounds again. The progress with Deep Learning techniques are quite remarkable with such demonstrations of self-driving cars, Watson on Jeopardy, and beating human Go players. This rate of progress has led some notable scientists and business people to warn about the potential dangers of AI as it approaches a human level. Exascale computers are being considered that would approach what many believe is this level. However, there are many questions yet unanswered on how the human brain works, and specifically the hard problem of consciousness with its integrated subjective experiences.

Sir Roger Penrose How can Consciousness Arise Within the Laws of Physics


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Artificial Intelligence or Artificial Expectations?


In this blog, I look at a recent review that suggests brain computations being done at a scale finer than the neuron might mean we are far from the computational, power both quantitatively and qualitatively. The review is by Roger Penrose (Oxford) and Stuart Hameroff (University of Arizona) on their journey through almost three decades of investigating the role of potential quantum aspects in neurons' microtubules. As a graduate student in 1989, I was intrigued when Penrose, a well-known mathematical physicist, published the book, "The Emperor's New Mind", outlining a hypothesis that consciousness derived from quantum physics effects during the transition from a superposition and entanglement of quantum states into a more classical configuration (the collapse or reduction of the wavefunction). He further suggested that this process, which has baffled generations of scientists, might occur only when a condition, based on the differences of gravitational energies of the possible outcomes, is met (i.e., Objective Reduction or OR). He then went another step in suggesting that the brain takes advantage of the this process to perform computations in parallel, with some intrinsic indeterminacy (non-computability), and over a larger integrated range by maintaining the quantum mix of microtubule configurations separated from the noisy warm environment until this reduction condition was met (i.e., Orchestrated Objective Reduction or Orch OR).

Does quantum theory explain human consciousness?

Daily Mail - Science & tech

A chess problem could help scientists finally unravel whether quantum theory can explain human consciousness. Sir Roger Penrose created the puzzle to prove the human mind can never be matched by a computer because it exhibits quantum effects. This means the brain doesn't follow the rules for the classical properties of matter, like a computer. Instead, it follows for a new concept of matter altogether that leaves cracks for consciousness and intuition to appear. Now, the Oxford university professor, who has set up a new institute, has invited everyday puzzle enthusiasts to pit their wits against the problem to test his theory.