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THE EDGE ANNUAL QUESTION - 2004:
"What's Your Law"


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"So now, into the breach comes John Brockman, the literary agent and gadfly, whose online scientific salon, Edge.org, has become one of the most interesting stopping places on the Web. He begins every year by posing a question to his distinguished roster of authors and invited guests. Last year he asked what sort of counsel each would offer George W. Bush as the nation's top science adviser. This time the question is "What's your law?"
"John Brockman, a New York literary agent, writer and impresario of the online salon Edge, figures it is time for more scientists to get in on the whole naming thing...As a New Year's exercise, he asked scores of leading thinkers in the natural and social sciences for "some bit of wisdom, some rule of nature, some law-like pattern, either grand or small, that you've noticed in the universe that might as well be named after you."
"John Brockman has posted an intriguing question on his Edge website. Brockman advises his would-be legislators to stick to the scientific disciplines."
"Everything answers to the rule of law. Nature. Science. Society. All of it obeys a set of codes...It's the thinker's challenge to put words to these unwritten rules. Do so, and he or she may go down in history. Like a Newton or, more recently, a Gordon Moore, who in 1965 coined the most cited theory of the technological age, an observation on how computers grow exponentially cheaper and more powerful... Recently, John Brockman went looking for more laws."

2003
"What are the pressing scientific issues for the nation and the world, and what is your advice on how I can begin to deal with them?"
"In 2002, he [Brockman] asked respondents to imagine that they had been nominated as White House science adviser and that President Bush had sought their answer to 'What are the pressing scientific issues for the nation and the world, and what is your advice on how I can begin to deal with them?'Here are excerpts of some of the responses. "
"Edge's combination of political engagement and blue-sky thinking makes stimulating reading for anyone seeking a glimpse into the next decade."
"Dear W: Scientists Offer
President Advice on Policy"
"There are 84 responses, ranging in topic from advanced nanotechnology to the psychology of foreign cultures, and lots of ideas regarding science, technology, politics, and education."

2002
"What's Your Question?"
"Brockman's thinkers of the 'Third Culture,' whether they, like Dawkins, study evolutionary biology at Oxford or, like Alan Alda, portray scientists on Broadway, know no taboos. Everything is permitted, and nothing is excluded from this intellectual game."
"The responses are generally written in an engaging, casual style (perhaps encouraged by the medium of e-mail), and are often fascinating and thought - provoking.... These are all wonderful, intelligent questions..."

2001—9/11
What Now?
  "We are interested in ‘thinking smart,'" declares Brockman on the site, "we are not interested in the anesthesiology of ‘wisdom.'"
"INSPIRED ARENA: Edge has been bringing together the world's foremost scientific thinkers since 1998, and the response to September 11 was measured and uplifting."

2001
"What Questions Have Disappeared?"
"Responses to this year's question are deliciously creative... the variety astonishes. Edge continues to launch intellectual skyrockets of stunning brilliance. Nobody in the world is doing what Edge is doing."
"Once a year, John Brockman of New York, a writer and literary agent who represents many scientists, poses a question in his online journal, The Edge, and invites the thousand or so people on his mailing list to answer it."

2000
"What Is Today's Most Important Unreported Story?"
"Don't assume for a second that Ted Koppel, Charlie Rose and the editorial high command at the New York Times have a handle on all the pressing issues of the day.... a lengthy list of profound, esoteric and outright entertaining responses.

1999
"What Is The Most Important Invention In The Past Two Thousand Years?"
"A terrific, thought provoking site."
"The Power of Big Ideas"
"The Nominees for Best Invention Of the Last Two Millennia Are . . ."
"...Thoughtful and often surprising answers ....a fascinating survey of intellectual and creative wonders of the world ..... Reading them reminds me of how wondrous our world is." — Bill Gates, New York Times Syndicated Column

1998
"What Questions Are You Asking Yourself?"
"A site that has raised electronic discourse on the Web to a whole new level.... Genuine learning seems to be going on here."
"To mark the first anniversary of [Edge], Brockman posed a question: 'Simply reading the six million volumes in the Widener Library does not necessarily lead to a complex and subtle mind," he wrote, referring to the Harvard library. "How to avoid the anesthesiology of wisdom?' "
"Home to often lively, sometimes obscure and almost always ambitious discussions."



Contributors

Izumi Aizu

Alan Alda

Ivan Amato

Alun Anderson

Chris Anderson

Philip W. Anderson

Charles Arthur

W. Brian Arthur

Scott Atran

Robert Aunger

Albert-László Barabási

Simon Baron-Cohen

Samuel Barondes

Julian Barbour

John Barrow

David Berreby

Gregory Benford

Jamshed Bharucha

Susan Blackmore

Colin Blakemore

Adam Bly

Stewart Brand

Rodney Brooks

David Bunnell

David Buss

William Calvin

Philip Campbell

Leo Chalupa

Andy Clark

Helena Cronin

Garniss Curtis

Antonio Damasio

Paul Davies

Richard Dawkins

Stanislas Dehaene

Daniel C. Dennett

David Deutsch

Art De Vany

Keith Devlin

Niels Diffrient

K. Eric Drexler

Esther Dyson

Freeman Dyson

George Dyson

Brian Eno

Jeffrey Epstein

Nancy Etcoff

Dylan Evans

Paul Ewald

David Finkelstein

Christine Finn

Howard Gardner

David Gelernter

Neil Gershenfeld

Gerd Gigerenzer

Daniel Gilbert

Mike Godwin

Beatrice Golomb

Brian Goodwin

Alison Gopnik

Steve Grand

Stuart Hameroff

Haim Harari

Judith Rich Harris

Marc D. Hauser

Marti Hearst

W. Daniel Hillis

Gerald Holton

Donald Hoffman

John Horgan

Verena Huber-Dyson

Nicholas Humphrey

Mark Hurst

Piet Hut

Arthur R. Jensen

Raphael Kasper

Stuart Kauffman

Kevin Kelly

Art Kleiner

Steven Kosslyn

Kai Krause

Andrian Kreye

Ray Kurzweil

George Lakoff

Jaron Lanier

Edward O. Laumann

Steven Levy

Sara Lippincott

Steve Lohr

Seth Lloyd

David Lykken

John McWhorter

John Maddox

Gary Marcus

John Markoff

Pamela McCorduck

Geoffrey Miller

Marvin Minsky

Mark Mirsky

Howard Morgan

Michael Nesmith

David G. Myers

Randoph Nesse

Richard Nisbett

Tor Nørretranders

James J. O'Donnell

Jay Ogilvy

Dennis Overbye

John Allan Paulos

Irene Pepperberg

Clifford Pickover

Stuart Pimm

Steven Pinker

Jordan Pollack

Ernst Pöppel

William Poundstone

Robert Provine

Eduard Punset

Steve Quartz

Richard Rabkin

Lisa Randall

Eric S. Raymond

Martin Rees

John Rennie

Howard Rheingold

Matt Ridley

Rudy Rucker

Paul Ryan

Scott Sampson

Robert Sapolsky

Roger Schank

Gino Segre

Charles Seife

Terrence Sejnowski

Al Seckel

Rupert Sheldrake

Michael Shermer

Todd Siler

Charles Simonyi

John Skoyles

Lee Smolin

Allan Snyder

Dan Sperber

Maria Spiropulu

Paul Steinhardt

Bruce Sterling

Steven Strogatz

Leonard Susskind

Nassim Taleb

Frank Tipler

Joseph Traub

Arnold Trehub

Carlo Rovelli

Douglas Rushkoff

Karl Sabbagh

Timothy Taylor

Sherry Turkle

Yossi Vardi

J. Craig Venter

Henry Warwick

Delta Willis

Dave Winer

Eberhard Zangger

Anton Zeilinger


Albert-László Barabási

Barabási's Law of Programming


Program development ends when the program does what you expect it to do—whether it is correct or not.


Sara Lippincott

Lippincott's Law

God is evolving. So if you're an atheist, you'd better hope that the arrow of time only goes in one direction.


Dennis Overbye

Overbye's Law

"There's always a faster gun."


William Poundstone

Poundstone's First Law


Independent discoverers of great ideas emerge in proportion to the time spent looking for them. The history of science is a fractal, with co-discoverers emerging like crinkles in the Norwegian coastline.

Poundstone's Second Law

The fractal dimension of scientific discovery increases with time. Where people once marveled at the simultaneous discovery of calculus, we now marvel when a Nobel science prize goes to one person.


David Berreby

Berreby's First Law

Human kinds exist only in human minds.

Human differences and human similarities are infinite, therefore any assortment of people can be grouped together according to a shared trait or divided according to unshared traits. Our borders of race, ethnicity, nation, religion, class etc. are not, then, facts about the world. They are facts about belief. We should look at minds, not kinds, if we want to understand this phenomenon.

Berreby's Second Law

Science which seems to confirm human-kind beliefs is always welcome; science that undermines human-kind belief is always unpopular.

To put it more cynically, if your work lets people believe there are "Jewish genes'" (never mind that the same genes are found in Palestinians) or that criminals have different kinds of brains from regular people (never mind that regular people get arrested all the time), or that your ancestors 5,000 years ago lived in the same neck of the woods as you (never mind the whereabouts of all your other ancestors), well then, good press will be yours. On the other hand, if your work shows how thoroughly perceptions of race, ethnicity, and other traits change with circumstances, well, good luck. Common sense will defend itself against science.


Steve Lohr

Lohr's Law

The future is merely the past with a twist—and better tools.

Gerd Gigerenzer

Gigerenzer's Law of Indispensable Ignorance

The world cannot function without partially ignorant people.

The ideal of omniscience fuels the many disciplines and theories that envision godlike humans. Much of cognitive science, and Homo economics as well, assume the superiority of a mind with complete, veridical representations of the outside world that remain stable and available throughout a lifetime. The Law of Indispensable Ignorance, in contrast, says that complete information is neither realistic nor generally desirable. What is desirable are partially (not totally) ignorant people.

Justice is blindfolded; jurors are not supposed to know the criminal record of the defendant; trial consultants hunt for "virgin minds" rather than academics as jurors. Academics in turn review papers anonymously under the veil of ignorance about the authors; trust in experiments demands double-blind procedures; economic fairness encourages sealed bids. The efficient market hypothesis implies that knowledge of future stock prices is impossible, and the Greek skeptics taught their students that they knew nothing.

When watching a pre-recorded football game, we do not want to know the result in advance; knowledge would destroy suspense. The estimated 5 to 10% of children and their fathers who falsely believe that they are related might not lead a happier life by becoming less ignorant; knowledge can destroy families. And few of us would want to know the day we will die; knowledge can destroy hope.

Zero-intelligence traders who submitted random bids and offers in double auctions were as good as experts. Pedestrians who chose stocks by mere name recognition outperformed market experts and the Fidelity Growth Fund--and even more successfully when they were from abroad and more ignorant of the stock names. Expert ball players made better decisions about where to pass the ball when they had less time. Recreational tennis players who had only heard of half of the professional players in Wimbledon 2003 and simply bet that those they had not heard of would lose predicted the outcomes of the matches better than the official ATP-rankings and the seeding. Adam Smith's invisible hand is a metaphor for how collective wisdom emerges from the uninformed masses.

We can prove that situations exist in which a group does best by following its most ignorant member rather than the consensus of their informed majority, and we can prove that a heuristic that ignores all information except for one reason will make better predictions than a multiple regression with a dozen reasons. Mnemonists, who have virtually unlimited memory, are swamped by details and find it difficult to abstract and reason, while ordinary people's working memory limitations maximize the ability to detect correlations in the world. Limited memory facilitates acquisition of language, in infants and computers alike; the more complex the species, the longer the period of infancy.

Theories that respect the Law of Indispensable Ignorance incorporate a more realistic picture of people as being partially ignorant. Omniscience is dispensable.


John Markoff

Markoff's Law of Inversion

Technology once trickled down from supercomputers to PCs. Now new computing technology comes to game machines first.

Corollary

The companies who make the fastest computers are the ones that make things that go under Xmas trees.


Martin Rees

Rees's Law

As cosmological theories advance, they will draw more concepts from biology.

The part of the universe astronomers can observe is probably only a tiny part of the aftermath of 'our' big bang, which in turn may be one of an infinity of 'bangs' in which the physics may be very different from in ours. To analyze how our own cosmic habitat relates to this ensemble, we'll need to draw on concepts from ecology and evolutionary biology ('fitness landscapes', etc).

So we'll need biological ideas to understand the beginning. But biology may control the far future too. In some 'universes' (ours perhaps among them) life can eventually become pervasive and powerful enough to renders the dynamics of the cosmic future as unpredictable as that of an organism or mind.


Nicholas Humphrey

Humphrey's Law of the Efficacy of Prayer

In a dangerous world there will always be more people around whose prayers for their own safety have been answered than those whose prayers have not.

[Think about it.]


Yossi Vardi

Vardi's Law

Experts predictions are always correct.

1. A certain portion of all predictions made by experts will be correct.
2. Human memory is short.
3. Make lot of forecasts, most of the people will remember the correct ones.
4. A good hedge: make contradictory predictions with intervals between them.


Art Kleiner

Kleiner's Law

Every organization always operates on behalf of the perceived needs and priorities of some core group of key people. This purpose will trump every other organizational loyalty, including those to shareholders, employees, customers, and other constituents.


Mark Hurst

Hurst's Law

Any unbounded bitstream tends to irrelevance.

Bits are so easy to create, copy, and send that without some filtering process, the worth of the entire bitstream decays
rapidly. A good example is the e-mail inbox. Many e-mail users have no discipline about deleting or filtering their mail, and thus the bits that flow in—spam and legitimate mail together—clutter the inbox to an extent that the worth of the inbox overall tends to zero.

Stated another way, the worth of a bitstream is proportional to the accuracy and usage of the filters and meta-bits applied to the bitstream.


K. Eric Drexler

Drexler's First Law

Physical technology evolves toward limits set by physical law.

Drexler's Second Law

A technology approaching the limits set by physical law must build with atomic precision.


Beatrice Golomb

Golomb 's Law

Everything in biology is more complicated than you think it is, even taking into account Golomb's Law.


Clifford Pickover

Pickover 's Law of Mutating Conjectures

I am having difficulty formulating a law to give you. Through the millennia, even the most brilliant minds rarely generated great and profound "laws." Probably every "law" ever made had been broken or will crumble after a time. Perhaps Edge is asking the wrong question. Knowledge moves in an ever-expanding, upward-pointing funnel. From the rim, we look down and see previous knowledge from a new perspective as new theories are formed. Today's conjectures mutate, new theories evolve, and yesterday's impossibilities become part of everyday life.


Howard Morgan

Morgan's First Law

To a first approximation, no deals close. 

Morgan's Second Law

To a first approximation all appointments are canceled.

Morgan's Third Law

Events of probability zero happen—they are the ones that change the world.

These laws are actually the engineering approximations to life.


Al Seckel

Seckel's First Law

Visual Perception is Essentially an Ambiguity Solving Process.

Most of us take vision for granted. After all, it comes to us so easily. With normal vision we are able to navigate quickly and efficiently through a visually rich three-dimensional world of light, shading, texture, and color—a complex world in motion, with objects of different sizes at differing distances. Looking about we have a definite sense of the "real world".

In fact, our visual system is so successful at building an accurate representation of the real world (our perception) that most of us do not realize what a difficult task our brain is performing. Without conscious thought, our visual system gathers and interprets complex information, providing us with a seamless perception of our environment. The complexities of how we perceive are cleverly concealed by a successful visual system.

It might seem reasonable for us to assume that there is a one-to-one mapping between the real world and what you perceive—that your visual system "sees" the retinal image, in much the way that a digital camera records what it "sees."

Although it seems like a useful analogy, there is no real comparison between our visual system and a camera beyond a strictly surface level. Furthermore, this comparison trivializes the accomplishments of our visual system. This is because a camera records incoming information, but our brain interprets incoming information. Furthermore, it feels to us as if a photograph reproduces a three-dimensional world, but it doesn't. It only suggests one. The same visual system that interprets the world around us also interprets the photograph to make it appear as a three-dimensional scene.

Our perceptions are not always perfect. Sometimes our brain will interpret a static image on the retina in more than one way. A skeleton cube, known as a Necker cube, is a classic example of a single image that is interpreted in more than one way. If you fixate on this cube for any length of time, it will spontaneously reverse in depth, even though the image on the retina remains constant. Our brain interprets this image differently because of conflicting depth cues.

The great 19th century German physicist and physiologist Hermann Von Helmholtz first discovered the basic problem of perception over one hundred years ago. He correctly reasoned that the visual information from our world that is projected onto the back of the retina is spatially ambiguous. Helmholtz reasoned that there can be an infinite variety of shapes that can give rise to the same retinal image, as long as they subtend the same visual angle to the eye.

However, the concept of visual ambiguity is far deeper than what Helmholtz originally proposed, because it turns out that any one aspect of visual information, such as brightness, color, motion, etc, could have arisen from infinitely many different conditions. It is very hard to appreciate this fact at first, because what we perceive in a normal viewing environment is not at all ambiguous.

If all visual stimuli are inherently ambiguous, how does our visual/perceptual system discard the infinite variety of possible conditions to settle on the correct interpretation almost all the time, and in such a quick and efficient manner? The problem basically stated is, how does the visual system "retrieve" all of the visual information about the 3D world from the very limited information contained in the 2D retinal image? This is a basic and central question of perception.

Studying the visual system only at one level will never result in a full understanding of visual perception. Many of the underlying mechanisms that mediate vision may be even "messier" than previously thought, with cross-feedback from more than one level of visual processing contributing to processing at another level. UCSD vision scientist V.S. Ramachandran is correct when he believes that it is time to "open the black box in order to study the responses of nerve cells," but he is also probably right to promote his Utilitarian Theory of Perception, which argues for a clever "bag of tricks" that the human visual system has evolved over millions of years of evolution to resolve the inherent ambiguities in the visual image. Visual perception is largely an ambiguity-solving process.

The task of vision scientists, therefore, is to uncover these hidden and underlying constraints, rather than to attribute to the visual system a degree of simplicity that it simply does not possess.

Seckel's Second Law

Our Visual/Perceptual System is Highly Constrained.

Sometimes our perceptions are wrong. Often these errors have been classified as illusions, dismissed by many as failures of the visual system, quirky exceptions to normal vision.

If illusions are not failures of the visual system, then, what are they? After all, we do categorize a number of different perceptual experiences as "illusions". What makes them fundamentally different than those we perceive as normal?

One difference is a noticeable split between your perception and conception. With an illusion, your perception is fooled but your conception is correct—you're seeing something wrong (your mis perception), but you know it's wrong (your correct conception). Initially, your conception may be fooled too, but at that point you are unaware that you are encountering an illusion. It is only when your conception is at odds with your perception that you are aware that you have encountered an illusion.

Furthermore, in almost all pictorial illusions (where the meaning of the image is not ambiguous), your perceptions will continue to be fooled, even though your conception is fine, no matter how many times you view the illusion. It does not matter how old you are, how smart you are, how cultured you are, or how artistic you are, you will continue to be fooled by these illusions over and over again. In fact, you cannot "undo" your incorrect perceptions, even with extended experiences, worldly knowledge, or training. It is more important for your visual system to adhere to these constraints than to violate them because it has encountered something unusual, inconsistent, or paradoxical. This indicates that your visual/perceptual system is highly constrained on how it interprets the world.

It is not my intention to cause the reader to think that visual perception is unreliable and untrustworthy. This would be a mistake as, for the most part, our perceptions of the world are veridical. However, how we perceive the world is not a mirror image of reality, but an actively and intelligently constructed one that allows us to have the best chances for survival in a complicated environment.


Rudy Rucker

Rucker's Law of Morphogenesis

Most biological, social, and psychological systems are based on interactions between an activator and an inhibitor. The patterns which emerge depend upon the relative rates at which the activator and inhibitor spread. Three main cases occur, depending on whether the activator's diffusion rate is much less than, roughly equal to, or greater than the rate at which the inhibition spreads. In these three cases we observe, respectively, isolated patches like zebra stripes or leopard spots, moving complex patterns like Belusov-Zhabontinsky scrolls, or seething chaos. Applying this to the activator-inhibitor patterns in the human brain, if you inhibit new thoughts, you are left with a few highly stimulated patches: obsessions and fixed ideas. If you manage to create new thought associations at about the same rate you inhibit them, you develop creative complexity. And too high a rate of activation leads to unproductive mania. Exercise: apply this notion to spread of good and bad news in society.


Delta Willis

Delta's Law

There are three sides to every story.

The Greek letter delta is a symbol for change in formulas. This triangle can be taken personally to create a philosophy that can be used as laws. For example, the 3 points of a triangle create a possibility space for change. Two points in a debate provide nothing more than a tyranny of dichotomies, whereas adding a third possibility is always more interesting, and closer to the true complexity of life. This rule of favoring 3s instead of 2s also works in any design to please the eye, such as three pictures on a wall instead of two. A couple become more interesting when they go beyond their own twosome to create a third focal point, whether a child, a book or a business. As Yale paleontologist Dolf Seilacher put it, Symmetry is boring. The next time you are confronted with only two choices, create a third, and see the possibility space expand.


Paul Steinhardt

Steinhardt's Law

Good science creates two challenging puzzles for each puzzle it resolves.

Corollary 1

Contrary to some prognostications, science is not coming to an end. Good science is growing every day.

Corollary 2

The Anthropic Principle does not resolve any puzzles and creates no new ones. Hence, ...

(Exercise left for the reader—fill in the blank. For hint, see Steinhardt's Law.)


Eduard Punset

Punset's First Law

If fully conscious, don´t trust your brain.

The brain is very good at managing automated, unconscious processes such as breathing, digesting or transpiring. But so far neuroscience has not produced the slightest evidence that flipping a coin to decide on important matters such as marriage, taking up a job, or traveling is any worst than a formal, conscious, discriminatory decision made by the brain. This should not surprise anybody. If we leave aside the individual brain, and look at the evolution of social primates as a whole, few would question that the history of civilization equals the history of successive and cumulative automatization in fields such as agriculture, industry or information. Why should it be different for the individual brain?

Punset's Second Law

When in doubt, please ask Nature, not people. After all, this is the stuff scientists are made of.

This Law has to do with Darwinian Theory and Business Practice. There is a huge amount of money to be made by just applying basic science to ordinary business. In the Universe as a whole—according to Physics—95% of reality is invisible. Most businessmen, however, are convinced that 95% of what is going on in their firms, workshops or projects can be seen at first sight. No wonder that it takes on average over three failures for an innovation to succeed.


Terrence Sejnowski

Sejnowski's Law

For every important function that a cell needs to carry out Nature has created a gadget to make it more efficient.

(Gadgets are macromolecular complexes made from proteins, RNA, and DNA and often have hundreds of parts.)


Leo Chalupa

Chalupa's First Law

No matter how good or bad things are at any given point in time (in science as in life), remember that "this too shall pass."

This is key for attaining longevity in this business... people who "violate" or are unaware of this rule are doomed to failure. In other words, it is vitally important how one deals with success and failure in doing cutting edge science. Failure is the rule even among the most successful working scientists (since 90% of grant application are typically rejected and the top journals reject even a higher percentage); and with respect to success, in all but a few exceptional cases, institutional memory is exceedingly fleeting (i.e., yesterday's superstars are unrecognized by today's grad students, postdocs, junior faculty). So you've got to keep pitching if you want to stay in the science game.

Chalupa's Second Law

Don't underestimate the importance of fashion in doing science.

Another key for success in science...if you're too far ahead of the herd (with very few exception) you're not going to get funded by NIH/NSF or published in the premier journals. This is in spite of the fact that they claim that they fund innovative research. Anyone who has spend as much time on grant review committees as I have will recognize the power of this rule. In other words, there is a price to pay for originality and every working scientist knows this is the case.


Stuart Hameroff

Hameroff's Law

The sub-conscious mind is to consciousness what the quantum world is to the classical world.

The vast majority of brain activity is non-conscious; consciousness is "the tip of an iceberg" of neural activity. Yet the threshold for transition from pre-, non-, or sub-conscious processes into conscious awareness is unknown. The sub-conscious mind as revealed in dreams has been described by Matte Blanco as a place where "paradox reigns, and opposites merge to sameness". Reality is seemingly described by two separate sets of laws. In our everyday classical world, Newton's laws and Maxwell's equations accurately portray reality. However at small scales, the bizarre laws of quantum mechanics rule: particles are distorted in space and time (uncertainty), exist in multiple states or locations simultaneously (superposition) and remain connected in opposite states over distance (nonlocal entanglement). In the quantum world "paradox reigns and opposites merge to sameness".

The boundary, or threshold between the quantum and classical worlds (i.e. quantum state reduction, collapse of the wave function, measurement, decoherence) remains mysterious. Early quantum theorists attributed reduction/collapse to observation: "consciousness collapses the wave function". Modern physics attributes reduction/collapse to any interaction with the classical environment ("decoherence"). Neither solves the problem of isolated quantum superpositions which are nonetheless useful in quantum computation.

In quantum computation, information may be represented as isolated superpositions (e.g. as quantum bits—"qubits"—of both 1 AND 0) which interact/compute by nonlocal entanglement, and eventually reduce/collapse to classical solutions.

Based on a 1989 suggestion by Sir Roger Penrose, he and I have put forth a specific model of consciousness involving quantum computation in microtubules within the brain's neurons. Superpositions of multiple possible pre-/sub-conscious perceptions or choices reach threshold for self-collapse (by Roger's "objective reduction" due to properties of fundamental spacetime geometry), and select/reduce to particular classical perceptions or choices. Each reduction is a conscious event, a series of which gives a "stream of consciousness".

The main scientific objection to our proposal has been that the brain is too warm for quantum computation which in the technological realm seems to require ultra cold temperatures to avoid thermal decoherence. However recent evidence shows that quantum processes in biological molecules are enhanced by increased temperature. Evolution has had billion of years to solve the problem of decoherence. Consciousness may be a particular form of quantum state reduction: a process on the edge between the quantum and classical worlds.


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