Emergence PITP workshop May 15-18, 2005 Vancouver, BC. Semantic Transmission and the Emergent Mind Antony Crofts Department of Biochemistry University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
May 15-18, 2005Vancouver, BC
and the Emergent Mind
Department of Biochemistry
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
A more complete account, with links, but without pictures is available at http://www.life.uiuc.edu/crofts/papers/Life_information_entropy_and_time.html.
(At this point, the audience was asked to close their eyes; the speaker then said “We are such stuff as dreams are made of, and our little life is rounded with a sleep”. The audience was then asked to consider what had come into their minds on hearing this sentence.
The speaker offered several suggestions, and pointed out that even those who were able to identify the quotation (Prospero’s speech to Miranda and Ferdinand, Act IV, The Tempest) had not noticed the right answer.
Nothing enters the mind under these conditions, - but something does enter the ear. The sound waves are purely physical, and the meaning that becomes apparent in the mind is the consequences of a hierarchical series of translational machineries and interpretational filters, eventually triggering a more sophisticated set of associations to pre-existing mind entities.
The speaker then suggested that this odd property of the mind was interesting, and promised to explain the pathway through which his own interest was aroused.)
The earth is in steady-state, so incoming energy is matched by outgoing energy. The Second Law is satisfied by the larger number of quanta of lower energy going out.
To the extent that the biosphere is in steady-state, its effects are subsumed under existing terms.
Since the emergence of modern man, civilization has contributed an increasing additional effect, - civilization, - including an increased informational content, and direct environmental effects.
How can we bring these effects into our accounting of energy fluxes?
33% in growing season
20% intercepted by leaves
20% lost by reflection
50% photosynthetically inactive (wrong color)
30% conversion efficiency
40% lost to maintenance
0.5% Net Primary Productivity (NPP). This is ~10 × total world energy consumption
Based on http://asd-www.larc.nasa.gov/erbe/components2.gif
Life is sustained by a relatively small fraction of the energy from the sun, - the 0.5% yield of net photosynthetic product that is recycled as heat through animal consumption, and bacterial and fungal biodegradation.
Thermal loss is delayed by “latent heat” effects: wind, waves, currents, hydrological cycle.
Biosphere can be thought of as a latent heat effect. Dissipation is delayed, because the photochemical conversion in photosynthesis is stored through coupled chemical reactions.
Your biosphere at work
The seasonal fluctuation of NPP over two years (see bottom scale).
The biological and solar flux aspects can all, in principle, be accounted for.
What about the information content of “civilization”?
Movie from Earth Observatory (http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/Newsroom/NPP/npp.html)
(4 bases → 20 aminoacids → 30,000 proteins → metabolism, structure, control, recognition )
(~128 symbols → 50,000 words (educated vocabulary), numbers, etc.→grammar, syntax → an infinity of ideas)
(At this point, we recall the experiment with which the lecture started)
Where did the mind come from?
The nature of mind as a translational machinery for physicochemical input means we can know only what we are already equipped to “understand”.
Our conception of reality, starts in the womb as a blank slate, and expands as our physical contact with the world makes possible an iterative process of verification and reformulation. The newborn mind evolves to the adult mind through an extended learning process.
Education recapitulates civilization
We are thinking machines. Each individual mind accumulates a unique set of perceptual images, and can re-order and re-correlate these to generate new world models, - to create new ideas. Acquisition of language allows us to interpret more abstract semantic content. Within the limits of our interpretational machinery, we can correlate incoming “ideas” with our existing world model, reconfigure them, and transmit them in “conversations”. This individual “mutation” of ideas is what allows our cultural heritage to evolve, - what gives it life.
The obvious social context brings in a third level at which evolution occurs.
New ideas are subject to “selection pressure” from social peer groups
Emergence of civilization
Babylonian tablet world map, 600 B.C.
Pythagorean integer triples, 1800-1650 BC
Catal Hoyuk town map Turkey, c. 6200 BC
Stonehenge, 2800 – 1800 BC
Geometric theorems in Ahmes papyrus, 1850 BC
Map of the world, c. 150 AD, reconstructed from Ptolemy’s work
Sophisticated language, tool making, semantic abstraction
Lascaux cave drawings
Invention of archival data storage
(See here for links to sources)
Chinese 1500 BC to now
The remarkable increase since the 15th century seems to be progressing exponentially (slope log plot ~3.85).
The importance of Western civilization as seen through the increase in chronognostic range as the biosphere has evolved
We could use many different indicators of civilization on our y-axis
Renaissance, reformation, humanism
Emergence of rationality from constraints of dogma.
Where is this headed? Uncertain, because of downside, - environmental damage.
There are many instances of the demise of civilizations, each an example of the sort of survival test through which civilizations are filtered. Civilizations evolve and adapt, or perish.
Gödel’s incompleteness theorems
Problems of inductive logic
Darwin and evolution
From the limitations of inductive reasoning, it is apparent that there are many proposition for which we cannot establish “truth”. Different philosophical strategies for dealing with this.
Crisis of certainty
Wittgenstein II - language games, philosophy as therapy
(Pictures mostly from MacTutor, otherwise individual websites)
Popper – test hypotheses against reality
Kuhn -science as paradigms
Bloor, - science as sociology, - truth is relative
Richard Rorty -
“After we came out of the church, we stood talking for some time together of Bishop Berkeley\'s ingenious sophistry to prove the nonexistence of matter, and that every thing in the universe is merely ideal. I observed, that though we are satisfied his doctrine is not true, it is impossible to refute it. I never shall forget the alacrity with which Johnson answered, striking his foot with mighty force against a large stone, till he rebounded from it – ‘I refute it thus.’”
Accept the idea that we can never establish the truth of a hypothesis
Replace the goal of verifiability by that of falsification. A hypothesis is useful only if it can be tested. We can demonstrate that a hypothesis is not in accord with the measurable properties of an external reality.
Evolution in the social context of peer groups will determine the survival of hypotheses that continue to withstand the falsification test.
Occam’s razor (simplicity test)
(Einstein’s interpretation - “Things should be kept as simple as possible, but not simpler”)
Importance of paradox
(Chesterton’s definition - “Truth standing on her head to get attention”)
Of course, Johnson did not refute Berkeley’s ideas by this action. Nevertheless .…
Nemani et al. (2003) Science 300, 1560-1563
Constraints on NPP (above)
World population (top right)
“Civilization” (excess energy, from light usage at night) (bottom right)
Composite picture of the earth at night from satellite data
What determines the competitive success of a civilization?
Organized social structures are necessarily highly ordered, and hence inherently unstable.
Philosophical discussion must be framed in the context of an evolving culture, and the mutability of ideas in individual minds.
If we want to get our ideas across to a wider audience, we must bear in mind the limitations of the translational machineries in different minds (avoid abstruse technical terms if possible).
We need to ensure through all democratic means at our disposal that our society continues to allow free expression of ideas without the constraints of dogma.
We must take responsibility for our future by addressing the effects arising from our exploitation of the thermodynamic resources of the world, and despoliation of the environment.