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Just b/c there is quantum activity in the microtubules doesn't mean that is the seat of consciousness. When you get down to it, the whole body is a quantum system. So I really find this off base.



Well wait a minute. They predicted "there is quantum activity in the microtubules". Almost everyone said "you are crazy, that's impossible". If it turns out indeed that there is, then this was a successful scientific prediction, in the style of predicting the structure of DNA or the existence of the neutrino.

You are right, it doesn't mean that this is the seat of consciousness, but it doesn't mean it isn't, either. Further investigation would be required. But saying it's "off base" just because you don't like the thesis is exactly the opposite of what science is supposed to be. It is scientism, not science.


"there is quantum activity in the microtubules"

For the record: Almost nobody would have disagreed with this statement. What people may have argued about is if quantum activity in the microtubules correlates to anything to do with the function of the brain, esp. memory, or cognition.

This article shows no direct in vivo evidence of such a thing, just a simulation that shows exactly what "quantum activity" is possible, and a tenuous, hypothetical connection to how that may deal with cognition.

FWIW, I have long believed in penrose's microtubule hypothesis (wrt to cognition, but not necessarily consciousness), and I find this finding to be encouraging to my belief, but in the article there is some obfuscation of just how much (or how little?) has been found here.


To my recollection, most people disagreed with said statement. The thought was that any kind of quantum coherence would not hold for a nonnegligible time, because hey, decoherence. This was before we started seeing proof of quantum effects biology at all.


People can not disagree that there are "quantum effects" at the brain because this term has no obvious meaning. There is a completely deceptional "evil sister" of that theory, that defines "quatum effecs" in a completely different way from what's on the paper, it normaly only appears when there isn't a chance for peer review, and yes, people are fast to torn it apart.

The usual answer to this one theory presented at the paper is along the lines of "yes, that's quite possible. It may be quite important for discovering how the neurons work, but even if it's right, it does not mean that our current models are wrong", coupled with a "why did you get the idea that this can be in any way more powerfull than other kind of expected phenomena?"


> Almost everyone said "you are crazy, that's impossible"

according to the article's narrative, at least...

> You are right, it doesn't mean that this is the seat of consciousness, but it doesn't mean it isn't, either. Further investigation would be required

True. But it could also of course be His Noodly Appendage at work in each of those microtubules. Extraordinary claims, extraordinary evidence, etc.

I think what the GP was objecting to was that there's no more reason to jump to the article's conclusion than an infinite number of other conclusions based on the evidence at hand, and it's sloppy science to imply otherwise.


Untrue, because the reason the microtubule coherence was posited in the first place, at all, was as an origin of consciousness. There wasn't another reason to presuppose it. So the fact that the activity exists does have information content with respect to the central thesis. It certainly doesn't prove it, but it moves the needle.

Analogy: Suppose the Earth is covered with clouds and we have never seen the sky, we have not invented space ships yet, etc. Nobody knows why tides happen. Someday someone predicts there is a GIANT rock orbiting the Earth not too far away, and everyone says that is crazy. But eventually you send a rocket up with a camera, and you see this giant rock there! Whoa. Since the tides caused you to look for the rock, and you found the rock, you have reason to suspect the rock does cause the tides. Maybe it doesn't -- further verification is required. But the big rock is evidence, it moves the needle. That is what science is, is making testable predictions and then testing them and then letting the results of those tests help you understand what is going on in the world.

Invoking the FSM or discounting evidence, because it doesn't match preconceived notions, is in fact the kind of thing that is the bane of science and always looks embarrassing / shameful in retrospect. I would hope that people at HN understand science well enough to see this pattern and not participate.

P.S. Re the "according to the article's narrative" snipe, uhh, some of us have been following this issue since the 90s when the idea was proposed. "You guys are crazy" is an accurate description of the majority consensus.


That would be an example of science in action, and I'm certainly not denying that more evidence would make these theories more tenable. Considering that virtually every spare differential at every scale is taken advantage of by the body to conduct its work, it's not surprising at all to find quantum effects put to work all over the brain.

That's in the general, but we're talking about a specific theory. Your story is also about survivorship bias of scientific theories used as justification for a failure of imagination. Just because while looking for a place to seat consciousness they posited a phenomenon that turned out to take place does not imply that seating. Staking out a claim and adjusting it as information arrives is part of doing good science, but it does not follow that the initial or altered claim is then a good or likely scientific theory.

Penrose's theories are especially problematic in this area (as opposed to your analogy) because consciousness as a phenomenon is so poorly defined and because of the (many) changes that have been made wrt the physical structures proposed as the mechanisms of his version of consciousness over the years. Fortunately the "objective reduction" is a very specific requirement for consciousness Penrose has laid out, and I see no evidence here that suggests we're seeing it in action, nor the additional needed evidence that it itself is necessary for "consciousness". Implying otherwise is my objection.

> P.S. Re the "according to the article's narrative" snipe, uhh, some of us have been following this issue since the 90s when the idea was proposed. "You guys are crazy" is an accurate description of the majority consensus.

I was not denying that there were people saying "You guys are crazy", I was saying that I have my doubts that there was ever consensus around calling crazy a statement like "there is quantum activity in the microtubules". See dnautics's comment above. "Theory pilloried by scientific community turns out to be true" is a nice narrative, but again: survivorship bias. Most theories turn out to be wrong (and, more crucially, less usefully wrong than accepted theories).


Predicting the existence of a giant rock wouldn't be sufficient. The theory would also have to predict the tides based on the assumption of a giant rock.

In the article's case, only the rock is being predicted but the link to the tides is not established (except that the former somehow causes the latter).


In order for the claim or idea that consciousness depends on quantum information processing( processing not accessible from classical computation) you would need a rigorous definition of consciousness. Or one that at least required quantum information processing and explanation for the requirement.

I do not see either kind of definition put forward so the claim or idea that quantum information processing is necessary for consciousness does not seem very productive.




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