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I'm a mathematician, and thats crazy. Marvellous.

I read Consciousness Explained 30 years ago and at first I was miffed that it didn't touch on the possibilties of Quantum mechanics and consciousness, a buzzword idea that I was keen on at the time. But then every chapter was so fascinating - blindsight, p-zombies, Libet, the cartesian theatre.

If I can sum up in a very simple way, as a philosopher he was pointing to a simple but hard to grasp idea:

Consciousness probably isn't what we think it is. Most of our preconceptions about it are likely wrong. Because we're right in it all the time, it seems like we 'know' things about it. But we don't. Quick example: our visual consciousness seems continuous. But we know from saccades that it can't be.

For the record, 30 years later most consciousness researchers still believe it's unlikely that quantum mechanics plays a special role in consciousness. It of course remains plausible, since we still don't have the true answers yet, but hypotheses like Penrose's have not yet been found to be credible.

I really like your summary of some of his ideas, though.

I bet we'll find there's more computation going on in neurons (and possibly other brain cells) than we currently know about which will necessarily be happening at much smaller scales than synapse firing.

I think this is likely, yes. I think there are already some leads pointing in that direction. I think it likely won't depend on quantum mechanics, though. (But of course, this is all idle speculation from a complete amateur.)

Each neuron is itself a complex organism. They're unicellular, but each is still a robust lifeform.

We don't know from saccades that consciousness can't be continuous. We just know that the physical impressions on our retina do not map 1 to 1 to our visual conscious experience. The brain does all sorts of things to the raw information it receives before that information rises to the level of phenomenal consciousness.

this is just silly pedantry. The comment you're replying to was clearly, if implicitly stating "visual conscious experience cannot simply be the experience of the patterns of light falling on our retina, even though we experience it as such, because of saccadic motion, which is occuring constantly but which we rarely perceive".

The point is that our intuition (for centuries!) about what visual conscious experience is driven by is wrong. You've summarized what we know now succinctly and usefully, but that in no way invalidates the point the comment was making.


I looked up what he said about p-zombies on the p-zombies wiki and am happy to see he has a position I agree with.

>Dennett argues that "when philosophers claim that zombies are conceivable, they invariably underestimate the task of conception (or imagination), and end up imagining something that violates their own definition".

Wouldn't ChatGPT be a p-zombie? Unless of course one thinks it's conscious.

No. A p-zombie is a very specific hypothetical construct: something absolutely 100% identical to some equivalent conscious being in every way except that it has no consciousness.

Essentially an NPC on a script Vs the player in the game

> Consciousness probably isn't what we think it is

This is nonsense. Consciousness is exactly what it is. The only real that ever existed is the fact there's there there. Everything else can be an illusion, as you said. There's no reason why red appears they way it is.

But the fact that i can seem to experience red cannot be denied. The seeming cannot be a mistake.

What if it isn’t exactly what it appears to be to us? If the answer was that simple, thousands of years of deep thinking would have been for nothing. I believe it’s actually a difficult, perhaps even impossible question to answer.

The experience of consciousness, or that it’s like something to be you, doesn’t necessarily mean anything about how or why that’s possible or occurring in the first place.

Perhaps our defintion of consciousness doesn't match. What I think of consciousness is something that can experience. It is not even experience, feelings, emotions, these are secondary things that arise in "consciousness".

What you cannot deny is the fact there's something at all. You cannot doubt that there's something. If you doubt that, there's a contradiction. Not what is that something, but simply the fact that _there is_ something.

So the fact there's something is something that has to be true. The question "I doubt there's something in this universe" doesn't make sense.

I think you’re just saying “cogito, ergo sum”.

Yours sounds more like, “something seeming therefore something seeming”.

You misunderstand me. Consciousness definitely exists, but its workings are likely different to our preconceptions of how it should work. I offer saccadic masking as an example of how aspects of how it works are 'hidden' from us. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saccadic_masking

Its a great book, you might not agree that it 'explains' consciousness but it will give you a lot of new ways to think about it and it references a lot of interesting research.

If you think back to Descartes and a lot of the philosophy about determinism and free will, they had quite a naive understanding of systems and determinism because their mental model of a complex system was a clockwork watch or a steam engine with lots of gears.

Because their argument was, that if the universe is deterministic everything seems a bit scary because whats going to happen is already 'known' and so we have no free will.

But now we have a better understanding of how mind bogglingly complex deterministic systems can be - broadly this is what Chaos Theory is all about - e.g. sensitive dependence on initial conditions - you can model how a magnetic pendulum moves between three magnets, but the tinyest infinitessimal change in the starting position makes a big difference to the eventual path. And we know that through various fundamental forces, every subatomic particle interacts with every other one in its light cone.

And so if we assume that the universe is deterministic, we can see it would be impossible to build a computer to exploit that determinism and 'calculate ahead' to see what state the universe would be in at some future point. Two main reasons - (a) the computer would inevitably use more atoms than the atoms it was trying to simulate and (b) sensitive dependence on initial conditions.

And so even in a deterministic universe, the future is literally unknowable. So you can think of the universe as a computer that is calculating its own future, one picosecond at a time. We can't jump ahead. (we can, of course, use simplified models to give us good guesses for specific short term situations)

That means determinism is nothing to worry about, in terms of free will. (and anyway, how would the opposite - randomness - be any better for free will?)

(so what is Free Will? Its not really a concept that makes any sense - "I chose to do X but in completely identical conditions I could have been free to choose Y" - how do you even test that? But if you want a colloquial definition: Broadly I'd say we have something that you might choose to call "free will" because what we do next is (usually) proximately determined by processes inside our skulls. And yes, if you want to trace the state of our brains back in time eventually all of it originated from outside our skulls, memories etc, but lets set all that historical complexity aside. What we do next is broadly determined by processes within us. As opposed to a rock rolling down a hill which is just subject to external forces. I think thats the only thing Free Will can really mean)

I often wonder why can there not exist some sort of algorithmic shortcut or compression method that allows us to: a) store the state of our universe inside our universe; and/or b) emulate our universe at > realtime?

If you could store the state of the universe using less than 100% of the universe, then you could use the algorithm recursively on the result, over and over again, to compress it infinitely -- which suggests that it contains no information. And if you could, generally speaking, simulate the universe faster than real time, you could simulate the simulator faster than it runs, meaning that you could construct a machine that predicts its own output and then purposefully outputs the exact opposite, leading to a contradiction.

Another argument is, imagine that you are building a machine that takes ingredients as an input on a tray, and outputs a baked cake. There's a nearly infinite number of ways to build such a machine. Some of them are faster than some others. Imagine the very fastest cake-baking machine that could physically exist. Any simulator will be slower than real time to simulate that particular machine -- because it is an optimal machine -- and any event that depends on the cakes it makes will have to wait, so it becomes a bottleneck of the system.

> That means determinism is nothing to worry about, in terms of free will. (and anyway, how would the opposite - randomness - be any better for free will?)

You've misunderstood the root of their concern, it isn't practical predictability but omniscient predestination.

I guess you're right, I had translated it into a modern analogous concern.

Its interesting to think about. Do the same arguments I've already made apply? So: If the universe is determinsitic then God only has omniscient predestination is he/they are able to model the whole universe is their etheral mind as a hyper detailed simulation. Because even God can't skip ahead in those calculations just because its 'deterministic'. Something actually has to do the work to do the "determining".

Even if their supernatural powers allow them to skirt around the huge size of the simulation and the problem of sensitive dependance on initial conditions its still a very redundant exercise because the simulation then becomes an exact copy of the universe. Lets say God can run this simulation faster than the original - then 'our' universe becomes a redundant laggard and the real action is happening inside the Gods Mind Model one.

And you're still in the situation where nobody knows what our supposedly 'determinsitic' brains are going to do until someone crunches the impossible universe sized numbers to work it out. So still in this scenario we have something akin to Free Will although I hold to my argument that Free Will as originally conceived is a meaningless confused concept that sounds very reassuring to people but doesn't make any sense (I did X but in completely identical conditions I would have been free to do Y).

If you don't agree with this assertion that a determinstic system has to be actually determined to find out where it goes - if you posit that God could just magically 'jump' to some future state of the universe without running the model in between - then all bets are off because even the supposed Free Will they imbued us with could also be subject to that same magical prediction process.

> Because even God can't skip ahead in those calculations just because its 'deterministic'. Something actually has to do the work to do the "determining".

I think you haven't internallized what "omniscient" actually means. Your statement is probably true about non-omniscient beings but I don't see how you can make that assertion about an omniscient state. More likely I suspect that you just don't believe omniscience is possible. There has been a LOT of theological discussion of this topic, most of which I am not familiar with.

I do believe in something like "omniscience", but base it in the ubiquity of math, not the omnipotence of an alleged creator. Mathematical structure exists independent of the human mind. When we calculate the result of a calculation or prove a new theorom, we are not creating something new, but uncovering pre-existing structure. This is why such truths can be independently discovered and verified. I think this mathematic structure is the fundemental nature of reality. Every possible variation of every possible simulation exists without needing any specifc "reality" to be running that simulation inside it. (Though, for every finite simulation, there would be infinite other finite simulations that contain it.)

Article triggers critical mass of pedantry on HN, thread collapses in on itself

Yes. It is kinda amazing to observe (as a professional astrophysicist) how people manage to find small (mostly irrelevant) things to nitpick instead of discussing a really interesting discovery.

I postulated in another thread yesterday that the use of exxagerations / superlatives might be triggering contra. If we had the same article, but with the title "Black hole with 33 times the mass of the sun discovered" we could measure if the reactions are less severe.

it unfortunately happens in every field, including more theoretical parts of computer science. the commenters usually don't understand the science, so choose to nitpick on the aesthetics.

People's contributions rise to the level of their expertise.

So they found the biggest one that isn't really big

They didn’t find the biggest one, they found the biggest one they’ve found so far. Which in all probability is pretty small.

Oh yeah these things. Most fridges have a dial with 1 to 6 on it, no arrow, and I dont know whether it means temperature (degrees c) or power. So is a bigger number less cold or more cold? Have to turn it and listen to see if it gets noisier to know for sure.

This one with the arrow on it is even worse, crikey.


DirectML is a low-level API that provides a common abstraction layer for hardware vendors to expose their machine learning accelerators. DirectML works with any DirectX 12-compatible device including GPUs and now NPUs. Support for Intel Core Ultra processors with Intel AI Boost was developed in close collaboration with Intel.

Surface is pretty well regarded as I understand it. Microsoft set out to make 'the sortof macbook equivlaent for windows' and largely succeeded. Although obviously macbook remains the champion overall I guess. I'm sorry you had a battery problem.

For some of the best Windows hardware on the market, look no further than Microsoft’s Surface brand - WIRED

Also: I dont ever see ads in Windows, but I guess somone must be getting them. Not sure what I'm doing right to avoid them.

Do you sign in with a Microsoft account? If you do, that's probably the reason why you don't see ads in Windows 11. The system settings UI on Windows 11 always shows an ad which says that an account should be used to use office and other apps.

Microsoft has updated apps even on Windows 10 to recommend other apps. The Photos app was recommending a video editor app recently. Windows 11 shows ads, suggestions and installs a lot of garbage apps to upsell people into office 365, Onedrive and other things.

I recently had to reinstall my office that I bought. It signed me into an account without permission and uploaded documents there. I had to sign out of that account to prevent it from uploading documents automatically. Most of the documents I edit contain my PII. I can sue them.

> The system settings UI on Windows 11 always shows an ad which says that an account should be used to use office and other apps.

Macs also do this with their iCloud accounts, with little widgets all around the place prompting you to log in to their app store, etc... if you don't have an account. Possibly those prompts or ads are even more "in-your-face" than Windows? Probably most Mac users don't notice them because most just create an account

Just swipe left to right on Windows 11. The widget page is like 60% ads disguised as news by default. It's so easy to trigger accidentally on Windows tablets. I feel like Windows 11 is the Windows 8 for tablets. They took pretty much every gain and good thing Windows had as tablet OS and made it garbage.

Windows 11 grew up from the Windows 10X remains, thus there is some truth to it.

My Surface Laptop from 2019 wasn’t supported by Win11 because of TPM limitation (I guess there was a registry hack) but I expect the requirements for Win11 were defined by 2019 for its 2021 release, yet they skimmed on a very expensive prosumer laptop under their own Microsoft brand.

The new Windows mail app has ads in it that look almost exactly like normal emails. They pushed me to adopt it from the old mail app and I'm regretting the decision. Apple's mail apps never do that.

Checkout Winomail

I think they meant: For any given site, theres proportionally 'few' people that would be disadvantaged

Yep. You cannot just put them just anywhere, so if a location has been found and some people don’t like it, well, that happens. Like others said; everyone wants to fly but they don’t want the bad side. Fine but it happens.

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