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Ed Lantz

Ursula: “…it’s my understanding that the term “information” is used in computation theory, theoretical physics, and quantum computational contexts in a very different way than it is used the semiotic contexts. In the former it refers to the signal itself; in the latter it refers to what the signal is about, its meaning. Hence to say that because there’s a signal indicates that this signal has meaning, consciousness, whatever, is to erroneously conflate the two definitions of the term. “


Sure.  However I see information and computation as fundamental building blocks of intelligence and consciousness. Of course, there may be other ingredients as well.


When your neuroscientist friend pointed out that computation is mechanistic, this is true. Neuronal processing is also mechanistic, right?  We know that, as a computational processor increases in complexity, at some point it starts to exhibit emergent behaviors that can no longer be traced back to individual “instructions.”  It takes on a life of its own. This is not necessarily the same thing as “consciousness,” of course.  How mechanistic “informational and computational capacity” of any kind gives rise to consciousness is far beyond my understanding. However, informational and computational capacity must be key elements in the support of consciousness, no?  The brain is – if nothing else – a powerful computational device. The brain clearly has a lot to do with consciousness.


When we look at the nature of quantum information, what we see is the capacity for informational and computational processes pervading the universe. This is new territory… we may need to define new terms for this, but for now what I am calling an “informational domain” is the mesoscopic-to-macroscopic nexus of sub-quantum computational/informational capacity formed by both small and large ensembles of particles, virtual particles, and quasiparticles.


If we see the universe as a vast quantum computer, we can only imagine what sort of “emergent” behaviors it might exhibit, including consciousness. Interestingly, however, from what we know from observational/experimental science, ANYTHING happening in the sub-quantum world will (on average) obey well defined statistical properties as defined by the quantum wavefunction and other physical laws when it moves from “potentiality” (superposition state) to “actuality” (wavefunction collapse). On average, you would not see “divine intervention” events, “miracles” and other seemingly magical occurrences. If something like this were to happen, my conjecture would be that it would appear more as a fantastic coincidence than a violation of the laws of physics (like flipping a coin 100 times and getting “heads” every time). Such an intelligence would more likely be manifest either through direct mental connection (revelation? prophesy? visions?), or through a string of small “coincidences” accumulating over deep timeframes (planetary formation? origin of life? evolution?).


So far there is no experimental evidence showing that there is “meaningful” computation taking place in this quantum informational domain in the natural world, nor is there any evidence that biological organisms can access such information. However I do think there is solid evidence that such a domain does indeed exist. And there is a large body of experimental and anecdotal data suggesting anomalous mental information transfer that suggests (to me) that the human mind can access and extract coherent information from this domain. 


Interestingly, there is now a raging debate in science about whether there is some sort of active intelligence behind what was hitherto through to be purely random processes behind the origin of the universe, the origin of life and perhaps evolutionary processes as well. If there is some sort of intelligence inherent in the universe, the quantum informational domain would be the first place that I would look for it. Where else would you look? Heaven? Hey, I’m a scientific thinker… resorting to supernatural explanations is not an option for me.


I should point out that, while this might be considered an argument for “intelligent design,” it is not intelligent design through a Biblical God, mythical gods, or sudden divine intervention. It is intelligent design via a “collective intelligence” operating in the quantum informational domain, a postulated intelligent-ish process that “fine tunes” otherwise random interactions that have resulted in the universe, universal laws, and biological life as we know it.


I do not see such a concept as “un-scientific” as long as they are presented as a testable hypothesis. It is a concept that is, admittedly, pretty close to what many have called God. But, to be clear, my motivation is to understand and model the universe, not to prove or disprove the existence of God or other religious concepts. This is simply where the data (and my creative/scientific intuition) are taking me…