The Singularity and the quantum mind

From: Mitchell Porter (
Date: Sun Mar 04 2001 - 22:16:57 MST

I've spent the last four months in Tucson, Arizona,
home to the (in)famous theory that consciousness
resides in the quantum states of neural microtubules.
For those who haven't heard of this theory, it has
several parts:

1) that there are macroscopic quantum states in
the brain, used for biological quantum computation

2) that there are not "many worlds", in the sense
of Everett, but rather that wavefunctions are
"objectively reduced" by a natural process which is
  2a) quantum-gravitational
  2b) noncomputable (in the Turing sense)

3) that the noncomputable part of this process
implements the human ability to perform Goedelian
reasoning, which "jumps out of the system" in
order to relate mathematical and metamathematical

The microtubules (which are cylindrical structures
running throughout the cytoplasm, outside the
cell nucleus) are the putative site of the
relevant quantum states.

Ben Goertzel has seen me give a talk about this;
you can see the notes for that and a more recent
talk at

What does this have to do with the Singularity?
It's not just that Grover's quantum search algorithm
is exponentially faster than classical search, so
Powers will probably use quantum computers, or
anything so simple.

In my opinion, quantum theories of the brain,
should they be borne out, will be the prelude
to a new philosophy of mind in which the nature
of cognition will be seen to be dependent on
the physical implementation. Perhaps something
like "conscious experience = quantum information,
reflective thought = trans-Turing quantum
computation", although that's just a guess.
And the difference between cognition and
computation is that *cognition* requires computations
involving quantum states which intrinsically
have a particular content, whereas 'ordinary'
computation involves virtual machines (from the
point-of-view of fundamental physics - that is,
computational states are big fuzzy classes of
physical micro-states, not 'fundamental' states)
whose states have semantic content only by
user stipulation or causal correlation.

Again, what does this have to do with the Singularity?

Current expositions of the Singularity, and of
related concepts like Friendly AI and seed AI,
assume a strong-AI philosophy of mind, at least
when it comes to the AIs themselves. Eliezer makes
remarks about noncomputability occasionally, but
he still attributes cognitive states to the AIs,
and hopes that *they* will solve the philosophical
problems. I don't think we can take this for granted.
So a priority for me is to see what concepts like
seed AI, self-enhancement, and Friendly AI would
look like given the philosophy of mind sketched
in the last paragraph.

Unfortunately I can't tell you yet, because
quantum computing is still in the very early stages
of recapitulating the development of classical
computer science, and AI builds on cognitive science
which builds on relatively advanced concepts from
computer science. And I should add that I don't
think that 'quantum computer science' per se is
a sufficient foundation; I think that a far more
likely foundation is the (obscure to most members
of this list, I'm sure) philosophy of
"transcendental phenomenology", coupled to a
fundamental theory like M theory. If I'm right,
to *really* know what we're doing we would need
to reconstruct the concepts of AI and seed AI in
terms of this new foundation; and we certainly
don't know that a classical AI has the ability
to discover and formulate that new foundation
all by itself.

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