Re: Quantum entaglement, human cognitive capacity

From: Adam Safron (
Date: Tue Mar 04 2008 - 08:22:43 MST

Thanks Maksym.

To be honest, considering the unsavory (from a rationalist's
perspective) contexts in which I have encountered them, my skeptical
defenses tend to get raised whenever people bring up quantum
phenomena. I tend to be skeptical whenever I see someone making a
claim where they have strong motivations regarding the consequences of
the claim. Anti-realist theories are attractive to a lot of people.
Not long after showing you the experiments, quantum folk move on to
talking about eastern mysticism or the invalidness of determinism. If
people were more familiar with compatibalist arguments for determinism
and "free will", I wonder if this would change the way people deal
with these issues.

Note: there still seems to be some controversy regarding hidden
According to the wiki: "This rules out local hidden variable
theories, but does not rule out non-local ones."'s_theorem#Theoretical_challenges
However, as with so-called "controversies" regarding evolution and
intelligent design, it's quite possible that one side is simply
wrong. The fact that the controversy seems legitimate to me, may be a
function of my ignorance of the field. I'll withhold further judgment
until I become more familiar with these materials.


On Mar 3, 2008, at 11:00 PM, Maksym Taran wrote:

> Adam,
> Your last question about was posed in various forms in the past, and
> was answered through experiments which showed that quantum
> mechanical phenomena can not be explained through a theory of local
> hidden variables. My best advice on how to understand it is to read
> the wiki and/or Stanford Philosophy Encyclopedia article. If all
> else fails, Google is your friend.
> Best,
> Maksym
> On 03/03/2008, Adam Safron <> wrote:
> Ross,
> Can you please elaborate on what you mean by determinism? If you
> mean what I think you mean, that past state-descriptions contain the
> information for present and then future state-descriptions, then the
> brain is probably a deterministic system. Even if quantum
> computation is important for cognition––which it most likely isn't––
> then brain could still potentially be thought of as deterministic,
> depending on your favored interpretation of quantum mechanics.
> But more importantly, neurons are perfectly capable of supporting
> complex processing/behavior without quantum computation: complex
> patterns of action potentials in large numbers of neurons, vast
> numbers multiple kinds of synapses that change their strengths with
> experience, higher-level processing structures such as limbic nuclei
> interacting with a columnar organized cortex; we're still figuring
> out the specifics of how this all works together, but there probably
> isn't a significant role for quantum effects in influencing the flow
> of information in our neural systems. Quantum computation in
> neurons is unnecessary to explain behavior/cognition and the theory
> relies on speculative mechanisms that have not been empirically
> demonstrated and seem unlikely a priori.
> Question on quantum physics: My background is in neuroscience, so
> I'm certainly not in a position to have strong opinions on this
> matter, but I've always been baffled by the quickness with which
> people conclude ontological indeterminacy from epistemological
> indeterminacy. If measurement is uncertain/whacky at the quantum
> level, then doesn't that limit the strength of conclusions we can
> draw about the ontological status of quantum phenomena? Couldn't
> the quantum systems be just as deterministic as classical systems,
> but we're unable to properly measure all of the relevant variables?
> Best,
> -adam
> On Mar 2, 2008, at 6:35 PM, Krekoski Ross wrote:
>> Yah, the argument regarding the degree, or lack of degree of
>> interaction that quantum effects have on a more macro level I
>> suppose holds quite well. My curiosity was somewhat two-pronged --
>> firstly, are current models regarding the complexity and processing
>> power required for a reasonable simulation of the human brain
>> adequate (ignoring the necessary overhead that a software
>> implementation would entail), and secondly, a more general
>> curiosity regarding the degree of determinism implied if all human
>> reasoning is computable.
>> summarizing penrose's argument:
>> assume that my reasoning capabilities can be simulated by formal
>> system F. for every statement S of F that I determine true, S is a
>> theorem of F, and vice versa. Since I believe F describes my
>> reasoning, I believe F is sound. Since F is sound, G(F) (goedel)
>> is true, but not a theorem of F. however, since F is sound, G(F) is
>> also true. However, G(F) is not a theorem of F, but I know it to
>> be true, therefore F does not describe my reasoning.
>> Rgds,
>> Ross
>> On Sun, Mar 2, 2008 at 11:03 PM, Adam Safron <>
>> wrote:
>> Ross,
>> Quantum entanglement is not considered to be an important factor by
>> most well-regarded neuroscientists.
>> With ~100 billion neurons and 10^14 synapses, the brain is plenty
>> complex to explain human cognition/behavior without resorting to
>> exotic physical properties. And more importantly, no one has come up
>> with a reasonable account for how quantum entanglement would impact
>> information processing. Quantum explanations for the mind are both
>> unnecessary and unhelpful.
>> -adam
>> On Mar 2, 2008, at 5:09 PM, Krekoski Ross wrote:
>> > Why has there not been any discussion that I can find, regarding
>> the
>> > very real possibility that quantum entanglement plays a large role
>> > in the functioning of the human brain?
>> > It certainly is a factor in the low-level motion of particles, and
>> > in a chaotic system where local disturbances can lead to large
>> > systemic changes, such as cascade effects in neurons, it seems to
>> be
>> > a significant oversight to not at least acknowledge it's likely
>> > presence. It has significant implications for the processing
>> > capacity of the human brain since it multiplies the number of
>> > interactions by a significant number of orders of magnitude, and is
>> > also quite relevant therefore in talking about at what point we
>> have
>> > the machine capacity with current architecture to begin to simulate
>> > things.
>> >
>> > Rgds
>> >
>> > Ross

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.5 : Wed Jul 17 2013 - 04:01:02 MDT