Thanks so much for the paper, and for taking the time to summarize it well.
The history of science shows that explanations in terms of physical laws and mechanisms have been very successful in physics and biology.
It’s also shown that such explanations have been very unsuccessful in almost every other field. I think this has profound consequences for understanding our moment in history.
information is carried in the chip and all of this information is passive until the appropriate software activates some of the information. Thus when the computer is working, some of this ‘passive’ information becomes ‘active’, modifying the input by giving it new form.
The discussion of “active information” sounds a lot like the Sarvastivada theory, which posits that all dhammas “exist” but only the present dhamma is “active”.
The essay starts out saying that materialism must be assumed if we are to speak of consciousness as emergent, and as it went on I was think, okay, but this does not sound like grandpa’s materialism; it requires a very different understanding of matter. Sure enough, it goes on to propose, or follow Bohm’s proposal, of reality being one process with both material and meaningful sides. Bohm’s term is soma-significance.
Seems to me this is literally nāmarūpa.
I’m not sure how far these analogues can be pushed, but if that is the case, it suggests that even this formulation is still overlooking viññāṇa. The discussion throughout focuses on the way that high-energy matter is “informed” by low-energy significance, as say a house is built from a blueprint. But it is still not seeing the seer. It uses “consciousness” in the sense of “self-awareness”, which to a Buddhist is merely a property or function associated with certain states of viññāṇa.
It introduces a useful concept I haven’t heard before:
To say that a rudimentary consciousness is present even at the level of particle physics is to endorse panpsychism. To say that particles of physics have certain primitive mind-like qualities but that they do not have consciousness is compatible with a weaker doctrine, panprotopsychism.
I would say that Jainism is panpsychism, while Buddhism is panprotopsychism. These are reductionist view in the sense that they begin with the elements of existence and build up. But later they invoke the opposite, which explains the part in terms of the decomposition of the whole. This is cosmopsychism, which sounds like the Upanishadic view.
Everything comes around, I guess.
If Buddhism has something in common with panprotopsychism, in the sense that the elements of existence share properties or potentials of consciousness, might it also relate to cosmoprotopsychism? I am thinking of the nature of samsara itself, which seems to be bound up with the existence of consciousness. So consciousness can be seen as both built up from conscious-potentials such as sense input and and the like, but also is fragmented out from samsara. Both are intrinsic to the nature of consciousness.
The core thesis is this:
We can now make the following speculative hypothesis: conscious experience only arises in the context of a hierarchy of levels of information which involves the activity of quantum fields. This does not mean that all information in the brain would be carried by quantum fields. On the contrary, it is likely that a great deal of information in the brain is carried by more stable structures (e.g. neural activity patterns) that for all practical purposes can be described by classical physics. But, we are proposing, the conscious apprehension of the meaning of such “classical” information involves the operation of quantum fields. We are assuming that conscious experience is not possible in a situation where non-trivial quantum effects are negligible.
The notion of hierarchies, which is given mathematical expression in ways I don’t understand, is invoked to explain how, if all matter is protopsychic, what distinguishes consciousness? What we call consciousness (which again means self-awareness) arises in brains due to their organizing of a higher-level hierarchy of information.
consciousness in biological organisms has to do with the non-negligible, non-trivial operation of quantum active information in the brain. It is only when there exists such quantum information in a suitable biological environment that there can be conscious experience. This immediately restricts consciousness to biological organisms, at least as far as the present moment is concerned.
Sorry to all the AI maximalists!
Then it goes on to discuss Bohm’s idea of the implicate order:
The basic idea of the implicate order is that each region of space and time contains a total structure or total order enfolded within it.
Again, I can’t help but see the analogue with the notion of dhamma or dhammatā. Each moment of conscious experience is in some sense an unfolding of the principles of the dhamma, or to look at it the other way, it contains within itself an expression of the implicate order of the dhamma.