• Register
PhysicsOverflow is a next-generation academic platform for physicists and astronomers, including a community peer review system and a postgraduate-level discussion forum analogous to MathOverflow.

Welcome to PhysicsOverflow! PhysicsOverflow is an open platform for community peer review and graduate-level Physics discussion.

Please help promote PhysicsOverflow ads elsewhere if you like it.


New printer friendly PO pages!

Migration to Bielefeld University was successful!

Please vote for this year's PhysicsOverflow ads!

Please do help out in categorising submissions. Submit a paper to PhysicsOverflow!

... see more

Tools for paper authors

Submit paper
Claim Paper Authorship

Tools for SE users

Search User
Reclaim SE Account
Request Account Merger
Nativise imported posts
Claim post (deleted users)
Import SE post

Users whose questions have been imported from Physics Stack Exchange, Theoretical Physics Stack Exchange, or any other Stack Exchange site are kindly requested to reclaim their account and not to register as a new user.

Public \(\beta\) tools

Report a bug with a feature
Request a new functionality
404 page design
Send feedback


(propose a free ad)

Site Statistics

143 submissions , 120 unreviewed
3,899 questions , 1,377 unanswered
4,837 answers , 20,500 comments
1,470 users with positive rep
495 active unimported users
More ...

  Why do physicists need to study consciousness/artificial general intelligence?

+ 0 like - 1 dislike

This thread concerns a discussion about why physicists need to study consciousness, and probably involve themselves in the development of artificial general intelligence.

Firstly, below is a scintillating talk on artificial general intelligence given by, Theoretical Physics PHD, and former Dwave CTO, Geordie Rose.

He left Dwave, and is now instead CEO and co-founder of Kindred Ai.

He gives an entertaining talk in the tech-vancouver video below, about why the development of artificial general intelligence is crucial for mankind.

(Extra: See also a talk here, by Suzanne Gildert (She also left Dwave, to start Kindred Ai. She has a Quantum Physics PHD as well, and used to work on superconducting chips at Dwave)

Click the following for Geordie's exciting talk on artificial general intelligence in [TECH VANCOUVER]

Secondly, as Max Tegmark expressed in a youtube video here, physicists have long neglected to define the observer in much of the equations. (The observer being the intelligent agent)

Alert: Notably, when I refer to consciousness below, I echo Bengio's words from one of his recent papers, "I do not refer here to more elusive meanings that have been attributed to the word “consciousness” (like qualia (Kriegel, 2014)), sticking instead to the notion of attentive awareness in the moment, our ability to focus on information in our minds which is accessible for verbal report, reasoning, and the control of behaviour."

As far as science goes, consciousness is likely definable in terms of very complex equations, from disciplines, like Physics; as an example, degrees of general structures such as manifolds central to physics and mathematics, are now quite prevalent in the study of Deep Learning.


As I indicate in the content above, there are two crucial end points:

(1) Physics intends to describe the cosmos, and as Max Tegmark mentions, a non trivial portion of physics, namely the observer has long eluded physics, and so the observer's framework/consciousness (as described in the alert above) warrants non-trivial analysis/development.

(2) Understanding consciousness (as described in the alert above), may lend large help to the development of artificial general intelligence, which is often underlined as mankind's last invention, that apart from solving many human problems, (i.e. Self-taught artificial intelligence beats doctors at predicting heart attacks) may also aid in the development of physics. (i.e. Ai learns and recreates Nobel-winning physics experiment)

asked Oct 11 in Chat by ProgrammingGodJordan (10 points) [ revision history ]
recategorized Oct 12 by Dilaton

In optics experiments, the presence of an human observer doesn't change the outcomes. It had been tried many times with semi-automatic experiments ... Perhaps the microbs in the labs ... Unless a detector has a consciousness ! I would not be surprised to read this postulate one day...

Maybe Tegmark is referring to the instance that it is some form of consciousness (i.e. humans) that is doing those experiments?

With regards to your "unless a detector has a consciousness" remark, could what I express in the quote above perhaps extend to non-human artificial super intelligence ... simply artificial super intelligence, or particularly, things with consciousness?

Anyway, although Max Tegmark could be wrong on this; I may not research directly more on the matter of consciousness' requirements in physics, but instead physics' requirement in developing artificial consciousness, i.e. I shall focus on striving to contribute to the development of artificial general intelligence, which is probably guaranteed to be a type of meta solution to much of humanity's issues, including illness diagnosis or medicine development and the advancement of the rate of physics experimentation ...

A valid experiment is required to go forward in the consciousness way. If a detector has some not-well-defined properties inside the old QM theory, is it useful to talk of consciousness? Nobody denies the pertinence of mathematics in algorithmics. ( Today, most young physicists are mathematicians; it's a call for contributions to specialists in long abstractions and min/max stuff.  Other domains try to attract well-formed people. :)

Hey Igael,

Note that by consciousness, I simply refer to the reasonably purely information driven, complex mechanism (absent magic) bounded in the laws of physics, that grants the intelligent agent the ability to perform complex goals.

I don't refer to the more elusive description of consciousness, such as qualia, or any Deepak Chopra Like woo...

On that note, the brains of humans are already prime examples that particular arrangements of matter can yield consciousness, so we probably don't need to experiment to prove the existence of consciousness as I described above, because it is empirically observable...

-1 A few hundred years ago loose chit-chat on conciousness may have counted as "natural philosophy", but beginning with Newton physics has become a precise science based on mathematics. Let's not try to turn the wheel back and have these kinds of discussion not on physics forums, but elsewhere.

Schreiber, I don't know if you missed the OP or the prior comment, but I specially refer to particular arrangements of matter, bounded in physics (not magic) that may yield conscious state, that is the ability to perform complex goals....

If some distribution or particular configuration of matter can yield consciousness, this is a matter of modern science/physics, not archaic science or woo

Your answer

Please use answers only to (at least partly) answer questions. To comment, discuss, or ask for clarification, leave a comment instead.
To mask links under text, please type your text, highlight it, and click the "link" button. You can then enter your link URL.
Please consult the FAQ for as to how to format your post.
This is the answer box; if you want to write a comment instead, please use the 'add comment' button.
Live preview (may slow down editor)   Preview
Your name to display (optional):
Privacy: Your email address will only be used for sending these notifications.
Anti-spam verification:
If you are a human please identify the position of the character covered by the symbol $\varnothing$ in the following word:
Then drag the red bullet below over the corresponding character of our banner. When you drop it there, the bullet changes to green (on slow internet connections after a few seconds).
To avoid this verification in future, please log in or register.

user contributions licensed under cc by-sa 3.0 with attribution required

Your rights