"Notes Toward a Theory of Artificial Sentience"
by Brian J Flanagan
An identification of the hidden variables of quantum mechanics (QM)
is made. A theory embodying a unitary description of mind and matter
is sketched. A novel interpretation of neural network architecture
and function is formulated.
For some years I have been considering the problem of constructing a
theory which would square our immediate experience of perceptual and
cognitive events with data related to neural network activity. I
wanted theory to be mechanically reproducible, and was thus drawn to
the work of Hilbert, Russell & Whitehead, and G�del. I wanted theory
to be faithful to the physics of neural networks, and so consulted
the works of Einstein, von Neumann, Bohm, and others. I was
interested to discover, at the foundations of QM, discussions which
drew upon work in epistemology and ontology, some of which I was
familiar with [from] my researches into the literature of the
mind/body problem. After enduring a number of shocks and surprises
such as this, I stumbled onto the very solution I was looking for,
practically readymade. The solution referred to is, I think, very
simple but very surprising ...
2. HISTORICAL SURVEY
Galileo, following Kepler and, perhaps, Demokritos, enunciated a
doctrine which was later elaborated upon by Newton and Boyle, Locke,
Hobbes, and Descartes; it is an almost unquestioned dogma of physical
science. Galileo wrote:
�[...] these tastes, odours, colours, etc., on the side of the object
in which they seem to exist, are nothing else than mere names, but
[I] hold their residence [to be] solely in the sensitive body [that
of the percipient]; so that if the animal were removed, every such
quality would be abolished and annihilated."
The "tastes, odours, colours" of Galileo et al., came to be referred
to as secondary qualities. The qualities of position, mass, shape,
and size were called primary qualities. If we add the traditional
measures to the primary qualities, we then have the traditional
physical quantities of science, which the founding fathers of that
discipline related so well to one the other.
3. SECONDARY QUALITIES AND HIDDEN VARIABLES
The theory presented here results from my having wondered what would
happen if one changed the axiom put forth in Galileo's remark. It
seemed to me that the distinction between primary and secondary might
have been merely expedient. The theory [I am] about to present is
couched in the language of QM and a "mind/brain identity theory". In
order to move quickly, I must assume some familiarity with the
history of QM as well as with mind-body studies. More particularly, I
must assume an acquaintance with the substance of the famous
Einstein-Bohr debates and with the thesis that, at some level of
analysis, mind and brain are identical. As will be seen, I am arguing
for the proposition that the relevant level of analysis is at the
foundation of or physical science, on the level of the quantum
mechanics of neural networks. By way of a preliminary, then, I would
ask you to imagine neural networks as vast assemblies of interacting
electromagnetic quanta, or photons.
In my investigations into neural network function, I have been guided
by the need to fit theory to the contents of our perceptual fields.
Our visual fields, e.g., disclose to us, roughly speaking, a
succession of colored geometric forms. While it seemed a simple
matter to build up patterns of geometric forms from the wave forms
with which we describe light quanta, as is done in Fourier analysis
[oops!], I was in a quandary as to how to get the colors into the
description. While reading David Bohm's beautiful text [on] Quantum
Theory, I came upon a discussion of what are called "hidden
variables". The discussion of hidden variables grew up in the wake of
the Einstein-Bohr debates. As you will recall, these debates had to
do with the question whether our statistical description of quantum
processes was complete or not. As is well known, Einstein is usually
thought to have lost that debate, though he never gave up his
position. It is less commonly known that others, including
Schr�dinger, were also deeply in doubt about the statistical
interpretation of the wave equation. There has continued a lively
debate regarding hidden variables, fueled by the various paradoxes at
the foundations of QM. These paradoxes are referred to as "the
observer problem" or "the measurement problem" or [... etc.]
Following the lead of David Bohm, there has arisen a school of
thought which postulates the existence of hidden variables which, if
incorporated into the wave equation, would resolve those paradoxes
and provide us with a better-than-statistical description of
Von Neumann and Bell have offered proofs which have led many to
question or reject the existence of these variables. [Though Bell
believed in HVs.] Others believe the proofs are faulty, and it is
generally agreed that von Neumann's proof is on the circular side.
Those who believe that hidden variables exist have been hampered by
the fact that, thus far, no one has advanced any real world
candidates to supply the values of the missing variables. If these
variables exist, the question goes, why have they not been
discovered? Why do they remain hidden?
It is a good question. Perhaps the answer is that they are not hidden
at all, but apparent to us whenever we perceive an object.
When we perceive an object, we may distinguish that object's size,
mass, position, shape, and so forth. If we attach the appropriate
measures to these properties we have, again, the familiar physical
quantities of science.
In perceiving an object, we may also discern that object's color, its
warmth or coolness or aural tone. These are, again, the secondary
qualities or properties [of] Galileo [et al.].
It is suggested that the secondary qualities of objects are the
appropriate entities to supply the values of the hidden variables of
By way of illuminating this suggestion, it is further proposed that a
visual field (or any perceptual field, or any mind) is a quantum
field, a photon [+electron] field, and that the colors of the visual
field supply values of the associated-because-identical quantum
Again, the argument to be made for the foregoing involves an appeal
to a mind/brain identity theory, or a neutral monism.
Bertrand Russell wrote, and was quoted with approval by Einstein,
concerning what we take to be an issue at the foundations of physical
"We think that grass is green, that stones are hard, and that snow is
cold. But physics assures us that the greenness of grass, the
hardness of stones, and the coldness of snow, are not the greenness,
hardness, and coldness that we know in our own experience, but
something very different. The observer, when he seems to himself to
be observing a stone, is really, if physics is to be believed,
observing the effects of the stone upon himself."
Russell assumes that physics is to be believed and that therefore the
sort of realism which ascribes the evident properties of objects to
those objects must somehow be mistaken.
It is herein assumed that physics, and particularly QM, is mistaken
in the sense that it is incomplete, in the sense of
It is not the least problem for these conjectures that since the time
of Galileo, Newton, Boyle, et al., it has been a matter of received
doctrine that the secondary qualities or properties of objects do not
exist in those objects, but are derived somehow by the operation of
the [physical!] brain and then supplied to the mind - this, by those
who suppose there to be a connection between mind and brain.
In deference to tradition, one might reply, what will be generally
admitted, that Russell and Einstein were fairly astute fellows and
that, if the two of them were puzzled by these issues, then we may be
respectably perplexed by them as well. Thus, the consolation of
Partisanship aside, we can agree that our perceptions of secondary
qualities or properties appear to be related in lawful ways to the
(physical) stimuli which excite said perceptions, as we say, in our
minds. Thus, anything that is green and perceived is perceived as
extending in space and enduring in time. [link to Riemann,
Minkowski!] An object, when heated, will reliably yield a given
spectrum of wavelengths; those wavelengths which fall within the
visible spectrum have their predictable, constantly correlated
colors. A psychophysicist might multiply such examples at great
length, given he opportunity.
Having pondered the foregoing, we can proceed to a somewhat higher
level of abstraction.
We can list the perceived properties of objects, primary as well as
secondary, and regard these as the elements of a formal or mechanical
We can then construct the theory T along the lines of QM, meaning
that the state of a system will be given as a function of the
variables which range over the values of the elements of T. All
objects of T are these elements or objects constructed from the
elements. [Link to Leibniz, Descartes, Brentano.]
We then posit a mind to be a subset of the electromagnetic fields of
the associated neural networks.
We assume that the mindlike subset is ordered by the CNS and
attendant sensory organs.
If, appealing to G�del's work with formal systems, we assume that the
mindlike subset of fields can be modeled in T, and, further, that
these fields are rich enough to represent the environment of the CNS
or T, we then obtain the following result: It would be necessarily
impossible for the mind or CNS or T to define its elements in simpler
terms without involving a fundamental contradiction.
This is an interesting and desired result, given that we, as sentient
automata, tied to field of photons, are unable to define the elements
of our experience, [viz.] the primary and secondary properties of our
perceptions, in simpler terms than those given by our immediate
If mind and matter are dual or complementary aspects of a single
stuff, then we might expect that changes in one be accompanied by
changes in the other, and we have ample evidence that this is so. The
theory T sketched above recovers this fact very well.
It is accepted that the neurons of the CNS and its peripherals
influence one another by means of electrochemical signals. It is
accepted that all such activity must be mediated by the photon, the
exchange particle of the electromagnetic force. Is mind field
phenomena? It is an interesting question, a testable hypothesis at
least as old as the Gestaltists, who did not have the means for
If mind is to be incorporated into the body of science, then it is
necessary that such (mental) properties as colors be represented
within the more complete theory. The postulation of hidden variables
in QM appears to provide an intriguing possibility for locating such
properties among the elements of an augmented and more powerful