On Invention of Structure in the World: Interfaces and Conscious Agents
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The Interface Theory of Perception, as stated by D. Hoffman, says that perceptual experiences do not to approximate properties of an “objective” world; instead, they have evolved to provide a simplified, species-specific, user interface to the world. Conscious Realism states that the objective world consists of ‘conscious agents’ and their experiences. Under these two theses, consciousness creates all objects and properties of the physical world: the problem of explaining this process reverses the mind-body problem. In support of the interface theory I propose that our perceptions have evolved, not to report the truth, but to guide adaptive behaviors. Using evolutionary game theory, I state a theorem asserting that perceptual strategies that see the truth will, under natural selection, be driven to extinction by perceptual strategies of equal complexity but tuned instead to fitness. I then give a minimal mathematical definition of the essential elements of a “conscious agent.” Under the conscious realism thesis, this leads to a non-dualistic, dynamical theory of conscious process in which both observer and observed have the same mathematical structure. The dynamics raises the possibility of emergence of combinations of conscious agents, in whose experiences those of the component agents are entangled. In support of conscious realism, I discuss two more theorems showing that a conscious agent can consistently see geometric and probabilistic structures of space that are not necessarily in the world per se but are properties of the conscious agent itself. The world simply has to be amenable to such a construction on the part of the agent; and different agents may construct different (even incompatible) structures as seeming to belong to the world. This again supports the idea that any true structure of the world is likely quite different from what we see. I conclude by observing that these theorems suggest the need for a new theory which resolves the reverse mind-body problem, a good candidate for which is conscious agent theory.
KeywordsMind-body problem Evolutionary games Conscious agent Consciousness Physicalism
Thanks to the Federico & Elvia Foundation for support for this work. Thanks for fruitful discussions with Federico Faggin, my research colleagues: Donald Hoffman, Chris Fields, Robert Prentner and Manish Singh, and with G. Mauro d’Ariano and Urban Kordes. Thanks also to an anonymous reviewer, whose comments significantly improved the Discussion section. I thank Diederik Aerts, Massimiliano Sassoli de Bianchi and others at VUB, Brussels for hosting the excellent symposium “Worlds of Entanglement” in 2017 and Tomas Veloz and his colleagues for managing the event with aplomb.
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