Ask A Genius 354 – The Informational Translation Problem
March 15, 2018
[Beginning of recorded material]
Scott Douglas Jacobsen: We were talking off tape about hardware and software and information and if you have a potentially infinite set of hardware and a hardware implies certain infinities in information.
Rick Rosner: I read this book that says that not only are your thoughts not localized, but even when they’re distributed across the brain they are what the author, Lisa Barrett, says is different every time. Every time you’re sad; your sadness lights up a slightly different set of neurons, but they average out to be an average sad.
But anyway, what she and neuroscience are finding out is that thoughts are hard to pin down, to pin it up to areas of the little neighborhoods of the brain, we would like to think of a better model of where the information in thoughts is.
If what we’re saying about information space is right, it’s obviously in the information space, but pinning it down may be tougher. We’ve talked about the ‘how’ of an information space, how it might work; we’ve never talked about it in terms of specifics such as a ‘why’ for the universe. Why should the universe be made from information?
Maybe, we’ve talked about that a little bit, but that should be further developed. I started to try to do that. And one reason is, let’s go from ourselves, where if we have a little information space based on the information that’s in our brain, which is with our brain being the hardware, then you got to ask: Why is the information existing in a space of its own separate from the hardware?
And why can’t the hardware be a part of that space? Why is there a division between the values held in the hardware and the hardware itself? Because the hardware exists as hardware plus it exists as a bunch of values that also exist within the hardware, the zeros and ones; the states of the various circuits in the chips.
As a first step there, the information that I’d hypothesize that we have in our awareness is information that will behave in certain ways independent but consistent, logically consistent, with what would have to transpire in the hardware.
But some future values of the hardware are not yet determined. But the information in an information space has to be sufficiently consistent and determinative that by following the rules of information in its own space it will follow the rules of that information as contained in the hardware which isn’t the best or clearest thought, but it’s the first thought.
So, that’ll have to be further messed with. But the deal is that if there are information spaces that information is internally defined to a certain extent to the point where it behaves according to its rules and the information existing as values in the hardware is similarly constrained.
And then the less constrained stuff, the open parts, the outcomes of various quantum interactions can be determined as the system moves into the future. So, you’ve got the determinant part that works according to the rules of information space or in the hardware and even then, you’ve got the open stuff which can be determined by the values that are input into the hardware which seems like a reasonable first step to the idea that the information when it’s sufficiently self-consistent has an existence according to the rules of information that allows it to have its own existence in its own space. Is that reasonable?
Jacobsen: In some serious ways, yes, and in some other trivial ways, no.
Jacobsen: There’s still the translation problem, which we identified some time ago. The translation problem is the one of precision because that’s off – a long way off, but ways to think about certain structures translating into those different sets of experiences, where a set of experiences can be labeled set sad, set happy, and so on, and within each variable there are micro changes and those micro changes are sufficiently similar to one another that you can categorize them as something as a dynamic set in themselves or labeled under emotions.
Rosner: That’s what Lisa Feldman Barrett indicates that there are states that the brain recognizes or that the mind recognizes as sadness but those states are variable; it’s not always the same sadness and so in an informational sense it’s always a little different and in a coding sense, a hardware sense it’s always a little different, but not vastly different.
That when you take real-time fast PET scans of the brain and you try to evoke certain states like emotions, the same parts light up but they don’t light up exactly the same from time to time to time.
Jacobsen: To me, it seems like the difference between microstructure and gross anatomy.
Rosner: Yes, that makes sense.
Jacobsen: You can see what is what, generally, with gross anatomy, you can’t with microstructure, but you can know more precisely what a particular thing is in decent levels of microstructure analysis.
Too much and it becomes useless, but at a certain level it becomes useful but at the macro level; the gross anatomy level, you can label structures such as the hippocampus for memory, cerebellum is for motor coordination…
Rosner: Yes, except every structure might contain a couple million or more neurons. The little subdivisions that might contain tens of millions of neurons. And then there’s the problem with if we’re arguing that the universe is an information space, that we’re seeing the information that the universe is made of in action, the universe follows precise rules of physics such as the distribution of matter.
It seems all the while orderly but also not pinned down. Everything orbits everything else that doesn’t seem to have crystallized precision. There needs to be a way to understand both: the order of the universe and the lack of precision, or what looks like looseness in the universe.
There needs to be a framework that accounts for both and also provides for some understanding of how hardware cannot intrude into a world of pure information. For instance, each of our minds have evolved over our entire lives; we’ve learned stuff about the world, forgotten stuff and we have structures – that our minds are highly ordered.
We know what we know for the most part, we can recall a lot of things, for instance, have you ever punched a duck?
Rosner: You immediately know the answer somehow. You’ve examined whatever records exist in your memory about ducks and punching and you instantly can answer. Most people can instantly answer, “No,” which seems good informationally.
Have you ever kissed somebody for longer than five minutes? It is a little tougher but still answered almost immediately. It’s highly ordered and that order seems to come from lived experience with the brain being exposed to lived experience and having some way to, as that experience happens, file it away associationally, so it maintains a certain amount of integrity.
You don’t remember stuff that didn’t happen for the most part though that’s questionable, but with some degree of integrity and is highly retrievable. But there’s all this stuff that is highly retrievable; but that you don’t know at any given instant, so you could simulate a moment of awareness with a high degree of precision with the little bit of information that is in your awareness at a given time and somehow provide the illusion of the rest of this order – or artificially provide the order that exists from moment to moment because you’re able to work with this system of information that includes a bunch of stored information.
So, the natural system based on decades of life experience has all this information that adds a certain precision to your thoughts but you could fake that with much less information for a moment or two of thought as long as you give the brain the information that it needs to think those couple of moments of thoughts.
So, the hardware could provide a framework as long as that hardware isn’t perceived because of a lack of information like if you were simulating a couple moments of thoughts and then you quit and you let the system move on without supplying the missing information then the person thinking would either have his mind fall entirely apart because there was not enough supporting information or, and maybe both, for a few moments the person would realize that he or she knew nothing, had almost complete amnesia.
So, coming up with the rules of the existence of information space is based at least in part on the boundary between hardware and open propositions and determinative information within information space.
I’m hoping that’s a good way to set up a boundary; another way of saying it would be that quantum mechanics is famously indeterminate which freaked out Einstein and a lot of people that the universe should not be a clockwork completely determined to universe.
We might be able to say that where the universe is determined that’s due to the logical structure set up by the information and information space, where it’s open to take new values those values will be provided by information coming in from the hardware world.
[End of recorded material]
American Television Writer
Scott Douglas Jacobsen
Editor-in-Chief, In-Sight Publishing
 Four format points for the session article:
- Bold text following “Scott Douglas Jacobsen:” or “Jacobsen:” is Scott Douglas Jacobsen & non-bold text following “Rick Rosner:” or “Rosner:” is Rick Rosner.
- Session article conducted, transcribed, edited, formatted, and published by Scott.
- Footnotes & in-text citations in the interview & references after the interview.
- This session article has been edited for clarity and readability.
For further information on the formatting guidelines incorporated into this document, please see the following documents:
- American Psychological Association. (2010). Citation Guide: APA. Retrieved from http://www.lib.sfu.ca/system/files/28281/APA6CitationGuideSFUv3.pdf.
- Humble, A. (n.d.). Guide to Transcribing. Retrieved from http://www.msvu.ca/site/media/msvu/Transcription%20Guide.pdf.
License and Copyright
In-Sight Publishing and In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal by Scott Douglas Jacobsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.
Based on a work at www.in-sightjournal.com and www.rickrosner.org.
© Scott Douglas Jacobsen, Rick Rosner, and In-Sight Publishing and In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal 2012-2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Scott Douglas Jacobsen, Rick Rosner, and In-Sight Publishing and In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.