Walter Mischel, author of one of the most famous psych experiments of all time – the ‘marshmallow test’ of self-control – and with a wonderful newbook summarising his work, dropped into BIT for lunch on Friday.
Walter’s work showed that the child who ate the treat, instead of waiting a few extra minutes for two treats, would later tend to do worse at school, the labour market, and in life in general. But he thinks that many people, particularly in the wider political and policy world, took away the wrong message from these dramatic headline results. In the decades of work that followed his early studies, Mischel became one of the leading critics of the ‘fixed personality view’ that became popular with the advent of psychometrics in the 60’s and 70’s (think Eysenk in the UK, Cattell et al in the USA). Walter points to the evidence on brain plasticity and epigenetics of the last two decades as having confirmed the capacity of people to learn and change, and particularly to rapidly sharpen their executive function (EF) and self-control through practice. He argues that the real lesson of epigenetics, and his own early work, is that the human genome is more like a library than a fixed script, and that situational forces and personal choices greatly affect which ‘book’, or capability, we take out over any period.
For the last four centuries, physics became the pre-eminent natural science. Now it is widely believed that biology will replace physics in prominence. However, systematic efforts to develop a science of theoretical biology on a par with modern theoretical physics in depth and explanatory power have failed. In this paper, we introduce the most promising effort to achieve a fundamental theory of biology, the framework of Ervin Bauer, which includes three requirements for life. The universal principle of biology, which is Bauer’s principle, is introduced and presented in mathematical form. Because he was able to derive all fundamental life phenomena from this single principle, we propose that Bauer’s principle is the first and foundational principle of biology. It can play a central role in biology similar to the one played in physics by the least action principle. We posit that this new picture will open the possibility to achieve an exact theoretical biology. Expanding the conceptual framework of theoretical physics in the most suitable way that is necessary and sufficient for an exact theoretical biology is a challenging task. We also clarify some significant conceptual difficulties of Bauer’s requirements in the context of modern biology, and we fundamentally connect Bauer’s theory to quantum physics. In conclusion, we strongly believe that the only version of modern theoretical biology capable of following in the footsteps of modern physics is Bauer’s theory.
We used a new method to test whether subjects could influence the activity of a distant random event generator (REG). In a pilot study, participants selected for their strong motivation and capacity to control their mental activity were requested to alter the functioning of a REG, located in a laboratory approximately 190 km so as to achieve a deviation of ± 1.65 standard scores from the expected mean, during sessions lasting approximately 90 seconds. The predefined cutoff was achieved in 78% of 50 experimental sessions compared to 48% of the control sessions. This study was replicated with a pre-registered confirmatory study involving thirty-four participants selected according the same criteria as in the pilot study. Each participant contributed three sessions completed in three different days giving a total of 102 sessions. The same number of control sessions was carried out. The percentage of the experimental sessions which achieved the predefined cutoff was 82.3% out of 102, compared to 13.7% for the control ones. We discuss the opportunities for exploiting this method as a mental telecommunication device.
The critical commentary by Reimers et al.  regarding the Penrose–Hameroff theory of ‘orchestrated objective reduction’ (‘Orch OR’) is largely uninformed and basically incorrect, as they solely criticize non-existent features of Orch OR, and ignore (1) actual Orch OR features, (2) supportive evidence, and (3) previous answers to their objections (Section 5.6 in our review ). Here we respond point-by-point to the issues they raise.
Reimers et al. … For quantum information processing one must have quantum information storage units such as qubits … the involvement of quantum gravity in the manifestation of consciousness would need to be described in terms of how quantum gravity affected the operation of these qubits …
The nature of consciousness, the mechanism by which it occurs in the brain, and its ultimate place in the universe are un- known. We proposed in the mid 1990’s that consciousness depends on biologically ‘orchestrated’ coherent quantum processes in collections of microtubules within brain neurons, that these quantum processes correlate with, and regulate, neuronal synaptic and membrane activity, and that the continuous Schrödinger evolution of each such process terminates in accordance with the specific Diósi–Penrose (DP) scheme of ‘objective reduction’ (‘OR’) of the quantum state. This orchestrated OR activity (‘Orch OR’) is taken to result in moments of conscious awareness and/or choice. The DP form of OR is related to the fundamentals of quantum mechanics and space–time geometry, so Orch OR suggests that there is a connection between the brain’s biomolecular processes and the basic structure of the universe. Here we review Orch OR in light of criticisms and developments in quantum biology, neu- roscience, physics and cosmology. We also introduce a novel suggestion of ‘beat frequencies’ of faster microtubule vibrations as a possible source of the observed electro-encephalographic (‘EEG’) correlates of consciousness. We conclude that consciousness plays an intrinsic role in the universe.
Sir Roger Penrose. Quantum Consciousness Theorist — Co-creator of the Orch OR model of the quantum nature of consciousness and memory. http://GF2045.com/speakers/
Knighted in 1994 for his contributions to science, Sir Roger Penrose OM FRS, is an English mathematical physicist, mathematician and philosopher.
The extraordinary scope of his work ranges from quantum physics and theories of human consciousness to relativity theory and observations on the structure of the universe. Penrose is internationally renowned for his scientific work in mathematical physics, in particular for his contributions to general relativity and cosmology. His primary interest is in a field of geometry called tesselation, the covering of surfaces with tiles of different shapes.
Among numerous prizes and awards, he received the 1988 Wolf Prize for physics, which he shared with Stephen Hawking for their contribution to our understanding of the universe.
He is the Emeritus Rouse Ball Professor of Mathematics at the Mathematical Institute of the University of Oxford, as well as an Emeritus Fellow of Wadham College.
“There is a current view that consciousness is something which arises from some complicated computation. So we have our computers, and people think that because they can do things amazingly fast, and they can calculate very quickly, and they can play chess extremely well, that they are superior to us even, and it is only some complicated aspect of this computational activity that somehow consciousness arises from that. Now my view is quite different from this. I think there is a lot of computational activity going on in the brain, but this is basically unconscious. So consciousness seems to me to be something quite different.”