Now a diversion on Free Energy and the Brain

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In the world of Covid-19, it’s hard to think about anything else, but while doing some exercise, listening to Sean Carroll has been great. His book on Quantum Physics called Something Deeply Hidden was excellent.

But this latest podcast with Karl Friston was something else. Who knows if it is correct, but there are two basic ideas:

  1. Our Brains are trying (like machine learning does) minimize a simple function which is the about amount of prediction error in the future. That is, we are trying to sample enough about the current world so that in the future, we won’t be surprised. That’s why we don’t just sit in a dark room all day, nor do we jump off cliffs every day. The mathematics are fascinating, but you can model this as the amount of free energy in a system. That is the amount of unexplained stuff in our lives.
  2. The second is that the definition of sentience has to do with how much planning we do about the future. The difference between us and a rock (or an RNA virus for that matter) is that we can forward project and as they say “imagine” a future. A mathematician would say, we have a model of the future in our heads and are constantly updating it.

Two sorts of crazy ideas, but they do explain a lot if you think about how we can such complicated things (try a party or an experience once, just to see what it is about, but don’t go crazy trying every random “toilet licking” meme on TikTok… well at least most of us).

And getting back to Something Deeply Hidden, that book itself is also pretty simple and proposes something so incredible, I don’t know how to explain it here. But it basically explains probability at a very deep level using something call the Everettian Many World Theory where quantum decoherence is at the heart of measurement.

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