Thursday, February 21, 2008

Song 21 of 26 - Making It Up As I Go

The twenty-first of the 26 songs is called "Making It Up As I Go". Scroll down below the following video for the lyrics and a brief discussion of how this song ties into the project. A blog post which lists all 26 songs, including 1 video for each song can be found by clicking here.

A direct link to the above video is at

At first blush this song just appears to be about improvising, and how we go through life mostly without scripts, reacting moment by moment. And, like some of the other songs in this collection, this is a simple enough truth that the song can be appreciated just for that uncomplicated idea. But as the 21st song in this collection, there are a lot of swirling currents beneath that seemingly smooth surface. Let's pause here for another review:

In his marvelous book "I Am a Strange Loop", Douglas Hofstadter makes the persuasive argument that looking at the activities of a single neuron tells us nothing about consciousness - there is a higher-level emergent property of symbols and patterns, from the combined action of a great many neurons for the "I" of consciousness that each of us experiences to arise. It should be readily apparent that any single neuron that is firing must be in some tiny way part of the process that is creating consciousness, but the higher-order effect of our awareness is not going to be found by looking at a single neuron. It's a question of scale - there is a continuum from one neuron to many, which includes the connected web of squirting chemicals and zapping electrical charges within our brain, and eventually if you back out far enough you begin to see how memory, thought, and external input combine with the component parts and activities of the brain to create the emergent "I" that each of us experiences.

The same question of scale happens from the quantum level out to the universe: looking at our line of time as being created by one quantum frame after another, each frame no less than one planck length or unit of planck time away from the next, gives us what we experience as the perceived continuous reality of spacetime. But zooming in on any one of those quantum frames is not going to tell us much at all about the emergent properties of how a universe is created, and how it changes from moment to moment or frame to frame.

We keep returning to this: quantum physicists like Seth Lloyd have eloquently shown us how Information Equals Reality, and the team of scientists at Oxford under the direction of quantum physicist David Deutsch have now offered a proof that shows us how the quantum and the macro world are equivalent. What can we draw from this? That it's not relevant to claim that quantum indeterminacy and free will are separate concepts, any more than it's relevant to claim that neurons and consciousness are separate. Does my conscious decision to get up from my chair now cause me to consciously collapse one quantum wavefunction or another? Does it cause me to consciously cause one neuron to fire and another one to remain dormant? In both cases no, but there are still very definitely higher order patterns that my conscious decision to get out of my chair will cause to happen, and to the extent that it matters that will cause one quantum wavefunction to be observed over another, and that will cause one neuron to fire while another does not.

It's all part of a continuum, from quantum frame to atom to the universe, and from quantum frame to atom in the brain to consciousness. But looking at each individual quantum frame, it's virtually impossible to see the emergent possibility of a universe or a mind. For both the universe and any living creature, we are moving down our fourth dimensional line of time, selecting from a fifth-dimensional probablity space, making it all up as we go.

words and music (c) by Rob Bryanton (SOCAN)
I’m just making it up as I go along
Making it up as I go
Sometimes I’m right, sometimes I’m wrong
But I keep making it up as I go along

Never been slow with an answer
Even when I didn’t have a clue
I’d go with what my heart told me
Usually I’d muddle through

I’d plow so brazenly forward
Never lacked for confidence
With just my first gut reaction
Some kind of common sense

And I’m still making it up as I go along
Making it up as I go
Sometimes I’m right, sometimes I’m wrong
But I keep making it up as I go along

Some people say it’s the bible
Some people say it’s the mind
Some think it’s technology
That will finally show the sign

Point me in the right direction
Tell me which is the way
How will I know if my life is blessed
By the path I choose today?

I’m just making it up as I go along
Making it up as I go
Sometimes I’m right, sometimes I’m wrong
But I keep making it up as I go along

For other blogs discussing these ideas, please go to FAQ 12 - Is this about consciousness and the quantum observer?

Next song: 22 of 26 - Insidious Trends

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