Friday, February 17, 2006

Tangled Thinking

It comes as no surprise to me to learn that the unconscious mind is better at making complex decisions than the conscious. It has been my belief for a while now that our brains make use of quantum effects, and this piece of research fits right in with that.

We know that quantum objects can become 'entangled' for extended periods of time, which essentially means that the concrete outcome of their interaction is delayed until some macroscopic 'measurement' is made. (If this sounds vague, that'll be because it is. These effects are well known, but as yet have no proper theory to explain them.)

To me, some types of thinking, especially the unconscious, feel a lot like that. We all know the experience of waking in the morning with the answer to yesterday's unsolved crossword clue there in our minds. This research has confirmed experimentally that it really does pay to "sleep on it".

It seems our brains have two distinct modes: one which functions somewhat - possibly exactly - like a very complex computer program, following logical pathways; and a more mysterious one which is responsible for more creative thinking. It has already been shown (by Gödel in 1931) that human brains are smarter than algorithms, since we can perceive true statements which would bamboozle a computer - although the Strong AI crowd would like to pretend this isn't so. I can't help feeling that the difference has something to do with quantum entanglement, and its ability to hold contradictory states in tandem for extended periods, before "collapsing the wave function".

Maybe one day they'll make a true Quantum Computer, which can actually emulate these effects. Until then, I fear we're going to be stuck with plastic pals who are about as much fun to be with as Word's dancing paperclip.


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