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TagPhilip Ball

cat-looking-to-little-gerbil-mouse-on-the-table-concept-of-prey-food-pest-stockpack-adobe-stock.jpg
Cat looking to little gerbil mouse on the table. Concept of prey, food, pest.

Can We Find Purpose in a Universe With No Underlying Purpose?

That’s the ambitious goal of a prominent science writer

British science writer Philip Ball offers us a guide to a very interesting project: an attempt to “naturalize” the idea of agency, that is, make the desire to do things—the mouse’s desire to escape the cat— explainable from a fully materialist perspective. That’s much harder than it seems. Rocks don’t desire anything. So we can’t just start from the bottom. It’s also not enough to say that the mouse wants to avoid getting killed. That’s true but it doesn’t really explain anything. For example, a person looks both ways before crossing the street to avoid getting run over. But, by itself, that doesn’t explain why she tries to avoid getting run over. One must factor in her memory, background knowledge,…

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Quantum computing concept with qubit icon 3d rendering

Will Quantum Mechanics Produce the True Thinking Computer?

Quantum computers come with real world problems of their own

Some hope that quantum mechanics can explain human consciousness. Maybe we are all quantum computers but don’t know it? Maybe quantum computers could think like people? There is an odd relationship between the human mind and quantum mechanics, the science of entities like electrons that are too small to be governed by ordinary physics. Some aspects of consciousness appear to be mediated by such elementary particles. Science writer Philip Ball explains, Nobody understands what consciousness is or how it works. Nobody understands quantum mechanics either. Could that be more than coincidence? Quantum mechanics is the best theory we have for describing the world at the nuts-and-bolts level of atoms and subatomic particles. Perhaps the most renowned of its mysteries is…