• Larissa Albantakis (Wisconsin-Madison): Integrated Information Theory of Consciousness: Introduction, Tutorial, and Extrapolations
Abstract: The Integrated Information theory of consciousness (IIT) has recently attracted attention among consciousness researchers. IIT stems from thought experiments that lead to phenomenological axioms and ontological postulates (intrinsic existence, composition, information, integration, and exclusion). According to IIT, an experience is a maximally integrated cause-effect structure, which in principle can be completely characterized, both in quantity and quality, by determining to what extent a system of causal mechanisms is irreducible to its parts. Many observations concerning the neural substrate of consciousness fall naturally into place within the IIT framework. Among them are the association of consciousness with certain neural systems rather than with others; the fact that neural processes underlying consciousness can influence or be influenced by neural processes that remain unconscious; the reduction of consciousness during dreamless sleep and generalized epileptic seizures; and the distinct role of different cortical architectures in affecting the quality of experience. The lecture will i) introduce the basic notions of IIT, and provide hands-on examples in which integrated information can be computed rigorously; ii) introduce measures of integrated information that can be applied to empirical data and discuss how they can be applied to evaluate the level of consciousness in wake, sleep, anesthesia, and disorders of consciousness; iii) demonstrate how integrated information grows in animats adapting to a complex environment, thereby shedding light on the evolution of consciousness; iv) consider the explanatory, predictive, and inferential power of IIT; and v) consider potential problems and future developments.
1: Supersymmetric QFT
Suggested Reading: Draft at https://bit.ly/2KI5PlY (please don’t circulate or cite)
2: Worldsheet relationism for string theory (based on joint work with Noel Swanson)
- E. Witten, Reflections on the Fate of Spacetime, https://physicstoday.scitation.org/doi/10.1063/1.881493
- T. Vistarini, dissertation, section 1.5.1: https://indigo.uic.edu/bitstream/handle/10027/9959/Vistarini_Tiziana.pdf?sequence=1
• Andrew Hearin (Argonne National Laboratory): Simulated Knowledge: Cosmological inference with numerical simulations of the universe
Abstract: Cosmology is one of the most rapidly evolving areas of modern science. Over the past three decades, cosmology has been transformed from a largely theoretical discipline into a field seeking precise, quantitative answers to questions about the universe’s origin, its contents, and its ultimate fate. This transformation has been brought about primarily by advances in observational astronomy, such as high-precision measurements of the cosmic microwave background, and the collection of enormous volumes of high-quality galaxy images and spectra. Recently, however, breakthroughs in cosmology are increasingly driven by supercomputers, particularly by our improving ability to simulate the formation and evolution of galaxies and the dark matter halos they inhabit. In this talk, I will review the contemporary “standard model” of cosmology, giving special attention to the field’s recent shift towards simulation-derived results. I will conclude by posing an open question: Are cosmological simulations and machine-learning algorithms simply the modern face of theoretical physics? Or have cosmologists made a devil’s bargain that has changed the nature of empirical inference itself?
Abstract: The first half of this lecture will discuss the basic framework of string theory, while the second will discuss and evaluate meaning of the derivation of general relativity – particularly for the status of geometry and its relation to matter.
Suggested Readings: https://bit.ly/2KI5PlY
Metaphysics is often characterized as being centrally concerned with the fundamental. In these lectures, we consider what metaphysical implications might be embedded in contemporary physicists’ operative concept of fundamentality. Our focus will be on quantum field theory and specifically the Coleman-Gross theorem – a theorem that places quite stringent constraints on the matter content of a fundamental quantum field theory. Throughout we will consider the question of what aspects, if any, of our conclusions may be expected to hold in future physics, and the implications of theory-change for the proper expression of ‘naturalistic metaphysics’.
1. QFT and Fundamentality Metaphysics: Humeanism and Structuralism
Abstract: In this lecture we will briefly consider some reasons why metaphysics is thought to concern the fundamental in particular, and some reasons why metaphysicians should care about physics when theorizing about it. The Coleman-Gross theorem will then be presented, together with an intuitive justification for why it holds. We will then consider two arguments to the effect that this theorem has a transformative effect on metaphysics. The first is the claim that it presages a Humean-friendly form of necessitarianism. The second is the claim that it vindicates the thesis of ontic structural realism. We will then identify the criticisms that could be made to these arguments, on both ‘internal’ grounds and – looking forward to the afternoon session – on the grounds that QFT is not a truly fundamental framework for physics.
2. QFT and Fundamentality Metaphysics: Explaining the fundamental.
Abstract: In this lecture we will revisit the Coleman-Gross theorem and consider what it might have to tell us about how fundamentality itself ought to be conceived of in metaphysics. We will consider in particular whether the fundamental ought to be regarded as by definition ‘brute and inexplicable’, or rather whether physicists can hope to achieve their goal of explaining everything – the fundamental included.