Origins: Brain and Self Organization

By Karl Pribram | Go to book overview

FOREWORD

This, the second Appalachian conference on neurodynamics, focuses on the problem of "order", its origins, evolution and future. Central to this concern lies our understanding of time. Both classical and quantum physics have developed their conceptions within a framework of time symmetry. This has led to notions such as Feynman's, which are portrayed in his famous diagrams as time arrows pointing in opposite directions "from time to time". DeBeauregard has challenged this conceptualization, proclaiming instead that it is causality that becomes reversed, not time itself.

My own view as a biologist steeped in time asymmetry, is that all such interpretations, despite their mathematical rigor, are nonsense. My views stem from those proposed by Dirac, who noted that the Fourier transform describes a reciprocal relationship between formulations describing spacetime and those describing a spectral domain. The spectral, holographic-like, domain has enfolded space and time--and thus causality. A new vocabulary (such as talking in terms of spectral density, needs to be applied to fully understand the coherence/correlational basis of phenomena observed in this domain. The Einstein, Podolsky & Rosen proposal, Bell's theorem and the like, lose their "mystery" when conceived as operations taking place in the spectral domain. However, we are unskilled and unused to thinking in such terms which make these phenomena appear strange to us.

One of the reasons for strangeness is that most phenomena are observed to take place in a domain that partakes to one extent or another of both spacetime and spectrum. Hilbert gave formal structure to this "intermediate" domain and Heisenberg applied it to a formulation of quantum physics. It was Gabor who extended this application to the communication sciences, and thus to the classical scale of operations. Nonetheless, to emphasize the relation to quantum physics, Gabor named the maximum density with which a signal could be transmitted without loss of fidelity, a "quantum of information".

Both biological and engineering applications of Gabor's insight have vindicated the usefulness of thinking about this hybrid (space time/spectrum) domain. In image processing (such as magnetic resonance imaging - MRI) which is based on "quantum holography" and in understanding visual processing by the brain, Gabor functions have played a major role during the past two decades. Many of these applications were presented in the proceedings of Appalachian I: New Directions in Neural Networks: Quantum Fields and Biological Data.

These contributions to understanding do not, however, completely resolve the issue of the irreversibility of time. Most of the formalisms describe linear or quasilinear processes and practically all of them are invertible. What is needed is a strongly non-linear, irreversible conceptualization in which time symmetry becomes irrevocably broken. Ilya Prigogine has provided such a conceptualization and I asked him to review for us his most recent insights to keynote Appalachian II. Prigogine, in his application, introduces formally the concept of "possibilities" which goes well beyond the much touted inherent probabilistic aspect of quantum physics. Two consequences emerge from "possibilities" and both have played a major role in the development of non-linear dynamics (or Chaos Theory as it is usually called---turbulence theory, I believe, would better reflect what the theory is about). One consequence, emphasized by the Santa Cruz group, notes that what appears to be random at any moment, may have deterministic roots. In a sense this

-vii-

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