Home » Intelligent Design » Joel Isaacson’s “Fantomarks”

Joel Isaacson’s “Fantomarks”

Have a look at Joel Isaacson’s paper “The Intelligence Nexus in Space Exploration” (click here). I’d like to encourage discussion on this thread concerning what you think about Isaacson’s notion of “fantomarks”?

  • Delicious
  • Facebook
  • Reddit
  • StumbleUpon
  • Twitter
  • RSS Feed

19 Responses to Joel Isaacson’s “Fantomarks”

  1. Caveat: I am not a scientist nor do I play one on TV. That being said here is my relatively uninformed opinion on the matter:
    At first glance this sounds like yet another emergent theory of how we got here. But the question I have in all the emergent theories I’ve heard is “Where is everyone else?” If life is indeed emergent then we shouldn’t just see life here on earth but everywhere. There shouldn’t just be life here or on Venus or Mars but on all of the planets, moons, and sun as well as the space in between. If these “fantomarks” do indeed exist then why aren’t they organizing everything? The man is proposing a brand new physical law but other than a few carbon based forms here on earth it hasn’t done anything. If life were truly emergent then the question wouldn’t be “Where is everyone?” but rather “How do we get them to shut up?” Which sounds like a great idea for a story. Wonder if I could get it published?

  2. What are “fantomarks”? Well, let’s first examine what “marks” are. In physical-symbol systems (including conventional digital computers), “mark” is a generic name for physical signals of all kinds, and for physical symbols or their representations in term of physical bit-signal patterns. In short, “marks” are physical carriers of information that is being manipulated. “Fantomark” stands for phantom-mark. Fantomarks are information carriers that cannot be sensed or detected or recorded by human beings, and/or other living things or systems, and/or instruments, devices, or systems made by human beings.

    It does sound a lot like a way of merging the information problem into the question of what undetectable forces cause a persistence of matter and energy. I say this because the question of how the big bang started seems to have gotten explanations that have a similar tone as these fantomarks; plausible, but no way to test or study them except by heavy prediction.

    If these are truly undetectable by any natural means then would they really even have any effect on the material world to begin with?

  3. “Following the logic of Occam’s razor, which modern science defines as: “Given two equally predictive theories, choose the simpler”, when we suppose that the universe has a single designer we introduce a very complex (and unknown) entity, and this only complicates the scientific explanation of intelligent patterning throughout the universe. This implies that as a matter of science, the notion of a designer-less universe provides a more consistent and simpler explanation of “reality.”"

    This is an old atheist objection to theism that has been debunked many times over. These guys live in the past.

  4. Thanks Bill, I almost got a headache after trying to read that.

    Could someone explain the segments titled “Elements of Perception” and “Ties to particle physics” to me?

    I thought it was funny when he said the idea of a single designer was more complicated than what he was cr.ping on about. That seemed contradictory to me.

    As for “fantomarks” we can’t detect them so they are beyond science and metaphysical. This should be discussed in a theology forum.

  5. Uh, yeah. I think I’m going to have to go ahead and call BS.

  6. I have to go with Dave on this one. After all the author talks about three types of intelligence,
    “terrestrial, artifactual, and extraterrestrial”. He also suggests that “intelligence permeates Nature; and that it has no central focus because it is distributive, dissipative, cooperative, and emergent.”

    Excluding God, the only forms of intelligence we know scientifically thus far are biological intelligence, and intelligence created by biological intelligence. Thus intelligence may be passed on from creators to creations. There are no known instances of “emergent or extra terrestrial” intelligent agencies.

  7. In my Introduction to Philosophy class we are covering metaphysics and epistemology. Isaacson seems to assume that he himself is not making metaphysical (anthropological) assumptions about human knowers, then goes on to affirm a technical, logico-mathematical definition of intelligence and perception.

    This is evident from the restriction of his thought experiment to a linear array, since we know that human perception does not follow such a simplisitic model, we have reasons to be suspect of his conclusions from the outset.

    Having defined perception and intelligence as some sort of automatic stimulus-response loop, Isaacson leaves the question open: Why write such an article? That is, the very act of composing such a work tends to contradict his view of human cognition.

    No, it is a much better explanation to say, with Aristotle and St. Thomas Aquinas, that Isaacson, by his nature, desires to know and to create. Further, the notions of knowledge and creativity referenced must explain what humans actually experience from their first person perspective on knowing and creation.

    Telling us that humans are merely acting from a stimulus response cognitive mechanism that permeates both the individual and his/her environment, may satiate a naturalistic appetite, but it leaves the naturalist open to the objection above, namely, “why are you telling me this if you are more or less a machine?” The very act of wanting to know and communicate that knowledge surpasses these naturalistic models of humanity.

  8. —–”Patterns are not innate “information,” but they become so only when they enter into a certain relationship with a cognitive subject. So it’s meaningless to discuss information without regard to a cognitive subject interacting with it.”

    Among other things, I think he is confusing “information” with “message.”

  9. Isaacson’s 1981 patent referenced at the beginning is describing a simple version of Conway’s Game of Life which was all the rage back then. It took me little while to make the connection in comparing adjacent signals in a linear array and getting “distinct from self” or “not distinct from self” to recursively generate carry-forward tokens with Conway. Conway’s game of life is the same thing except the array is 2 dimensional and the comparison rules a bit different. I suspect Isaacson is still trying to get something useful out of the algorithm 27 years later.

    The number of made-up words put up more red flags starting with “intellector” in the patent. Some of the descriptions of biolgical vision processing made some sense but when he started describing retinal layers as “homunculi” I almost spit my coffee.

    Fantomarks, described as “cannot be sensed or detected or recorded by human beings, and/or other living things or systems, and/or instruments, devices, or systems made by human beings” is non-sensical. If nobody can detect them how is Isaacson able to describe them?

    The last few paragraphs on particle physics, intelligent design, and future research are disjointed and not a little bit raving. The kicker:

    Development of an information theory that is extended to fantomark-coded messages and streaks would facilitate the invention of superior intelligent artifacts.

    Uh yeah. I think I’m going to have to go ahead and recommend that intelligent artifacts (computers) stick to using data that can actually be sensed.

  10. I admit that by a third of the way through (by judging my scroll bar cursor) I was definitely heading toward the conclusion that I was reading something akin to bovine scatology. That thought was tempered by the fact that I couldn’t understand most of it. So, I stopped about half way through and came and read the comments here and then decided to have another go.

    While it may be interesting to conjecture about un-embodied fantomarks and the “retrieval” (I guess?) vie streaks, it should be noted that such retrieval via recursive cell-automata is fundamentally undermined if a dialectic is required. Algorithms, even if recursive, produce no new information. Thus, there is nothing in that dialectic to “choose” from. I am convince that dialectic is necessary, but it is one of the few words I understood.

    Near the end of the article, comments concerning seeds of life and a new type of panspermia were made as if other life forms could somehow have transcended the “streak” level of message and generate (what I would term) un-embodied fantomarks for emergent life elsewhere. This seems impossible to me, but I’ll be the first to admit that I couldn’t really pin down what he was talking about. I don’t drink coffee, so I had nothing to spit.

    This does go to the problem teleology, and the difficulty in finding , incipient, generic constructs of it that are meaningful and so measurable, and now I have a headache. . .

  11. It’s amazing that such a turgid mess of convoluted fuzzy thinking ever got published, but then the journal may be a part of a local old-boy network. The only way I can make any sense of the “fantomarks” is as a confused way of envisioning the human meaning aspect of a communications string. A Shakespeare play has a large amount of complex specified information which can in principle be quantified. The human meaning of this information would be the “phantom” pattern information he is groping for.

  12. The problems, I suspect, with Isaacson’s inflating his notion of fantomarks from Bohm’s quantum mechanics are several:

    1) Isaacson’s notion of fantomark guidance being akin to Bohm’s pilot waves (Bohm’s “guiding equation”) ignores that such pilot waves are nonlocal effects (i.e. ‘action at a distance’) in Bohmian quantum mechanics and are further subject to the quantum equilibrium hypothesis such that these nonlocal effects can’t be both observable and controlable – they can’t be used to send ‘faster than light’ genetic information that is controlled by an observer. i.e. fantomark based telepanspermia being guided similary to pilot waves fails the ‘tele’ prerequisite.

    2) Telepanspermia implies information from an observer encoded in fantomarks interacting nonlocally (i.e. faster than light) with a recipient subsystem (the observed matter). The appeal to fantomarks as a mechanism for telepanspermia merely shifts the origin of life problem to an extraterrestial source. It does not change the implausibility that such extraterrestrial life (even if it has fantomark technology) itself originated without the input of a higher-order still intelligent designer external to the closed system, i.e. from outside the universe which at a minimum has a closed boundary at the big bang.

    3) Isaacson’s notion of recursive distinction-making involving an inseparable observer (fantomark sender) and the observed (matter) implies the ‘pilot waves’ not only affect the observed but provide a feedback path to the observer, which again violates the quantum equilibrium hypothesis insofar as Bohmian quantum mechanics are considered.

  13. What this author means by “phantomarks” is beyond me. Yet if there were anything in legit physics that could qualify (aside from quantum nonlocality or whatever), what about mathematical realism? Outside of mathematics and physics one never hears anyone address this issue, but just about all physicists (who have given it any thought) are realists—they believe that mathematics is discovered, not invented as the formalists would have it. That is, the realists believe that the mind is capable of receiving—much as a radio receiver—insight into the logic that underlies all of reality in all possible worlds.

    But of course we have no instruments that can detect emanations of fundamental axioms—only our minds can do that. Though I doubt that this is what Isaacson has in mind, one could imagine that this is the same process whereby information “emerges” as life where conditions are suitable. If one is a determinist—like, say, Einstein—one could imagine that this Platonic backdrop emanates all the information necessary to determine everything (including me writing this). But isn’t physics moving in the direction where even the laws are contingent? The mathematician may “discover” the fundamentals, but if these are insufficient to predict even the gravitational constant, how then the architecture of the simplest cell?

    What Isaacson ignores is the soul (i.e., consciousness and free will). A computer has body (hardware) and spirit (software) but no soul—the soul is in they guy manipulating the mouse and keyboard.

  14. I guess I’m sympathetic to Isaacson.

    To begin with, this was translated from the original Hebrew, so I’m guessing that the abundance of neologisms is an unfamiliarity with English. Given that there are 100,000 words in a typical English working dictionary, compared with 10k-30k in other languages, there might be a tendency to invent a word or a meaning, not knowing the appropriate one.

    Second, one should separate the method from the results (even if Isaacson would object). His results are colored by some sort of Reconstructionist / Hellenistic philosophy, and clearly intended to reject the Christian / Western metaphysics. But rather than spitting your coffee, let him finish his rant and then closely examine his methods.

    Third, he argues that recursion is essential to understanding cognition. It just so happens that I’ve abandonned a career in Space Physics to go back to seminary and make that same point in hermeneutics. If you want the background of Isaacson’s paper, (though not the terminology), read Hofstadter’s 1979 book, “Goedel, Escher, Bach”. It is worth reading in its own right, and quite enjoyable. The point Isaacson is drawing from that, is that recursion is inimical to linear, rationalistic logic. The proof lies in Goedel’s 1935 Incompleteness Theorem, which destroyed Bertrand Russell’s assault on metaphysics (because he was an atheist and really wanted to destroy God). Goedel demonstrated just how powerful recursion could be. This was the theme of Hofstadter’s book, which stressed the destructive nature of recursion. Isaacson wants to stress the constructive nature of recursion. He uses spatial cognition for his starting point.

    He could have used aural cognition, as I did in a paper: “Time, Eternity, and Quantum Mechanics” http://rbsp.info/rbs/RbS/TEQM/
    but the point is that the brain converts a time-dependent aural, or a spatial-dependent signal into a frequency dependent signal by taking the Fourier transform. The brain then operates in frequency space rather than in time or spatial space. So Isaacson has the visual signal being processed recursively until he reaches a kernel, or a “limit-cycle” and it doesn’t compress anymore. Then the values of these kernel frequencies or limit-cycles encode the information in the visual. The information is still there, in a highly abstract way, but needs the same compression engine to perform the decompression. Thus the observer becomes essential to the information, the way a German Enigma cryptography machine is related to the encrypted message.

    So now that we can view the brain as an Enigma machine, and the visual information as frequencies, what is to keep us from applying the same process to the neurons in the brain? What is to keep us from encoding ourselves? For that matter, perhaps what we observe is merely the encoded reality, and the more fundamental original version is the encoded one? (You know the old Chinese parable by Lao Tzu: I fell asleep and dreamt I was a butterfly who fell asleep and dreamt it was a man.)

    And turning this inside out, what is to say that the observable universe is merely the encoding of a more fundamental frequency space?

    Since we don’t have an answer to either Lao Tzu or Isaacson, perhaps the judicious thing to do is to give equal weight to both representations of reality. This was the thesis of TEQM, that God lives in frequency space, man in spatio-temporal space, and information / design / spirit is the Fourier transform / recursion that links the two representations.

    Well, when I finish the thesis, I’ll certainly post the abstract here.

  15. This section, as someone has pointed out, is just flat out wrong:

    “Following the logic of Occam’s razor, which modern science defines as: “Given two equally predictive theories, choose the simpler”, when we suppose that the universe has a single designer we introduce a very complex (and unknown) entity, and this only complicates the scientific explanation of intelligent patterning throughout the universe. This implies that as a matter of science, the notion of a designer-less universe provides a more consistent and simpler explanation of “reality.” This is, however, a matter of economy and simplicity, and as matter of deduction, it cannot be settled by decree one way or the other. Hence, people who believe in deities are entitled to their non-scientific beliefs even though their beliefs would not meet Occam’s criteria.”

    One problem is with the ambiguous use of the word “complex”. It has been argued by atheists that any creator would have to be more complex than the creation. Actually, the creator only needs to be intelligent enough to make good choices in the design so that the creation has the properties the creator wants. For example, if an engineer designs a system for a specific purpose, and the system has 1,000 moving parts, does he have to have, say, 2,000 moving parts? Of course not.

    Keep in mind that much of the complexity in the universe is random complexity and is therefore irrelevant, and that the only thing that does matter is the fact that certain characteristics were purposefully chosen to allow the universe to unfold as it did. This speaks to intelligence and foresight, not complexity.

    By confounding complexity with intelligence, the author of this piece has misused Occam’s razor.

  16. sheldonr

    he argues that recursion is essential to understanding cognition

    Indubitably. But extending it to the working of an undetectable intelligence that permeates the universe is a trip into fantasy land.

    So Isaacson has the visual signal being processed recursively until he reaches a kernel, or a “limit-cycle” and it doesn’t compress anymore

    Nothing new here. Read the The Data Compression Book for a good survey of data compression techniques. Compression of visual snapshots through recursion of adjacent signal (pixel) similarity is essentially JPEG compression. Compress a stream of JPEG images by adding a recursive comparison of adjacent frames and that is essentially MPEG.

    That the human biological visual system works like a human artifactual visual system is no great surprise. Call it convergent engineering. I happen to have a patent where I mimiced part of the human visual processing system to decrease power consumption.

    What is to keep us from encoding ourselves?

    Nothing makes it impossible as far as I know. That’s not the same as saying it’s possible.

    For that matter, perhaps what we observe is merely the encoded reality, and the more fundamental original version is the encoded one?

    Who knows. Maybe “The Matrix” was a documentary. This is more a topic for epistemology, which might be interesting, but it doesn’t launch ships.

    give equal weight to both representations of reality

    Let’s give alternate representations of reality weight commensurate with physical evidence in support of it. In the case of fantomarks that’s not equal time it’s zero time.

  17. “I have arrived at an ultimate simplicity that explains a great deal about intelligence”

    An “ULTIMATE SIMPLICITY”… wow!

    “One subtle consequence of this model is that actual raw patterns of signals are not required for perception. Rather, it is their patterns of internal/local distinctions that matter.”

    Loaded term is “matter.”

    “Patterns are not innate “information,” but they become so only when they enter into a certain relationship with a cognitive subject.”

    Well what about the fact that the subject IS composed of those patterns?

    “So it’s meaningless to discuss information without regard to a cognitive subject interacting with it.”

    The relativity loophole… well I guess he’s right but for this to be totally true then perception cannot be understood in his model. Because it is self referential and hence appeals to nothing but itself- which is fine except it violates his rule about patterns not being required for perception as it logically is necessary for perception to either appeal to itself as a pattern and hence it is necessary for it to have patterns or it cannot appeal to itself and so has nothing to say about itself.

    As far as the notion of “fantomarks”– I don’t think you can compare the undetectable (except though metaphysical perception) to the “physically” detectible. There is a major phenomenological problem with this outlook. One it fails to distinguish between true marks and fantomarks because it fails to define perception as a duality- which in my view it is not.

    “THEN SUCH CAPACITY IS THE ULTIMATE GENESIS OF ANY COGNITION, OR LEVEL OF COGNITION, THAT MAY DEVELOP IN THE SUBJECT.”

    No. Because we do not know where perception truly begins or ends. The statement above is an epistemic one (which is semi persuasive IMOP)- but not an ontological one.

    I don’t think the answer to the quest for a qunta-qulatative understanding of intelligence will be found in recursive pattern loops. Although his epistemic original data point argument does seem to beg a tough question for the materialists which is better put this way…

    At any given point of perception (consciouness) what physical character can we point to that would be correctly labeled pre-perception?
    Any adequate attempt to explain answer this question via a purely materialistic explanation will break the rules of the no free lunch theorems hence it will be either inconsistent or incoherent or incomplete.

    I will write more later.

  18. Yeah fantomarks would be a tough thing to discuss and debate because unlike a flagellum you can’t really study or quantify (or qualify for that matter) any aspects of them.

  19. Thanks all for the various responses. Most are understandably confused and confusing. Some,
    such as DaveScot’s, are a bit caviller… Best, — Joel

Leave a Reply