What is consciousness? How does it work? Why and how do we think? Recently, physicist Stuart Hameroff of the Center for Consciousness Research at the University of Arizona put forward a revolutionary theory that is so convincing and beautiful that it really seems to solve the “mystery of the millennia.”
A so-called quantum collapse occurs in the brain – an incredibly complex phenomenon – and as a result, a thought is born. But then the brain turns out to be a kind of analog of the Universe. Or – a quantum computer created by nature, which is able to mentally connect with any point in the universe and with any civilization, even on the outskirts of the Galaxy.
Science and philosophy stormed the problem of consciousness from two sides. Science was looking for a material carrier of thought, for example, a neuron. It turned out that when the brain dies, consciousness also disappears.
Philosophy separated “thought” from the brain, and represented it either as an ether filled with knowledge (Vladimir Vernadsky and his noosphere), or as an “aura” around a person’s head. But experiments with psychics did not give a clear result: sometimes mediums showed amazing effects, but often they could not do anything, and many also turned out to be magicians.
And all this time, strangely, quantum mechanics remained on the sidelines. It is strange – after all, it is it that operates with “consciousness” from the very beginning. Let’s take a closer look at this.
Quantum mechanics appeared at the beginning of the 20th century. Unlike the theory of relativity, which was created by one person, Albert Einstein, this is a collective creation. Despite its “weirdness”, it instantly and forever became the basis of physics, because it incredibly accurately explains what is happening around us.
Quantum mechanics says that normally matter and energy are in an indefinite state. So, light is both a wave and a set of particles (photons). But as soon as the observer (human) intervenes, matter is “determined”: light, for example, becomes either a wave or a particle, depending on what is “expected” of it.
This is the collapse of the wave function (the term is unfortunate, but everyone is used to it). Radical researchers say that the world does not exist at all until we look at it. Others claim that the whole world is filled with consciousness and is an “observer”: both wood and stone have consciousness.
Despite the obvious oddity, the collapse of the wave function is easy to see in experience, which is even shown in advanced physics classrooms in high schools. So there is no doubt.
But what is it about consciousness that it changes the universe? Why is the observer so important? The physicist and mathematician Roger Penrose of Oxford, a member of the Royal Society of London, was the first to suspect that consciousness has a quantum nature.
Hameroff has been working with Penrose for 30 years and wants to understand exactly how it works. The fact is that the quantum theory of consciousness is a bit … unscientific, and allows telepathy, mind reading, communication with the ancient oak and the spirits of ancestors, that is, everything that mystics indulge in.
And this is somehow not good, because there is no sense in mystics. If you postulate such incredible things, you need to scientifically explain it. And here’s what he did.
Penrose realized that every particle of the universe is just a curvature in Einstein’s space-time. When such a curvature or “bubble” bursts, quantum collapse occurs and consciousness emerges.
But in his model, consciousness was born as if spontaneously and could not give rise to meaning and memory. The universe was clearly “thinking”, but like a schoolboy who looks out the window at the lesson: first about one thing, then about another.
Hameroff suggested that brain neurons organize these bubbles of space-time so that their pops form something like music. This music contains thought, memory, information. The philosopher Pythagoras in the 6th century BC said almost the same thing. How did he know? Let’s leave this question.
Hameroff’s hypothesis was greeted with skepticism: the quantum computers that exist today operate at ultra-low temperatures in a sterile environment; Can quantum transitions take place inside a warm and humid brain? Now Hameroff was able to resolve all doubts. And here’s what he gets.
Light itself is consciousness. It used to be thought that a conscious observer “forces” matter to make a decision. Now it is clear that the opposite is true: the quantum transition, on the contrary, generates consciousness.
“Ancient traditions characterized consciousness as light. Religious figures were often depicted with glowing “halos” or auras. Hindu deities – with luminous blue skin. In many cultures, those who have “awakened to the truth” are “enlightened ones,” writes Hameroff in his latest article.
Hameroff presented a complete breakdown of how this works at the level of photons, atoms, molecules and neurons, what chemical reactions and substances are involved in the “creation” of consciousness.
The most important conclusion follows from his theory: consciousness preceded life.
“Conventional science and philosophy suggests that consciousness emerged at some point in evolution, perhaps as recently as the advent of the brain and nervous system. But Eastern spiritual traditions, panpsychism, and Roger Penrose’s theory of objective reduction suggest that consciousness preceded life,” writes Hameroff.
And these traditions turned out to be right (again, how did the ancients know? ). Hameroff describes in detail the early universe, filled with the light of the Big Bang – the universe was then a megamind. But then the substance became cloudy, and a period of unconsciousness set in. When it ended, complex molecules began to appear. With their help, the Universe began to “think” more clearly and precisely.
Thus, the entire universe is conscious because consciousness follows directly from quantum mechanics and relativity. Man is “more conscious” than stone only because the neurons of the brain are a more convenient environment for quantum transition than the crystalline structure of stone or wood fibers, but man is definitely not the only, and certainly not the first thinking being.
Just by thinking something, we turn on (not “we”, it turns itself on) a quantum transition that connects us to any point in the Universe and to any complex mind that exists anywhere.
We are the Universe, and the Universe is us.