What is consciousness and how is it generated? There are several theories that try to explain consciousness. One of the most common theories is materialism. This theory says that consciousness is generated by matter, that is, by firing neurons inside the brain.
The second theory is mind-body dualism. It is probably more commonly known as religion or spirituality. Here consciousness differs from matter. It is part of an alternative characteristic of the individual, which in religious terms we might call the soul.
Then there is a third option that is gaining momentum in some scientific society, panpsychism. According to this theory, the entire universe is occupied by consciousness. Panpsychism is currently the subject of much debate among physicists, neuroscientists, and other researchers.
At some point during this discussion, one must come to understand that everything we experience is strained and interpreted by our mind. Without it, the cosmos does not exist at all, or at least does not exist without some type of consciousness to bear witness to it. In some circles of physics, the dominant theory is a kind of protoconsciousness field.
So, let’s talk scientifically and move on to quantum mechanics. In quantum mechanics, particles do not have a definite shape or precise location until they are observed or measured. Is this the proto-consciousness system in the game?
According to the late physicist and philosopher John Archibald Wheeler, it could be. He is well known for coining the term “black hole”. In his opinion, each part of matter contains a particle of consciousness, which it rivets from this field of proto-consciousness.
He called his theory the “anthropic participation principle” which postulates that the human observer is the key to the process.
Wheeler said: “We are involved in the creation not only of the near and here, but also of far and long ago.”
In his opinion, like the Buddhist, nothing exists if there is no consciousness to understand it. Neuroscientist Christoph Koch of the Allen Institute for Brain Science is another proponent of panpsychism. Koch says that the only theory we have today about consciousness is the level of awareness of self and the world.
Biological organisms are conscious because when they approach a new situation, they can change their behavior to navigate it from that perspective. Dr. Koch is trying to find out if he can measure the level of consciousness that an organism contains.
He will be doing some animal experiments. In one, he plans to connect the brains of two mice together. Will information eventually flow between them? Will their consciousness at some point become one merged, integrated system? If these experiments are successful, he could connect the brains of two people.
British physicist Sir Roger Penrose is another proponent of panpsychism. Penrose suggested in the 1980s that consciousness exists at a quantum level and resides in the synapses of the brain. He is known for associating consciousness with certain events in quantum mechanics.
Dr. Penrose does not go so far as to call himself a panpsychist. In his opinion: “The laws of physics create complex systems, and these complex systems lead to consciousness, which then produces mathematics, which can then succinctly and inspiringly encode the very basic laws of physics that gave rise to it.”
Veteran physicist Gregory Matloff of the New York College of Technology says he has some preliminary evidence showing that at least panpsychism is not impossible.
Dr. Matloff told NBC News: “It’s all very speculative, but it’s something we can test and either confirm or disprove.”
The theoretical physicist Bernard Haisch proposed in 2006 that consciousness is produced and transmitted through the quantum vacuum or empty space. Any system that is sufficiently complex to produce a certain level of energy could generate or transmit consciousness. Dr. Matloff contacted an unorthodox German physicist and offered to conduct an observational study to test it.
What they explored was the Parenago break. This is the observation that cooler stars, such as our own sun, orbit the center of the Milky Way faster than hotter ones. Some scientists attribute this to interactions with gas clouds. Matloff took a different view. He elaborated in a recently published article in the journal Consciousness Research and Research.
Unlike their hotter sisters, cooler stars can move faster due to “unidirectional jet radiation”. Such stars emit a jet at an early stage of their creation. Matloff suggests that this could be an example of a star deliberately manipulating itself to gain speed.
Observational data show a reliable picture in any place where the Parenago gap is observed. If we were talking about interacting with gas clouds, as is currently the case, then each cloud would have its own chemical composition and therefore would cause the star to act differently. So why do they all act the same way?
Although not much, the discovery of the European Space Agency’s Gaia space telescope, whose mission is to display stars, could provide more data to further confirm or weaken this view. On the other hand, Dr. Matloff argues that the presence of a protoconsciousness field could serve as a substitute for dark matter.
Dark matter is thought to make up about 95% of the universe, although scientists can’t find it. So, for the sake of argument, if consciousness is a property that arises at the subatomic level when particles merge, then how do these tiny particles of consciousness come together?
Neuroscientist and psychiatrist Giulio Tononi of the University of Wisconsin-Madison offers a slightly different view of panpsychism, called integrated information theory. Here consciousness is a manifestation with a real physical location somewhere in the universe. We just haven’t found it yet. Perhaps this celestial body radiates consciousness, just as our sun radiates light and heat.
Dr. Tononi is actually putting forward a metric to measure how much consciousness a thing has. The unit is called phi. This means how much control a creature can have over itself or objects around it. The theory separates the intellect from consciousness, which some people consider to be one and the same.
Let’s take artificial intelligence for example. AI can already beat people in all kinds of tasks, but has no will of its own. Therefore, a supercomputer that can change the world beyond the programmer’s commands will be conscious. Many futurists from Ray Kurzweil to Elon Musk believe that this day will come, perhaps in the next decade or so, and that we must prepare.