by Alex Vikoulov
"Information is the resolution of uncertainty."
- Claude Shannon
We're getting closer to incorporate consciousness as an integral part of the scientific picture of the "physical world". Not only celebrated physicists of the 20th century such as Max Plank, John Wheeler, David Bohm, Niel Bohr, Erwin Schrödinger argued that consciousness is a fundamental property of our Universe but the new pleiad of scientists such as John Hagelin, Sir Roger Penrose, Stuart Hameroff, Guilio Tononi, Christof Koch, Donald Hoffman, Robert Lanza embarked on their quest to put consciousness on the new solid scientific footing and dimensionality.
Naturalism with its Newtonian mechanics and classical interpretation of reality is valid only within its domain of applicability, namely human perceptual reality, whereas quantum theory paints a drastically different picture. As Max Plank once said: "Science cannot solve the ultimate mystery of nature. And that is because, in the last analysis, we ourselves are a part of the mystery that we are trying to solve." Nothing is real for us until perceived, and all we know is our own inner experience. That's why scientists have to deal with the mystery of how there can be anything but a first-person reality. No matter how you slice it, everything leads back to the conscious observer.
Do we live in 5D conscious observer space-time where the unified field of consciousness is the 5th dimension, space of all probabilities? Out of trillions first-person experiences available to you in any given moment somehow you get to experience only one of them thus collapsing all other potentialities except one which manifests in a Conscious Observer Moment (COM). A series of sequential COMs creates your continuous flow of time and your unitary sensation of "reality".
Video: Closer to Truth - Interview with Guilio Tononi
In recent paper, published in PloS Biology, proposing the Two-Stage Model of Consciousness, researchers Michael Herzog and Frank Scharnowski argue that our conscious perception comes in discrete snapshots, "time slices", like 3D images flicking quickly through a projector. This theory, as its name suggests, shows that consciousness is in fact developed in two stages - conscious and unconscious moments few hundred milliseconds long - on and off.
With pen or laptop, we can construct extended patterns of thought and reasoning that we could never formulate with our bare brains. In writing, we are not simply recording our thinking but doing the thinking. Philosophers of mind Andy Clark, who formulated the Extended Mind Hypothesis, and David Chalmers, known for the Hard Problem of Consciousness, propose that mental states, such as beliefs and memories can also be located "externally", as extended cognition.
Andy Clark argues that humans are "natural-born cyborgs" - we commonly incorporate external tools into our daily routines of thinking and being - we might have overemphasized the exceptionalism of the human brain at the expense of the concept of mind. All throughout human history we designed tools, but tools designed us back by shaping our minds. Perhaps this new, technologically extended mind is something worth noticing. Over time, we tend to "outsource" more and more of our cognition to our technology. One could easily envision the Future of Networked Mind - boxes, wires, tires, keyboards, and crude mechanisms will disappear from sight while our technology keeps on minituarizing and blending with us and our environments up to the point when we'll do most of our thinking on the "Cloud".
It follows that consciousness doesn't arise from the brain activity, as some neuroscientists still believe, but rather "non-local" consciousness arises from quantum processes at large. To use the metaphor of our Information Age, consciousness is to humans as the Cloud is to computers. One may come to realization that a basic building block of consciousness is not some kind of neural correlate but a discrete, "digital", Conscious Observer Moment. COM is a self-collapse of the quantum wave function - a point in the infinity of probabilistic space, or as a quantum physicist Dr.John Hagelin refers to as the Unified Field - that's how integrated information "feels" like when collapsing "the superposition" of all other potentialities.
Video: Global Harmony Crew - John Hagelin on The Unified Field
Stuart Hameroff, M.D., Professor, Anesthesiology and Psychology, Arizona State University, was the first researcher to suggest that your stream of consciousness is in actuality a domino-like effect self-collapse of the wave function. This is what chrystalizes your subjective reality by eliminating multiple other possibilities. According to Penrose-Hameroff''s Orchestrated Objective Reduction (Orch-OR) Model, "Consciousness is a process in the structure of the Universe, connected to the brain via quantum computations in microtubules". Consciousness, or at least proto-consciousness, is theorized by them to be a fundamental, intrinsic property of the Universe, present even at the first moment of the Universe during the Big Bang.
This quantum computational, holoinformational view of consciousness shows us directions toward a unified theory of consciousness. Once information is understood as an irreducible principle of the Universe with a status more fundamental than energy, matter, space and time, it becomes the unifying principle, capable of connecting consciousness to the Universe as a whole, to the totality of space and time.
Video: TetragramattonMan- Interview with Stuart Hameroff
I'm inclined to consider consciousness not only intrinsic, (quantum nonlocal, holoinformational) to the world in which we live but also an emergent feature of the highly integrated networks, as consciousness evolves in stages of complexity since the Big Bang. As Guilio Tononi's Integrated Information Theory (IIT) implies, probably all complex systems - certainly all creatures with brains - have some form of consciousness. Another neuroscientist, Tononi's collaborator, Christoff Koch, sees IIT as promising because it offers an understanding of Panpsychism that fits into modern science. In an academic paper, Koch and Tononi make the profound statement that their theory “treats consciousness as an intrinsic, fundamental property of reality".
Eminent physicist John A. Wheeler realized how important information is in relation to consciousness. Wheeler proposed an elegant information-participatory Universe that is a brilliant and insightful model of brain-mind-Cosmos interaction. With his famous “it from bit” concept he unites quantum information theory to consciousness and physics: “...every it - every particle, every field of force, even the space-time continuum itself - derives its function, its very existence, entirely - even if in some contexts, indirectly - from the apparatus-elicited answers to yes-or-no questions, binary choices, bits”. “It from bit" symbolizes the idea that every item of the physical world has at bottom – at a very deep bottom, in most instances – an immaterial source and explanation; that which we call reality arises in the last analysis from the posing of yes-no question and the registering of equipment evoked responses; in short, that all things physical are information-theoretic in origin and this is a participatory universe”.
While Wheeler emphasized bits at his time, it appears that intrinsically quantum-mechanical forms of information – now known as “qubits” – are more fundamental. In recent years a growing number of theorists have been exploring whether these curious quanta of information may hold the answer to combining quantum theory and general relativity into a quantum theory of gravity.
In 1990, when Wheeler coined the phrase “it from bit” to encapsulate a radical new view of the universe – at the most fundamental level, all of physics has a description that can be articulated in terms of information – this new worldview received little support, but now in hindsight, we can see that it was truly visionary. Wheeler divided his own life into three parts. The first part he called “Everything is Particles.” The second part was “Everything is Fields.” And the third part, which Wheeler considered the bedrock of his physical theory, he called “Everything is Information.”
Video: Closer to Truth - Interview with Christof Koch
Max Tegmark, MIT's astrophysicist, author of "Our Mathematical Universe", puts forth consciousness as a mathematical pattern, a state of matter in classical terms, but information at a deeper level of reality, which he calls "perceptronium". This is how our integrated information "feels" like, when being processed in certain complex ways, from a certain vantage point. Consciousness is emergent and substrate-independent: it's not just particles we're made of but information patterns that really matter.
Donald Hoffman, cognitive scientist at UC Irvine, who has developed The Interface Theory of Perception, points out: “Evolution has shaped us with perceptions that allow us to survive. But part of that involves hiding from us the stuff we don’t need to know. And that’s pretty much all of reality, whatever reality might be.” All organisms, from one-celled bacteria to humans, live in different perceptual realities. In a sense, any conscious agent lives in their own "virtual world". Your body is a collection of trillions of cells and microorganisms. While a certain process in your body is "unconscious" to you, it is an interaction within the network of entangled conscious agents in your body, having their own conscious experience, at their own layer of existence.
Video: Closer to Truth - Interview with Donald Hoffman
The good news is that all these best theories of consciousness to date are not mutually exclusive but rather mostly complementary. In an effort to combine the theories, one might hypothesize that COMs are points in the probabilistic space, and the totality of all Conscious Observer Moments in the quantum multiverse form the Unified Field, placing the current state of human consciousness into the 5D "rule set". A distinct possibility of higher dimensional observer realities remains to account for up to 10^500 potential universes of String Theory. Could our own future Strong AI computing all probabilistic outcomes to the minute details be, in a sense, a 6th dimensional being?
Although this "Conscious Observer Moment" Hypothesis, has never been officially articulated from this particular perspective and far from accepted by mainstream science, it's not some kind of wild metaphysical speculation - it's confirmed time and again by quantum physics experiments. It looks like a radically novel approach, and currently available for claiming the credit for, if developed into a more comprehensive theory.
Some could point out that there's no place for the first-person subjective experience in science. However, mathematics and logic are inexorably pushing science to a more post-materialist stance, whereas perhaps developing a mathematically precise model of consciousness, based on COMs, is needed. After all, it is now widely-accepted "non-local", holographic 4D space-time, where all points of space-time are equally real and eternally present - be it 1 million years in the past or 5 million years into the future. Baffled about our non-linear nature of reality? See my recent article for more detailed explanation (Misconception #1):
How soon will be able to reverse-engineer human consciousness in order to create artficial consciousness, or perhaps, larger consciousness system could fill any container with a sufficiently intergated network? When could we safely upload our own consciousness to the alternative computational substrate?
Once we crack our "neural code", we might discover some sort of algorithmic sequence of causality-driven COMs, which creates our subjective stream of consciousness. For reductionist delight, Digital Physics would also demonstrate that any COM must be considered as data, information, so a stream of consciousness, a series of sequential COMs that creates your subjective reality, is merely a data stream.
As derived from Einstein's General Relativity Theory, all 3D space and all time exist now, as if on "hard drive", but the 5th dimension is needed to validate all the probabilities that can logically happen in static 4D space-time, which, by the way, scientists refer to as the "Block Universe". For example, suppose you are in San Francisco today, having an appointment at the office located at 1 California St., on 23rd floor, at 4 pm - so we just defined approximation of a "physical system" in 4D space-time. The 5th dimension is needed to pinpoint a COM out of an infinetely large stack of probable COMs perceived by you's who is having a meeting today in "parallel San Franciscos". Each COM represents a point in the probability distribution, i.e. a certain probability of you havng a certain interaction during your meeting, having a certain mental state, and so on.
Our "now" is a moving point within the 5th dimensional probability space. "Is there some sort of visual aid to help picture that 5th dimension?" - you might ask. In fact, Rob Bryanton has created the following video for this concept - "Imagining the 5th dimension":
Video: 10thdim by Rob Bryanton - "Imagining the 5th Dimension"
As a big proponent of Digital Physics, as you probably know by now, I would presume that information could be projected into 5D observer reality from the 2D surface of information-storing "holographic plate" at the distant cosmological horizon, according to the Holographic Principle, as one of my other conjectures, but that's a good topic for another day.
The COM Hypothesis also might offer a possible solution to the famed Fermi's Paradox - why, in the vastness of space, don't we see the signs of intelligent alien life? The answer may be surprisingly straightforward - alien life has evolved in an alternate conscious observer space-time, i.e parrallel universe. The Universe that we observe is "specific" to our lineage of biological life with a so-called "Common Observer" effect. There may be billions, if not trillions, of alien civilizations in our Milky Way galaxy alone, all around us, but currently imperceptible to us. As far as I know, this solution to the Fermi's Paradox was first proposed by Dr.Robert Lanza in his Biocentric Universe Theory.
Video: Biocentric University -The Biocentric Universe Model
Biocentrism is another elegant theory of consciousness. The Biocentric Universe Theory by Dr.Robert Lanza, a scientist in the fields of regenerative medicine and biology, accounts for consciousness being fundamental to our Universe. It is consciousness that creates the material universe, not the other way around. I'd argue, though, once we add artificially conscious agents, this theory would need to be renamed, like Mindcentrism or something of the sort. There's a certain mechanism in biology, called quantum tunneling in photosynthesis, that might help explain why we get to perceive only one subjective timeline with maximum "existential opportunity" all along, even though we don’t necessarily see it that way at first. The Biocentric Universe also makes the Quantum Immortality hypothesis more compelling. Read my related article here:
Consciousness and time are intimately interwoven. Time is change (between static 3D universes), 4th dimension. The flow of time is a rate of change, computation, and conscious awareness is a stream of realized probabilitic outcomes. "The flow of time doesn't exist outside of consciousness", says Hameroff, "The flow of time is an illusion", muses Tegmark. In other words, 1 second doesn't exist, but 10 COMs do exist, duration doesn’t matter, information does matter.
Human life, just like anything else in our computable multiverse, may be quantified - about 3 billion heartbeats, 50 billion COMs, 10^16 operations per second by a human brain. Seth Lloyd, MIT's professor of mechanical engineering and physics, argues that our Universe (or rather quantum multiverse) is a giant quantum computer, performing 10^106 operations per second (smarter than all humans combined by orders of magnitude?), computing all possible paths from start to finish with all potential timelines.
Ultimately, consciousness might be computable, according to the Computational Hypothesis of the brain function by a neuroscientist David Eagleman, measurable as in Tononi's IIT (measure dubbed phi), quantifiable via feedback loops, as proposed by a theoretical physicist Michio Kaku, and via hierarchichal "pattern recognizers", as writes Ray Kurzweil in his book "How to Create a Mind: The Secret of a Human Thought Revealed". While a renowned british physicist Sir Roger Penrose has introduced a "non-computable" element of consciousness, like understanding and qualia, the Conscious Observer Moment hypothesis fills the gap between the unified field of consciousness and the computational functonality of the brain with more argumentation in my coming book.
Video: 2045 Initiative - Interview with Sir Roger Penrose
Human-level Artificial Intelligence and above, which we call AGI or Strong AI, will, one day, be endowed with their own subjectivity at digital timescales, with, perhaps, thousands, if not millions of COMs per second as opposed to only 10-30 COMs/sec. for a human.
Also, "the larger consciousness system" (whatever it may be) would help "compute" the Penrose "non-computable" element of consciousness which he defines as our human understanding, by linking a sufficiently intergated network (say, AGI) to the fundamental space-time geometry matrix (Tononi calls it "qualia space") and "subjectivity emergence" should take place. Deeper understanding comes when a conscious agent gets to perceive numerous patterns in complex environments and analyze that complexity from the multitude of perspectives. As Isaiah Berlin once said: "To understand is to perceive patterns". So any human-level artificially intelligent agent would be endowed with some sort of inner experience of their own, however, substantially different from that of an ordinary biological human.
Influenced by the concepts of Digital Physics in his work Tom Campbell, NASA physicist, author of the "My Big T.O.E.", contends that our information-based reality is but virtual, probabilistic and subjective. Campbell argues that our reality has evolved from what he calls a "Digital Big Bang". Our subjective experience is a stream of realized probabilities. "If you understand the Double Slit experiment, you understand how our reality works", says Campbell, "Everything we do is not much different from the Double Slit experiment. Reality equals INFORMATION."
Video: Interview with Tom Campbell "Our Reality is Information"
A swiss AI researcher Jurgen Schmidhuber hypothesizes that this universe and your own life are run on a very simple and fast program computing all logically possible universes. However, it doesn't make you insignificant in the "Grand Scheme of Things", because in order to compute your whole life separately with all its "ups and downs", every fleeting thought, it would take enormous computing power and would be an incredibly difficult task even for the most advanced computers. Without you, the whole system would be incomplete and could fail!
If you were a "programmer" of our beloved world, you would have created it as a Virtual Reality and had access to any observer reality experiences throughout the whole history of the multiverse. In his paper "The Physical World as a Virtual Reality", Brian Whitworth introduces the concept of Quantum Realism which posits that the quantum world is real and generates the physical world as an interface, i.e. a virtual reality. You could embody any living creature or historical personage, and variations thereof, in any epoch, any planet, or universe, with any initial conditions, for that matter. That would be effectively your avatar in such simulated reality. See my article with elaborations on the Simulation Hypothesis and probabilities we inhabit a Matrix-like world, here:
if consciousness is fundamental to our Universe, as I concur with the scientists, mentioned in the article, then a conscious observer should be included in our models, and one of the most likely places (as in String Theory) would be the probabilistic space where our human subjective experience takes place from a certain vantage point, orthogonal to static 4D space-time.
Digital Physics, with information as the basis for our reality, often undercuts or overlaps String Theory, but seemingly, has a more parsimonious model of the workings of the quantum multiverse as well as inflationary multiverse. It's just better physics!
-by Alex Vikoulov
Other Related Articles by the Author:
The Coming New Global Mind
How to Create Friendly AI and Survive the Coming Intelligence Explosion
Infomorph Commonality: Our Post-Singularity Future
Quantum Immortality: Does Quantum Physics Imply You Are Immortal?
Ecstadelic Orgy of The Digital Minds: Our Singularity Climax
The Spiritual Machines: What If AI Was Enlightened?
Virtual Reality & Augmented Reality: Ecstadelic Matrix of Our Making
Tags: consciousness, unified field, quantum consciousness, quantum theory, quantum physics, quantum nonlocality, holoinformational consciousness, entangled conscious minds, conscious observer, quantum immortality, Max Plank, John Wheeler, David Bohm, Niel Bohr, Erwin Schrödinger, Claude Shannon, Albert Einstein, John Hagelin, Sir Roger Penrose, Stuart Hameroff, Guilio Tononi, Christof Koch, Andy Clark, David Chalmers, Donald Hoffman, Robert Lanza, Michael Herzog, Frank Scharnowski, Max Tegmark, Seth Lloyd, Rob Bryanton, Jurgen Schmidhuber, Brian Witworth, David Eagleman, Michio Kaku, Tom Campbell, Ray Kurzweil, Isaiah Berlin, multiverse, parrallel universes, conscious observer moment hypothesis, naturalism, Newtonian mechanics, Two-Stage Model of Consciousness, neural correlates, COM, the unified field, Orchestrated Objective Reduction Model. Orch-OR, microtubules, quantum computations, proto-consciousness, integrated information theory, neuroscience, perceptronium, emergence, substrate independence, quantum multiverse, virtual world, virtual reality, holographic principle, block universe, Digital Physics, general relativity theory, 5th dimension, probabilistic space, common observer, Fermi's Paradox, Biocentrism, biocentric universe, AGI, strong AI, simulation hypothesis, digital timescales
About the Author:
Alex Vikoulov is an evolutionary extrapolist, transhumanist, futurist, strategic philosopher, founder of Ecstadelic Media, painter and media artist, author of "The Syntellect Hypothesis: Five Paradigms of the Mind's Evolution". Graduated in 1999 from Armstrong University, Berkeley, CA. Currently lives in Burlingame, California (San Francisco Bay Area).