The Mind-Brain Problem for Transcendence
The nature of consciousness, also known as “The Hard Problem,” has predictably left philosophers, theologists, and now, neuroscientists, stumped. Is consciousness in its myriad forms a function solely of the brain, consciousness’s “strange loop” as Hofstadter coined, being generated in the folded lump of grey matter? Or is the brain interpreting the consciousness delivered by a universe designed to bestow it, a wave-function coalescence or holographic reproduction that has its own rules, elementary particles-as-waves? Or is it a combination of both?
In my mind, the most critical question in science is: what is the nature of consciousness, especially transcendent or supra-consciousness, the consciousness used to Get in the Zone? What is the tie between the practice of meditation and enlightenment? Why is it described, in both spiritual and secular practice as a feeling of Oneness and is this connection quantifiable?
I’ve got lots of questions that I’ll be asking, interviewing preeminent neuroscientists and noetic scientists alike, trying to understand what the current state of the hard problem is and if there is any work on the “Harder Problem,” understanding the nature of transcendence. I am far more interested in the collaboration between the inner and outer universe than any other question in science, but being an honest purveyor of the scientific method, I know I have a lot more observation that I need to do before I take a crack at it.
I start with a very reductionist point of view, the fabric of the universe is based in the frothiness of quantum wave functions and superstring harmonics, the mind entangled in the electrochemical cloud surrounding the neurons in the brain – I will begin my search for a cosmic connection to consciousness here. It’ll start in good company, with Oxford mathematician Sir Roger Penrose.
Penrose and University of Arizona anesthesiologist Stuart Hameroff suppose that the brain is capable of quantum computation and it is this sort of non-Turing computation that forms consciousness. More specifically, in their Orchestrated Objective Reduction (Orch-OR) model, Penrose and Hameroff show how complex lattices of proteins that form all cells, called microtubules, when working together with classic computation in the human brain, can orchestrate the reduction of a wave function in quantum superposition (the blend of 0 and 1 as 01 so paradoxical that it gave rise to Erwin Schrodinger’s famous alive-dead cat).
This combination of classical and quantum computation occurring in the human brain is an answer to the “hard problem,” describing why hard AI, a highly advanced computer, could never be conscious. Using Godel’s Incompleteness Theorem, there are two types of computation, those that can be completed into truths through logic and those incomplete ones that cannot. The brain, through use of Orchestrated Objective Reduction of wavefunctions into discrete quantum states can sort the two out and hence is conscious, the ability to compute using a qbit (0,1, and 01) is beyond a modern computer and allows access into non-computable Goedel sets.
Even though the microtubule lattice in the human brain are held in the above argument to be the most complex orchestrator of objective reduction, Penrose and Hameroff do not claim that it is the only construction that develops the objective reduction of wave functions from their superpositions into discrete quantum state, but that this quantum gravitational event happens throughout the universe. That is to say that, while the brain is highly advanced at using qbits to evolve conscious quantum gravity reduction, the universe is not just a place where wavefunctions await a space traveler to view and reduce wave functions, but that un-orchestrated objective reduction is a property of the cosmos. Proto-consciousness exists as a property of the cosmos. In a twist of the anthropic principle, the universe is not only exactly the way it is because that is required for us to live here, but it reveals its most probable self only when our quantum computing brains reveal this nature. It is a strong anthropic doubling down of our purpose in the universe.
Penrose and Hameroff are on the outskirts of the new physics and its connection to neuroscience. The experimental work to be done on these theories include:
1. microtubules’ ability to be in superimposed states,
2. quantum computation’s ability resolve the measurement paradox
3. experimental evidence of objective reduction in the universe