Some Scientists Believe the Universe Is Conscious

In upcoming research, scientists will attempt to show the universe has consciousness. Yes, really. No matter the outcome, we’ll soon learn more about what it means to be conscious—and which objects around us might have a mind of their own.

What will that mean for how we treat objects and the world around us? Buckle in, because things are about to get weird.

What Is Consciousness?

The basic definition of consciousness intentionally leaves a lot of questions unanswered. It’s “the normal mental condition of the waking state of humans, characterized by the experience of perceptions, thoughts, feelings, awareness of the external world, and often in humans (but not necessarily in other animals) self-awareness,” according to the Oxford Dictionary of Psychology.

Scientists simply don’t have one unified theory of what consciousness is. We also don’t know where it comes from, or what it’s made of.

However, one loophole of this knowledge gap is that we can’t exhaustively say other organisms, and even inanimate objects, don’t have consciousness. Humans relate to animals and can imagine, say, dogs and cats have some amount of consciousness because we see their facial expressions and how they appear to make decisions. But just because we don’t “relate to” rocks, the ocean, or the night sky, that isn’t the same as proving those things don’t have consciousness.

This is where a philosophical stance called panpsychism comes into play, writes All About Space’s David Crookes:

“This claims consciousness is inherent in even the tiniest pieces of matter — an idea that suggests the fundamental building blocks of reality have conscious experience. Crucially, it implies consciousness could be found throughout the universe.”

It’s also where physics enters the picture. Some scientists have posited that the thing we think of as consciousness is made of micro-scale quantum physics events and other “spooky actions at a distance,” somehow fluttering inside our brains and generating conscious thoughts.

The Free Will Conundrum

One of the leading minds in physics, 2020 Nobel laureate and black hole pioneer Roger Penrose, has written extensively about quantum mechanics as a suspected vehicle of consciousness. In 1989, he wrote a book called The Emperor’s New Mind, in which he claimed “that human consciousness is non-algorithmic and a product of quantum effects.”

Let’s quickly break down that statement. What does it mean for human consciousness to be “algorithmic”? Well, an algorithm is simply a series of predictable steps to reach an outcome, and in the study of philosophy, this idea plays a big part in questions about free will versus determinism.

Are our brains simply cranking out math-like processes that can be telescoped in advance? Or is something wild happening that allows us true free will, meaning the ability to make meaningfully different decisions that affect our lives?

Within philosophy itself, the study of free will dates back at least centuries. But the overlap with physics is much newer. And what Penrose claimed in The Emperor’s New Mind is that consciousness isn’t strictly causal because, on the tiniest level, it’s a product of unpredictable quantum phenomena that don’t conform to classical physics.

So, where does all that background information leave us? If you’re scratching your head or having some uncomfortable thoughts, you’re not alone. But these questions are essential to people who study philosophy and science, because the answers could change how we understand the entire universe around us. Whether or not humans do or don’t have free will has huge moral implications, for example. How do you punish criminals who could never have done differently?

Consciousness Is Everywhere

In physics, scientists could learn key things from a study of consciousness as a quantum effect. This is where we rejoin today’s researchers: Johannes Kleiner, mathematician and theoretical physicist at the Munich Center For Mathematical Philosophy, and Sean Tull, mathematician at the University of Oxford.

Kleiner and Tull are following Penrose’s example, in both his 1989 book and a 2014 paper where he detailed his belief that our brains’ microprocesses can be used to model things about the whole universe. The resulting theory is called integrated information theory (IIT), and it’s an abstract, “highly mathematical” form of the philosophy we’ve been reviewing.

In IIT, consciousness is everywhere, but it accumulates in places where it’s needed to help glue together different related systems. This means the human body is jam-packed with a ton of systems that must interrelate, so there’s a lot of consciousness (or phi, as the quantity is known in IIT) that can be calculated. Think about all the parts of the brain that work together to, for example, form a picture and sense memory of an apple in your mind’s eye.

The revolutionary thing in IIT isn’t related to the human brain—it’s that consciousness isn’t biological at all, but rather is simply this value, phi, that can be calculated if you know a lot about the complexity of what you’re studying.

If your brain has almost countless interrelated systems, then the entire universe must have virtually infinite ones. And if that’s where consciousness accumulates, then the universe must have a lot of phi.

Hey, we told you this was going to get weird.

“The theory consists of a very complicated algorithm that, when applied to a detailed mathematical description of a physical system, provides information about whether the system is conscious or not, and what it is conscious of,” Kleiner told All About Space. “If there is an isolated pair of particles floating around somewhere in space, they will have some rudimentary form of consciousness if they interact in the correct way.”

Kleiner and Tull are working on turning IIT into this complex mathematical algorithm—setting down the standard that can then be used to examine how conscious things operate. 

Think about the classic philosophical comment, “I think, therefore I am,” then imagine two geniuses turning that into a workable formula where you substitute in a hundred different number values and end up with your specific “I am” answer.

The next step is to actually crunch the numbers, and then to grapple with the moral implications of a hypothetically conscious universe. It’s an exciting time to be a philosopher—or a philosopher’s calculator.

Link Original: https://www.popularmechanics.com/science/a36329671/is-the-universe-conscious/?utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=social-media&utm_campaign=socialflowFBPOP&fbclid=IwAR2RtikR_vKNp0wepXtQ_QEq1o438qMPsGLEB5RV4czuo6M7lcRgWO-c1hI


Quantum Mechanics, the Mind-Body Problem and Negative Theology

Credit: Alamy

Scientists and philosophers should keep trying to solve realitie’s deepest riddles while accepting that they are unsolvable. By John Horgan – Dec. 2015

Here’s how I distinguish science from philosophy. Science addresses questions that can be answered, potentially, through empirical investigation. Examples: What’s the best way to defeat Covid-19? What causes schizophrenia, and how should it be treated? Can nuclear power help us overcome climate change? What are the causes of war, and how can we end it?

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Cientistas fazem emaranhado quântico com 15 trilhões de átomos

Feito foi alcançado sob condições inéditas e pode exercer papel importante no avanço de diversas tecnologias

Um grupo de cientistas do Instituto de Ciência e Tecnologia de Barcelona, na Espanha, conseguiu emaranhar 15 trilhões de átomos, um recorde para a física quântica. Agora, o feito deve permitir avanços em diversas tecnologias, da neuroimagiologia – técnicas de imagens cerebrais para estudar o sistema nervoso – à caça por matéria escura universo afora.

Em átomos emaranhados, quando um sofre perturbações, todos os outros são afetados igualmente, mesmo que estejam separados. Por isso, no geral, o emaranhamento acontece a temperaturas extremamente baixas, o que impede a colisão das partículas.

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Filmada por primera vez la observación cuántica

La naturaleza duda antes de que el gato de Schrödinger aparezca vivo a muerto.

Los científicos han filmado lo que pasa cuando un observador se asoma al mundo cuántico: las dos probabilidades superpuestas dudan en el momento de elegir entre la vida y la muerte del gato, antes de que Schrödinger abra la caja.

Ion de estroncio atrapado en un campo eléctrico. La medición en el ion dura solo una millonésima de segundo… ¡y ha sido filmada! Crédito: F. Pokorny et al.
Un equipo de investigadores de Suecia, Alemania y España (Universidad de Sevilla) ha conseguido por primera vez filmar lo que pasa cuando un observador se asoma al mundo cuántico.

Es como decir, metafóricamente, que una cámara ha grabado el momento en el que Schrödinger destapa la caja y encuentra al gato vivo o muerto.

Según un ejemplo imaginado por el físico Erwin Schrödinger en 1935, si tenemos un gato dentro de una caja en la que hay alimento y veneno, el dueño del gato es el que decide su suerte al abrir la caja: estará vivo o muerto según lo que el observador quiera encontrar.

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Universo pode ser parte de um enorme computador quântico

Estudo de físicos russos postula que nosso Universo é um objeto quântico e deve exibir características quânticas como superposição, o que levaria à existência de múltiplos universos em interação

Recentemente dois físicos da Universidade Federal do Báltico Immanuel Kant (IKBFU), na Rússia, propuseram uma visão totalmente nova do cosmos. Seu estudo combina a ideia de que estamos vivendo uma simulação e a mistura com a teoria dos “muitos mundos” para dizer que todo o nosso universo é parte de um computador ou sistema quântico imensamente grande, abrangendo “incontáveis” multiversos.

Artyam Yurov e Valerian Yurov, os pesquisadores da IKBFU por trás do estudo, postulam que tudo no universo, incluindo ele mesmo, deve ser visto como um objeto quântico. Isso significa que, para experimentar a “realidade quântica”, não precisamos olhar para partículas subatômicas ou qubits: já estamos lá.

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Researchers reach milestone in quantum standardization

Researchers at the University of Waterloo have developed a method that could pave the way to establishing universal standards for measuring the performance of quantum computers.

The new method, called cycle benchmarking, allows researchers to assess the potential of scalability and to compare one quantum platform against another.

«This finding could go a long way toward establishing standards for performance and strengthen the effort to build a large-scale, practical quantum ,» said Joel Wallman, an assistant professor at Waterloo’s Faculty of Mathematics and Institute for Quantum Computing. «A consistent method for characterizing and correcting the errors in provides standardization for the way a is assessed, allowing progress in different architectures to be fairly compared.»

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Computer Scientists Expand the Frontier of Verifiable Knowledge

The universe of problems that a computer can check has grown. The researchers’ secret ingredient? Quantum entanglement.

By interrogating entangled quantum computers, a person can verify the answers to enormously complicated problems.

Imagine someone came along and told you that they had an oracle, and that this oracle could reveal the deep secrets of the universe. While you might be intrigued, you’d have a hard time trusting it. You’d want some way to verify that what the oracle told you was true.

This is the crux of one of the central problems in computer science. Some problems are too hard to solve in any reasonable amount of time. But their solutions are easy to check. Given that, computer scientists want to know: How complicated can a problem be while still having a solution that can be verified?

Turns out, the answer is: Almost unimaginably complicated.

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Universo pode ser parte de um enorme computador quântico

Estudo de físicos russos postula que nosso Universo é um objeto quântico e deve exibir características quânticas como superposição, o que levaria à existência de múltiplos universos em interação

Recentemente dois físicos da Universidade Federal do Báltico Immanuel Kant (IKBFU), na Rússia, propuseram uma visão totalmente nova do cosmos. Seu estudo combina a ideia de que estamos vivendo uma simulação e a mistura com a teoria dos “muitos mundos” para dizer que todo o nosso universo é parte de um computador ou sistema quântico imensamente grande, abrangendo “incontáveis” multiversos.

Artyam Yurov e Valerian Yurov, os pesquisadores da IKBFU por trás do estudo, postulam que tudo no universo, incluindo ele mesmo, deve ser visto como um objeto quântico. Isso significa que, para experimentar a “realidade quântica”, não precisamos olhar para partículas subatômicas ou qubits: já estamos lá.

Leer Más