What is consciousness? Some philosophers have contended that ‘qualia’, or an experiential medium from which consciousness is derived, exists as a fundamental component of reality. Whitehead, for example, described the universe as being comprised of ‘occasions of experience’. To examine this possibility scientifically, the very nature of physical reality must be re-examined. We must come to terms with the physics of space-time -- as is described by Einstein's general theory of relativity -- and its relation to the fundamental theory of (...) matter -- as described by quantum theory. This leads us to employ a new physics of objective reduction: OR which appeals to a form of ‘quantum gravity’ to provide a useful description of fundamental processes at the quantum/classical borderline . Within the OR scheme, we consider that consciousness occurs if an appropriately organized system is able to develop and maintain quantum coherent superposition until a specific ‘objective’ criterion is reached; the coherent system then self-reduces . We contend that this type of objective self-collapse introduces non-computability, an essential feature of consciousness. OR is taken as an instantaneous event -- the climax of a self-organizing process in fundamental space-time -- and a candidate for a conscious Whitehead-like ‘occasion’ of experience. How could an OR process occur in the brain, be coupled to neural activities, and account for other features of consciousness? We nominate an OR process with the requisite characteristics to be occurring in cytoskeletal microtubules within the brain's neurons. (shrink)
Proposals for quantum computation rely on superposed states implementing multiple computations simultaneously, in parallel, according to quantum linear superposition (e.g., Benioff, 1982; Feynman, 1986; Deutsch, 1985, Deutsch and Josza, 1992). In principle, quantum computation is capable of specific applications beyond the reach of classical computing (e.g., Shor, 1994). A number of technological systems aimed at realizing these proposals have been suggested and are being evaluated as possible substrates for quantum computers (e.g. trapped ions, electron spins, quantum dots, nuclear spins, etc., (...) see Table 1; Bennett, 1995; and Barenco, 1995). The main obstacle to realization of quantum computation is the problem of interfacing to the system (input, output) while also protecting the quantum state from environmental decoherence. If this problem can be overcome, then present day classical computers may evolve to quantum computers. (shrink)
The paper begins with a general introduction to the nature of human consciousness and outlines several different philosophical approaches. A critique of traditional reductionist and dualist positions is offered and it is suggested that consciousness should be viewed as an emergent property of physical systems. However, although consciousness has its origin in distributed brain processes it has macroscopic properties - most notably the `unitary sense of self', non-deterministic free will, and non-algorithmic `intuitive' processing - which can best be described by (...) quantum-mechanical principles. (shrink)
Grush and Churchland (1995) attempt to address aspects of the proposal that we have been making concerning a possible physical mechanism underlying the phenomenon of consciousness. Unfortunately, they employ arguments that are highly misleading and, in some important respects, factually incorrect. Their article ‘Gaps in Penrose’s Toilings’ is addressed specifically at the writings of one of us (Penrose), but since the particular model they attack is one put forward by both of us (Hameroff and Penrose, 1995; 1996), it is appropriate (...) that we both reply; but since our individual remarks refer to different aspects of their criticism we are commenting on their article separately. The logical arguments discussed by Grush and Churchland, and the related physics are answered in Part l by Penrose, largely by pointing out precisely where these arguments have already been treated in detail in Shadows of the Mind (Penrose, 1994). In Part 2, Hameroff replies to various points on the biological side, showing for example how they have seriously misunderstood what they refer to as ‘physiological evidence’ regarding to effects of the drug colchicine. The reply serves also to discuss aspects of our model ‘orchestrated objective reduction in brain microtubules – Orch OR’ which attempts to deal with the serious problems of consciousness more directly and completely than any previous theory. (shrink)
_Figure 1. Dendrites and cell bodies of schematic neurons connected by dendritic-dendritic gap junctions form a laterally connected input_ _layer (“dendritic web”) within a neurocomputational architecture. Dendritic web dynamics are temporally coupled to gamma synchrony_ _EEG, and correspond with integration phases of “integrate and fire” cycles. Axonal firings provide input to, and output from, integration_ _phases (only one input, and three output axons are shown). Cell bodies/soma contain nuclei shown as black circles; microtubule networks_ _pervade the cytoplasm. According to the (...) Orch OR theory, gamma EEG-synchronized integration phases include quantum computations in_ _microtubule networks which culminate with conscious moments. Insert closeup shows a gap junction through which microtubule quantum_ _states entangle among different neurons, enabling macroscopic quantum states in dendritic webs extending throughout cortex and other_ _brain regions._. (shrink)
Age-old battle lines over the puzzling nature of mental experience are shaping a modern resurgence in the study of consciousness. On one side are the long-dominant "physicalists" who view consciousness as an emergent property of the brain's neural networks. On the alternative, rebellious side are those who see a necessary added ingredient: proto-conscious experience intrinsic to reality, perhaps understandable through modern physics (panpsychists, pan-experientialists, "funda-mentalists"). It is argued here that the physicalist premise alone is unable to solve completely the difficult (...) issues of consciousness and that to do so will require supplemental panpsychist/pan-experiential philosophy expressed in modern physics. In one scheme proto-conscious experience is a basic property of physical reality accessible to a quantum process associated with brain activity. The proposed process is Roger Penrose's "objective reduction" (OR), a self-organizing "collapse" of the quantum wave function related to instability at the most basic level of space-time geometry. In the Penrose- Hameroff model of "orchestrated objective reduction" (Orch OR), OR quantum computation occurs in cytoskeletal microtubules within the brain's neurons. The basic thesis is that consciousness involves brain activities coupled to a self-organizing ripples in fundamental reality. (shrink)
When and where did consciousness emerge in the course of evolution? Did it happen as recently as the past million years, for example concomitant with language or tool making in humans or primates? Or did consciousness arrive somewhat earlier, with the advent of mammalian neocortex 200 million years ago (Eccles, 1992)? At the other extreme, is primitive consciousness a property of even simple unicellular organisms of several billion years ago (e.g. as suggested by Margulis and Sagan, 1995)? Or did consciousness (...) appear at some intermediate point, and if so, where and why? Whenever it first occurred, did consciousness alter the course of evolution? (shrink)
A theoretical approach relying on quantum computation in microtubules within neurons can potentially resolve the enigmatic features of visual consciousness, but raises other questions. For example, how can delicate quantum states, which in the technological realm demand extreme cold and isolation to avoid environmental ‘decoherence’, manage to survive in the warm, wet brain? And if such states could survive within neuronal cell interiors, how could quantum states grow to encompass the whole brain? We present a physiological model for visual consciousness (...) that can accommodate brain-wide quantum computation according to the Penrose–Hameroff ‘Orch OR’ model. In this view, visual consciousness occurs as a series of several-hundred-millisecond epochs, each comprising ‘crescendo sequences’ of quantum computations occurring at ∼40 Hz. (shrink)
What is consciousness? Conventional approaches see it as an emergent property of complex interactions among individual neurons; however these approaches fail to address enigmatic features of consciousness. Accordingly, some philosophers have contended that "qualia," or an experiential medium from which consciousness is derived, exists as a fundamental component of reality. Whitehead, for example, described the universe as being composed of "occasions of experience." To examine this possibility scientifically, the very nature of physical reality must be re-examined. We must come to (...) terms with the physics of spacetime-as described by Einstein's general theory of relativity, and its relation to the fundamental theory of matter-as described by quantum theory. Roger Penrose has proposed a new physics of objective reduction: "OR," which appeals to a form of quantum gravity to provide a useful description of fundamental processes at the quantum/classical borderline.hz Within the OR scheme, we consider that consciousness occurs if an appropriately organized system is able to develop and maintain quantum coherent superposition until a specific "objective" criterion (a threshold related to quantum gravity) is reached; the coherent system then self-reduces (objective reduction: OR). We contend that this type of objective self-collapse introduces non-computability, an essential feature of consciousness which distinguishes our minds from classical computers. Each OR is taken as an instantaneous event-the climax of a self-organizing process in fundamental spacetime-and a candidate for a conscious Whitehead "occasion of experience." How could an OR process occur in the brain, be coupled to neural activities, and account for other features of consciousness? We nominate a quantum computational OR process with the requisite characteristics to be occurring in cytoskeletal microtubules within the brain's neurons. In this model, quantum-superposed states develop in microtubule subunit proteins ("tubulins") within certain brain neurons, remain coherent, and recruit more superposed tubulins until a mass-time-energy threshold (related to quantum gravity) is reached.. (shrink)
1. Introduction: The problems of time and consciousness What is time? St. Augustine remarked that when no one asked him, he knew what time was; however when someone asked him, he did not. Is time a process which flows? Is time a dimension in which processes occur? Does time actually exist? The notion that time is a process which "flows" directionally may be illusory (the "myth of passage") for if time did flow it would do so in some medium or (...) vessel (e.g. minutes per what?) . But if time is a dimension in which processes occurred, e.g. as one component of a 4 dimensional spacetime, then why would processes occur unidirectionally in time? Yet we perceive time as an orderly, unidirectional process. An alternative explanation is that time does not exist as either a process or dimension, but that reality is a collage of discrete, disconnected and haphazardly arranged configurations of the universe, e.g. as described in Julian Barbour's "The end of time" . In this view our perception of a unidirectional flow of time occurs because each moment, or "Now" as Barbour terms them, involves memory of other conceptually relevant moments, and the orderly flow of time is an illusion. Barbour's deconstruction of time contrasts the Newtonian reality of objects moving deterministically through 4 dimensional spacetime. Newton's contemporary (and rival) Leibniz  viewed the world in a manner consistent with Barbour (and with Mach's principle that the spatiotemporal structure of the universe is dependent on the distribution of mass, a foundation of Einstein's general relativity). According to Leibniz the world is to be understood not as matter/mass moving in a framework of space and time, but of more fundamental snapshot-like entities that momentarily fuse space and matter into single possible arrangements or configurations of the entire universe. Such configurations, which can be fabulously rich and complex considering the vastness of the universe, are the ultimate "things" of reality, which Leibniz termed "monads".. (shrink)
In "Brainshy: Non-neural theories of conscious experience," (this volume) Patricia Churchland considers three "non-neural" approaches to the puzzle of consciousness: 1) Chalmers' fundamental information, 2) Searle's "intrinsic" property of brain, and 3) Penrose-Hameroff quantum phenomena in microtubules. In rejecting these ideas, Churchland flies the flag of "neuralism." She claims that conscious experience will be totally and completely explained by the dynamical complexity of properties at the level of neurons and neural networks. As far as consciousness goes, neural network firing patterns (...) triggered by axon-to-dendrite synaptic chemical transmissions are the fundamental correlates of consciousness. There is no need to look elsewhere. (shrink)
The theory suggests that quantum computations in brain neuronal dendritic-somatic microtubules regulate axonal firings to control conscious behavior. Within microtubule subunit proteins, collective dipoles in arrays of contiguous amino acid electron clouds enable suitable for topological dipole able to physically represent cognitive values, for example, those portrayed by Pothos & Busemeyer (P&B) as projections in abstract Hilbert space.
_Sonoran Desert, Stuart Hameroff and Alwyn Scott awoke from their_ _siestas to take margaritas in the shade of a ramada. On a nearby_ _table, a tape recorder had accidentally been left on and the following_ _is an unedited transcript of their conversation._.
_dualism_ (consciousness lies outside knowable science), _emergence_ (consciousness arises as a novel property from complex computational dynamics in the brain), and some form of _panpsychism_, _pan-protopsychism, or pan-experientialism_ (essential features or precursors of consciousness are fundamental components of reality which are accessed by brain processes). In addition to 1) the problem of subjective experience, other related enigmatic features of consciousness persist, defying technological and philosophical inroads. These include 2) the “binding problem”—how disparate brain activities give rise to a unified sense (...) of “self” or unified conscious content. Temporal synchrony—brain-wide coherence of neural membrane electrical activities—is often assumed to accomplish binding, but _what_ is being synchronized? What is being coherently bound? Another enigmatic feature is 3) the transition from pre-conscious processes to consciousness itself. Most neuroscientists agree that consciousness is the “tip of an iceberg”, that the vast majority of brain activities is. (shrink)