Is Consciousness a State of Matter?
Exploring Consciousness as a State of Matter
When I first began suspecting the consciousness as a state of matter, I was thinking of the laws of nature and attraction. I was thinking about the science behind karmic or Newtonian logic. I was thinking of that spark that begins the process of me being me. I was not thinking of Mathematics. However, physicists like Max Tegmark of MIT is viewing the state of consciousness as a mathematical problem. Tegmark terms his theory about his new state of matter, perceptronium.
Tegmark discusses perceptronium, defined as the most general substance that feels subjectively self-aware. This substance should not only be able to store and process information but in a way that forms a unified, indivisible whole. That also requires a certain amount of independence in which the information dynamics is determined from within rather than externally.
Tegmark goes on to suggest that if consciousness is a state of matter, we may be able to apply what we already know about consciousness to what we are able to see.[…] the problem is why we perceive the universe as the semi-classical, three dimensional world that is so familiar. When we look at a glass of iced water, we perceive the liquid and the solid ice cubes as independent things even though they are intimately linked as part of the same system. How does this happen? Out of all possible outcomes, why do we perceive this solution?
From a quantum perspective, what the human perceives is only a fraction of infinite possibilities of what can be seen. While I believe that Tegmark is on to something with his idea, I wonder if it may be explained in a simpler method. For this, I turn to what is known of particle behavior and metaphysical duality found in nature.
So far, the state of consciousness has been viewed by philosophers as one half of the dualistic nature that makes up the human being. Plato identified these states as ‘form and matter.’ Aristotle furthered the notion by likening Plato’s ‘form’ to ‘essence’ (that invisible force that most people refer to as a ‘soul.’ This form of duality (body and soul) that humanity exists under was a long held question before scientists became more familiar with particles.
How Quantum Mechanics Changed Perception of Form and Matter
Thanks to quantum mechanics and quantum physics, scientists can now study humanity beyond the constraints of human perception. We can now observe that the human body is comprised of quarks and electrons, which so far, are observed to obey the current physical laws. If this remains true, your ‘soul’ does not affect your particles, making its ability to control your actions nonexistent. However, if these particles are found to disobey the physical laws, it would suggest that your soul does affect the particles, meaning that the soul would be infinitely proven to potentially be a force of nature in itself or an aspect of physicalism.
Physicalism is the belief that the world as we know it exists on a purely physical level; negating the ideology that supports spirituality and/or the concept of a ‘soul.’ This theory gets is foundation from Greek Philosopher, Thales, who believed that everything is comprised of water, and 18th century philosopher Berkely who theorized that everything in existence is the result of mental manifestation. Either way, the implication is that the universe and everything in it consists of matter, and therefor is physical. These views a long way away from Plato and Aristotle’s opinions on Form and Matter.
For Tegmark’s hypothesis, he implies that the consciousness operates in the same manner as water, in that there are varying levels of consciousness just as there are varying states of water (vapor, liquid, and solid). While I agree that the consciousness may be water-like in its ability to transform into different states of being like water (i.e., levels of consciousness being subconscious and overt), I stop at any other comparisons.
For Tegmark to be believed entirely, we must agree with his theory that consciousness can be described in terms of quantum mechanics and information theory. As I previously postulated in my article The Quantum Mechanics of Consciousness and its Effects on the Brain:
“Quantum physics suggests that the consciousness in humanity is related to the electron’s awareness that is observable in the double split experiment (which showed that particles can act as both a wave and a particle—with and without mass). Basically what the double slit experiment showed was the particles act as waves (without mass) when they are not being observed by humans, and they act as particles (with mass) when they are being observed. When compared to the electrons found in the brain, electrons behave the same way—when observed they behave differently than when they are not observed. The implication being that electrons are aware that they are being observed and act accordingly. This awareness behaviour has been viewed by many as an example of sentience. For a particle to be aware that it is being observed, it would have to be aware of itself as well.”
“In applying sentience to the subatomic aspects of the human body (particularly the brain), and how it functions, the implication is that the particles contained in the body/brain possess a [form of] consciousness that exists externally from the physical components of the brain, seemingly at will. This implies that electrons located in the human brain can be in possession of mass and exist without mass at will, depending on whether they are being observed. This sentient behavior from electrons is important because it will be the deciding factor behind how information is perceived and then processed by the host once it receives the necessary stimuli from the amount of receptors that get activated by the action performed.”
Tegmark’s Opinion Supports my Previous Conclusion
Tegmark’s suggestion that the consciousness is like water, seems to agree with my previous assumption about the sentient nature of electrons in response to the double slit experiment. But where Tegmark focuses on the mathematical solution to this problem, I am focused more on the philosophical. For example, when Tegmark likens the consciousness to water (in terms of mutability), it coincides with my previous idea that focused on particle sentience and mutability.
When viewing particle behavior and its direct effect on the physical brain, one looks to the quantum levels of brain function, which examines the speed that information is transmitted at and its purpose in creating human perception once the information is received. For this, I turned to research by Walter J. Freeman (professor of Neurobiology at the University of California in Berkely, and his colleagues.
In their paper, titled “The Physiology of Perception” Freeman explains how individual perception is determined by separate factors that are unique to each person. This occurs because the rates that information is transmitted to the olfactory bulb in the brain varies, based on the cells that excite pulses that propagate through axons to the olfactory bulb. It is all based on how many receptors get activated in determining individual perception. These are generally based on physical biological components that are unique to each individual. When you apply the physical aspects of brain function to quantum considerations, such as particle behavior, the implication is that particles behave as particles when interacting with physical matter like the brain when exposed to stimuli. If this is true, then Tegmark’s hypothesis could prove correct in that consciousness would be likened to a state of matter. It would naturally be interesting to see if the other end of the spectrum is also true; is it possible that when existing without direct stimuli, particles act as waves in conjunction to brain function?
One is forced to monitor particle behavior to be able to corroborate that hypothesis, but it is certainly worth a look. For a more in depth look at this topic, please keep checking into Freethinkernation.com. Their members explore these topics in depth and others.