Consciousness and Quantum Mechanics: Life in Parallel Worlds: Miracles of Consciousness from Quantum Reality
by Michael B. Mensky (World Scientific Publishing Company) The phenomenon of consciousness includes mysterious aspects
providing a basis for many spiritual doctrines (including religions)
and psychological practices. These directions of human knowledge are
usually considered to contradict the laws of science. However,
quantum mechanics — in a sense, the mysterious direction of science
— allows us to include the phenomena of consciousness and life as
well as the relevant phenomena in the sphere of science.
Wolfgang Pauli, one of the pioneers of quantum mechanics, together with great psychologist Carl GustavJung, guessed about the relation between quantum mechanics and consciousness in the beginning of the twentieth century. However, only "many-worlds" interpretation of quantum mechanics, proposed in 1957 by Hugh Everett Ill, gave the real basis for the systematic investigation of this relation.
Roger Penrose, one of the apologists of the relation between quantum mechanics and consciousness, claimed in his Last book "The Road to Reality" that the Everett's interpretation may be estimated only after creating the theory of consciousness. There against, the author has proposed in 2000 and further elaborates in this book, the so-called Extended Everett's Concept, that allows one to derive the main features of consciousness and super-consciousness (intuition, or direct vision of truth) from quantum mechanics. This is exposed in this book in a form intelligible for a wide audience.
The phenomenon of consciousness demonstrates mystical features that are experienced by some people. All religions and spiritual schools that exist for thousands of years include the mystical component as a necessary part of their message and make use of mystical features of consciousness in their practice.
Nowadays the interest to these phenomena is widespread. It is natural in this situation that actually becomes the question whether the mystical features of consciousness are compatible with science. It turns out that the compatibility is justified if the specific features of quantum mechanics are taken into account.
These special features of quantum mechanics are known as "quantum reality", i.e. the different concept of reality accepted in quantum mechanics as compared with classical physics. The most adequate expression of the concept of quantum reality is the so-called "Many-Worlds" interpretation of quantum mechanics proposed by Everett in 1957. According to this version of quantum mechanics, our world is quantum, and its state is adequately presented by the set of many classical worlds (alternative classical realities), that are equally real (coexist) while existing of only one reality is nothing else than illustion of our consciousness.
Just this picture of our (quantum) world as the set of parallel (classical) worlds is the key point. The commonly accepted assumption is that the only real (existing) world is that which is subjectively perceived by our consciousness. All considerations become radically different if, instead of this, one accept is that all possible classical states of our world (all alternative realities) parallely exist. This concept allows one to understand what is consciousness and to explain why it possesses mystical features.
This book is a review of the author's research on the conceptual structure of quantum mechanics and its connection with the phenomena of
consciousness and life. The main ideas are expressed in the book in the simple terms such as parallel worlds (presenting the alternative realities), so that the book is targeted at a wide audience. Those chapters of the book that require special knowledge are notified as written for professional physicists. These chapters may be skipped without detriment for understanding the main line of consideration. Moreover, these chapters may also be skipped by physicists in the first reading of the book.
"A Law of Minimization of Mystery: consciousness is mysterious and quantum mechanics is mysterious, so maybe the two mysteries have a common source."
The specific quantum approach to the phenomenon of cousciousness (in-ding its mystical abilities) is called Quantum Concept of Consciousness CC). More general considerations concerning the phenomenon of life are toted by the term Quantum Concept of Life (QCL). Nevertheless, when exposing these subjects for physicists with elements of mathematical formalism, we prefer to use the term Extending Everett's Concept (EEC) in ler to underline that the whole approach appeared as a generalization of known interpretation of quantum mechanics proposed by Everett.
The interrelations of the three terms may be presented by the following scheme:
QCC C QCL = EEC
Most of the material presented in the book is available for people having special knowledge. Some chapters are oriented on professional physicists, t we tried to make this clear from the titles and introductory words of
chapters. These chapters may be skipped (even by physicists) without triment for understanding the main points of the theory.
Because of the attempt to make the book available and interesting both for professional physicists and general audience, some considerations are posed repeatedly. In these cases the style of presentation, its level and
context are different in different parts of the book, so that the repetition should make understanding of difficult ideas easier.
The present Foreword briefly explains the specific features of the author's approach for the readers-physicists. Those who are not professional physicists may skip the Foreword and go over to Introduction.
This book is about connection between quantum mechanics at one side and the phenomena of consciousness and life at the other side. Assumption about the connection of such different objects as quantum mechanics and consciousness, seems strange and for many people even impossible. Yet it has been discussed from the very moment of creation of quantum mechanics and became very popular in the last decades.
Most of those who in our time discuss the connection of consciousness with quantum mechanics, look for some quantum effects in the brain that could play a role in the phenomenon of consciousness. For example they may consider the hypotheses that some material structures in the brain operate in fact as a quantum computer. Such an approach is explicitly or implicitly based on the conviction that consciousness is a product of the brain. But is it? What do we know about the nature of consciousness? The thorough analysis shows that we know nothing at all about this important issue.
The idea underlying the author's approach is to make no a priori assumption about the nature of consciousness, but rather to describe functions of consciousness in terms which are characteristic of quantum theory (deriving this description from the logical analysis of the concept of "quantum reality") and only after this, a posteriori, to judge about the nature of consciousness.
The question about the nature and characteristic features of consciousness became important nowadays. The issue of consciousness has been attacked from various directions, but without great success in the important aspects of this issue. The most evident way to clarify the nature of consciousness is investigating the brain that seems to be the origin of consciousness. However, just now, when the instruments for the investigation of the brain became very efficient, it is becoming more and more clear that this direction of research cannot discover the actual nature of consciousness.
Unexpectedly for many people, the problem of consciousness has been attacked from the viewpoint of quantum mechanics and was connected with the conceptual problems of the quantum mechanics itself. In the course of the research it became clear that this direction is not at all novel. It was initiated as early as in the first quarter of the 20th century by the founding fathers of quantum mechanics, Niels Bohr, Werner Heisenberg, Erwin Schrodinger, Wolfgang Pauli and others. However, these genius thinkers had no adequate instruments in their disposal.
Such instruments appeared later in the works of Albert Einstein (Einsten—Podolsky—Rosen paradox), John Bell (Bell's theorem), and especially Hough Everett (Everett's, or "Many-Worlds" interpretation of quantum mechanics).
The proposal of Everett is especially important because it supplies an adequate language for the strange concept of quantum reality, counterintuitive and yet proved to be valid in our world. After Everett, one may say that actual (quantum) reality may be expressed in terms of many coexisting (parallel) classical worlds. This essentially simple (although not very easy for accepting it because of the classical prejudice) presentation of quantum reality allows one to naturally include it in the consideration.
Most attempts to give quantum explanation for consciousness reduce to looking for the material structures in the brain that could work in quantum coherent regime. This is difficult (and probably impossible) to do because quantum coherence is rapidly destroyed by the process of the inevitable decoherence.
The approach proposed by the present author and supported in the present book radically differs from this. We do not make any definite assumption about the nature of consciousness beforehand, particularly we do not assume that consciousness is produced by the brain. Instead we start with the analysis of the logical structure of quantum mechanics and make use of the fact that the concept of "consciousness of an observer" necessarily arises in quantum mechanics (in the analysis of the concept of quantum reality) and is adequately formulated in the Everett's "Many-Worlds" interpretation of quantum mechanics. Then, on the basis of this logical structure, we make an additional assumption that allows us to formulate the phenomenon of consciousness in terms of the concepts typical for quantum mechanics and simultaneously simplifies the logical structure of quantum mechanics itself.
Only after this the question of the nature of consciousness may be posed and resolved. It turns out that the brain does not produce consciousness but is rather an instrument of consciousness. Important processes (first of all super-intuition), that are starting and finishing in consciousness, are performed nevertheless in the unconscious state.Quantum coherency is achieved in these processes because they deal with the quantum reality, i.e. with the whole quantum world. The obstacle of decoherence does not appear in this case because the quantum world as a whole has no environment that could cause decoherence.
Therefore, starting from functions rather than material carriers of functions turns out the only efficient approach. One of the astonishing conclusions is that some functions have no concrete material carriers or, alternatively, have the whole world as their carrier. This leads in fact to the unification of the sphere of material with the spiritual sphere.
The idea that this approach may be fruitful appeared during the preparation of the review at the famous Ginzburg's seminar in Moscow. The aim of the review was the novel applications of quantum mechanics called quantum information. However, this issue is closely connected with the foundations of quantum mechanics. In the process of work on this topic it unexpectedly occurred to me that the main features of consciousness including its mystical abilities are explained if a simple logical construction is added to conventional quantum mechanics. Especially exciting was that this additional assumption actually simplified the logical structure of quantum mechanics.
This was astonishing and led to further investigations that revealed the deep interconnection between the concept of quantum mechanics and the phenomena characteristic for life. It turned out that mysterious character of life explains those features of quantum mechanics that are counter-intuitive and vice versa. The most deep theory of inanimate matter expressed in the form of quantum mechanics supplies just those notions and abilities that are necessary for understanding of the (otherwise mysterious) phenomena of consciousness and life.
The central role in this internal connection is the so-called "quantum reality" . This counter-intuitive concept was investigated in various ways beginning from the famous Einstein—Podolsky—Rosen paradox and ending by Everett's interpretation.
The Everett's picture of actually quantum world as the set of many coexisting parallel worlds (alternative classical realities) expresses the concept of quantum reality in the most transparent way. If one thinks about consciousness, keeping in mind that actual reality is not a single classical world but many equally real (although subjectively seeming to be alternative, excluding each other) classical worlds (as alive and dead Scrödinger cat), he/she understands what is consciousness including its mystical features (super-intuition, or direct vision of truth, and even how one may "manage reality" ).
This conclusion appeared unexpectedly, but actually it has been prepared by the long history of insights of genius physicists into the internal sense of quantum mechanics. It seems that now we are also close to the better understanding of what is quantum mechanics. It is exciting that this new level of understanding is directly connected with the phenomena of life and consciousness.
Physicists do not usually recognize that the character of their work may depend on their philosophical position. The majority of physicists looks at the philosophy condescendingly, considering it not as science but the skill of the manipulation by words. However, the interrelation of physics and philosophy become significant for physicists and are actively discussed at the key moments of the development of physics.
Two aspects of these interrelations are then important. First, physicists discover that their specific philosophical views (or at least the methodological principles accepted by them) nevertheless influence their work (first of all this concerns the methods of interpreting experimental results. Second, the qualitatively new achievements of physics change the philosophical position occupied by most of physicists. These processes are tightly connected with a change in the methodology, which turns out to be necessary in connection with the new achievements. All this together is the passage to a new paradigm in the science.
The period of creating quantum mechanics (the first third of 20th century), which coincided with the period of creating special and general theory of relativity, was such critical epoch in physics. These enormous developments in physics, especially quantum mechanics, overturned the world view of physicists, particularly forcing them to abandon too limited understanding of materialism.
Apparently, physics experiences now a similar period of an active change in the paradigm, and particularly in philosophy of physics. The change is necessary because of realizing the close connection of quantum theory with the phenomenon of consciousness.
In the seminal paper [Wigner (1961)] the prominent physicist E.P.Winer wrote:
"Until not many years ago, the "existence" of a mind or soul would have been passionately denied by most physical scientists. The brilliant successes of mechanistic and, more generally, macroscopic physics and of chemistry overshadowed the obvious fact that thoughts, desires, and emotions are not made of matter, and it was nearly universally accepted among physical scientists that there is nothing besides matter. The epitome of this belief was the conviction that, if we knew the positions and velocities of all atoms at one instant of time, we could compute the fate of the universe for all future. Even today, there are adherents to this view though fewer among the physicists than - ironically enough -among biochemists."
The final conclusions made by Wigner were not so close to the modern view on consciousness. Yet the paper of Wigner was very important because he was bold enough to refute traditional materialistic dogmas. He wrote:
"The principal argument against materialism is not that illustrated in the last two sections: that it is incompatible with quantum theory. The principal argument is that thought processes and consciousness are the primary concepts, that our knowledge of the external world is the content of our consciousness and that the consciousness, therefore, cannot be denied. On the contrary, logically, the external world could be denied — though it is not very practical to do so. In the words of Niels Bohr, "The word consciousness, applied to ourselves as well as to others, is indispensable when dealing with the human situation." In view of all this, one may well wonder how materialism, the doctrine that "life could be explained by sophisticated combinations of physical and chemical laws," could so long be accepted by the majority of scientists.
Philosophers do not need these illusions and show much more clarity on the subject. The same is true of most truly great natural scientists, at least in their years of maturity. It is now true of almost all physicists — possibly, but not surely, because of the lesson we learned from quantum mechanics. It is also possible that we learned that the principal problem is no longer the fight with the adversities of nature but the difficulty of understanding ourselves if we want to survive."
Wigner remarked that the experience of quantum mechanics is compatible even with solipsism, but not with materialism. I think that such statements had very strong influence on physicists working on the
conceptual problems of quantum mechanics. Even if they had not immediately great response, they much widened radically the spectrum of possible ways of thinking on the problems of quantum mechanics.
It cannot be said that Wigner was the first, who expressed doubt about the applicability of the materialism (in that understanding of this term, which had been accepted among the physicists) for the interpretation of quantum mechanics. On the contrary, all, who seriously thought on the philosophical aspects of quantum mechanics, saw that the traditional approach of physicists must be radically changed (see for example the statement of Pauli cited below in Sect. 11.5.1 at page 233). But Wigner, apparently, went in this direction most boldly.
As to my own opinion, the word "materialism" may be well-applied even to the combined theory of material and living systems, but the meaning of this world must be very wide. In this case what was traditionally referred as idealism, in many cases may be treated as widely understood materialism. However, to be honestly, the concepts of idealism and materialism become relative and loss their importance.
11.4.2 Objective and subjective
The central point of the methodology of physics and more generally of natural sciences is the objective character of their laws. However, in the framework of quantum mechanics this became doubtful, because the conceptual problems (paradoxes) of quantum theory could not be removed without explicit inclusion of consciousness in the theory.
The formulation of quantum mechanics as the purely objectivistic science encountered formidable difficulties. The artificial character of this formulation is clearly seen, for example, in the following explanation given by Schrödinger:
"Without being aware of it, we exclude the Subject of Cognizance from the domain of nature that we endeavour to understand. We step with our own person back into the part of an onlooker who does not belong to the world, which by this very process becomes an objective world." ([Schrodinger (1958)], page 38)
The difficulties with objective formulation was a hint that quantum theory, to be logically closed, should include not only objective, but also subjective elements. True, the probabilistic predictions of the behavior of quantum systems could be confirmed by repeated experiments and therefore were objective. But the results of each of the observation (measurement) could be fixed only subjectively, by the observer's consciousness.
This hint, treated in the framework of the Everett's Many-Worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics, became the starting point for formulating the basic points of theory of the conscious itself, as they are presented by Extended Everett's Concept, of Quantum Concept of Consciousness, suggested by the present author.
For estimating this theory we need new methodology including both objective and subjective elements. This implies the quite new situation when the new theory either should be treated as not including in the scope of various areas of physics or being included in physics but with the extended notion of physics supplied by the new (extended) methodology, recognizing subjective methods of investigation (observation of the observers own consciousness and transitions between conscious and unconscious states).
Let us remark in this connection that there is one more area of physics which also needs extended methodology. This is quantum cosmology. This branch of physics has been greatly developed in the last decades, because applying cosmic apparata for research of the cosmic background radiation (issued at the very early stage of the Universe's evolution).
It is sometimes said that quantum cosmology (treating early Universe as a quantum system) became an experimental science. This is because the character of Universe' behavior at the very early times after Big Bang (when Universe was quantum) following from the purely theoretical considerations, may now be confirmed by the characteristic features of the background radiation.
Thus obtained confirmation of theory by observations was great sensation some two decades ago. Yet the thorough analysis shows that the results of the observations may be considered to be confirmation of the theory only if the extended methodology is applied that admits as the criterion of truth not only series of repeated measurements but also single events (but having complicated structure). If not extend the methodology in this way, then the observation of the properties of Universe (for example the properties of the background radiation) cannot prove or disprove the laws of quantum cosmology. For reliable proof we need then a series of observations with many identical universes that is evidently impossible [Panov (2010)].
Nevertheless, the results of the observation of the background radiation and their agreement with theoretical predictions were so convincing that most people consider these observations to be the reliable evidence of the theory being valid (at least in general features). Yet, the fact of this agreement "being convincing" is not more than the subjective impression. In this case therefore a subjective convincing of something makes
The Quantum Concept of Consciousness (QCC) is based on this definition of consciousness. The detailed analysis of this concept shows that thus determined consciousness possesses mystical abilities (super-intuition and the ability to create probabilistic miracles). Thus, starting from the purely materialistic theory (quantum mechanics), we come to the ideal concept of consciousness and to the conclusion that the phenomenon of consciousness must possess mystical features, which are at first glance not at all compatible with the materialism.
It is obvious that the Quantum Concept of Consciousness (and in the more general Quantum Concept of Life) contains, in the close unity, as indivisible from each other, the elements, which traditionally are treated correspondingly as material and ideal. From the point of view of this concept, materialism and idealism lose previous meaning, they become relative.
The philosophical system, which is compatible with QCC and QCL, can be, if it is convenient, named materialism, but only if we radically broaden understanding of materialism. In any case, this is such materialism, which essentially includes subjective. Soft unification of quantum mechanics with mystical features of consciousness (sphere of science with spiritual sphere) makes uncertain, fuzzy, the boundary between material and ideal.
11.5 From quantum mechanics to consciousness
Let us comment on some points in history of ideas that made finally possible formulating Quantum Concept of Consciousness. We shall not follow this history in all its detail, but mention only the issues that illustrate, in some way or another, the status of our Concept.
11.5.1 Pauli and Jung
The basic idea of this book lies in the fact that the mysterious, mystical possibilities of our consciousness are explained by correctly understanding objective reality. The naive understanding of reality, which is based on the everyday experience and which is successfully adapted in classical physics, occurred to be erroneous. It is only quantum mechanics that gives correct understanding of what actually exists and what is only an illusion of our consciousness.
From the first years of existence of quantum mechanics this was manifested in the paradoxes. The paradoxes appeared in quantum mechanics,
the physicists to depart from the commonly accepted methodology of the objectivistic science, to extend the methodology.
Thus, consideration of the features of background radiation as a confirmation of the laws of quantum cosmology is meaningless from the point of view of the standard physical methodology [Smolin (2009)], but rejecting these data as the evidences for quantum cosmology seems absurd and is not accepted by the most of the physicists working in this area. They prefer to extend the methodology, although they do not always clearly understand that they do this.
Therefore, the accepted methodology is not an inviolable law, its extension is possible when the subject of the theory is widen. In case of theory of matter and consciousness, or matter and life, the extension of the subject is much more radical than have ever took place in physics or other natural science. However, this extension is quite reasonable because its results turn out to agree with the whole experience of the mankind (although this is the experience in the spiritual sphere).
11.4.3 Material and ideal
"Consciousness", "subjective" are the concepts which evidently belong to the sphere of ideal. The numerous attempts to explain the phenomenon of consciousness as the result of the work of the brain, are in reality unfounded, if we have in mind the fundamental level of this phenomenon. Various rational thought processes, which occur against the background of consciousness, can be explained by the work of the brain as a material system performing a kind of computational operations. For fulfilling these operations the brain has, of course, the units for input and output of information as well as loops of feedback. However, this does not help to understand what is consciousness (otherwise it would be necessary to say that the computers possess consciousness too, which is intuitively incorrect).
From the other side, the analysis of the logical structure of quantum mechanics shows that it has in it the hint for the possible definition of consciousness, which will be ideally coordinated with this structure, makes it possible to simplify this structure, and moreover, gives interesting consequences. According to this definition, consciousness is the separation of
I alternatives. Then consciousness is something which leads from quantum
I reality (co-existence of parallel worlds) to the classical reality (subjective
perception of only one of these worlds). This is just what may be
as the ability of something that may be called consciousness: the passage
from quantum reality to the classical perception. 1
could not be removed and were invariably connected with measurements or observations. Therefore, the paradoxes appeared just when the physicists tried to describe how objectively existing reality may be reflected in the subjective perception of this reality by an observer.
Despite the fact that the corresponding questions were set already at the dawn of quantum mechanics, answers to them required many decades of experiments and several fundamentally new approaches, connected with the names of the outstanding physicists, beginning from Einstein. It is only in our days that the outlines of the concept appear, which makes it possible to answer these questions.
The key idea of this concept is that the phenomenon of consciousness can be explained only with the aid of the statements of quantum mechanics. The resulting theory indicates that the consciousness must possess mystical features, which are substantially connected with the unconscious. This theory, or Quantum Concept of Consciousness, outlined in this book, became possible only after the essential features of quantum reality having been formulated by Everett in the language of parallel worlds.
This makes really astonishing that one of the creators of quantum mechanics, Wolfgang Pauli, sufficiently accurately expressed the central idea of the quantum approach to theory of consciousness even before the appearance of the Everett's interpretation. Pauli arrived at this idea in the process of collaboration with the great psychologist Carl Gustav Jung.
Apparently, colleagues of Pauli considered his thoughts (concerning the direct connection of quantum mechanics with the phenomenon of consciousness) to be distrustful. It is possible that also himself considered these issues insufficiently investigated. In any case, Pauli never expressed himself on this question in scientific articles. His considerations concerning this question are known only from his letters to colleagues—physicists. Here are some of them.
In 1952, in Pauli's letter to Rosenfeld he wrote:
"For the invisible reality, of which we have small pieces of evidence in both quantum physics and the psychology of the unconscious, a symbolic psychophysical unitary language must ultimately be adequate, and this is the far goal which I actually aspire. I am quite confident that the final objective is the same, independent of whether one starts from the psyche (ideas) or from physis (matter). Therefore, I consider the old distinction between materialism and idealism as obsolete."
[Letter by Pauli to Rosenfeld of April 1, 1952. Letter 1391 in [Meyenn (1996)], p. 593. Translated by Harald Atmanspacher and Hans Primas in [Atmanspacher and Primas (2006)]]
Still earlier he wrote to Pais [Letter by Pauli to Pais of August 17, 1950. Letter 1147 in [Meyenn (1996)], p. 152. Translated by Harald Atmanspacher and Hans Primas in [Atmanspacher and Primas (2006)]]:
"The general problem of the relation between psyche and physis, between inside and outside, can hardly be regarded as solved by the term (psychophysical parallelism' advanced in the last century. Yet, perhaps, modern science has brought us closer to a more satisfying conception of this relationship, as it has established the notion of complementarity within physics. It would be most satisfactory if physis and psyche could be conceived as complementary aspects of the same reality."
These and close to them ideas of Pauli, expressed by him only very briefly and only in the letters, were very long practically unknown. Only in recent years, in connection with the increased interest in the quantum theory of consciousness, they became popular, so that articles and books (see for example [Atmanspacher and Primas (2006)] and [Enz (2009)]). The author of the present book learned about the statements of Pauli only in 2008, when several articles and a book on Quantum Concept of Consciousness were already published by him. The surprising agreement of this concept with the visionary thoughts of Pauli is additional confirmation for it.
The well-known mathematician and physicist Roger Penrose was one of those, who in the recent decades made much in order to establish the connection between phenomenon of consciousness and quantum mechanics. However, he thought (and apparently thinks until now) that there are more questions than answers in this area. In the foreword to the book [Abbot, Davies, and Pati (2008)] he wrote:
"There is, indeed, a distinct possibility that the broadening of our picture of physical reality that may well be demanded by these considerations is something that will play a central role in any successful theory of the physics underlying the phenomenon of consciousness."
And further, characterizing this possibility more concretely, Penrose writes:
"... are the special features of strongly quantum-mechanical systems in some way essential? If the latter, then how is the necessary isolation achieved, so that some modes of large-scale quantum coherence can be maintained without their being fatally corrupted by environmental decoherence? Does life in some way make use of the potentiality for vast quantum superpositions, as would be required for serious quantum computation?"
In this statement of Penrose possibility is examined that something similar to a quantum computer may exist in brain. At the same time he sees the difficulties, confronting this hypothesis. Further on Penrose considers possibility of more radical withdrawal from the standard quantum mechanics:
Do we really need to move forward to radical new theories of physical reality, as I myself believe, before the more subtle issues of biology-most importantly conscious mentality-can be understood in physical terms? How relevant, indeed, is our present lack of understanding of physics at the quantum/classical boundary? Or is consciousness really "no big deal," as has sometimes been expressed?
It would be too optimistic to expect to find definitive answers to all these questions, at our present state of knowledge, but there is much scope for healthy debate, and this book provides a profound and very representative measure of it.
Here Penrose does not discuss the possible role in the explanation of the phenomenon of consciousness, which may be played by the Everett's interpretation (as this is assumed in our Quantum Concept of Consciousness). In the book [Penrose (2004)] he concerns this question. His conclusion, however, is that, earlier than speaking about the usage of the Everett's interpretation, it is necessary to construct theory of consciousness.
This is the fundamental difference between the views, which are presented in our book, and by the point of view of Penrose. Instead of independently building theory of consciousness and examining the Everett's interpretation after this, the author of the present book proposed (in 2000) to extract the gists of theory of consciousness from the analysis of the Everett's interpretation. This way proved to be successful, because it led to the logically simple concept of consciousness, which explains the large number of phenomena, which are conventionally considered inexplicable from the scientific point of view.
11.5.3 Why Quantum Concept of Consciousness was successful
During last decades many attempts were undertaken to explain the phenomenon of life and in particular the phenomenon of consciousness on the basis of quantum mechanics. Studies in this direction were started already in Schrödinger [Schrödinger (1958)]. Schrödinger, in particular, for the first time indicated the important role of quantum mechanics in the fact that in the living systems can have stable discrete characteristics, which are necessary for the transmission of hereditary information. The contemporary survey of different approaches to this problem can be found, for example, in the book [Abbot, Davies, and Pati (2008)].
Examination and attempts to understand from the point of view of quantum mechanics such uncommon phenomenon as consciousness, is of course especially complex problem. One of the ideas, which they attempt to use for this purpose, is the assumption that some structures in the brain work as a sort of quantum computer.
In our view, numerous attempts to explain the phenomenon of consciousness, even with the attraction of quantum mechanics, gave much less impressive results, than the presented in this book Quantum Concept of Consciousness (QCC). This is due to the uncommon approach that has been used in the construction of this concept. This approach was completely not characteristic for physicists, but it proved to be successful for the solution of this problem.
Attempting to explain the phenomenon of consciousness, physicists go along the way, which is customary for them and seems the only possible. Explicitly or implicitly, they assume that consciousness is a function of the brain, which, therefore, can be explained, relying on the laws of motion of the matter, of which the brain consists. Maximum, that quantum mechanics can give with this approach, is an attempt to consider the brain not as usual (classical) computer, but as a quantum computer. 5 In this case purely physical problem appears — to explain, why decoherence does not appear, which unavoidably would destroy quantum coherence and convert quantum computer in a classical one. However, even if we are ignore this
5Versions of this type of construction may exist, but they do not differ qualitatively.
problem, it is not nevertheless obvious that the functioning of the brain as a quantum system explains consciousness.
During the construction of QCC (or Extended Everett's Concept, as otherwise this approach is called) reasoning was quite different. Not material objects, but functions were examined in the stage of constructing QCC. We analyzed those functions that have to exist in the theory in order to explain, first, that we know about our world from physics, and second, as we subjectively perceive this world. The basic function, which in this case must be explained, is consciousness, i.e., the appearance of the actually observed subjective picture of the world, on the assumption that objectively the world is such as it is described in physics, which is rested on the enormous experimental material.
Further, we can and must, it goes without saying, rest on the subjective idea about the consciousness, which each person from his daily experience has. But from the other side that function, which we want to name consciousness (and which consists of the transfer of the objectively existing world into the subjectively perceived one) must be described also in the terms, characteristic for physics. To accomplish this, the analysis of quantum physics was performed in order to find in it something that could play the role of this function. It turned out that this may be absolutely naturally and unambiguously found within the framework of the Many-World interpretation of quantum mechanics (Everett's interpretation).
The analysis of what can follow from this definition of consciousness, gives the unexpected result. It occurs that turning consciousness off (in the state of sleep, trance or meditation) or even simply its disconnection from a certain object makes it possible to go beyond the framework of that subjectively received and to obtain access to the entire objectively existing world. Then the super-intuition, or super-consciousness, appears, i.e. the information becomes accessible, which is principally inaccessible in the completely conscious state.
After thus determined function, named consciousness, is described, the process of constructing the theory could be finished. All necessary already exist in the theory of consciousness. But for comparing this theory with other approaches it is one may raise the question about what role the brain plays. And it occurs that the brain does not generate consciousness, but the brain is a tool of the consciousness. Besides usual functions of information processing, the brain forms the queries, which the super-intuition must answer, and interprets in the usual symbols and by the usual means the information, which appears as answers to these queries.
The starting point for the reasoning was the circumstance, that 1) our world is objectively quantum and therefore it must be described in the terms of quantum reality (i.e., its state is described by a superposition of parallel, Everett's, worlds), but 2) subjectively only classical reality is perceived (the illusion appears, that there exists only one of the parallel worlds). The function, named consciousness, consists then of the separation of alternative (Everett's) worlds. The disconnection of this function (sinking into the unconscious) removes the separation, so that the access to the entire set of the parallel worlds appears. This gives the information, which is inaccessible in a single one of these worlds (that subjectively perceived). So we inevitably come to the conclusion that the consciousness (but more precisely, the complex of consciousness and unconscious) possesses mystical properties.
If we now look at the final construction (which arose with the analysis of functions), then it appears that the elements of two types coexist and are tightly interlaced in it — those, which are customary assumed to be material, and those, which are usually treated as ideal. It becomes understandable, why it would be difficult to come to this picture, if we assumed from the very beginning that there were only material objects (molecules, atoms, elementary particles) and everything else might be derived from the properties of these objects. Consciousness and life — this is what cannot be simply derived from the laws of material world (although existence of living systems does not, it goes without saying, contradict these laws). They must be postulated independently (in our scheme, as the corresponding functions).
But is not it nevertheless possible to formulate this concept, considering the laws of natural sciences fundamental? Yes, it is possible, but we have then to define life as a special phenomenon, which is presented by the subset of all possible scenarios of the evolution of matter. This subset is called sphere of life. It can be determined by the condition that all scenarios included in the subset (belonging to the sphere of life) satisfy the criteria of life, first of all — the criterion of survival.
This formulation (Quantum Concept of Life, or QCL) may be easily given after we have already arrived at it, having preliminarily constructed the theory (concept) of consciousness. Using this intermediate stage (QCC), we attain that the construction becomes quite plausible and the way leading to this construction practically inevitable. In this way only two arbitrary
6or, if you want, hypothesis, but which is confirmed by entire experience of quantum mechanics
assumptions have to be accepted, which form very rigid and simple logic scheme, but they give the huge amount of consequences as a result. These consequences are immediately identified with the well-known facts. True, these are facts from the sphere of spiritual knowledge, but in view of its millennial existence this sphere, in its main points, is not less reliable than the much younger (although supplied by precise methodology) field of natural sciences.
11.6 Second Quantum Revolution
The appearance of quantum mechanics at the beginning of the 20th century was the most great scientific revolution, which affected not only strictly physical laws, but world view of physicists, their philosophical positions. By the great merit of the creators quantum mechanics headed by Nils Bohr was that they succeeded in formulating the so-called Copenhagen Interpretation of quantum mechanics. It included the clear rules, which made it possible to make calculations of concrete quantum systems, laying aside the philosophical questions, which are concerned the philosophical comprehension of what stands after these calculations.
After obtaining the possibility to work, without worrying about the deep philosophical comprehension of this work, physicists nevertheless continued the attempts to improve the philosophical aspect of quantum mechanics. This led finally to the concept of quantum reality, i.e., to the understanding, that the idea about what "real existence" means, is in the quantum world something different than in the classical world. Finally the Multi-World interpretation of quantum mechanics (Everett's interpretation) was created, which suggests a convenient mathematical apparatus, which expresses quantum reality.
Several decades went by before the Everett's interpretation obtained the acknowledgment of the sufficiently large number of physicists. This occurred, in particular, because the new purely physical tasks, which were appeared in the field of quantum mechanics (first of all, the new kind of its applications, named quantum information theory), directly exploited the specific features of quantum reality. Quantum reality became necessary for the physicists practically, even at the engineering level. This required the comparatively simple formulation of what is understood under quantum reality, and many people understood that the Multi-World interpretation is such a formulation.
The mastery of Multi-World interpretation, experience of working with it, made it possible to understand how this interpretation is organic for describing the quantum world when it is necessary to keep your mind on the most striking specific features of this world, quantum reality.
In particular, this made it possible to more deeply understand the long ago confronting question about the role of the observer's consciousness in quantum mechanics. After this the question about what is consciousness as such, has been raised in a new way. And then completely unexpectedly the new possibility (actually even need) was opened - to directly connect quantum mechanics with the theory of consciousness. Moreover, it turned out that the direct connection appears between the laws of material world and the laws, long ago formulated in the studies about the spiritual sphere. Any reason disappears for the confronting between matter and spirit, materialism and idealism. On the contrary, it becomes clear that these two spheres of human knowledge require each other not only on the culturological level, but also in the gnosiological aspect.
As a result, the new understanding not only of consciousness and spiritual sphere of human, but also of the phenomenon of life is gradually coming.
Work on the mastery of these new possibilities, new directions for research, by no means finished. It only begins and undoubtedly requires great efforts of the specialists of various profiles. However, it cannot be overestimated that the very posing of the questions in the plan of the unification of material and spiritual, became now completely real. Besides, the powerful conceptual apparatus, developed in quantum mechanics can be used in this work.
Summing up the above said, one may with the complete right to conclude that the work on the improvement of the interpretation of quantum mechanics lifted in our time to the new level. Some fundamental questions, which appeared already in the period of the creation of quantum mechanics, remained not solved almost entire century. But now they gradually obtain their solutions, leading in this case to the enormous shift in the world view - to the direct unification of the material and spiritual.
There is no doubt that we become the witnesses of new scientific revolution. It can be estimated as the completion of that scientific revolution, which began in the period of the creation of quantum mechanics. Instead of this the new stage of quantum mechanics with the complete right can be named the Second Quantum Revolution.
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