These ideas about quantum effects and their relationship to consciousness are emerging at the forefront of research in many different disciplines right now. There are emerging subdisciplines such as quantum biology, quantum brain theory, and even quantum social science! Which parts of this miss-mash make sense and how are these discussions relevant to understanding the mind-body problem? Or the God question for that matter?
Drawing partially on the writings of Alexander Wendt (Quantum Mind and Social Science: Unifying Physical and Social Ontology) as well as other parts of the literature on this question (e.g. the Hameroff and Penrose papers), we propose to generate discussion and hopefully, some improved understanding in this area. Wendt proposes to defend the argument that “human beings are walking wave functions”.
The Cafe will be animated by Geoffrey Edwards (@Geoffrey_Edwards) and Marco Masi (@MarcoM), both physicists active on Infinite Conversations. However, you don’t need to have read any of this material to take part in the discussion, although viewing the shorter videos might be advisable - Wendt’s book isn’t an easy read, even to those of us with a grounding in quantum physics, although it is very thought-provoking, and I don’t recommend the papers to non physicists either (the talk by Hameroff is good, however, and covers much of the same ground as their papers)! We hope to simplify the issues so they can be understood in general terms, and applied to issues of consciousness, understanding time, spirituality, etc. Tall order, perhaps, but it should make for an interesting discussion!
Reading / Watching / Listening
- Here is a video on Quantum Entanglement … kinda cute with the spinning effigies of his own person (9 min) : https://youtu.be/ZuvK-od647c
- Here is another one, more historical in focus, but which asks very interesting questions at the end (20 min) : https://youtu.be/5_0o2fJhtSc
- For those interested in quantum biology, here is a longer exposition (roughly an hour) by the same speaker as the previous one, quite good: https://youtu.be/bLeEsYDlXJk. This is interesting because quantum biology bears some similarities to studies of quantum consciousness, it is also a fledgling area of interest, but is slightly more mature than studies of quantum mind.
- For the double-slit experiment and wave/particle duality, the first half of this video is great (but the second half gets far too complex, far too quickly - it is trying to explain another experiment about entanglement, the delayed time experiment, but there is a better video for this below): https://youtu.be/U7Z_TIw9InA
- For the delayed time experiment (time travel!), this is pretty good… you have to pay attention, because there are many detectors being discussed (listen to first 10 min): https://youtu.be/8ORLN_KwAgs
- Finally, here is Hameroff talking about his ideas. Hameroff is interesting (although a bit long-winded), he is an anesthetist by training, not a physicist at all (his explanation of superposition is awful!) but he raises very important questions about the standard approach to brain states, and many of his ideas are quite elegant. Overall, his talk is very clear (1 hour 45 min): https://youtu.be/2_sgFETJzak
Couple of tidbits from Hameroff’s talk : “I think that the brain is a fractal-like hierarchy, a resonance system, more like an orchestra than a computer, it may do computing, but I think consciousness is more like music, metaphorically, and the brain is more like an orchestra operating at different resonant frequencies.” And this one, censored out of the slide by slide reprise of the conclusions! “I often get asked about out of body experiences and the possibility of afterlife, … and if consciousness is happening at the level of space-time geometry, which I believe it is, normally the space-time geometry in the brain, in the microtubules, then it could be that when, for example, in a near-death experience, when the blood supply stops flowing, and the microtubules lose their energy supply, that the quantum information reverts to space-time geometry, but remains entangled as an entity, and so if the patient is revived and comes back and says “Hey, I was floating above my body”, or I had this experience, that could actually be happening, even afterlife, the consciousness remains entangled as a unit, a unitary entity, a quantum soul, if you will, outside the body.”
- What is Quantum Entanglement? What is its history? And what is Quantum Coherence and how is this related to Quantum Entanglement?
- What can these ideas about quantum entanglement and coherence, tell us about mind, time, spirituality?
- Can the theory be really trusted to be used in this way? What are the limits of applying these ideas? Can they affect your life?