The main function of consciousness in traditional (narrow) sense has been the one acknowledging the surrounding world, a world in which its status was that of an epiphenomenon, more accurately – a brain annex. The attempts of the modern science ( based on Newtonian physics ) to uncover the real nature as well as the functional mechanism specific to consciousness have lamentable failed into a local realism centered on neuron, the conventional neuroscience, erroneously considering that the electro-chemical functioning of the brain, respectively detailed structural – functional modeling of the neuron ( neuron systems ) would exhaust the consciousness itself. In this context many laborious studies, involving genetics and nucleus, membranes and receptors, etc. have been unable to provide answers or at least some pertinent suggestions concerning: emergence and the specific of consciousness, the unity of personal / life experience, memory problem, the right relation between physical / mental, material / spiritual ,… Immediately after the quantum mechanics debut, some researchers have re-directed their attention toward the new theoretical / methodological alignments, especially attracted by the parallelism mind / body and wave / particle – attempting to elaborate a quantum model of subjectivity, the pioneer of this direction being Alfred LOTKA – an American bio-physicist ( born in Lvov, Ukraine, 1880 ) who in 1924 states for the first time that the mind / consciousness controls the brain – and not conversely – through subjective modulation of quantum jumps.
Key stages in elaborating quantum consciousness
During more than eight decades after Lotka’s daring try, many remarkable progresses have been realized within the passage from particle (real ) paradigm to potentiality paradigm (wavy models), the last paradigm being a lot more generous in approaching / resolving the key consciousness issues, beginning with uncovering of the macroscopic / quantum essence of consciousness, with the clarifying of the specific neuronal, coherent subsystems upholding mental activity (clusters of protein or water molecules integrated through quantum forces of London, repectively Van der Waals, type) and equally of the manner in which the consciousness participates to real genesis.
1. Postulation of existence of some quantum formation highly organized of the Bose – Einstein condensate type (1925); such special form of quantum nonlocality, have been realized for the first time in a gas in 1995.
2. David BOHM moment (after 1950; 1980: Wholeness and the Implicate Order; 1993, with Basil J. Hiley: The Undivided Universe – An Ontological Interpretation of Quantum Theory): the elaboration of undivided universe model, in continuous flux, with two distinct and inseparable order levels: implicate order and explicate order; to note that the inseparability of two levels, realized through the two fundamental processes enfolding / unfolding comes really close to coherence / decoherence or in modal perspective, to potentialization / actualization. This time, reality and mind (thinking human being) are not conceived any more as separate, opposite parts but rather as complementary, harmonized subsystems of this flux.
3. Karl H. PRIBRAM moment (1960…): recognizing the holographic principle as being applicable to structural, functional model of memory as well as to wavy organization of material systems, including the entire universe ( holographic universe ).
4. Herbert FROHLICH moment (1968,…): proposing extension of Bose – Einstein condensate to biological oscillators such as membrane proteins, tubulins in microtubules, which can coherently function in everyday environment.
5. Elaboration (1996) by Roger PENROSE and Stuart HAMEROFF of a non-reductionist quantum model of consciousness named “ Orch OR ” ( Orchestrated Objective Reduction ) characterized by the above mentioned authors in the following terms: “ We believe Orch OR in brain microtubules is the most specific and plausible model for consciousness yet proposed.” More details regarding this model can be found in my post “ Platonism versus mathematical logos? ”.
Methodological progresses in quantum models
a. overdelocalized aggregates based on stratified aromatic cycles: benzene, indole, etc directly contributing to system’s stability as well as to the appearance and / or amplifying of “ quantum bio-crystal ” behavior;
b. neuronal cytoskeleton and microtubules ( having a special component named tubulin) – subsystems of macro and mesoscopic dimensions, directly involved in cellular structure (classic premise) and especially in generation of conscious events, through some reversible transitions coherence / decoherence;
c. clusters composed from permanent dipolar molecules of water, locally or distantly organized by Van der Waals forces, constituting within neurons (or outside of them) an extended quantum system used to generate and maintain the conscious states ( Kunji YASUE; Alex. KAIVARAINEN ).
The discovery and characterization of the above mentioned subsystems, utilizing the holographic patterns as well as the progresses realized in theory and practice of decoherence ( H.-D. ZEH; W.H. ZUREK ) have contributed after 1990 in a decisive manner to the elaboration of some consistent models of quantum consciousness.
Some hallmarks of this elaboration:
- Establishing of some minimum complexity at the neuron / microtubules level, where the conscious states appear and become stable: few hundred neurons, respectively about 10,000 microtubules ( R. Penrose, S. Hameroff);
- Localization of consciousness ( most likely situs ) as some proteinic hydrophobic pockets / volumes generated under London forces, suggested by the specific action of anesthetic agents ( gases ) tied to non-polar groups of amino acids. Stuart Hameroff: “ Anesthetics act ( and consciousness occurs) not in any one neuron type or particular protein; rather anesthesia and consciousness occur in hydrophobic pockets of a class of proteins in dendrites, throughout the brain.”
- The existence of some Frohlich type subsystems within biological systems ( brain / neurons ) induces the collapse of wave function / reduction to produce specifically on these formations, favoring this way, through a positive feedback, the progressive accelerated development of specialized biological structures, with important functional advantages ( Jan MARSHALL ).
- The “ biocrystal quantum “ system as well as Frohlich type systems above mentioned are governed by a fundamental, dynamic equilibrium:
coherence ↔ decoherence
whose dynamic is correlated, among others, with day / night sequence. When, under the influence of a too active environment the decoherence reaches excessive values ( diminishing the wavy / coherent character, respectively rising the particle character of the system, or the excessive tendency toward amortization of the biological oscillator ) it becomes necessary to re-establish the optimal values, taking into account that physical, non-biological decoherence is irreversible. In some works published, between 1970 – 1990 I have asserted that the metabolism, beyond its regular functions ( turnover, source of biochemical energy ) also has an exceptional role as de-locator, aiming to catabolic elimination of locators, which through irreversible interactions diminish the mobility of electrons, respectively quantum coherence / nonlocality of the system. The same requirement of re-establishing the optimal ration between coherence / decoherence ( named by me “ quantum detoxification ” ) also explains the necessity of: sleep, as well as meditation, dream, non-competitive play (play for pleasure), touching ( touching as an interpersonal tunnel effect ), poetry ( nothing in common with action! – F. Holderlin) and last but not least love ( love in broad sense = coherence ).
- As shown by K. Pribram, to understand the memory essence and its functional specific, the holographic organization based on interference patterns, provides a very important series of advantages: fault tolerance (due to distributed character of information storing, local structural disturbances do not regularly result in a loss of information; cue based retrieval (efficient access to desired information even when initial data is suboptimal); unity of consciousness, etc.
- The direct involvement of consciousness in observation / measurement processes has more than just one local – technical significance but especially a general philosophical significance, the measuring actually being a genesis. To note that this genesis entails not just the states or properties but rather the system itself. This exceptional epistemological / ontological performance – the correct scientific explanation of irreducible, generative character of consciousness, which has scandalized generations after generations educated under the sign of Cartesian – heggelian separation / opposition between subject / object, matter / spirit, through the formulation of a false dilemma: idealism or materialism – became possible within quantum consciousness as a choice process self / non-self revealed in two distinct – inseparable stages:
a. the selection of an alternative from the given superposition ( in which every term / state has a non-zero probability occurrence ). Beyond this non-zero probability ( essential one because the physics laws cannot be violated ) it is remarkable the fact that the selection is initiated not as much as by consciousness but by the non-self itself ( as superposition ) the wave function preferring to collapse onto a highly organized formation, provided in this case by the substrate of consciousness itself;
b. in the second stage, the role of consciousness is much more active: the consciousness can modify ( eventually using the probability waves, through interference mechanisms ) the occurrence probability of the chosen alternative ( as well as the adjacent ones ) according for instance with survival values.
- The definition of consciousness in broad sense
The supporters of some short but still correct statements can bear in mind the Penrose – Hameroff definitions: consciousness is OR or OR is consciousness ( OR meaning objective reduction of the wave function ). In a different context – the Everett multi-world model, which is a “ non-collapse model ”- M.B. MENSKI ( Uspehi Fiziceskih Nauk, 2007 ) is proposing a non-reduction definition: consciousness is the splitting itself of alternatives. A more elaborated definition has been recently proposed by me: quantum consciousness is an in-formational process between self / non-self, involving some reversible transitions ( coherence / decoherence ) of some specialized neuronal subsystems.
Platonism versus mathematical Logos?
Looking for a reason and eventually a location for conscious experiences, Roger Penrose has considered that in Plato’s Forms ( Ideas / Eidos ) we could find that ontological, originating transcendentality which guides the appearance and functioning of consciousness. The Penrosian hypothesis is that values such as senzorial perception ( hearing, smelling, etc ), sense of beauty, poetic, ethics, mathematical truths, etc. can be codified ab initio as potential, distinct forms somewhere in the very depth of our universe at the level of Planck scale ( 10 – 33 cm.) from where, through the reduction mechanism ( OR ) it decisively influences activity and texture of the consciousness. To note that through this approach Penrose comes very close to the original essences which according to M. Heidegger confers to Dasein ( especially to human being ) authenticity and salvation. Stuart Hameroff, co-author of the model Orch OR states directly: I believe that at a fundamental level we all are connected with each other and with the universe. Some underlines regarding the methodological status of this hypothetical connection: it is well known that Plato has negated any communications between the pure world of ideas and the impure world of things. Which, then , would be the proper vector of this transfer of fundamentality from universal to individual? To note that today, in a time characterized by a generalized opening of systems of any nature, the closing ( discontinuity ) assumed by Plato – actually a rupture between general and individual – is hard to endorse: it could be valid in reference to an ergonic / actional coupling , but a non-ergonic, in-formational coupling ( in the Bohmian sense of active information ) deserves all our attention. C. Noica, a consequent promoter of the model “ the opening closure “ has explicitly negated the separation between Ideas / things considering that “ the Plato’s idea is settled in the core of things, modeling them .”
Penrose’s recourse to the Greek tradition and correlatively the bold assertion of thinking / consciousness un-computability deeply disturbed the AI ( Artificial Intelligence ) promoters who considered this approach as a proof of methodological opacity toward the real problems of present / future. I think that the Penrosian appeal to the original essences of thinking / sensitivity rather represents a guarantee of authenticity, according to the following quote from the monumental work Paideia ( Oxford University Press, 1965, I ) of the great humanist / historian Werner JAEGER :
“ Physically and intellectually… our history will begin with Greeks (…). By “ begins ” I mean not only the temporal commencement, but also the ARCHE (my underline, FF), the spiritual source to which, as we reach every new stage of development, we must constantly revert to reorient ourselves. “
It has been a pleasant surprise for me – as … old Chicagoan – to find that W. Jaeger performed as a professor for several years at University of Chicago.
Even though the contemporary unilateral development of mathematical logos did register indisputable successes in many algorithmic areas of knowledge, to become “ alive ”, “ conscious ” this rather artificial logos has to escape the limits of mechanist situation, tunneling towards the genuine living being, to spiritualize. The idea expressed a few decades ago by C. Noica concerning the rapport between mechanism and living being continues to be significant:
“ The mechanism is an impoverishment of living being. The computer is the highest point of this impoverishment. This magic, little machine disconnects the human being from reality, from things, without his acknowledgment. ”