CONSCIOUSNESS, TIME, AND THE OBSERVERJuly 18, 2013
There's a school of thought out there, begun largely by Oxford mathematician Roger Penrose (see Penrose's stimulating book The Emperor's New Mind), that self-consciousness arises from quantum mechanical processes in the human brain:
I find it intriguing because I've long suspected, and have advanced the idea in various books and interviews, that the neat and tidy binary dialectical divisions of "materialism" and (for want of a better expression) "idealism" in standard metaphysics and epistemology isn't really feasible; there's a kind of feedback mechanism between the two, and some aspects of Penrose's theory seems to suggest this. But there is also, as I have also hypothesized, a deep relationship between "mind" and the physical medium, beyond even that suggested by quantum mechanics' uncertainty principle.
With that in mind, consider this very interesting article:
Now the fascinating point in this article - one that goes right to the heart of the uncertainty principle, it would seem to me, is this:
"Freeman says this implies that the same event in the outside world is perceived by different parts of your brain as happening at different times. This suggests that, rather than one unified "now", there are many clocks in the brain – two of which showed up in the tasks – and that all the clocks measure their individual "nows" relative to their average.
"In PH's case, one or more of these clocks has been significantly slowed – shifting his average – possibly as a result of the lesions."
The idea of the brain containing many different "clocks" which then are averaged to give an account of the "time" or "now" or perceptions is highly intriguing, especially when one considers all of Einstein's "thought experiments" involving the idea of synchronized clocks; perhaps the great physicist was even able to observe his own mind performing such functions.
But regardless of the answer to that speculation, the idea that the human brain averages such observations is an indicator, perhaps, that Penrose's quantum mechanical approach is on target, for quantum mechanics relies a great deal on such statistical averages of particle performance history. And it raises as never before the importance of the observer of such events, and the link between mind and the physical medium, and particularly between the mind and time. Now, while you're weighing all those implications into the mix, add animals: the ability of the felines, for example, to "calculate" how far to jump to catch a target, and so on...
All this is fun of course, but it underscores in a major way once again that we are just beginning to explore the relationships between consciousness and physics. Quantum mechanics did not close an era of "classical" physics and metaphysics, as much as it opened up a whole new one. I suspect that one is going to encounter wholesale connections between these phenomena and, say, chaos theory or even biologist Rupert Sheldrake's "morphogenetic fields" or even C.G. Jung's "archetypes." (One wonders, indeed, just what Jung and his close friend, correspondent, and fellow investigator of "synchronicity," physicist Wolfgang Pauli, might have thought of these two articles.)
See you on the flip side.