For as long as the discipline has existed, physicists have been reluctant to discuss consciousness, considering it a topic for quacks and charlatans. Indeed, the mere mention of the ‘c’ word could ruin careers.
We are about, one fears, to witness still another reason why. Max “multiverse” Tegmark offers a new approach that is said to be “spreading like wildfire”,
Tegmark’s approach is to think of consciousness as a state of matter, like a solid, a liquid or a gas. “I conjecture that consciousness can be understood as yet another state of matter. Just as there are many types of liquids, there are many types of consciousness,” he says.
Taking a cue from quantum physics and noting that consciousness is impossible to divide into independent parts, he uses the term perceptronium to describe “the most general substance that feels subjectively self-aware.”
So far we have this: Up to half the information stored in a Hopfield neural net, which is a special network with error-correcting codes, can be reconstructed from the rest. Tegmark calculates that
a Hopfield net about the size of the human brain with 10^11 neurons, can only store 37 bits of integrated information.
“This leaves us with an integration paradox: why does the information content of our conscious experience appear to be vastly larger than 37 bits?” asks Tegmark.
He think that the paradox suggests that a vital ingredient is missing.
Might be. We are informed, “And yet the power of this approach is in the assumption that consciousness does not lie beyond our ken; that there is no ‘secret sauce’ without which it cannot be tamed.”
Okay. So a vital ingredient is missing. But there is no “secret sauce.”
A perceptronium or two may wish to weigh in either at PhysicsArXiv or here.
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