From George Musser, author of Spooky Action at a Distance and The Complete Idiot’s Guide to String Theory, at Nautilus, noting
Neuroscience is weighing in on physics’ biggest questions.
The physicists and philosophers I asked to comment on collapse driven by information integration are broadly sympathetic, if only because the other options for explaining (or explaining away) collapse have their own failings. But they worry that Integrated Information Theory is poorly suited to the task. Angelo Bassi, a physicist at the University of Trieste who studies the foundations of quantum mechanics, says that information integration is too abstract a concept. Quantum mechanics deals in the gritty details of where particles are and how fast they’re moving. Relating the two is harder than you might think. Bassi says that Ranchin and Kremnizer use a formula that predicts absurdities such as the instantaneous propagation of signals. “I find it feasible to link the collapse … to consciousness, but in order to do it in a convincing way, I think one needs a definition of consciousness which boils down to configurations of particles in the brain,” he says. In that case, the collapse would be triggered not by consciousness or information integration per se, but by more primitive dynamics that integrated systems are somehow more sensitive to.
Which brings us back to emergence and the biggest emergence problem of all: how the quantity of particles makes the quality of mind. Integrated Information Theory may not solve it—the scientific study of consciousness is young, and it would be surprising if neuroscientists had hit on the right answer so soon. Consciousness is such a deep and pervasive problem that it makes an odd couple of neuroscience and physics. Even if the answer does not lie in the interconnectedness of networks, it surely demands the interconnectedness of disciplines.
We think we know what a theory of everything should be like but we really do not know what consciousness is and can’t grasp it using current assumptions and methods. That means we will be at the job a while…
See also: Would we give up naturalism to solve the hard problem of consciousness?
What great physicists have said about immateriality and consciousness
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