- Of course, there are a multitude of ways in which one might postulate a connection between conscious experiences and a quantum physical world. Quentin Smith, Barry Loewer, and Michael Lockwood have discussed three within this volume. However, rather than reviewing the various possibilities that have been proposed, I shall summarize my own conjecture for the framework or basic form of the connection. When emphasizing the quantum side of the connection, I have called this Sensible Quantum Mechanics1 (SQM, but, for reasons that will become apparent, when emphasizing the conscious side of the connection, I might call it Mindless Sensationalism (MS).
- Mindless Sensationalism is very similar in many ways to the many-minds theories developed by Lockwood and by David Albert and Loewer, except that the basic conscious entities, which Mindless Sensationalism asserts there are ‘many' of, are conscious experiences rather than minds.
By a ‘conscious experience’, I mean all that one is consciously aware of or consciously experiencing at once. Lockwood has called this a ‘phenomenal perspective’; or ‘maximal experience’, or ‘conscious state'. It could also be expressed as a total ‘raw feel' that one has at once.
- In conclusion, I am proposing that Mindless Sensationalism is the best framework we have at the present level for understanding the connection between conscious experiences and quantum theory2. Of course, the framework would only become a complete theory once one had the set M of all conscious experiences p, the awareness operators A(S), and the quantum state sigma of the universe.
- Even such a complete theory of the quantum world and the conscious world affected by it need not be the ultimate simplest complete theory of the combined physical world. There might be a simpler set of unifying principles from which one could in principle deduce the conscious experiences, awareness operators, and quantum state, or perhaps some simpler entities that replaced them. For example, although in the present framework of Mindless Sensationalism, the quantum world (i.e. its state), along with the awareness operators, determines the measure for experiences in the conscious world, there might be a reverse effect of the conscious world affecting the quantum world to give a simpler explanation than we have at present of the coherence of our conscious experiences and of the correlation between will and action (why my desire to do something I feel I am capable of doing is correlated with my conscious experience of actually doing it, i.e. why I ;’do as I please'). If the quantum state is partially determined by an action functional, can desires in the conscious world affect that functional (say in a co-ordinate-invariant way that therefore does not violate energy-momentum conservation)? Such considerations may call for a more unified framework than Mindless Sensationalism (elsewhere called Sensible Quantum Mechanics)3, which one might call Sensational Quantum Mechanics4. Such a more unified framework need not violate the limited assumptions of Mindless Sensationalism, though it might do that as well and perhaps reduce to Mindless Sensationalism only in a certain approximate sense.
- To explain these frameworks in terms of an analogy, consider a classical model of spinless massive point charged particles and an electromagnetic field in Minkowski space-time. Let the charged particles be analogous to the quantum world (or the quantum state part of it), and the electromagnetic field be analogous to the conscious world (the set of conscious experiences with its measure µ(S)). At the level of a simplistic materialist mind-body philosophy, one might merely say that the electromagnetic field is part of, or perhaps a property of, the material particles. At the level of Mindless Sensationalism, the charged particle worldlines are the analogue of the quantum state, the retarded electromagnetic field propagator (Coulomb's law in the non-relativistic approximation) is the analogue of the awareness operators, and the electromagnetic field determined by the worldlines of the charged particles and by the retarded propagator is the analogue of the conscious world. (Here one can see that this analogue of Mindless Sensationalism is valid only if there is no free incoming electromagnetic radiation.) At the level of Sensational Quantum Mechanics5, at which the conscious world may affect the quantum world, the charged particle worldlines are partially determined by the electromagnetic field through the electromagnetic forces that it causes. (This more unified framework better explains the previous level but does not violate its description, which simply had the particle worldlines given.) At a yet higher level, there is the possibility of incoming free electromagnetic waves, which would violate the previous frameworks that assumed the electromagnetic field was uniquely determined by the charged particle worldlines. (An analogous suggestion for intrinsic degrees of freedom for consciousness has been made by the physicist Andrei Linde.) Finally, at a still higher level, there might be an even more unifying framework in which both charged particles and the electromagnetic field are seen as modes of a single entity (e.g. to take a popular current speculation, a superstring, or perhaps some more basic entity in ‘M theory').
- Therefore, although it is doubtful that Mindless Sensationalism is the correct framework for the final unifying theory (if one does indeed exist), it seems to me to be a move in that direction that is consistent with what we presently know about the physical world and consciousness.
Part Four: Quantum Mechanics6 and Consciousness, Chapter 17
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