Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Quantum Consciuosness

     No this isn't a post about new age type stuff.  Its about recent posts and a meeting about the interface of the quantum world and the classical world and scientists talking about consciousness.

     In a previous post I talked about a meeting on the foundations of quantum mechanics and its relationship to the classical world.  One of the people in the discussion was Scott Aaronson a computer science professor at MIT who spoke about quantum computers and consciousness. .   On his blog Shtetl_Optimized he has posted his talk at this meeting.  It is fascinating to read about his thoughts on computers and consciousness.  He gives his definitions of consciousness in regard to the arrow of time.  It is a good read.  Another MIT professor has also been working on consciousness and that is the physics professor Max Tegmark.  He discussed his work on consciousness in his book "Our Mathematical  Universe" which you can learn more about by going to his homepage which I gave a link to. It is a fun and enjoyable book to read.  For a more technical article on Tegmark's work you can go here.  What he proposes is that consciousness is a state of matter 

     What I find refreshing is that these are two younger professors talking about consciousness.  To be sure they are both tenured professors so they are more free to discuss consciousness.  The reason I mention this is that in the past seriously talking about consciousness by a faculty member was sort of off limits due to the problems that such talk was thought to verge on the area of crackpottery.  Consciousness was studied by older retired professors and was not considered a serious subject in a physics department, I'm guessing the same is true for all sciences.  Lee Smolin in one of his books, either "The Trouble with Physics" or "Time Reborn" talks about he will not discuss consciousness except with one elderly gentleman he has respect for.  It was not a subject to openly discuss.  In the past few years it seems like more physicists and some computer scientists are talking about consciousness and in Tegmark's case it appears to be part of his research agenda.

     Consciousness is considered to be one of the hard problems in science.  Its nice to see younger faculty discussing and working on this question. It is an area that more  scientists should seriously study  Its fun to learn about consciousness. Or our conscious likes to study consciousness.

After writing this last night I came across this article on computing and consciousness from a theoretical physics student Shaun Maguire at Caltech in the blog Quantum Frontiers.  Its another interesting article and discusses some of Aaronson work on computers and hard problems along with consciousness.  Quantum Frontier is a blog of Caltech's Institute for Quantum Information and Matter and usually has interesting articles many of which are written by students.

Added 9-2-14  I came across another post by Scott Aaorson en "Quantum Information and the Brain".  It is interesting

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