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Consciousness and quantum processing

There is increased evidence that also our biology (as part of the cosmos) is underpinned by quantum mechanisms. Quantum processes take place at a subatomic level where the protons show a ‘weird’ behaviour. What causes this remains yet unexplained. However, some of these processes can be observed for example in photosynthesis, optical reactions, smells and interestingly the transformation from tadpoles into frogs.

In these processes, protons often show wave-like behaviour that for example allow them to tunnel through fixed structures, protons also can be in different places at the same time, called entanglements.

If quantum mechanism is so widespread in biology it will also most likely be part of our brain. Also, here certain processes can hardly be explained without referring to quantum processes. Furthermore, if quantum mechanism underpins the cosmos, why would humans be exempt or special?

If we link this to consciousness it is interesting to philosophise what quantum theories could mean for us humans.  While on the one hand quantum biological structures have determinate structures however (at least for the foreseeable future) the outcomes appear to us in a rather indeterministic way, as there are potentially trillions of possible outcomes of quantum reactions in the trillions of neurons that we have in our brains. It looks like quantum processes are doing their work before we make a deterministic decision, be it in for us totally unpredictable ways.

The question is if we will ever be able to understand these processes to such an extent that we can predict those outcomes, that is if they are indeed predictable at all. The issue of Free Will fits into the same category. As a matter of fact, perhaps many of the complex issues might need to be looked at through quantum processes.

Traditional mathematics is not be able to assist us here and that led computer scientist Stephen Wolfram to come up with the term “computational irreducibility”, basically meaning that certain processes can only be proven through observation and experimentation. That is not to say that we will increasingly be able to understand these processes better. Will we ever be able to reach the full truth? Of course, we also can ask other questions. Is the cosmos just one computable entity? Are we simulations of ourselves in this cosmos machine, simply a process of observation and experimentation? Are there reset buttons in this process?

The more we look at these structures the more we need to see ourselves as a part of the (quantum) cosmos and our behaviour is equally ruled by quantum mechanism. What does this do to the notion of soft determinism in the context of free will? The quantum concept indicates that while we are part of the cosmos’ rules and regulations, do we still have an influence in this? Or is everything what we do simply is pre-programmed. However, for the moment at least this does not really matter as nobody can at this stage predict any future outcome of our actions.

Let us take climate change as an example is it predestined that we either ruin the planet or save the planet. Does it make any difference what we do or do not? Or perhaps is it predestined that doing something is also predestined and as such leads to a certain outcome? Obviously as we can observe, the larger ‘cosmos machine’ is also making its decisions in relations to such events. Again, it is important to not overestimate our own influence in this process.

At the same time, it is wondrous to experience what consciousness has to offer us and the unpredictability of our free will is most certainly influenced by actions we undertake (soft determinism). With this in mind we should live life the fullest and perhaps that is the meaning of life.