The first article of this series described consciousness as the capacity to have an inner experience based on sensations and feelings, what philosophers call qualia, and highlighted the characteristics of the physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual qualia. The second article explored the basic properties of qualia, perception, and comprehension which allow us to experience life and get meaning and purpose out of conscious living. The third article made the case for consciousness being a fundamental property of nature, arguing for a new interpretation of the core assumptions of physics that could reconcile the existence of consciousness from the beginning of time. This article will further explore the nature of reality once we accept that consciousness was already present at the beginning of the universe. If so, consciousness must have influenced the evolution of the universe in a non-trivial way, otherwise consciousness would simply be an unnecessary hypothesis.
The universe is dynamic and holistic
Imagine an infinite “ocean” in which forms keep on emerging, changing, and disappearing without leaving a trace. This portrays a holistic system where no identification of any part would be possible. The universe described by quantum field theory (QFT) is less general than this one because it consists of many fields in superpositions in which each field produces states that can be identified and distinguished because they always have the same set of properties, for example, “down quarks” or “electrons.”
However, the fields are inseparable from each other and therefore they cannot be called parts. I will call them parts-whole to distinguish them from the separable parts of the systems described by classical physics. A part-whole must emerge from the whole and therefore it must share all the key properties of the whole and concurrently it must have a unique identity, a permanent individual property that distinguishes it from all the other parts-whole. A part-whole is not like the parts of a machine enclosed by boundaries that can be taken apart and then put together again. The persistent identity of a field manifests in the indistinguishability of its quanta. This means that all its quanta have the same set of properties.
The states of the fields, in addition to combining from the bottom up into hierarchies of states, can also be influenced by the whole, top down. This whole-to-part feedback is represented by the superposition of states and the quantum entanglement, two remarkable properties of quantum systems that are absent in classical systems. Superposition of states means that all possible states of a system exist and evolve simultaneously prior to an event in which only one of those possible states will manifest with a probability that can be computed within the theory. In fact, quantum theory only allows to know the probability of an event rather than which event will occur.
Quantum entanglement is even more bizarre than superposition of states because it says that when two interacting fields create states (what CP calls particles) with joint properties, these properties are nonlocal in the sense that they are independent of space and time. This means, for example, that when two entangled particles become separated by vast distances, the measurement of the state of one particle will instantaneously determine the entangled state of the other particle, independent of their distance.
Superposition and entanglement do not exist for classical systems like computers. Therefore, a computer can be described completely from the bottom up. In my model, consciousness is a quantum property of nature that physically manifests with superposition and quantum entanglement among quantum states. These properties allow a top-down influence to exist, it gives us one more reason why a computer cannot be conscious, for there is nothing in a computer that can unify its parts into a whole. A computer is just a bunch of bits without the possibility of a top down direction. Notice that within physics, ontology resides only in the quantum fields because the “stuff” of which all the hierarchical levels of the universe are composed is ultimately the stuff that composes such fields. What we conceive as “atoms” and “molecules” only exist as particular combinations of connections (or relationships) among the dynamical states existing within the elementary quantum fields.
Conscious entities communicating
Let’s imagine now a large town square with hundreds of people, animals, and objects emitting vibrations that are perceivable as sounds. Everyone contributes a small amount of vibrations to the space of the square that are superimposed at each point in space and propagate everywhere. Each conscious entity chooses to pay attention only to a small fraction of these vibrations. The selected ones constitute an observation that is experienced as sound sensations and comprehended to an extent that is dependent on the entity. The entity, then, may respond to its inner experience by outputting new vibrations that are added to the others. In general, each entity constantly repeats cycles of observation (perception), experience (comprehension), and free-will response (action).
We see clearly here that the outer reality affects the inner reality and the inner reality affects the outer reality. There is symmetry. We also see that the vibrations emitted in response to the entity’s inner experience represent a top-down influence on physical reality, because they affect the motion of the air molecules, whereas in the worldview of classical physics only bottom-up influences affect reality and no free will exists.
I should stress here that when I say, “inner reality,” I do not mean the physical reality inside the body, i.e., the atoms and molecules of which the body is made. That physical reality is still part of the outer reality even though it is not visible from the outside. Inner reality means instead what we feel: the qualia that constitute our conscious inner experience, in addition to the capacity to communicate with free will to other conscious entities by shaping symbols.
In other words, my conscious choice of what meaning I wish to communicate is not made by the atoms of my body, even though my conscious experience leading to that choice is affected to some extent by the physical configuration of my body’s atoms. In my model, meaning relies on quantum entanglement and thus transcends the classical properties of matter. Once my choice has been made, my conscious command will affect a subset of the atoms of my body. These in turn will affect my physical behavior so that the sound I emit will represent the meaning I wish to communicate. Said differently, sound patterns have both a symbolic (air vibrations) and a semantic (qualia, meaning) content belonging respectively to the outer and the inner realities. And there must be a two-way communication between them.
Subjectivity trumps objectivity
Let us return to the square full of conscious entities producing vibrations. At any one time, each entity observes only a small subset of the overall vibrations, neglecting the rest of them which are considered “background noise.” Therefore, the inner reality of each observer is primarily determined by his conscious choices, and so are his vibrational contributions to the presumed objective vibrations of the square. For example, my experience will be quite different from that of my neighbor who is listening to someone else, not to mention the experience of the dog nearby which only pays attention to the barking vibrations of other dogs and likely considers human voices background noise. Since I am only interested in the conversation with my neighbor, the barking of the dogs, the conversations of other people, and all the other “potentially meaningful sounds” are all be part of my background noise. Then, the vibrations I will emit will again be determined by my conscious choices.
Moreover, in the sound reality of the square, there are neither objective symbols nor objective noises. What is signal and what is noise are determined by the free-will choices of each conscious observer. The way in which the air molecules surrounding the square vibrate—so-called objective reality—is truly the sum of subjective actions.
We could now generalize this example to the electromagnetic field (EMF) created and observed by the vast hierarchy of “beings,” from particles, atoms, and molecules, to ants, dogs, and men, each contributing to the same vast EMF and each observing only an infinitesimally small portion of it. Electromagnetic vibrations would indeed give us a closer picture to what is happening in our world. However, the narrative would become much more complex, without substantially adding to the basic conceptual ideas illustrated with soundwaves.
Quantum physics reinterpreted
Within classical physics everything is outer reality because the properties of the elementary particles are the only determinants of the properties of any hierarchical structure made of them. Therefore, no inner reality can possibly exist in any organization of classical particles.
Within quantum physics, however, there is the possibility that each hierarchical level might have some degree of freedom not entirely accounted for by the behaviors of the hierarchical level immediately below it. For example, the properties of a water molecule are more than the sum of the properties of the hydrogen and oxygen atoms. A water molecule has new characteristics that involve some sort of integration of lower-level properties into something new (not a sum), with new freedoms accessible to the whole that are not available to the parts. These “connections” have a definite a quantum origin.
If we grant that consciousness and free will are holistic inner properties of each quantum field, the outer physical states of the field could be changed from within itself. The outer reality would then be the dynamical result of the interplay of the inner semantic and the outer symbolic realities of all the interacting entities. Those outer states would resemble the vibrations imposed by a conscious entity on the air molecules in the square example previously described. As such, these states would have to obey probabilistic physical laws, since their structure would carry a freely chosen meaning encoded onto them.
The deep reason why quantum physics is probabilistic could therefore be attributed to the free will of the quantum fields that decide which state to manifest. The entity that decides the state knows what it wants, whereas the outer observers cannot know the state that will manifest before the free decision has been made. Hence quantum physics cannot be deterministic. In other words, if we say that physical reality is the result of interacting conscious entities, this assumption would be incompatible with classical physics but compatible with QFT /if we grant to the quantum fields the capacity to be conscious and to act with free will/. This is indeed my fundamental hypothesis that attributes to the quantum fields new properties not yet acknowledged by physics.
In this view, we may interpret the appearance of an elementary particle at a specific location in spacetime as a communication symbol, and we may interpret quantum entanglement as evidence that an entangled particle is a part of a larger organization of quantum symbols. The state of a quantum system may then be interpreted as having a dual nature: to the outside world it is a quantum symbol and to the conscious entity it is a meaning, an inner conscious experience. The appearance of a specific organization of quantum states must then be probabilistic because it derives from a free-will decision to communicate the symbol represented by that organization of states.
The only additional assumption needed for quantum physics to explain the existence of conscious entities is to hypothesize that the quantum state of a field has a meaning to the field itself. This amounts to saying that the field has an interiority just like we do.
The nature of physical laws
Within my model, the fundamental physical laws that we observe in our universe can be interpreted as the syntactical rules of the language used by the conscious quantum fields to communicate with each other. The elementary symbols employed in their communications are what we perceive as the elementary particles appearing and disappearing in our space-time.
In this interpretation, the existence of deterministic laws relating these probabilities corresponds to the existence of syntactical rules that the symbols must obey for the entities to communicate – a necessary feature of any language. Syntactical laws, however, are not God-given but are the evidence of agreements among the conscious fields about how to converse with each other. What is free is the meaning that is communicated, not the syntactical rules of the symbols that are used to represent the meaning. This is true in our languages as well.
For example, the book that I will freely write five years from now, whose meaning is not even known to me, is guaranteed to obey the probabilistic laws of the symbols of the English language in which I will write it. I will obey these syntactical rules out of my free will—not out of coercion—because I want to communicate, and to do so I must adhere to the rules agreed by the community of conscious entities to which I belong.
Likewise, the laws of our physical world constrain only the way to assemble the material symbols used to express the meaning of conscious entities. The meaning is free, but its symbolic expression must follow probabilistic laws. It is because the meaning is fundamental, and not the symbols, that we are completely free. If we believe that symbols without meaning are fundamental, then the real meaning of life and existence is nowhere to be found.