Conjecture #4: Quantum Consciousness

“You can’t always get what you want.  But if you try sometime, well you just might find, you get what you need.”–The Rolling Stones (Jagger/Richards)

“I’m-a get medieval on your ass.”–Marcellus Wallace (character, Pulp Fiction)

I conjecture:  In a quantum multiverse, one’s consciousness is a composite of the many worlds.


You’ve been warned folks: I’m-a get metaphysical on your asses.  What’s worse, it’s a personal, almost solipsistic metaphysics.  Hell, it’s my blog, why can’t I?  I might also add that the next couple of  conjectures will be the most controversial, and to some extent they might contradict each other.  Consider it an appropriate quantum superposition–both simultaneously half true.

Few subjects in the sciences are as controversial as the notion of quantum consciousness, as it meets at the junction of theoretical physics and cognitive psychology, and manages to merge the two phenomena that puzzle scientists the most.  Oh, we understand what quantum mechanics is in terms of what it does,  but have no freakin’ idea how and why it does it.   You can say pretty much the same for consciousness.

The concept of quantum consciousness is nothing all that new.  Without getting too technical–because hey, then I wouldn’t understand it either–the notion of a quantum mechanical basis for human consciousness was first directly proposed by Roger Penrose, in his 1989 book, The Emperor’s New Mind.  Built on his earlier work with Stuart Hammerhoff,  Penrose asserted that the human mind can perform functions that are not computable and could only arise from quantum superpositions occurring within the brain.    Max Tegmark,  an MIT cosmologist with no shortage of his own controversial ideas, became the most vocal opponent of this concept, for reasons I won’t go into here, as this is not exactly what I am advocating.     Or maybe it is.

What I am advocating, whether the mind is a quantum computer or not, is that our conscious experience represents a composite of all the universes, or potential universes suggested by quantum theory.  The distinction between potential and actual alternate universes implies the distinction between the Copenhagen and Many Worlds interpretations of quantum mechanics.  And the former seems to make more sense in concert with this conjecture, as it asserts that there simply is no objective reality on the sub-atomic level until we measure it; there are, effectively, only statistical probabilities.  From that it would be easy enough to make the philosophical assertion that our consciousness is essentially a composite of all the possibilities.

But it might not be.  As we only appear to be conscious in one reality at a time, it is certainly within the realm of feasibility to assert that consciousness is a composite in the Many Worlds scenario as well.   If the Many Worlds interpretation is willing to accept that these universes can interact with each other on the sub-atomic level to produce the wave interference pattern described in Quantum Weirdness 101,  why not accept that our consciousness does the same thing? Therefore, consciousness would be a composite across actual, physically real worlds.  David Deutsch, in his book The Fabric of Reality, makes the case that the quantum multiverse is the enabler of free will;  from this I would infer he means consciousness as well.  But the Many Worlds interpretation suggests something perhaps darker and more sinister,  even frightening.  I’m bound to get flamed to no end for even bringing it up–it will be the subject of Conjecture #5.  I call it quantum solipsism.

My bottom-line position on the composite consciousness conjecture: It’s a strong possibility.  I see evidence of it in my own life; but it would take a volume, let alone a blog post, to fully recount.  The best way to sum it up?  The Rolling Stones quote above.  It seems I rarely get exactly what I want, but often get what I need, and just in the nick of time.  What?  You say you don’t get what you need?  Well, read the next conjecture.  It seems that may not be my problem!

Below, Stuart Hammerhoff discusses the notion of quantum consciousness and related issues.


  1. Reblogged this on Points of View and commented:
    This is esoteric stuff – a discussion of quantum consciousness – but if you you are in the mood for a little stretching of the mind, you could find this quite worthwhile.

  2. There’s a much more simple–and elegant–theological answer to your quandary. Not that I’m espousing that, but as much as I value science and discovery, I’ll leave theoretical to those who spend their lives advancing notions which may or may not have real practical value in our very real and singular world.

    We may get what we need because a Creator bestows that upon us. I do believe in the inherent perfection of our lives (although many live very imperfect and even tragic existences), and happiness and contentment can be achieved in a variety of ways.

    My consciousness may exist in other places–with alternative outcomes–but that has no bearing on my own existence. That, I would argue, is very singular and real and the theoretical considerations which might suggest that “otherwise” is a possibility, mean nothing to me.

    Is that an okay response? LOL!

  3. Sublime post, Mark! I have not read these books which is probably a good basis for discussing them here – I have just noticed that Penrose and Hameroff have been criticized by the scientific community and hailed by the … uhm … “alternative physics esoterics” community. But this seems to be true for all popularizers of quantum physics no matter how unorthodox or not their ideas are. Austria’s Anton Zeilinger is not an exception to this though his books do not build on fluffy metaphysics.
    What’ the point of my comment? There is none – I cannot tell deep philosophical thoughts related to this from the science equivalent of Dilbert’s Jargonator. Probably in some universe consciousness can be explained by QM and in other universes it cannot. Probably in some universes you can explain science in words, not math – my consciousness might reside in the math-dominated one though.

    • Your consciousness seems to do pretty well with words, as far as I can see. I love your comments and participation in the blogosphere in general. You go girl!

      • Thanks Mark! And you don’t even know my tweets and FB / G+ postings! 😉 The upside of social media is: It really feels like work – you have an “inbox” full of stuff you need to “work at”, even when you are just procrastinating! The downside is an obvious side-effect of the upside.

      • Um. yeah, I guess so. 😛

      • Oh, and I just sent you a friend request on Facebook. Now you have more work.

      • This comes in handy as I really, absolutely, positively shoud get some (real) work done now. I need more procrastination and/or multi-tasking though.

      • I could say the same about needing to get real work done, but then it’s only 8AM over here on this side of the pond, so this doesn’t quite rate is procrastination…yet.

      • Here it’s 1PM so it still counts as ‘lunch break’. And the work place gurus do tell as anyway that you have your best and most creative ideas when communicating informally during breaks.

  4. Conconsciousness is the elephant in the room. Quantum Conconsciousness suggest a top down hierarchy which is more appealling to me since I believe there is a me in there typing this.

    • As usual, I am agnostic on this question. I don’t know for sure, and don’t know if we ever can know. But I love the idea; it makes the universe more interesting, in my book.

  5. Oh man, my head hurts. Put this on my “to read” list so I can finish it. 🙂

  6. I don’t directly oppose any of your phantasies regarding quantum consciousness, but they are not exactly practical for me. But don’t let that stop you. Just because it’s not practical, or useful, doesn’t mean it’s not fun

  7. It is amazing how much this sounds like Zen teaching which is mind boggling too and yet doesn’t really give one much excuse for not keeping up with basic housekeeping, just in case proto-plankton (is that what they are called?) are going to buy the place.

  8. I don’t understand this. My head began to hurt after two paragraphs. However, I did smile at the line from the Stones song as Exile on Main St is playing as I type this.
    I’ll try to read a bit more later.

  9. Really fascinating idea. Something to noodle on 🙂 I’m a big believer that anything “magical” or supposedly spiritual or fateful is actually just a function of science or logic we haven’t figured out yet. Very, very interesting idea! I’ll give this one some thought over the coming days!

  10. I love that song!
    It also reminds me of the Douglas Adams quote ” I rarely end up where I was intending to go, but often I end up somewhere I needed to be.”


  1. […] Conjecture #4: Quantum Consciousness ( […]

  2. […] Conjecture #4: Quantum Consciousness ( […]

  3. […] any rate, if Conjecture #4 was a possible ontological extension of The Copenhagen Interpretation of quantum weirdness,  the […]

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