“I regard consciousness as fundamental. I regard matter as derivative from consciousness. We cannot get behind consciousness. Everything that we talk about, everything that we regard as existing, postulates consciousness.”
– Max Planck, theoretical physicist who originated quantum theory, which won him the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1918
INEGRATED INFORMATION THEORY
IIT is a theoretical framework for understanding consciousness which was developed by Giulio Tononi, MD, PhD, from the Center for Sleep and Consciousness at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Koch collaborates with Tononi on a regular basis, and believes ITT to be the only truly promising fundamental theory of consciousness.
The theory states that physical systems all contain consciousness, and that this consciousness can be measured as a theoretical quantity, which they are calling phi.
Tononi has developed a measuring system for phi in the human brain, where scientists send a magnetic pulse into a human brain and observe the pulse echo through the neurons. The idea is that the longer and clearer the reverberation, the higher the tested subject’s level of consciousness. The test can be used to tell whether a patient is awake, asleep, or anesthetized.
What Tononi and his team are trying to do is measure consciousness. The fact that it has yet to be measured explains why a large portion of mainstream academia rejects the notion of consciousness existing as a separate entity, outside of the brain.
Tononi and Koch recently published a paper in Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B, emphasizing that consciousness is a fundamental aspect of reality, like other aspects that we can see and perceive with our senses.
The theory states that any object with a phi greater than zero possesses consciousness. This would mean that even protons are conscious beings, which wouldn’t be too far off considering that when you observe them at the quantum level, their behaviour changes, almost as if they know they are being watched.
At the end of the nineteenth century, physicists discovered empirical phenomena that could not be explained by classical physics. This led to the development, during the 1920s and early 1930s, of a revolutionary new branch of physics called quantum mechanics (QM). QM has questioned the material foundations of the world by showing that atoms and subatomic particles are not really solid objects—they do not exist with certainty at definite spatial locations and definite times. Most importantly, QM explicitly introduced the mind into its basic conceptual structure since it was found that particles being observed and the observer—the physicist and the method used for observation—are linked. These results suggest that the physical world is no longer the primary or sole component of reality, and that it cannot be fully understood without making reference to the mind.
– Dr. Gary Schwartz, Professor of Psychology, Medicine, Neurology, Psychiatry and Surgery at the University of Arizona