Thinking, Fast & Slow; Dialogues on Reality (1)

By J.H. Kash

I was on my way to Vegas for a conference on quantum mechanics and the nature of reality with the famous Dr. Lanza. He was driving our fire red convertible as we discussed the difference between mind and brain.

“If the mind is not the brain, then what is it?” I asked.
“The mind is that which experiences. That which perceives. By definition, that means it cannot perceive itself”, he answered.
“But here’s the problem”, I objected. “How can it do anything if it is not physical? You say it’s some sort of super turbine creating reality as we know it.”
“Right.”
“Right. So if it is an engine, but it’s not made of anything, then how can it function? And this is not just me asking, but anyone being skeptical of the mind being anything other than the brain.”
He took a sip of his coffee.
“You ask good questions, Kash. You see, the mind is part of the non-local domain, that is powered by zero point energy. That is energy so powerful a teaspoonful could easily blow Nevada to smithereens. This mind field also possesses phenomenality. Because of this energy, of which we cannot even comprehend how powerful it is, it can create worlds without breaking a sweat. Including our world.”
“You’re a fucking lunatic”, I said. “I love it.”

“So how do you look at this mind-at-large concept?” I continued. “That what we experience is merely a fragment of the potential mind that encapsulates the cosmos?”
“It makes perfect sense. If the brain localises the consciousness to the body, it means it only uses a insignificantly small piece of the mind power that exists.”
“Many people who’ve had near-death experiences say they experienced this mind-at-large. When their consciousness was temporarily detached from their brain, due to say… cardiac arrest, they all of a sudden understood… quantum mechanics.”
“That’s very possible. The brain slows our thought processes way down to accommodate our experience on earth. Would we be in a different dimension, our conscious experience could be entirely different. Perhaps unbounded, completely free from filters.”
“Imagine that.”
“We can’t. Our slow brains normally prevent us from experiencing that.”
“Let’s drop some acid then.”
He laughed. “Yeah, let’s.”

Fragment from what might one day become a novel called ObserverWorld. Right now it merely exists in the ocean of possibilities we call the quantum realm. But it might be in the future manifested by a number of conscious agents, including me, Lanza and you dear readers.

What causes wave function collapse in quantum mechanics?

Quora Question: What is wave function collapse in the context of quantum mechanics, and how does (or doesn’t) it relate to consciousness?

My answer: I notice that a lot of physicists and others are still having problems with the ‘Consciousness Causes Collapse’ interpretation because they approach it from the old paradigm.

Old worldview
The universe a large billiard ball machine. Everything is made of particles and life and consciousness are both the result of pure randomness, physical processes and evolution. There is no proof for anything ‘magical’ going on.

From this perspective, consciousness – as merely a brain function – can have no effect on the physical world. The very idea is ludicrous.

However, is this the best worldview we have? I think not.

New worldview
Conscious life and the entire physical universe originate from a non-local mind field and is a unified whole. We are all part of an information matrix. Reality, therefore, is a process that involves your consciousness (which is really not your consciousness, but part of a larger cosmic mind). Therefore, the conscious mind transforms all quantum possibilities into a manifest outcome.

Strange loop: who collapses the conscious observer?

This new worldview, which is beautifully described in Robert Lanza’s Biocentrism, has a number of radical implications for how we view the universe:
– The physical world and conscious observer are intertwined and cannot be separated. There is no outside world that exists independent of mind.
– Non-living matter exists only in probability state when not being observed.
– Space and time are tools of the mind and have no independent, objective existence.
– The brain does not generate consciousness, but acts as reducing valve, keeping experience restricted to our local experience ensuring our fitness for survival.

There are many reasons to believe this worldview is much better suited to explain nature in its totality. Quantum mechanics is one of these reasons, because whatever the observer seems to do, impacts the experimental results. This goes so far that a decision an experimenter makes in the present, can impact the behavior of a particle in the past (delayed choice experiments).

There is still a lot of resistance against this worldview, because it is so radically different than what our current scientific culture dictates. However, there are some physicists reevaluating their thinking. Like Scott M. Tyson. In his book The Unobservable Universe: A Paradox-Free Framework for Understanding the Universe, he writes: “you simply cannot remove the observer from reality. It can’t be done and it is pointless to resist.”

Read more answers about the relation between quantum mechanics and consciousness in my posts on Quora.

What Schrödinger’s Cat Tells Us About Reality

When you ask someone if it is possible to conduct an experiment in which a cat is both dead and alive simultaneously, she will wonder if you have gone mental (believe me, I tried it at work several times). “Off course this is not possible. That is complete rubbish!”

Or could it be that reality is much weirder than most people realize? In this short essay I will explain how this experiment is possible, why it works like it does, and what it means for our understanding of the world (it will turn out I have indeed gone mental, but in a different way). If you are willing to accept a paradigm shattering worldview, the result is not so crazy at all.

By the way, if you’re not yet familiar with the observer effect of quantum mechanics, check out this video first:

The Experiment
The Austrian quantum physicist Erwin Schrödinger (1887 – 1961) came up with the famous thought experiment to show how ridiculous the widely accepted Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics is. According to this interpretation, physical systems generally do not have definite properties prior to being measured, and quantum mechanics can only predict the probabilities that measurements will produce certain results. The act of measurement causes the set of probabilities to reduce to only one of the possible values immediately after the measurement. This feature is known as wave function collapse.

The experiment works like this: a cat is placed in a sealed box along with a Geiger counter, a bottle of poison and a radioactive particle that may or may not decay after an hour. If the Geiger counter detects that the particle has decayed, it will trigger the smashing of the bottle of poison and the cat will be killed. But because no one is observing the box, the radioactive particle exists in superposition, meaning it exists (or actually doesn’t exist) in all possible states at once. It is not until someone opens the box that the wave function collapses, the particle assumes a definite state and the cat is either killed or not.

The Implications
The paradigm that the world exists as independent reality and we are merely innocent bystanders is smashed by Schrödinger’s experiment. Nevertheless, this is still the dominant worldview today, especially in the West, while these experiments are already a century old. The observer is not observing an independent reality, but is in fact creating it. Not by herself; we are all part of a bigger consciousness that is determining what is manifested reality and what is not. It turns out that we are not living in a material world, but in a mental world. The only way to escape from the weirdness of the dead-alive cat is to accept mind as a property of reality besides matter. Off course I don’t mean mind as created by the material brain, but a mind that is linked to it, but also exists independent of the body.

What quantum mechanics shows us is that reality consists of two levels. One level is the everyday world we observe. Within this level we – as conscious observers – materialize objects within our relative perspectives of space and time. The other level is that of pure potentiality. At this level, everything merely exists as possibility, but nothing exists in a determined state. Within this level – that lies beyond the veil of our perception – space and time don’t exist as independent bedrock realities. And because these dimensions don’t exist, it is no longer possible to separate anything, so at this level we are all one. This is hard to grasp from our individual ego-states, but in special states of consciousness, such as near death, people experience it all the time.

That is the real radical stuff that quantum mechanics tells us, and most physicists don’t like it much. Schrödinger himself wanted to return to the objective worldview in which events were deterministic (meaning that if you have all information about a reality, you can predict what will happen). His experiment has become the perfect vehicle to demonstrate why this deterministic view does not work at all.

Quantum mechanics has shown us that a pure mechanical, material universe without mind could never exist. It has also shown us that living creatures could not have arisen out of dead matter, because without a conscious observer to begin with, matter has no definite place within reality. Consciousness must therefore be the unified basis of all existence.