that you couldn’t have the problem where you could still be stuck in location A while a copy of you is projected to location B and then there’s two of you, one at each end of this communication link.
Of course, all this is conjectural, because no one really understands quantum theory that well anyway. But that seems to be a pretty credible position. So you don’t have that dilemma because you’d actually have to physically destroy the original of you in order to make the copy in another location. Fine. What if you do that? You destroy the first copy, but you make two more copies at two different locations. Well, there doesn’t seem to be anything theoretically wrong with doing that. So there’s a problem. Then what’s that like? Basically you’ve been cloned instantaneously by this process. So what happens? Are the two copies separate minds?
David Well, from that point in time on they’re having different experiences, because they’re not in the same space-time location .
Francis: Right. Sure. They’re having different experiences. So at that point the two minds diverge, and they become two people. But is there some sympathy between them? Are they inherently in contact with one another, like in Aspec’s experiments in the Bell’s theorem paradigm. Are those particles correlated? This is a very big, complicated thing now. We’re not talking about one photon. We’re talking about the whole body and the entire personality. I don’t see any reason you couldn’t construct two identical brains. You might have to grow them from scratch to get everything right.
But are they going to be as one, in perfect sympathy or harmonious communication? At the moment that you’ve got two copies of your brain, are they perfectly attuned to one another? This would seem to be the case, because it seems that we’re to some degree attuned to other brains that are quite a bit different from ours. I regard this as such a common phenomenon, experientially and empirically, that it’s like nonsense to try to refute it, even though you probably don’t have a scientific theory to explain it. But that is the ubiquitous reality of so-called psychic communication, which is such a common everyday occurrence for so many people.
David What do you mean when you say “psychic communication”?
Francis: For example, when you know what somebody else is thinking, or someone who is important to you has some trauma, and you immediately call up the person and say, “What happened?” Everyone has that experience. It happens all the time. This is sort of along some of the lines that Roger Penrose explores in his book. J think he’s one of the most sensible theorists in this area right now. Your brain is full of quantum mechanical events, obviously. They’re going on all the time. Because it’s physical, it’s made out of those events. This is what I call the epistemic theory of existence. It says that the very essence of existence is knowledge, or information. I think you can come to this conclusion by taking physics down to the quantum level, where you find that real existence becomes a mathematical proposition about things observing each other. So it’s an epistemic process that creates an actuality, and that actuality is the basis of all the spatial geometries that we experience in the physical world, because it’s the way that these atoms bind to- gether that creates the bonding angles and the Tinker-Toy sort of reality that builds our bodies and all this stuff around us.
David Perhaps consciousness is an inherent force in the universe, as basic as electromagnetism.
FRANCIS: I think that’s closer to the ancient spiritual traditions, rather than this weird amalgam of scientific reductionism and materialism that leads to “strong” AI doctrine, which says that consciousness is an emergent phenomenon once you get a certain level of complexity, a brain of a certain size or a computer of a certain speed.
David Wasn’t that the whole idea behind Marvin Minsky’s book Society of Mind?
Francis: Not exactly. But he’s-at least the last I heard–an exponent of strong AI, which I think is completely wrong. I think that’s a hodgepodge that derives from the history of materialistic, reductionistic, behavioristic science in the last century or so. In contrast, I think what Penrose is hitting upon is that the same principle that creates mind or consciousness creates intelligence and creative imagination. He very directly ties them together, so consciousness and intelligence are intimately related to him, inseparable, tied to creative imagination. But the same thing that creates that, the same inherent property of the universe, is the one that accounts for the true principles behind the quantum mechanics of physical objects. So although he might not be saying this, he’s really in the same camp as Patanjali, Maharishi, or the ancient spiritual traditions of the West, such as the Kabbala, where you find the same principles.
David Do you see the ancient spiritual traditions and modern science eventually coming to a point of reconciliation?
Francis: Well, sure. But again, there’s constantly a tension here. It’s being fought against by two things. The first is this whole society that’s driven by the engine of commercial exploitation, based on irrational persuasion, misinformation, control of information, and the non-democratic use of information. The second thing, which is closely tied to that, is the industrialization and bureaucratization that is pervasive in the scientific establishment today. That’s what fights it, and they’re tied together, because they’re both based on mass production, on output-only, one-way kinds of systems.
Obviously, the brain is quantum phenomena. The question is, are those quantum phenomena expressed only through a hierarchy of larger and larger structures? In your systems view, you have molecules, and the molecules make up things like receptors and cellular organelles, and those make up neurons, and the neurons interact with one another through electrical impulses and a whole alphabet of neurotransmitters, some of which are spike-like and instantaneous like an electrical signal, and some of which are graded and continuous. So this is very complex. The old model said you only look for the interactions among the aggregates–that is to say, you look at the interactions between neurons as if the neurons were computers or transistors or something with discrete logic. I say that’s nonsense. I think that what makes this nervous-system tissue so remarkably efficient, compact, and powerful is the fact that it’s using interactions at all the levels of scale that define its physical existence. From the quantum-particle level on up, all those levels are interacting.
You see, that’s exactly what you don’t have in a computer, because you’ve engineered that out. You’ve designed the computer so that a certain minimum number of electrons–it’s in the millions now, and it’s heading down into the thousands–forms of quantum of information. This transistor or this logic gate is in a charged or discharged state, but you don’t want that individual electron to play any role in that distinction. So you design the device so it’s not allowed to. Well, now they’re heading toward technology where maybe one captivated electron could be the signal. That’s starting to be interesting, but it’s being constrained and manipulated in such a way as to force it to be a messenger, not a player.
David But isn’t that exactly what the process of biological evolution has done? Hasn’t it constrained the way our brains function such that it limits unpredictability?
Francis: I think on the input and output channels that’s true, but I believe inside there’s interaction at all levels of scale between the components of the brain, however you distinguish them. The brain works on its own principles, not only those in your philosophy, Horatio! So it means just as much to say that electron p-6 on atom 3423407 is talking to electron d4 on that atom over here as it does to say that neuron A is talking to neuron B. The human eye is sensitive to a single photon of light. That’s amazing. There are neurons in the eye, rod and cone cells that are able to sense the incidence of a single quantum of light at the right frequency. Okay, that’s a pure quantum event that’s being sensed, and because of the way the neurons are hooked together, after that there’s a certain amount of noise. So it turns out that the signal’s not likely to get through unless there are, like, five or ten quanta impacting about the same time on adjacent cells.
Plants do the same thing. A green plant is an antenna. The chlorophyll molecule, of which there are zillions of copies in each leaf of a green plant, is a photon antenna. It picks up an individual photon, and it uses the energy of that individual photon to raise the energy of an electron. That way it can harvest the energy, and all of life on this planet–well, not all of it, now we know there are a few forms of bacteria that live in geysers and oil wells that operate on fermentation and so forth–but basically all the life on the surface of the planet is running on the energy that’s collected by these individual quantum events, by individual photons hitting individual molecules of chlorophyll.
That there’s a photon receptor in the eye means that the nervous system is capable of utilizing quantum events. But does it also emit quantum events? Why not? It certainly does. There are photons or quanta of all kinds of frequencies being emitted inside the brain. It can’t help if it’s throwing this stuff off. But don’t assume it’s throwing it away. So you have one part of the brain that’s emitting this signal and another part receiving it. These things are very specifically tuned according to the theory that goes back