Introduction

Can human consciousness be explained with the help of Quantum computers?

Scientists have always wondered whether human consciousness can be explained with the help of quantum mechanics. It seems with the advent of more developed quantum computers in future many hypotheses about 'quantum mind' might change the way we think about consciousness.
Can human consciousness be explained with the help of Quantum computers?

In scientific literature presently there are predominantly two approaches to quantum mechanics that try to explain human consciousness. Though one theory explains from the view of Copenhagen interpretation and other by Many world’s interpretation, both theories can lead to using a quantum computer for justifying their hypotheses. This article will try to dive deep down into the two approaches, analyze if they have any subsets of each other and try to describe the trend where we might be led in our understanding in future.

Extended Everett’s Concept (EEC):

According to the many world’s interpretation of quantum mechanics by Everett, upon the application of measurement devices on systems, unlike Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics the superposition of the wave function of that system does not collapse. The infinite possibilities of outcome of that system splits into different worlds each leading to multiple realities. This interpretation seems complicated since it is in conflict with our intuition based on classical physics. However, it correctly reflects the quantum concept of reality. It turns out that this explanation is quite able to explain our consciousness and some strange features of our psyche.

As many world’s interpretation or Everett’s concept shows ability to solve many paradoxes (like Schrodinger cat paradox), this theory was extended as Extended Everett’s Concept (EEC) to build a bridge between explaining quantum mechanics and consciousness famously attributed as quantum mind or quantum consciousness. This approach takes a leap by attributing that  consciousness separates the alternative realities and not only that it is nothing else than the separation of alternative realities. Moreover, EEC wildly points out that our everyday experience of the world is nothing but one of infinite possibilities of reality and theoretically it is possible to gain super consciousness (aware of all other realities) by accessing the unconsciousness regime which can be gained by weakening the conscious mind (for instance in dream or meditation). Evidently, getting an experimental proof of this hypothesis with present technology is hugely speculated in the scientific community.

Matthew Fisher’s concept:

Matthew Fisher, an eminent physicist at the University of California, Santa Barbara, using the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics theorized that cognition of organisms might emerge from quantum mechanical effects. Initially, he noticed the chemistry of some molecules in the brain whose nuclear spin can explain the quantum property that affects how long each atom can remain coherent that is isolated from its environment. The lower the spin, the less the nucleus of the molecule interacts with electric and magnetic fields and, the less quickly it decoheres.

But a big hurdle that popped up is that quantum computers are unable to operate at high temperature as noise increases and the qubit decoheres. And similarly, the condition of the biological brain does not suffice that it can work as a quantum computer due to its wet condition and high temperature environment. But after an experiment on rats (done previously by another group of scientists) ,providing them with Lithium 6 and Lithium 7 (which have different amounts of neutrons and spin resulting in quickly decohering), shed light on the possibility of this hypothesis.

How does the Quantum Computer come into picture?

Now the part comes when both the concepts come together that is where they are connected with quantum computers. Though the concepts seem apart from each other, both of them advocate that the brain might be a biological quantum computer and we might better grasp consciousness.

In case of the later scenario, Fisher found a molecule in the brain named Adenosine triphosphate which produced a pair of phosphate molecules. These molecules carry quantum spin and they are entangled. If the molecules remain unprotected then they might decohere but there comes a wonder molecule named Posner cluster (formed by phosphate and calcium ions) which helps to maintain the entanglement. According to the hypothesis, this molecule can serve as the qubit and thus information can be transported and stored for a long time, even hours or days in the brain.

So what does that mean if brain activities are controlled by quantum phenomena?  Since mathematically Copenhagen and many world’s interpretations are equivalent, then a primary question comes to mind whether our consciousness is the reality we live in and other parallel realities are other forms of consciousness. Basically it depends on the interpretations of quantum mechanics that we depend on. Even if in many world situations we have parallel realities it does not matter if we have other realities because we are that consciousness and we cannot change the reality. A quantum machine cannot distinguish even if it gathers information from parallel realities as it does not have insight but provided the quantum system is our biological brain and we have insights and intuitions unlike machines we should be able to distinguish  from where we are extracting information though it remains anticipated. Actually as with present technological deficiency we cannot prove the hypotheses, this field remains highly controversial. A new field is also emerging from quantum biology as quantum neuroscience or quantum neurobiology. Who knows if EEC is actually correct then we will be able to travel from one reality to another in our unconscious state like sleep or meditation! Time and our relentless effort on effective research might give possible answers in the coming days.

For further reading:

  1. Research gate
  2. Quanta magazine
  3. Wikipedia: Quantum mind

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