What is the next Leap in Physics

According to quantum science, each element of an experimental arrangement generally consists of three components, namely a physical system, measuring device, and observer. Quantum mechanics teaches us that, during the observation of a quantum system, the action of the measuring device affects the objects being observed. In this case, the phenomenal world is viewed as part of an indivisible whole, where observation cannot be separated from awareness, and therefore from consciousness. Many great physicists of our century have enunciated their belief in this explicit model of oneness, the fundamental unity of nature, along with a collective conscious mind that controls the motion of the atoms according to the laws of nature. We surmise from this new world view that conscious awareness must in some way be coupled to local physical systems, so that our physical environment has to interact with and thereby influence our brains in order to be perceived. However, there is currently no known way to measure the presence of consciousness. Physicist David Chalmers concluded that “once we have a fundamental theory of consciousness to accompany a fundamental theory in physics, we may truly have a theory of everything.” Indeed, the next great leap in physics might be a theory of everything that unites all existence within our Universe, including the relationship that mind and other mental constructs have to matter-energy and space-time. 

Could quantum effects explain consciousness? Since the publication of Sir Roger Penrose’s two books The Emperor’s New Mind (1989), and Shadows of the Mind (1994), there has been a tremendous resurgence of interest in exploring possible connections between quantum mechanical phenomena and consciousness. Penrose discusses how this connection is such a fundamental one, that “it cannot be simply an accidental concomitant of the complexity of brain action. It must be of such sophistication that the brain is enabled to dig more deeply into the fundamental workings of the Universe than are more commonplace physical systems”. In this case, a theory of everything drops the assumption that unobserved macroscopic events are in a definite state determined independent of an observer. Rather, we see that matter and energy blend together with space and time as a single conscious entity that exists in its own way regardless of our perceptions of it. We have observed this trend towards a meaning of empirical evidence or a perception of reality that encompasses the unification of matter and mind, where the particle has some kind of consciousness controlling its behaviour, and the wave function is a product of this consciousness. 

The idea that a theory of everything would not be complete without a theory of consciousness as one of its parts was also postulated by Eugene P. Wigner, winner of the 1963 Nobel Prize in Physics. In his publication “The Problem of Measurement” (1963), Wigner claimed that a quantum measurement requires a conscious observer, without which nothing ever happens in the universe. In this case, the modified wave function is “in general unpredictable before the impression gained at the interaction has entered our consciousness: it is the entering of an impression into our consciousness which alters the wave function because it modifies our appraisal of the possibilities of different impressions which we expect to receive in the future.” We can attribute the process of quantum state reduction to the unity of consciousness itself, where “the consciousness of an observer is the demarcation line which precipitates collapse of the wave function”. Furthermore “a non-physical mind is postulated to be the only true measurement apparatus”. Wolfgang Pauli, winner of the 1945 Nobel Prize in Physics, also supported this theory that “the paradoxical relationship between waves and particles in nuclear physics can also be applied to the relationship of conscious and unconscious states of a psychic content”. The observer makes perception possible, and once everything (both matter and mind) is reduced to information, “the whole range of science, from atomic physics to mind-brain dynamics, is brought together in a single rationally coherent theory of an evolving cosmos that consists of a physical reality that represents information, interacting via the laws of atomic physics with the closely related, but differently constituted, mental aspects of nature.

Quantum Physicist David Bohm’s new theory of the relationship between mind and matter unites all current knowledge of our physical reality under one holistic description of the Universe. Bohm’s theory decries a special unity behind all creation, an ultimate source of understanding , a fundamental principle behind all phenomena, and the ultimate mystery of nature. This “universal stream of conscious flow” is the explication of a unifying or connecting principle bridging the gap between mind and matter. This holistic nature of quantum science reminds us that “in the new pattern of thought, we do not assume any longer the detached observer, occurring in the idealisations of this classical type of theory, but an observer who by his indeterminable effects creates a new situation, theoretically described as a new state of the observed system.” The inclusion of the observer in our scientific theories can only be approached when consciousness, in all of its subjective and objective ramifications, is accepted from the outset into scientific conceptualization as an essential, central, and proactive factor in the development of a theory of everything. We conclude that it may be best to view the analogy of wholeness with quantum mechanics as a heuristic one that can provide useful analogies and partial insights into what a future theory of everything could look like. What the elements and formal structure of such a theory might be, and in particular, whether quantum theory might nevertheless, in principle, be more directly connected conceptually to subjective experience, are topics of ongoing dialogue.