The designer of Intel’s first microprocessor, physicist Federico Faggin, who went to on to start a number of other pivotal companies including Zilog, Cygnet, Synaptics, and Foveon has now turned his prodigious technical talent to reconciling spirituality with science and answering the question – What is Consciousness? Faggin has created a non-profit foundation to drive scientific inquiry into the origins of consciousness and hopes to use his deep understanding of quantum science to more clearly understand the true nature of reality.
In the last two years he has authored a couple of excellent papers outlining his thoughts on the origins of consciousness and how and why science should set its sights on investigating consciousness more deeply. In the article, “What is Consciousness”, Faggin tackles a wide array of topics surrounding consciousness including how to define it, is it possible to reproduce in machines, and how Quantum Physics gives us the clues that it is not a by-product of brain activity. His explanation of the Quantum Physics behind consciousness sets the stage for how our current scientific paradigm of pursuing solutions as separate pieces to complex problems is ultimately futile:
We know from quantum physics (QP) that physical reality is an undivided wholeness, and that what appear to be separate parts is only a human construct, a fiction, an approximation. There are no disconnected parts because there are no real boundaries between parts and wholeness. An elementary particle in its unobserved and unconstrained state is everywhere at once. Only when it is observed it appears localized as a particle. Everything is connected with everything else. Therefore, the knowledge that can be gained by studying the individual parts in isolation will not be sufficient to understand the operation of the whole. Something vital will be inevitably left out. Therefore, the generally accepted idea that we completely explain the operation by knowing the operation of its parts is fundamentally flawed.
There are now many examples in our modern life where we have split into specialized separated units where the parts are being studied and focused on but the whole is being ignored. Think of medicine – where specialists dominate the profession and often seem unable or unwilling to consider the health of the whole person, or higher education where cross-discplinary teaching is still rare. You take a class from an expert in one area, which can be very beneficial, but in the real world, rarely do things stay neatly separated. And, if one looks at the current turmoil in financial markets, it’s painful to watch how the analysts and policy makers seem to make their judgements of the health and outlook of markets and economies through very narrow lenses.
Rarely do you see people making connections in a holistic way to the broader situation of our lives. This extends to things like dealing with climate change when people believe geoengineering (blocking the sun with particulates as an example) will solve the problem. Our environment is a highly complex interconnected whole, if you tinker with one part of it, you really don’t know how damaging it is on the rest of the system. The side-effects could be catastrophic. Naomi Klein highlighted this fact in her important book, This Changes Everything:
To quote Sallie Chisholm, a world-renowned expert on marine microbes at MIT, “Proponents of research on geoengineering simply keep ignoring the fact that the biosphere is a player (not just a responder) in whatever we do, and its trajectory cannot be predicted. It is a living breathing collection of organisms (mostly microorganisms) that are evolving every second – a ‘self-organizing, complex, adaptive system’ (the strict term). These types of systems have emergent properties that simply cannot be predicted. We all know this! Yet proponents of geoengineering research leave that out of the discussion.
The same goes for something like GMO’s – scientists say we’re just changing just one small piece of the organism – but that organism’s complexity is beyond their full understanding, so the repercussions could be dire. Faggin shows that this view has been built up through our current mainstream Newtonian physics paradigm over the last four hundred years:
Despite the evidence provided by Quantum Physics that reality is an undivided, nonlocal wholeness, we cling the Newtonian view of reality provided by classical physics (CP) where separate parts are held to exist in isolation; a view that has proven to be false. Further, non-locality is a fundamental property of quantum systems that defy CP because it instantaneously connects entangled particles, like two electrons that share a common property for example, as if space and time didn’t exist.
Mainstream science and medicine of course extends this thinking to the functionality of the brain, which they believe by the interactions of its parts, creates consciousness. It’s as if the hardware in your computer, magically created its own software. Faggin, who was the chief engineer on Intel’s first microprocessor and who certainly understands hardware and software, says that can’t be:
I believe we resist facing the fact that reality is much more complex than what our mathematical models say it is, in part because the complexity of our models is already daunting when we separate the parts, and if we had to also include the residual coupling between the parts, then the problems we need to solve would become impossible to compute. Consciousness is a holistic property, a property of wholeness, and there is no shred of solid evidence that consciousness emerges from the operation of the brain and is the results of atoms banging against each other. It is just assumed that consciousness must be produced by the brain, and therefore it must be an epiphenomenon of the brain since there is no other plausible way to explain how it might occur by the interaction of atoms and molecules. But this is circular reasoning, and I believe it is time to scientifically investigate the possibilities that consciousness might have a different origin.
For Faggin, Consciousness is the prime creator, and the source of our universe. He has postulated that the Big Bang itself was a result of the primordial energy or consciousness in the process of creation:
In the late nineties, I started considering the idea that consciousness may be a primary aspect of reality. In other words, consciousness may be an irreducible property or, aspect, of the primordial energy, or substance, of which everything is made. If true, this means that the energy of the Big Bang, the energy that created space, time, and matter is aware energy; i.e. in addition to containing the seeds of space, time, and matter this energy also contains the seed of consciousness, and therefore anything that exists must be inherently conscious. And the more I reflect about this conjecture, the more unification potential and explanatory power it seems to have.
If everything is consciousness, then everything is highly interconnected. It doesn’t mean everything is the same – one only need look to nature to see the myriad amount of complex forms, shapes, colors, and textures. But underneath, you can sense the harmony and unified field of nature. We humans are part of that unified field of consciousness, but unfortunately, we don’t all recognize that yet. That’s what breeds conflict and the pursuit of ways of living that are not in the best interest of the whole. The surface level differences fool us and hinder us in seeing the connecting matrix underneath. This is what the great mystics and spiritualists have been saying for years…”the other is actually you…”. Imagine what a different world we would experience if more of us obtained this vision – of seeing the oneness among all of us.
Luckily, more people with Frederico Faggin’s technical background are helping us to put a modern scientific lens on the subject of consciousness so that we can better make sense of this illusive aspect of our reality. Especially as science is one of key tools of material creation, the sooner we realize that underlying all creative capability is consciousness, then the sooner we can accelerate our technical progress beyond the plateau we have currently reached:
From this hypothesis, it follows that the objective and the subjective worlds are then two faces of an individual wholeness right from the start. In other words, the nature of reality has inherently an inner and outer aspect, and the two are co-emergent and co-evolving. The inner aspect is consciousness; the outer aspect is the physical universe of energy-matter and space-time. Therefore the physical evolution of the universe mirrors the evolution of consciousness, and vice versa. One supports the other, and thus the physical world represents the outer manifestation of universal consciousness, and consciousness connects everything from the inside. The aware energy of the Big Bang is non-physical energy in the sense that it comes from “outside” the physical universe that it is forming, and the physical universe emerges within this “expanding” aware energy. Consciousness and the physical world are just two aspects of wholeness.
So what does this mean for our modern scientific understanding? Well, a lot. Over the last hundred years, two ground breaking discoveries in physics changed the landscape of our Newtonian understanding of the world: Einstein’s theory of relativity and the unearthing of Quantum Mechanics. They both brought the observer (us) into the aspect of creating our universe:
Believe it or not, Quantum Physics and General Relativity, let the genie out of the bottle when they discovered the intimate connection between the observer and the observed. The observer affects what is observed and there is no totally objective world out there that is independent from its observation. [In other words, your thoughts create your reality and what you put your attention on is affected by that observation]. These new findings can no longer be wished away, and their implications about the nature of reality must be deeply explored, despite being difficult to accept. Since the nature of the observer is central to each of the two fundamental physical theories that have resisted unification for 90 years, I believe that physics cannot afford to ignore the study of consciousness because it might just be the missing link. By refusing to accept that consciousness may be fundamental, or perhaps the fundamental property of nature, physics may not be able to unify its two most successful theories.
Mystics and Spiritualists have spoken of the Source or God experiencing (observing and creating) life through us. And in our human form, we then are co-creating reality with God. Scientific advancements over the last century have pointed us in the direction that this is in fact true. Federico Faggin is asking his scientific peers to put their resources into furthering our understanding and confirmation of these findings.
Hopefully, more of the scientific community will take up his call to action. Because, imagine if we could all harness the divine creative energy of the cosmos. We could then transcend the limitations of our rational mind and elevate our consciousness into the realm of gods. We don’t actually need science to do that, but having the principles scientifically validated may allow us to control our physical reality in ways we are no where close to doing. It could lead to new breakthroughs in medicine, energy production, space travel, food production, and much, much more. Now that would be Science worth pursuing!
Another Faggin article worth reading is his “A Framework for the Union of Science and Spirituality”.
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