Stuart Hameroff: Quantum Information and the Brain

If you look at a single neuron in the human brain, says anesthesiologist Stuart Hameroff, you’ll find that it is much more complicated than a simple on-off switch, the kind that computer scientists are using in their attempts to build artificial intelligence. And even if they could mimic the interconnectedness of the neurons in the human brain, they would be hard-pressed to recreate actual human consciousness. For that, you would need a mechanism that connects you to the fundamental spacetime geometry of the universe.

This universal approach to consciousness depends, in large part, upon quantum mechanics. In classical physics, you see a separation between basic units like protons, neutrons and quarks. But when you view the universe through a quantum lens, the separation, the void, drops away. Underlying everything is the fundamental spacetime geometry that makes it possible for the universe to exhibit consciousness.

Hameroff compares this universal background to Brahman of Indian philosophy, “the unchanging reality amidst and beyond the world,” which “cannot be exactly defined.” Within Brahman, you have Atman, or individual consciousness, which represents a localized coalescence of one particular region in the fundamental spacetime geometry. These individual consciousnesses, however, are not isolated but are part of the fabric of the universal consciousness.

In this video of an interview with Science and Nonduality, Hameroff goes on to discuss how these concepts can lead to a scientific approach for understanding the spiritual experience—such as interactions among people and with objects in the universe, and what happens to the information stored in our consciousness after death, such as near-death experiences and reincarnation.

“I would define spirituality along three lines,” says Hameroff, “an interconnectedness among living beings and the universe; the ability to influence or access Platonic cosmic wisdom embedded in the universe, divine guidance, the way of the Tao; and the possibility of conscious existence outside of the body after death, even reincarnation.”