Quantum Consciousness

Excerpt from a longer essay I published on Medium:

The Infinite Substrate

In the formulation I have described previously, Classical Reality is computed from all the possible quantum alternatives that coexist on the underlying Infinite Substrate.

However, even an Infinite Substrate must count its computational pennies. There are many different magnitudes of infinity. If the Infinite Substrate has a merely countably infinite number of states, it will not be able to keep track of the unlimited number of branching versions of reality, where each branch is its own infinity, running forward an infinite number of iterations into the future. To ensure it does not exhaust its infinite resources, it must, therefore, prune off and merge branches…  i.e. collapse the uncountable superposition of possibilities into a finite number of local canonical material states.

I don’t claim to have any knowledge of how the putative Infinite Substrate does this, but I picture it annealing fragments of reality which it congeals from quantum possibility. It makes its own life simpler by computing locally when possible, but ensuring causally contiguous shards match up to maintain integrity globally. The uncertainty of the quantum world provides a noise floor below which potential mismatches are obscured and the Heisenberg fuzziness provides the wiggle room needed to jimmy the shards together top down when required.

Independent shards can be left vague and inchoate unless they are causal dependencies for other pieces of the universe, in which case they must be resolved and annealed into a whole which is simultaneously fraying at the edges as its classical fabric denatures into unravelling threads of possibility…

The Evolution of Minds

Let us now imagine a world, perhaps Earth 4 Billion years ago: larva flowing; seas and tides; rivers and mountains; meteorites smashing into the crust as the Solar System rids itself of errant asteroids. There is already life. Small and very primitive, it is able to reproduce, grow and react to its environment. It responds to the world by producing internal chemical signals in response to external stimuli such as light. Let me postulate a simple ‘brain’ for this single-celled organism, a set of proteins which respond to levels of these signal chemicals within the cell, taking multiple inputs and delivering a single output. The proteins interact such that IF the single-celled creature is hungry, i.e. low levels of the sugar, AND there is plenty of light, i.e. high concentrations of the light-signalling chemical, THEN it will swim up.

Behaviour and Biology are ‘running on’ the physics computed by the Infinite Substrate.

This tiny Photovore has a simple behaviour, it will spend the nights hidden in the mud at the bottom of its pond, and when it gets hungry, it will wait until the light of dawn and swim to the surface to photosynthesize.

The mechanism of its algorithms is deterministic and classical.

Now, a few million years later, a descendent of this simple critter has evolved a more complicated ‘brain’. The protein machinery has become larger and more complex. It deals with many dozens of inputs and its behavior has evolved to take into account other critters like it, as well as predators who prey upon it. The protein machinery which is responsible for executing its behavioral algorithms now accounts for a significant portion of the creature’s bulk and energy expenditure.

Complex behaviour requires large amounts of expensive protein brain machinery. (The Math in the illustration is meaningless ‘Lorum Ipsum’)

With the application of chance and geological periods of time, at some point, a descendent mutates in such a way that some of the onerous computation required by its behavior becomes encoded in the quantum superposition of its proteins. It has evolved a task-specific quantum computer and over subsequent generations, more of its behavior becomes similarly encoded. It no longer needs to compute everything using a deterministic machinery of proteins; similar in principle to a mechanical calculator like something Charles Babbage would have built from cogs and chains. The computation now takes place with the collapse of quantum superposition, and the answers are delivered as a by-product of the Infinite Substrate computing the collapse of multiple possibilities into a single reality.

Biology continues to ‘run on’ the physics, but behaviour now runs directly on the Infinite Substrate. The protein ‘brain’ has become a quantum machine for encoding algorithms such that to ‘solve’ their physics, the Infinite Substrate must execute the algorithms.

Not only can the creature save itself the effort of building and running a bulky deterministic calculation engine made of protein, but more importantly, as its descendants continue to evolve, they will have access to the non-Turing computational super-powers of the Infinite Substrate. One of which may be the subjective experience of existence…


Mind does not come from Matter, they are peers. A more fundamental layer of reality gives rise to both. The limitations of this Infinite Substrate are unknown, possibly unbounded. Consciousness is one its ‘super powers’.

The Infinite Substrate computes the Universe, it also computes our Minds.


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