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A New Information Revolution


Gavin Stevens
Arizona Daily Wildcat

UA professor of anesthesiology and psychology Stuart Hameroff speaks at the biennial conference of consciousness Sunday inside the Holiday Inn downtown. Hameroff and other professors explored many questions regarding the science of consciousness at the conference

By Jay Dirner
Arizona Daily Wildcat,
April 12, 2000
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Researchers present theories on information, consciousness

Silicon Valley may be the center for the Internet boom, but about 30 researchers believe that a new information revolution is centered in Tucson.

According to research presented at the "Toward a Science of Consciousness" conference, information could be a fundamental part of the universe - as fundamental as chemistry or physics.

"We are considering the idea that information has a fundamental property," said Paavo PylkkŠnen, an assistant professor in philosophy from the University of Skšvde, Skšvde, Sweden

Around 2:30 p.m. on Sunday afternoon, PylkkŠnen presented theories based on the Bohmian model of quantum mechanics. Quantum mechanics is a modern field in physics dealing with the fundamental laws of the universe.

"The Bohmian theory tries to present a clear picture of the elementary particle," PylkkŠnen said. "In this model you see the particle behaves not only according to classical physical forces but also to a new type of potential. It (the new potential) is informing the particle on how to act."

PylkkŠnen said fundamental particles, such as electrons, carry information which is mirrored in larger bodies made up of the electrons.

"The larger energy reflects information carried by smaller energy," he said. "For example, the movement of dancers in a ballet dance is guided by a common pool of information, which is the music."

PylkkŠnen said in this way, our minds can affect our physical selves.

"One of the traditional problems in philosophy is how the mind is able to affect the body," PylkkŠnen said. "One of the problems is if the body is governed by the laws of physics there seems to be no room for the mind."

Stuart Hameroff, UA professor of anesthesiology and psychology, said during his presentation that this quantum information is essential to understand our consciousness.

"To explain the rich phenomena of the consciousness will need some form of quantum computation which actually ties our minds and souls to the basic level of the universe," Hameroff said after the presentation.

Hameroff, an associate director of the UA's Center for Consciousness Studies - which sponsored the conference - theorized some part of consciousness lies beyond the realm of mankind.

"Some aspect of consciousness is fundamental - it's an irreducible part of the universe," Hameroff said. "It may be that our brains just developed enough to access this proto-consciousness and experience what's out there, rather than us constructing consciousness like some kind of virtual reality."

Hameroff presented research stating our mind is more than a complex computer - that the synapses within our brain are more than just "on" or "off."

"The fundamentals of the brain extend beyond the synapses, possibly to the fundamental level of reality," Hameroff said.

PylkkŠnen said one goal of the conference is to consider the level at which consciousness will finally be understood.

"The basic idea for this workshop was to explain consciousness in relation to natural science; to find out how deep we have to go," PylkkŠnen said. "Do we have to go to the level of neurophysiology or to a deeper level?"

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