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Consciousness & Reality Colloquium: 2023-24 Series

Thursday, February 15, 2024
10:00am to 11:00am
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Consciousness And Its Physical Headset

Donald Hoffman
Professor of Cognitive Science, University of California Irvine

Many high-energy physicists now say that "spacetime is doomed": It has no operational meaning beyond the Planck scale. In the last decade they have found, beyond spacetime, more fundamental constituents of reality: positive geometries and decorated permutations. Most theories of consciousness are not informed by these advances in physics. They assume that spacetime is fundamental, and propose that conscious experiences arise from physical substrates within spacetime, such as neural networks. If spacetime is doomed, then so are these theories. We propose a mathematical theory of consciousness that allows a physical headset but no physical substrate. This theory posits a social network of interacting "conscious agents," entirely outside spacetime and quantum theory, and irreducible to anything inside spacetime. Agents and interactions are modeled by a Markovian dynamics outside spacetime. Interacting agents can combine and fuse, creating new agents and qualia. Spacetime is just a headset employed by some agents.

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This lecture will be accessible to an interdisciplinary audience. Caltech, Stanford, MIT and IMICS members from all divisions are welcome to join. Select questions from the Q&A window will be answered after the lecture.

The Consciousness & Reality colloquium series promotes interdisciplinary investigations on mind, cognition, consciousness, and the nature of reality. This colloquium is the second in the 2023-24 series.

For more information, please contact Kunal Mooley by email at [email protected].