Superstring Consciousness
Copyright © 2005, David A. Epstein.
All Rights Reserved.

October 22, 2005

First of all, we don't have to accept the existence of dead, unmoveable matter. That was an unfortunate relic left by ancient Greek philosophers. The story began when Heraclitus proposed the idea of the world of perpetual change, the eternal Becoming. He argued this emerged through the creative interplay of opposites (dialectics). He termed the unity of these opposites the Logos. Opposing Heraclitus was Parmenides who believed in the Unchangeable Being. Here then, we have another pair of opposites. Out of this arose the concept of the atom, an idea which was conceived by Democritus to reconcile the opposing views of these two great Greek thinkers. His idea was that the atom was indestructable (in the vein of Parmenides’ Unchangeable Being), but engaged in dynamic interplay with other atoms accounting for manifested changes in the world (akin to Heraclitus’ idea of Eternal Becoming). From the atomist theory arose a split between the worlds of spirit and matter, yet another exposition of the dialectic process. That process would continue to percolate in Western thought, especially with the advent of Cartesian dualism, resulting in the “soul in a machine”.

Second, the Newtonian concept of inanimate matter existing in empty space was shattered by Einstein's proof of the interchangeability of matter and energy. This was emphatically expressed with his famous equation, E = mc^2, which was integrated into his Special Theory of Relativity. Any stationary object was now proven to be "vibrating" with energy and in a state of internal motion.

Third, we have quantum theory to explain that everything is teeming with energy, even ‘empty’ space. Indeed, quantum field theory itself explains that the vacuum state is the lowest point of energy. In other words, there is no "zero amount" of energy in the universe. In recent years, superstring theory goes even further by explaining that the vibrations of strings create the elementary particles in nature, and that the merging and splitting of the strings are responsible for the emergence of the four primal forces of nature. This is quite a revolutionary development. It’s these fundamental, indeterminant vibrations that are packaging their energy into discrete particle life forms; but where do these string vibrations themselves derive their energy? This is truly a great question. My own answer is that I think it illustrates that vibrational motion is the natural state of the universe, that energy begets energy at the most microcosmic level of existence. In a way, these events are the basic building blocks of nature, though because the string model is non-mechanical, we dare not think of this structurally!! Rather, it is an event-driven, procedural micro-functionalism revealing nature's intricacies at its most fundamental level.

Since any given particle has a spin direction, and the particle is created from the string vibration, the vibratory motion of the string also correlates to its rotation. Depending upon whether they rotate in clockwise or counterclockwise directions, the superstrings exist in 10 or 26 dimensions; their rotational motion is the gateway into their space/time framework. And what prompts strings to split apart or merge together? Evidentally, it stems from their vibrations. At some critical point of vibratory motion, the string will bifurcate into separate entities; and at other sensitivity points, a basin of attraction is created between separate strings to amalgamate them together. However, I don’t think there is a strict causal relationship between the vibrations and the splitting/merging of the strings. Rather, it’s more like an asynchronously-called synchronization of forces between emerging particles: as particles are created by the superstring vibrations, so are the emergent external forces between them orchestrated in nature. The new particles, buzzing with their own internal energy, engrave pathways in their mini space/time continuums which in turn facilitate their interactions (I visualize this as 'marbles' moving along curved trajectories to either collide or move away from each other). These interactions create further engravings which results in an aggregation of "force lines" in a domain space, the end result being a force exerted between the particles.  

This brings us to an idea I have about superstring consciousness. The key concept of this idea is that the roots of consciousness are found in the behavior of the superstrings. That is where primal, subjective consciousness would exist, though the physics of string motion and string interactions are objective. The different modes of the vibrating strings, each corresponding to the emergence of a new particle, would also correspond to various modes of consciousness. Different frequencies of vibratory motion would result in the emergence of a variation of impulses of expressed thoughts or emotions. The merging and splitting activities of the strings would correspond to deeper interactions of these primitive impulses, creating distinct patterns of thought and emotional resonancies. The rotation of strings, left or right, would instantiate a certain spatial orientation (i.e. environmental awareness of hyperdimensional space) and have a polarizing effect upon the personality of the individual, which could explain certain tendencies, inclinations, interests and abilities of the individual.

The superposition of these individual string movements formulate a unified atomic consciousness. With respect to superstrings, the atomic consciousness is the objective framework. In turn, atomic consciousness melts into molecular consciousness. With respect to atoms, molecules are objective, and so forth. Universal consciousness is the endless symphony of enfolded behavior, the synchronized convergence of subjective and objective realities.

There is no question that Roger Penrose is the most innovative thinker in this burgeoning area of the quantum origins of consciousness development; my idea of superstring consciousness is influenced by his theoretical research. Penrose is a brilliant theoretical physicist who in the 1970s, with Stephen Hawking, developed pioneering explanations for black holes, their movements and radiation. In more recent years, he has been developing a fascinating theory of consciousness that was most clearly expressed in his book, The Emperor's New Mind, and in later works like Shadows of the Mind. In these works, Penrose argues that consciousness or the mind can't be modelled by deterministic algorithms, or exact computational methods, but rather described by the indeterminism of quantum mechanics.

In his partnership with Stuart Hameroff, Roger developed a controversial theory that the origin of consciousness occurs in neural structures called microtubules. Since neurons play a pivotal role in consciousness, and these microtubules are an integral part of neural activity, it was argued that the microtubules are catalysts in the propagation of consciousness. Penrose and Hameroff, however, argued that sparks of consciousness do not arise from preprogrammed neural directives, but from the collapse of the Schrodinger Wave Equation and other events resulting in quantum coherence. The superposition of these singular instances of quantum coherence leads to the aggregate formation of conscious thought and expression, and since these quantum activities are indeterministic in nature, conscious thought can't be predicted algorithimically or systematically modeled.

In my mind, consciousness is directed, projected light. Everything projects light. At times, their light beams are visible and we see things for what they are. Other times, light from different objects coalesce together and we witness the workings of a cooperative system, while other times, their light rays cancel each other out and we view destruction and decoherence. There are times when the collective light of a large object is so powerful that we can’t escape its influence and we call it a law of nature. Some objects project light more faintly than others, others so brightly that we are blinded by its light and can’t see them. Between these extremes lies the world of the unknown. This world can rightfully be called the world of the undiscovered. It is in this realm that the seeds of consciousness are planted.