Okay. Here is something for you to ponder (and again, a request from comments from any critics who feel that my ideas are based upon unscientific woo-woo nonsense): Most scientists accept that every discharge from the synapse of a neuron (a brain cell) is an individual event. So what you may say …. But what makes up you with regards to your hopes, your dreams, your memories, that feeling of wonderment you have when you see a beautiful sunset, the intensity of the colour red, the taste of coffee, the intensity of a pain, the music of Mozart, the sense of love you have for your children and/or partner, the contents of your dreams and the very source of your referential self-consciousness is created by trillions of these individual events? How can a collection of individual electrical discharges create any of these sensations? How can a these firings of electromagnetic energy (facilitated by neurochemicals called neurotransmitters), each one of which seemingly has no life, let alone awareness, create the perceived sensations that are presented, fully formed, to consciousness, let alone how that self-consciousnesses spontaneously “appears”. Indeed at what point does “consciousness” appear. How many cell firings are needed to bring about consciousness? Ten billion? A hundred billion? Is there a “tipping point” whereby the firing of one more neuron brings up “consciousness” from somewhere? Where was consciousness before that “tipping point” and as there a point where consciousness disappears into non-consciousness when a reverse complexity of synaptic firing takes place?
So can a single cell be said to be conscious in any way? Possibly not. However there are many single-celled organisms that seem to function extremely effectively within their particular environment. They can swim and find food and seem to show a very rudimentary ability to learn things from the environment. From this comes the million dollar question (maybe James Randi, with his million dollar prize can answer this one): how can something with one cell learn anything? Indeed if a single cell show motivational behaviours then could it be that the answer to the question I posited in the above question is that sentience can be individual or collective. Does this suggest that neurons are individual “receivers” of information and each receiver contributes to a web of information that in turn creates consciousness? Is this analogous to individual cells of another variety…. The cells that collectively make up a solar panel? Each solar cell takes a small amount of “information” from the Sun’s energy and converts it into a tiny amount of energy. Each solar panel is made up of thousands of individual solar cells. The source of the energy is not the cells themselves but the Sun, 93 million miles away. I suggest that an analogous process is taking place in the brain. Each neuron is picking up “energy” from within itself.
This “energy” is actually information (or, as David Bohm termed it, “in-formation” and is drawn up from the Zero-Point Field (Ervin Laszlo’s “Akashic Field”). I believe that the process is akin to that suggested by Stuart Hameroff and Roger Penrose in their ORCH-OR model. Within each neuron are billions of structures called microtubules. The internal walls of each microtubule are known to give of pulses of single photon light. These are fired inwards and towards each other inside the cylindrical and hollow microtubule. Just like in the famed “Twin-Slit” experiment these photons (collectively manifest as electromagnetic waves) “interfere” with each other and in doing so create interference patterns. As many of you will know holograms are created by interference patterns of coherent light (aka a laser). Now we know that holograms are odd in that each part of a holographic image contains the whole image. David Bohm, in his book “Wholeness and the Implicate Order” suggested that the universe itself is holographic in nature. Coincidently psychologist Karl Pribram also suggested that memory location in the brain worked on holographic (distributed) principles. This is why his mentor, Karl Lashley, failed in his lifelong quest for the location of memory in the brain.
If the above model has any validity (and I am keen to follow up on this) then this would explain how a brain can “create” sentience and consciousness. It is not creating it, it is uploading it from a digital in-formation field, a field that fills everything and is, in effect, everything. Matter is created from in-formation. This means that it is matter that is the brain-generated hallucination …. But, more importantly, the physical processes within the brain (the neurochemicals, the neurons themselves and all the other physical processes) are themselves created from digital information. This is the famous “it from bit” quotation from quantum physicist John Archibald Wheeler. This came from a paper that Wheeler wrote in 1989. In this he stated:
“I suggest that we may never understand this strange thing, the quantum, until we understand how information may underlie reality. Information may not be just what we ‘learn’ about the world. It may be what ‘makes’ the world. An example of the idea of it from bit: when a photon is absorbed, and thereby ‘measured’ – until its absorption, it had no true reality – an unsplittable bit of information is added to what we know about the world, ‘and’, at the same time, that bit of information determines the structure of one small part of the world. It ‘creates’ the reality of the time and place of that photon’s interaction.”
(Wheeler, J. A., & Ford, K.: Geons, Black Holes, & Quantum Foam, W.W. Norton & Co., New York, 1998.)