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Previous Programs

2019 Intelligence in the Physical World
Awardees

2019 Information as Fuel
Awardees

2018 Agency in the Physical World
Awardees; RFP download

2016 Physics of the Observer
Awardees; RFP download

2015 The Physics of What Happens
Awardees; RFP download

2013 Physics of Information
Awardees; RFP download

2010 The Nature of Time
Awardees; RFP download

2008 Foundational Questions in Physics and Cosmology
Awardees; RFP download

2006 Foundational Questions in Physics and Cosmology
Awardees; RFP download

Adrian Kent
University of Cambridge

Project Title

Connecting Experiential Aspects of Intelligence and Fundamental Physics

Project Summary

You are conscious of sights, sounds, smells, taste, where your limbs are, your emotions, thoughts, and imagination. All the evidence suggests this marvelous "window" on the external world and on your interior state is generated by your brain. As your brain state changes (for example, as you develop memories, when you dream, take drugs or are ill) so does your mind state. Although familiar, this is very puzzling. Brains are just large collections of atoms. What is it about them that makes them conscious, when (we suspect) tables, rocks and stars are not? And why is consciousness apparently so useful? We seem particularly likely to be aware of important information: whether we are hungry, or being pursued by a bear, or getting on well with our fellow humans, for example. Consciousness seems important for our survival, suggesting that evolution must have developed it along with our eyes, ears and other faculties. Yet current physics seems to tell us that we would behave in the same way even if we weren't conscious of any of these things. This project will look for simple models that explain these puzzles, by finding new models of physics that can explain the evolution of consciousness.



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