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Previous Programs

2020 Consciousness in the Physical World
Awardees

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

Eliahu Cohen
Bar-Ilan University

Yakir Aharonov
Chapman University

Avshalom Elitzur
Chapman University

Avishy Carmi
Ben-Gurion University of the Negev



Project Title

The hard problem viewed from a top-down quantum vantage point

Project Summary

Consciousness is an intriguing yet essential property of complex animate beings, the nature and physical origins of which are still largely hidden from us. The proposed framework to unravel this phenomenon is ambitious and multidisciplinary, yet aiming to combine both the rigor and complementarity of the perspectives brought together. We wish to harness the immense explanatory power of quantum mechanics in order to shed light on the appearance and perhaps function of consciousness. Starting from the atomic level and going upwards would probably be fruitless. We therefore employ a top-down approach, examining the system as a whole before trying to differentiate and focus on its components. In this spirit, we characterize the conscious systems as being, first, so complex that they cannot be copied, hence, as unique single entities, lying beyond probabilistic models. Next characterization is of undivided systems capable of measuring and collapsing their own states, without being separated into a measuring and a measured parts. The related issue of free will then naturally emerges, again deriving its physical feasibility from the above quantum formalism. Our diversified team will employ various tools from quantum mechanics, mathematical logic and computer science, philosophy, probability and statistics, classical and quantum information.



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