January 15, 2014
A research paper by MIT physicist Max Tegmark offers the hypothesis that consciousness can be thought of as a state of matter, like a solid, liquid, or gas. Consciousness is usually thought of as an abstract concept, but by modeling it as a physical system, it can be analysed using mathematics.
The paper builds off the theories of neruoscientist Giulio Tononi, who proposed that any system demonstrating consciousness would have to be able to store information and must be integrated into a unified whole. These traits, Tononi said, can be described mathematically; which is what the Tegmark paper attempts. Tegmark borrows the term 'computronium', to describe a substance that can store information and process data; and coins another term, "perceptonium", defined as the most general substance that feels subjectively self-aware. He then uses these ways of thinking about consciousness as ways to approach problems in Quantum Mechanics
Game and Story Use
- A possible source of technobabble for a science fiction campaign
- Forget the actual theory; the terms "computronium" and "perceptonium" are just screaming to be used for something.
- For those interested in Sci-fi, this is a massive step forward in increasing the variety of phenomena that can be considered "life" if self-awareness no longer even requires biology…