Is Consciousness Fractal?

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« on: February 25, 2019, 02:07:23 am »
Is Consciousness Fractal?

“It wouldn’t come as a shock to me if consciousness is fractal,” Taylor says. “But I have no idea how that will manifest itself.”

One potential manifestation is a much-debated and controversial theory of consciousness proposed by physicist Roger Penrose and anesthesiologist Stuart Hameroff in the mid-1990s. About a decade earlier, Penrose suggested that consciousness results from quantum computation taking place in the brain. Hameroff followed up on this work with the suggestion that the brain’s quantum processing happened not at the level of the neuron but in microtubules, tiny structures within neurons responsible for cell division and structural organization. Proteins inside the microtubules contain clouds of delocalized electrons whose quantum behavior can cause vibrations in the microtubules to “interfere, collapse, and resonate across scale, control neuronal firings, [and] generate consciousness.”

So where do fractals come into play? It is known that EEGs, signals correlated with conscious awareness—like Goldberger’s heartbeats—exhibit fractal dynamics in the time domain. Hameroff argues that the fractal hierarchy of the brain also exists in the vibrations that resonate across the scales of the spatial domain, from the dynamics of networks of neurons, to the neurons themselves, to the dynamics of their microtubules.

“Consciousness can move up and down the fractal hierarchy,” writes Hameroff, “like music changing octaves,” resonating across levels.
Giuseppe Vitiello, a physicist at the National Institute for Nuclear Physics in Italy, takes a different approach to the application of quantum physics to brain dynamics (using quantum field theory instead)—but he, too, likens it to an ordering along fractal lines. Like a magnet, he says: disordered on the microscopic level until a trigger causes the magnetic “arrows” to all point in the same direction and result in an organized macroscopic system. Vitiello showed that the advent of this coherent structure—namely, of coherent quantum states—corresponds to the way fractals are represented mathematically. In other words, underlying the brain’s fractal processes is quantum coherence.

Philosopher Kerri Welch looks at consciousness in a more holistic way, through the lens of time and memory. “I think consciousness is a temporal fractal,” she says. “We’re taking in an infinite amount of data every moment. It’s a jump in scale every time we compress that data.” According to Welch, perceived time is not a linear progression but a “layering.” A fractal.

Francis Buck

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« Reply #1 on: February 26, 2019, 01:46:42 am »
I like it. Consciousness is cool and so are fractals, so why not hitch them together?

It could be true. Could be nothing. Could be somewhere in the middle. At the very least, the comments from the person at the end of the quote make sense, and even if it's not fullblown fractal consciousness, they're definitely hitting on one of the big points regarding the nature of time and personal experience that are endlessly fascinating to me.