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Putting Ourselves Back in the Equation

Putting Ourselves Back in the Equation

Why Physicists Are Studying Human Consciousness and AI to Unravel the Mysteries of the Universe

by George Musser


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A revelatory exploration of theories of mind and theories of everything—and how they might be the same thing.

The whole goal of physics is to explain what we observe. For centuries, physicists believed that observations yielded faithful representations of what is out there. But when they began to study the subatomic realm, they found that observation often interferes with what is being observed—that the act of seeing changes what we see. The same is true of cosmology: our view of the universe is inevitably distorted by observation bias. And so whether they’re studying subatomic particles or galaxies, physicists must first explain consciousness—and for that they must turn to neuroscientists and philosophers.

Neuroscientists have painstakingly built up an understanding of the structure of the brain. Could this help physicists understand the levels of self-organization they observe in other systems? These same physicists, meanwhile, are trying to explain how particles organize themselves into the objects around us. Could their discoveries help explain how neurons produce our conscious experience?

Exploring these questions and more, George Musser tackles the extraordinary interconnections between quantum mechanics, cosmology, and human consciousness. Combining vivid descriptive writing with portraits of scientists working on the cutting edge, Putting Ourselves Back in the Equation shows how theories of everything depend on theories of mind—and how they might be one and the same.

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