Stuart Hameroff, MD, is a professor of anesthesiology and psychology at the Banner University Medical Center of the University of Arizona in Tucson. He is also co-founder and director of the Center for Consciousness Studies at the University of Arizona. He is author of Ultimate Computing: Biomolecular Consciousness and Nanotechnology. Since 1994, he has organized the “Toward a Science of Consciousness” conferences at the University of Arizona and elsewhere. Working with Sir Roger Penrose, he is the co-author of the “Orch OR” theory of consciousness.
Here he describes his intellectual journey as an anesthesiologist, taking people out of normal waking consciousness and then restoring it on a routine basis. He describes how microtubules, tiny structures within each neuron, can function as molecular computers underlying the electrical spikes normally associated with mental processes. As such, each neuron is capable of processing, perhaps, a trillion times more information than had been previously thought. Single-celled organisms without a nervous system, such as paramecium, seem to use their microtubule cytoskeleton structures for learning and memory as well as other functions. Nevertheless, Hameroff came to realize that, no matter how vast the computing power of the brain might be, computational intelligence is actually very different from consciousness. He argues that consciousness is not a function that simply emerges from the complexity of the nervous system.
(Recorded on August 4, 2015)
Published on August 16, 2015