Human Creativity and Consciousness: Unintended Consequences of the Brain’s Extraordinary Energy Efficiency?

It is proposed that both human creativity and human consciousness are (unintended) consequences of the human brain’s extraordinary energy efficiency. The topics of creativity and consciousness are treated separately, though have a common sub-structure. It is argued that creativity arises from a synergy between two cognitive modes of the human brain (which broadly coincide with Kahneman’s Systems 1 and 2). In the first, available energy is spread across a relatively large network of neurons. As such, the amount of energy per active neuron is so small that the operation of such neurons is susceptible to thermal (ultimately quantum decoherent) noise. In the second, available energy is focussed on a small enough subset of neurons to guarantee a deterministic operation. An illustration of how this synergy can lead to creativity with implications for computing in silicon are discussed. Starting with a discussion of the concept of free will, the notion of consciousness is defined in terms of an awareness of what are perceived to be nearby counterfactual worlds in state space. It is argued that such awareness arises from an interplay between our memories on the one hand, and quantum physical mechanisms (where, unlike in classical physics, nearby counterfactual worlds play an indispensable dynamical role) in the ion channels of neural networks. As with the brain’s susceptibility to noise, it is argued that in situations where quantum physics plays a role in the brain, it does so for reasons of energy efficiency. As an illustration of this definition of consciousness, a novel proposal is outlined as to why quantum entanglement appears so counter-intuitive.


About Giorgio Bertini

Research Professor. Founder Director at Learning Change Project - Research on society, culture, art, neuroscience, cognition, critical thinking, intelligence, creativity, autopoiesis, self-organization, rhizomes, complexity, systems, networks, leadership, sustainability, thinkers, futures ++
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