Can Networks Become Conscious? Neuroscientist Christof Koch Believes So

Human Connectome Project

For centuries it has perplexed philosophers and decades for scientists: "Where does consciousness come from?" It exists, we all agree with that. Our brains consist of chemistry and electricity and consciousness is still an unsolved mystery. Where does it come from?

Neuroscientist Christof Koch believes he has the answer. Koch, a chief scientific officer at the Allen Institute for Brain Science, says "the electric charge of an electron doesn't arise out of more elemental properties. It simply has a charge." He goes on to say; "likewise I argue that we live in a universe of space, time, mass, energy, and consciousness arising out of complex systems."

Koch, who has spent the last three decades studying the neurological basis of consciousness, purposes a refined version of the ancient philosophical doctrine called Panpsychism. If it was anyone else, it would be construed as being spirituality rather than science. had the opportunity to interview Koch regarding this age old question.

WIRED: How did you come to believe in panpsychism?

Christof Koch: I grew up Roman Catholic, and also grew up with a dog. And what bothered me was the idea that, while humans had souls and could go to heaven, dogs were not suppose to have souls. Intuitively I felt that either humans and animals alike had souls, or none did. Then I encountered Buddhism, with its emphasis on the universal nature of the conscious mind. You find this idea in philosophy, too, espoused by Plato and Spinoza and Schopenhauer, that psyche — consciousness — is everywhere. I find that to be the most satisfying explanation for the universe, for three reasons: biological, metaphysical and computational.

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