The British mathematician, physicist and cosmologist Roger Penrose won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2020 “for the discovery that black hole formation is a robust prediction of the general theory of relativity”.
Penrose holds a Nobel Lecture for the University of Padua about the Physics of Consciousness: is the phenomenon of human consciousness a product of physical processes, acting in accordance with physical laws? In relation to this, can conscious understanding allow us to achieve things beyond the capabilities of electronic computers?
The proposal of “Orch-OR” (orchestrated objective reduction of the quantum state), introduced a quarter-century ago in collaboration with Stuart Hameroff, maintains that both may be true, but only according to an (arguably) necessary extension of current quantum physics that is not properly resolved in current theory, namely: what is actually happening, physically, in the phenomenon of the “collapse of the wave-function”? This is essentially opposite to the viewpoint proposed by some early theorists of quantum physics (such as Von Neumann and Wigner) that this “collapse” is the result of conscious observation, but rather that the collapse is an actual objective physical process resulting from a profound tension between quantum processes and Einstein’s gravitational theory.
This provides a subtle interplay between two slightly different concepts of physical reality, the “quantum” and “classical” realities, which are not quite identical. This leads to a new analysis of some remarkable experiments concerning conscious experience, performed by Benjamin Libet in around 1980.
After the lecture, Penrose discusses with Sabino Matarrese, professor at the Department of Physics and Astronomy of the University of Padova.
The Nobel Lecture is streamed online on Youtube.