“I think this is what consciousness is,” said Hartmut Neven, head of quantum computing at Google, at a Berggruen salon in early 2020. “How it feels to select one configuration out of the myriad configurations that quantum mechanics tells us are there.”
In other words: many versions of reality exist at the same time. The act of being conscious is to select one and live it out in the world.
Berggruen Fellow Tenzin Priyadarshi – a very different kind of consciousness expert – echoes this perspective in his 2019 book, Running Toward Mystery. “Deep in the heart of Buddhist philosophy, at its most rational, is the premise that the reality we encounter in our day-to-day lives is less solid than it appears, and that it is constructed with our participation.”
From one side, physics; from the other, philosophy and faith: look deeply enough, and you’ll see the foundations of reality are not permanent or stable, whether in the world or in our heads. What possibilities rise from embracing this uncertainty: for our minds, our bodies, our institutions, our societies?