You've probably heard of the canonical states of matter. Solid, liquid, gas. Maybe plasma if you've got a physics friend. (She's the same one that broke the news to you that Pluto wasn't a planet anymore.)
But what about consciousness? Can we understand information storage and retrieval as a fundamental state of matter? MIT's Max Tegmark thinks we can. It's a fascinating concept, and one that stems from one of my personal favourite theories of consciousness—Tononi's theory of integrated information.
Theories like these are rarely testable, but they can certainly offer predictions and new ways of approaching unsolved problems. As is the general case with science, further interrogation of the concept will be necessary—and in this case, it might just push us a bit closer to understanding how and why we tick.
Plus, maybe there's some truth to the word 'airhead'.
By “matter,” he doesn’t mean that somewhere in the deep recesses of your brain is a small bundle of liquid, sloshing around and powering your sense of self and your awareness of the world. Instead, Tegmark suggests that consciousness arises out of a particular set of mathematical conditions, and there are varying degrees of consciousness—just as certain conditions are required to create varying states of vapor, water, and ice. In turn, understanding how consciousness functions as a separate state of matter could help us come to a more thorough understanding of why we perceive the world the way we do.