QR6.3.13 The Evolution of Consciousness

  The three great mysteries of science are how the universe, life and consciousness began. If a quantum event began the universe, a quantum effect began cells, and the ability to observe is a quantum property, then quantum reality could explain all three as follows:

1. The universe began when quantum reality split into server and client (2.4.2).

2. Life began when tubulins entangled cell molecules to allow unified choices (6.3.7).

3. Consciousness always existed, so the first event was observed on a quantum scale (6.1.8).

If the first light became matter, matter became life, and life became us, evolution links our bodies to the first event billions of years ago. No plan was needed if what is possible eventually happens, by the quantum law of all action (3.6.3). Matter became bodies because it is possible, and the universe seems finely tuned to life (4.8.2) because evolution took so long to find what survives. It is now proposed that evolution increased observation because it favors survival.

     In nature, big things come from small, so our bodies grew from a cell smaller than a full stop and bacteria we can’t see evolved into us. It follows that consciousness grew in the same way. Evolution and growth are step-wise sequences that allow no line between us and them, so humans aren’t a realm apart from animals, and life isn’t a realm apart from matter. By Conway’s Free Will theorem (Conway & Koch, 2006), consciousness is all or none, so it couldn’t both not exist then exist. It didn’t suddenly begin at a past moment, so even trilobites in the primeval seas observed (Figure 6.38). If consciousness is the ability to observe, how observation evolved from photons can reflect its evolution, as follows:

Figure 6.38 Even Trilobites observed

Planck time is the shortest possible time in physics. An observation at this scale would occur more times a second than there have been seconds in the life of the universe. Planck time is taken to represent photon scale observations.

A yoctosecond (ys) is a trillion-trillionth of a second. A top quark’s lifetime is estimated at half a ys, bosons have lifetimes in ys, and quark plasma light pulses are a few ys, so this timescale may represent basic matter observations.

A zeptosecond (zs) is a billion-trillionth of a second and the shortest time measured so far. Physicists estimate a few hundred zs for the two atoms of a hydrogen molecule to photoionize (Grundmann et al., 2020), so this timescale may represent atomic observations.

An attosecond (as) is a million-trillionth of a second. Ultrafast x-ray sources with as time resolution reveal bromine molecule vibronic structures (Kobayashi et al., 2020), so this timescale may represent molecular observations.

A femtosecond (fs) is a thousand-trillionth of a second or 0.000000000000001second. It is to a second as a second is to about 32 million years. High-energy fs scale X-rays that probe complex protein molecules in light harvesting bacteria respond to light in the order of one fs (Rathbone et al., 2018) p1433, so this timescale may represent macromolecule observations.

A picosecond (ps) is a trillionth of a second or a million-millionth of a second. Estimates of coherence times for cells range from 100fs to 1 ps (Rathbone et al., 2018) p1447, so this timescale may represent simple cell observations.

A nanosecond (ns) is a billionth of a second. A billion is a big number as it takes 95 years to count to a billion. Nanosecond pulsed electric fields elicit various responses in human and other cells (Koga et al., 2019), so this timescale may represent complex cell observations.

A microsecond (μs) is a millionth of a second. Bacteria existed three billion years ago but the leap to multi-cell life happened only 800 million years ago, when cells began to move ions across cell walls using ion channels that act in a few microseconds (Minor, 2010) p201, faster than any nerve, to let simple marine animals with no nerves move towards the algae they feed on (Smith et al., 2019). Microsecond pulsed electric fields are used in food production as mushrooms exposed to a ten μs electromagnetic burst can double their growth (Edwards, 2010), so this timescale may represent multicell observations.

A millisecond (ms) is a thousandth of a second. As animals grew larger, electrochemical nerves replaced chemical signals. Jellyfish nerves are all over their body but oysters have a neuroendocrine center (Liu et al., 2016), and the ten-thousand nerves of worms and slugs and the hundred-thousand nerves of crabs and insects form a chord. A honeybee with nearly a million nerves in a mm volume can fly, navigate and communicate where pollen is. These instinctive brains are fast, as an insect startle response can be less than 5ms (Sourakov, 2011) and a praying mantis can sense the vibrations of a bat attack and evade in 8ms (Triblehorn & Yager, 2005), so this timescale may represent instinctive brain observations.

A centisecond (cs) is a hundredth of a second. Frogs and reptiles evolved brains with tens of millions of nerves to process sense data from one nerve to the next. It takes at least a cs for a signal to travel a meter of nerve, so the response time for cerebellum-based one-center brains is in hundredths of a second. Tadpole startle responses occur within 1-2cs (Yamashita et al., 2000) and our blink responses take 3-4 cs, so this timescale may represent one-center brain observations.

A decisecond (ds) is a tenth of a second. Bird and small mammal brains are about ten times larger than same-size frogs or reptiles mainly due to midbrain and neocortex increases. Two-center mammal brains require thalamic coherence that takes two-tenths of a second to occur, so the rat reaction time of about 2-3ds is expected (Blokland, 1998). In 100m races, elite sprinters take 1.2-1.6 tenths of a second to start moving (Tønnessen et al., 2013) and responses under a tenth of a second are a false start, so this timescale may represent two-center brain observations.

The speed of thought seems to be about a second. Lower brain areas respond faster but brain-wide consciousness takes about half-a-second, so human thought will take longer. Our brains blink in hundredths of a second and change highway lanes in tenths of a second, but it takes longer to think. It takes about a second to mentally rotate an 80° shape (Harris et al., 2000) or a 3D shape (Shepard & Metzler, 1988) or do mental arithmetic (Han et al., 2016), so this timescale may represent three-center brain observations.

   Table 6.1 shows how consciousness, as the ability to observe, evolved from photons to us, so the consciousness of a fly differs from ours in scale not in kind. Simpler entities observe faster so it’s hard to swat a fly that sees 250 frames a second to our 60 because, we move in slow motion compared to it. The same applies to distance, as I see a chair that it doesn’t because it sees less. Other animals observe more by better senses but none can observe the galaxy as we do. Working back through evolution, consciousness was always there, just on a lesser scale.

Figure 6.39 S. Roeselii responses

If evolution increased consciousness, it must benefit survival. Eyes and wings help survival but what does consciousness do? The benefit proposed is unity, as the truism that a house divided against itself cannot stand applies to cells and brains just as it does to societies. The brain solved its binding problem when nerve synchrony let millions of nerves form what we call consciousness. Every composite entity has a binding problem, because its parts can act as one or not, so the benefit of unification is universal, and quantum entanglement allows it.

Unity by entanglement began with matter: an electron is entangled photons that survive as an entity (4.3.1), atomic nuclei survive as entangled quark strings (4.6.1), and entanglement lets molecules superpose into structures they physically can’t form (3.8.1). Quantum entanglement enabled the evolution of matter by letting new combinations unify to be stable, and thus survive.

   Cells have binding problem just as brains do, as photosynthesis works better if receptor molecules work as one, which they did when tubulin structures synchronized and entangled them. How quantum entanglement works is unclear but its unity lets what affects a part affect the whole. Unity by entanglement makes cells more than a bunch of molecules, just as it made us more than a bunch of nerve cells. For example, S. Roeselii is a trumpet-shaped one-cell animal that attaches to sea rocks to feed on passing rotifers. When plagued by an irritant, it tries various options in order before finally detaching to relocate elsewhere (Dexter et al., 2019) (Figure 6.39):

They do the simple things first, but if you keep stimulating, they ‘decide’ to try something else. S. roeselii has no brain, but there seems to be some mechanism that, in effect, lets it ‘change its mind’ once it feels like the irritation has gone on too long.

How can a cell with no brain choose like that? The answer proposed is that cell-scale unity allowed cell-scale choices that help survival. Quantum entanglement helped every step of evolution, for matter, cells, and brains, by letting complex entities make unified choices. The increase in consciousness shown in Table 6.1 is thus no accident, because the unity of consciousness benefits survival.

Each of us is a walking, talking, thinking complex of 30 trillion cells that came from one cell by a path that evolution discovered. We may see ourselves as uniquely conscious, but evolution doesn’t do unique. We are only conscious because countless life forms before us found ways to become more so. We are the fruit of a vast tree that stretches as far as we can see and more, but how does that tree exist?


Table 6.1 The Evolution of Consciousness


Time Scale



Planck time

̴10−44 seconds


Basic matter


10−24 seconds

Electrons, quarks, neutrinos



10−21 seconds

Periodic table atoms.



10−18 seconds

Oxygen, carbon dioxide …



10−15 seconds


Simple cells


10−12 seconds

Bacteria and organelles

Complex single cells


10−9 seconds

Paramecium, amoeba

Multicell life


10−6 seconds

Placozoa, algae, fungi

Instinctive brains


10−3 seconds

Fish, insects, crabs

One-center brains


10−2 seconds

Reptiles, amphibia

Two-center brains


10−1 seconds

Mammals, birds

Three-center brains