Ed Witten on Consciousness

I think consciousness will be a mystery. I tend to think that the workings of the conscious brain will be elucidated to a large extent. Biologists and perhaps physicists will understand much better how the brain works. But why something that we call consciousness goes with those workings, I think will remain mysterious. I have a much easier time imagining how we could understand the Big Bang, even though we cannot do it now, than I can imagine understanding consciousness.

Understanding the functioning of the brain is a very exciting problem in which probably there will be a lot of progress in the next few decades. That’s not out of reach. But I think there’s probably a level of mystery that’ll remain about why the brain is functioning as we can see, why it creates consciousness or whatever you want to call it. How it functions in the way a conscious being functions will become clearer. But what it is we are experiencing when we are experiencing consciousness, I see as remaining a mystery.

Edward Witten