The model, known as Integrated Information Theory (IIT), has long been controversial because it comes with an unusual quirk. When applied to non-living things like machines, subatomic particles, and even the universe, it claims that they too experience consciousness, New Scientist reports.
“This could be the beginning of a scientific revolution,” Munich Centre for Mathematical Philosophy mathematician Johannes Kleiner told the magazine.
IIT relies on a value called phi that represents the interconnectivity of a node, whether it’s a region of the brain, circuitry, or an atom. That value represents the node’s level of consciousness. The cerebral cortex, for instance, has a high value because it contains a dense cluster of widely-interconnected neurons.
But when IIT was first presented, calculating phi was impossibly convoluted. New Scientist reports that calculating the phi of a human brain would have previously taken longer than the universe has existed, but a February paper by IIT’s creators, currently awaiting peer review, attempts to simplify the process significantly.
Read more: Futurism