Talking about Qualia with Federico Faggin

How, in your opinion, the scientific attitude on the one hand and the artistic experience on the other, relate to the 'qualia', i.e. the perceptions and sensations through which conscious beings capture the quantum world? And which discipline, either art or science, is better able to communicate the qualia, i.e. to transfer sensations to the body so that they can be turned into decisions first and actions afterwards?

Qualia are fundamental to human existence: without qualia, we wouldn’t even be able to perceive and understand the quantum world, or have a sense of existing as human beings. Qualia are the essential mean through which we capture and comprehend the physical world, and without them we would end up being robots… Now, for centuries, art has been the primary channel of communication of qualia, the fundamental way to transmit complex meanings to people. But, we can’t really say whether art or science is better able to communicate meanings. Art is the expression of the intuitive capacity of man, while science is mostly the expression of the rational mind. In science, there is also room for intuition, though. Scientists need intuition to solve a problem, or even before that, to figure out how to model the problem in a way that mathematics can then be applied and contribute to find a solution. Creativity is essential to any aspects of human life. Sometimes we’re blind and could not see it, but if you dig deeper down you’ll find creativity anywhere. There is creativity even in the way we communicate to each other, since the meaning that I want to express and transmit to you is my meaning, and you need to recreate it within yourself to understand it. That is creativity. It involves experience, it of course requires you having something in common with me, some connection that can bridge the gap of comprehension. Bridging the gaps: this is what consciousness does. So…art and science are both essential. We need them both and I cannot really see one as being better than the other. It is the combination of the two that can build up a better world to live in. The two must work hand to hand”.

…It’s about collision. Art and science converging through creativity and united by the purpose of creation. It’s about inspiration, it’s about enlightening the path of mankind. It’s about bridges. This is how, as a young scientist, I perceive both science and art: as a bridge, shedding a light towards a better future. This is what human creativity does: ignite a spark within human hearts, to make you feel that you’re not alone. To make you understand you’re not the only one who feels lost or confused or have fears, dreams and ambitions. All this complex and interrelated world of qualia, all this lump of sensations and perceptions is what makes us humans.

This is the greatest and most inspiring and moving lesson Federico Faggin has taught me today: do not be afraid of emotions! Dig deeper into yourself, experience yourself: none is going to teach you how to find your true self, you can’t read it in books. You can only discover it by investigating your inner soul, by looking at your heart and by sincerely and honestly acknowledge your emotions, your true identity, your creativity. This is what consciousness does. This is what robots could never do. So…I can’t but leave you with the amazing words that Faggin's speech has reminded me of today. Here it is, one of the most inspiring piece of human talent, from Charlie Chaplin’s genius, The Great Dictator’s final speech:

“We all want to help one another. Human beings are like that. We want to live by each other’s happiness - not by each other’s misery. We don’t want to hate and despise one another. […] The way of life can be free and beautiful, but we have lost the way. […] We think too much and feel too little. More than machinery we need humanity. More than cleverness we need kindness and gentleness. Without these qualities, life will be violent and all will be lost….”.

Paola Vesco, Young Voices Board