Ultimate Computing by S Hameroff

Ultimate Computing, Stuart Hameroff 1987, Elsevier-North Holland


The complete book Ultimate computing: Biomolecular consciousness and nanotechnology, published by Elsevier-North Holland in 1987.


Some have called it my “pre-quantum ode to microtubules” (assisted by Conrad Schneiker).


Ultimate computing: Biomolecular consciousness and nanotechnology (Adobe PDF 8.77 MB)  



Biomolecular Consciousness
and NanoTechnology

Billionth scale activities in biomolecular assemblies
could define life itself, and provide
a frontier for the evolution of technology.


Stuart R. Hameroff

Department of Anesthesiology
College of Medicine
University of Arizona
Tucson, Arizona, U.S.A

Originally published © Elsevier Science Publishers B.V., 1987

All Rights Reserved. ISBN: 0 444 70283 0


In 2003, this electronic edition was derived from the original 1987 print edition with permission from Elsevier Science Publishing for the use of Stuart R. Hameroff, who retains electronic distribution rights. Apart from some mostly software-related formatting changes (or any uncaught scanning glitches), the main body of this text should be essentially identical to the original.© 2003 Stuart Hameroff


Note from S.H.: Beginning in 1972 I had been fascinated by the possible computational capabilities of microtubules within living cells and in 1987 wrote "Ultimate Computing" (with help and guidance from Conrad Schneiker who also provided the prescient information about nanotechnology and quantum references). However several years later I became convinced that classical information processing even down to the level of microtubules within the brain was insufficient to explain consciousness. At that point I read "The Emperor's New Mind" by Roger Penrose and pursued the quantum path, working with Roger to apply his ideas about quantum gravity-mediated quantum computation in the brain to microtubules. It was a hard bound edition of "Ultimate Computing" which piqued Roger's interest. 



What is this book, and why has it been written by an anesthesiologist? This book is a view of the co-evolution of consciousness and technology-past, present and future.

This book has been written by an anesthesiologist because of a confluence of two fascinations. The first is the nature of consciousness, which anesthesiologists routinely erase and restore in their patients. The second is a fifteen year trail of notions that would not go away. While a third year medical student in 1972, I spent a summer research elective in a cancer laboratory. For some reason I became fascinated and fixated by one particular question. When cells divided, the chromosomes were separated and daughter cell architecture established by wispy strands called mitotic spindles ("microtubules") and cylindrical organelles called centrioles. Somehow, the centrioles and spindles "knew" when to move, where to go, and what to do. The uncanny guidance and orientation mechanism of these tiny biomolecular structures seemed to require some kind of motorized intelligence. At about the same time, electron microscopy techniques were revealing the interior of all living cells to be densely filled with wispy strands, some of which were identical to mitotic spindles. Interconnected in dynamic parallel networks, these structures were thought to serve a purely supportive, or mechanical structural role and were collectively termed the "cytoskeleton."

But several factors suggested that the cytoskeleton was more than the structural "bones" of the cell: they manipulated dynamic activities, orchestrating complex and highly efficient processes such as cell growth, mitosis and transport. Another factor was a lack of any other candidate for "real time" dynamic organization within cells. Long term blueprints and genetic information clearly resided in DNA and RNA, and membranes performed dynamic functions at cell surfaces. However, a mechanism for the moment to moment execution, organization, and activities within cells remained unknown. Where was the nervous system within the cell? Was there a biological controller? This book is based on the premise that the cytoskeleton is the cell's nervous system, the biological controller/computer. In the brain this implies that the basic levels of cognition are within nerve cells, that cytoskeletal filaments are the roots of consciousness. The small size and rapid conformational activities of cytoskeletal proteins are just beyond the resolution of current technologies, so their potential dynamics remain unexplored and a cytoskeletal controlling capability untested. Near future technologies will be able to function in the nanoscale (nano = 10-9; nanometer = one billionth meter, nanosecond = one billionth second and will hopefully resolve these questions. If indeed cytoskeletal dynamics are the texture of intracellular information processing, these same "nanotechnologies" should enable direct monitoring, decoding and interfacing between biological and technological information devices. This in turn could result in important biomedical applications and perhaps a merger of mind and machine: Ultimate Computing.

A thorough consideration of these ideas involves a number of disciplines, all of which are at least tangentially related to anesthesiology. These include biochemistry, cognitive science, computer science, engineering, mathematics, microbiology, molecular biology, pharmacology, philosophy, physics, physiology, and psychology. As an expert in none, but a dabbler in all, I hope true experts in these fields will find my efforts never-the-less interesting.

Starting from a cytoskeletal perspective, this book flings metaphors at the truth. Perhaps one or more will land on target, or at least come close.


See attached pdf