[An interview with]


Jan 14, 2024

“The computer has no consciousness and no free will, but science is telling us that we are like a computer. This is the problem. This must change.

It’s rare that a person can pinpoint one specific moment that changed everything: their entire worldview and direction in life. But Federico Faggin’s story is no ordinary one.

It was a random day in 1990. Faggin woke up in the middle of the night and grabbed a glass of water. He returned to his bed and lay down. Then, out of nowhere, a white light started beaming out of him and filled the entire room. The white light, Faggin discerned, was the source of the universe; that which glues reality together. This intense experience was an awakening for Faggin. As he tells it, he became one with the universe and witnessed the interconnectedness of all things. The light that illuminated the room and his mind that night could only, Faggin says, be described as love. The event cemented a previously dismissed idea that consciousness was worthy of proper scientific study. Perhaps, he now believed, it could hold the keys to further understanding who we are and what’s really going on.

The lead-up to that remarkable event makes sense in retrospect. Faggin is an intensely curious person, never satisfied with what he knows and always seeking the unknown. It had done him tremendously well in life: he is a highly regarded —  super successful —  inventor, physicist, computer engineer and entrepreneur. Born in Vincenza, Italy in 1941, Faggin developed a scientific mind as a child and created a working computer by the age of 19. As a young adult he moved to the United States and began a career in computer engineering. In 1971, Faggin made a huge contribution to the advancement of computers when he invented the world’s first microchip processor – the Intel 4004. It was revolutionary for the advancement and shrinking of the computer. You can trail the full timeline of his storied life here.

The Intel 4004 and its inventor

By 1990, Faggin had accomplished so much professionally. He was also happily married with three children. Yet, despite seemingly having it all, he was deeply unhappy. He couldn’t shake a malaise that encapsulated his life. In that headspace, and desiring to find more meaning and purpose in his life, the “white light moment” transformed him forever. What’s also fascinating in Faggin’s story is that his father was a professor of philosophy and had introduced Federico to the mystics and spirituality many times, but it never resonated nor interested him until his own awakening. After 1990 the pieces all seemed to come together and forge him in a new direction, with a renewed sense of purpose and desire to look in new corners of the intellectual world for understanding.

For decades Faggin has been trying to understand his awakening experience and started a long journey trying to create a theory of consciousness. In 2011, along with his wife Elvira, he launched the Faggin Foundation a “non-profit organization dedicated to the scientific study of consciousness. ” This intellectual pursuit continues to this day.

There is much I WANNA KNOW about Faggin’s transcendent experience and the scientific work he’s doing around consciousness. I caught up with him via Zoom from his home in California.

From the microchip processor, to consciousness, to artificial intelligence, to quantum mechanics, to the Tao Te Ching, we cover it all.



  1. Go to his website: http://www.fagginfoundation.org/


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