Consciousness and the Collapse of the Wave Function David Chalmers [and Kelvin McQueen] Two Questions • What is the place of consciousness in nature? • What is the reality behind quantum mechanics? Consciousness • If consciousness can’t be explained in physical terms, then it is nonphysical and fundamental. • But if the physical domain is closed, consciousness can’t play a causal role. Quantum Mechanics • Quantum mechanics postulates a wavelike reality where things don’t have definite properties, but we experience a world with definite properties. • How can this be explained? The Wave Function • In classical physics, systems are described by definite values • A particle’s position is specified by a definite location. • In quantum mechanics, systems are described by wave functions. • A particle’s position is specified by a wave function, with different amplitudes for different locations. Superposition • Sometimes a wave function will specify a definite position (all the amplitude at one position). • But often it will specify multiple positions (nonzero amplitude at many positions). • Then the particle is in a superposition of different positions. The Schrödinger Equation • The wave function usually evolves according to the Schrödinger equation • Systems that start in definite states tend to evolve into superpositions. Measurement • When one measures a quantity (such as position), one always observes a definite result. • When a system is in a superposition of values, the measurement might reveal any of these values, probabilistically. The Born Rule • If one measures position, the probability of finding that the particle is at that position is given by the Born rule. • The probability depends on the wave function’s amplitude at that position. Collapse • After measurement, the wave function enters a new state corresponding to the measurement result. • Initially: a superposition of position. • After: a definite position (an eigenstate). • This process is often called collapse. Formalism and Reality • Something like this story is standard formalism for predicting measurement results in quantum mechanics. • But what is really going on in reality? The Measurement Problem • The formalism says collapse takes place on measurement; but measurement is an imprecise notion. • What is measurement? • And how can it play a fundamental role in physical dynamics? Schrödinger’s Cat Alternative Interpretations • Hidden-variables (Bohm): • Particles have definite positions all along • Many worlds (Everett): • Even macro systems are in superpositions • Spontaneous collapse (GRW): • Collapses happen randomly Face-Value Interpretations • Collapses happen in reality, triggered by measurement events. • One needs to precisify the notion of measurement and clarify the basic principles. Two Options • Measurement = observation by consciousness. • Consciousness triggers collapse • Measurement = a physical process • A physical process triggers collapse M-properties • Hypothesis: There are special properties, m- properties (m-quantities or m-observables). • Fundamental principles: m-properties can never be superposed. • A system’s wave function is always in an eigenstate of the m-operator. Superposition • Whenever an m-property enters a superposition, it collapses to definiteness. • Whenever it is about to enter a superposition, it collapses to definiteness. • Probabilities are given by Born rule for the associated m-operator. What are M-Properties • One could in principle take any property to be an m-property. • Different choices of m-properties yield different interpretations. M-Particles • Illustrative idea: m-properties = position of special particles, m-particles. • Fundamental or not (e.g. molecules) • Law: M-particles always have definite positions Dynamics • Dynamics given by mathematics of continuous strong measurement of mquantities. • As if: someone external to the system was constantly measuring m-quantities. Entanglement • Whenever a superposed property becomes (potentially) entangled with an m-property, that property collapses. • E.g. a photon with superposed position interacts with an m-particle • The m-particle probabilistically collapses to definite position, so does the photon. Superposition Dynamics • Initially: Photon is in superposition P1 + P2, M-particle is in location M. • Photon interacts with M-particle in a way that would produce P1.M1 + P2.M2 • M-particle collapses onto M1 or M2 • Result: P1.M1 (or P2.M2). Photon collapses too! M-Particles as Measurers • The M-particle in effect acts as a measuring instrument. • If an M-particle is in a slit of the double-slit experiment, it collapses the position of a superposed photon. • M-particle = Medusa particle (everything it looks at turns to stone). Medium Rare M-Particles • M-Particles would need to be rare enough • So that superpositions could persist, yielding the interference effects we see • But they can’t be too rare • E.g. found in macro systems or brains, so that measurements always yield results Constraints on MProperties • Same constraints on m-properties • Rare enough that observed interference effects don’t involve m-properties • Rules out position, mass, buckyballs • Common enough that measurements always involve m-properties • At least present in brains Some Candidates • Configurational properties of complex systems (e.g. molecular shape) • Molecular energy (above a threshold) • Tononi’s phi (above a threshold) • Mental properties (e.g. consciousness). Different Predictions • Different hypotheses yield different empirical predictions • Interferometer: try to prepare a system in a superposition of m-properties, see if interference effects result. • Very hard to test! (So far: buckyballs?) • But in principle makes all this testable. Objections • Is energy conserved? • Is this compatible with relativity? • Are there infinite long tails? • What about the quantum Zeno effect? • Are m-properties fundamental? Consciousness and Collapse • Consciousness collapses the wave function? • von Neumann (1932), London and Bauer (1939), Wigner (1961), Stapp (1993) • Never made rigorous. Consciousness as an M-Property • Hypothesis: consciousness is an m-property • I.e. consciousness can never be superposed • Whenever consciousness is about to enter a superposition, the wave function collapses Entanglement with Consciousness • Take a superposed electron: S1 + S2 • We consciously perceive it, potentially yielding S1.C(S1) + S2.C(S2) • Consciousness collapses probabilistically to C(S1) [say], electron collapses to S1 • Result: definite state S1.C(S1). Virtues of Consciousness as M-Property • Conceptual: clarifies measurement • Epistemological: saves observation data • Explanatory: explains nonsuperposability • Metaphysical: fundamental property in law • Causal: physical role for consciousness Physicalism and Dualism • This is consistent with physicalism • Consciousness is complex/physical • Also consistent with dualism • Consciousness is fundamental/nonphysical • Not consistent with panpsychism! Causal Closure • Philosophers often reject dualism because physics is causally closed, leaving no role for consciousness. • In fact, physics leaves a giant causal opening in the collapse process. • Perfectly suited for consciousness to fill! Physics and Philosophy • Physicists often reject consciousnesscollapse because of dualism • Philosophers often reject dualism because of incompatibility with physics • Independent reasons for rejection needed! Property Dualism • Consciousness is a fundamental property, involved in fundamental psychophysical laws • Epiphenomenalism: unidirectional laws, physics to consciousness • Interactionism: bidirectional laws Bidirectional Laws • Physics-to-consciousness law: • Physical quantity P (e.g. Tononi: high-phi) yields consciousness • Consciousness-to-physics law • Consciousness is never superposed • C-collapse yields P-collapse Worry: Macro Superpositions • Worry: Unobserved macroscopic systems will be in superpositions • Response: This depends on the complexity of property P; but if so, so be it. Worry: Indistinguishability • C-Collapse is empirically equivalent to P- collapse: P (e.g. high-phi) is an M-property • Quantum zombie worlds? • Response: C-collapse has extra explanatory, metaphysical, and causal virtues. Test for Consciousness • An empirical criterion for consciousness? • Say we find empirically that property P is associated with collapse • This will give us (perhaps nonconclusive) reason to accept that P is the physical correlate of consciousness • Especially if P is independently plausible as a correlate, e.g. high-phi. Worry: Causal Role in Action • What about a causal role in action? • Consciousness collapses brain states that lead to action (.red causes ‘I’m seeing red’) • Collapses of agentive experience yield an especially direct role Worry: Dice-Rolling Role • Consciousness is just rolling quantum dice • Yielding probabilistic outcomes the same as in quantum zombies • Doesn’t make us more likely to behave intelligently or say ‘I’m conscious’ • But: at least it’s playing/explaining the role Worry: Quantum Zeno Effect • Quantum Zeno Effect: Frequent quantum measurement makes it hard for measured quantities to change • Worry: continuous collapse of consciousness will make it hard (probability zero) for consciousness to evolve Quantum Zeno Effect • How to handle Quantum Zeno Effect? • Intra-consciousness dynamics? • Intermittent collapse? • Realist representationalism: collapse represented properties. Conclusion • C-collapse interpretations promise simultaneously • an attractive, empirically testable interpretation of QM • an attractive approach to the mind-body problem. • A place for the mind in nature?
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