Consciousness and the Collapse of the Wave Function

May 2014

  • If consciousness can't be explained in physical terms, then it is non-physical and fundamental.
  • But if physical domain is closed, consciousness can't play a casual role.
  • Quantum mechanics postulates a wavelike reality where things don't have definite properties, but we experience a world with definite properties.
  • Quantum mechanics describes particles as a wave function.
  • A wave function may specify a definite position, or be in a superposition of different positions.
  • The Schrodinger Equation says that a particle may tend towards superposition from a known position.
  • When a system is in superposition, a measurement might reveal a position probabilistically.
  • The Born Rule: the probability depends on the wave function's amplitude at the position.
  • After measurement the wave function enters a new state (an eigenstate), the process often called the collapse.
  • The Measurement Problem: formalism says measurement collapses the wave function. But how?
  • Schrodinger's Cat poses the question of what collapses the wave function? Or is the cat both alive and dead?
  • Is measurement observation by consciousness.
  • M-properties hypothesis: a system's wave functionis always in an eigenstate of the m-operator.
  • Whenever an m-property enters a superposition, it collapses to definiteness.
  • Entanglement: whenever a superposed property becomes entangled with an m-property that property collapses.
  • Can think of m-particle (Medusa particle) as measurers that collapse the position of a superposed particle.
  • Hypothesis: consciousness as an m-property.
  • Physics is causally closed leaving no role for consciousness.
  • Physicists often reject consciousness collapse becasue of dualism. Philosophers often reject dualism because of incompatibility with physics.
  • Epiphenomenalism: unidirectional laws, physics to consciousness.
  • Interactionism: bidirectional laws.
  • Panpsychism: consciousness is in everything - but that cannot be true or wave function would be always collapsed
  • Quantum Zeno effect: frequent quantum measurement makes it hard for measured quantities to change - continuous collapse of consciousness will make it hard for consciousness to evolve.
For more information see the Lecture on YouTube


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   David Chalmers

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