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Such as Alain Aspect's experiment and the resulting follow-ups in another field.

I have written about this stuff on this blog. It doesn't mean I believe it has anything to do with consciousness. I have read Penrose and find him wholly unconvincing. Why am I not convinced? Paraphrasing you: I just ain't and that's all the justification you need.

Just how weird is weird?

In essence, and this is what my snappy interjection to Sven was about, it has been empirically tested (though not to the satisfaction of everyone) that the world is empirically compatible with standard quantum mechanics, but incompatible with any deterministic hidden-variable theory which has any of the following three characteristics: 1) Einsteinian locality; 2) counterfactual definiteness; 3) non-contextuality. The relevant theoretical results are "Bell's inequalities" (for local hidden variables), "Hardy's thought experiment" (for counterfactual definiteness) and the "Kochen-Specker theorem" (for non-contextuality). All three have been tested experimentally using quantum optics.

In other words: it is an experimentally verifiable fact that, if God doesn't play dice, 1) the world out there has spooky action at a distance; 2) you are not allowed to ask about the values of quantities you don't measure; 3) if you considered "what if" you had actually measured an additional quantity, the values of the ones you did measure would change.

To put it yet another way... If you think the world is made of things which have properties independent of whether you look at them or not, that the fact of looking at one thing does not affect others, or that these effects are limited in how far and how fast they can reach, well, you're experimentally provably wrong.

What is then nothing short of amazing is that the macroscopic world around us has exactly the intuitive properties I have said quantum mechanics violates.

Aspect is so 1980's. How about talking about Kochen-Specker?

Also, of course there is quantum entanglement among the electron bonds in a molecule. So what?

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by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Aug 29th, 2011 at 04:08:02 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Maybe this was covered in the linked diary, but my main gripe with quantum mechanics being linked to consciousness is that such an interpretation goes against a fundamental assumption in physics, that is that the universe we observe in creating the laws of physics is the same that exists out there. (There are proper philosophical terms for this, but the snot in my brain does not allow retrival of them.)

As I see it, the choice is either to accept an interpretation that does not do us humans to the centre of the universe or to re-do physics as a model of what is observable instead of what is, that is including every observation and solve for the observable. But I think that would be a huge pain.

To draw conclusions about the natur of consciousness from quantum mechanics is the kind of trickyness I enjoyed in high school. If say we had a problem including an instruction to disregard the effects of friction (since that would create a to tricky problem) I enjoyed pointing out how the whole problem would collapse, if not for friction (since machine X included can not function without friction or something like that). While fun, it did not prove that the problem was pointless or the machine not working, only that the model was constructed not to include what I forced it to include. In the same way physics was not constructed to include us as observers.

In addition, I suspect that the eagerness to get QM to say something essential about humans is a case of Physicalism:

Physicalism is a philosophical position holding that everything which exists is no more extensive than its physical properties; that is, that there are no kinds of things other than physical things. The term was coined by Otto Neurath in a series of early twentieth century essays on the subject, in which he wrote:

"According to physicalism, the language of physics is the universal language of science and, consequently, any knowledge can be brought back to the statements on the physical objects."[1]

In contemporary philosophy, physicalism is most frequently associated with the mind-body problem in philosophy of mind, regarding which physicalism holds that all that has been ascribed to "mind" is more correctly ascribed to "brain" or the activity of the brain. Physicalism is also called "materialism", but the term "physicalism" is preferable because it has evolved with the physical sciences to incorporate far more sophisticated notions of physicality than matter, for example wave/particle relationships and non-material forces produced by particles. The related position of methodological naturalism says that philosophy and science should at least operate under the assumptions of natural sciences (and thus physicalism).

Or perhaps, a consequence of physicalism being so dominant that even that which is stripped away at the start of physics has to be explained in terms of physics to be credible.

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by A swedish kind of death on Mon Aug 29th, 2011 at 04:43:38 PM EST
[ Parent ]
A key problem is that we understand neither QM nor consciousness nor emergent phenomena nor complex systems well enough to say anything at all about the issues here.

I simply don't understand your point about physicalism. Of course, in the end, there's nothing but physics, nothing but the material universe. What's the issue?

by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Mon Aug 29th, 2011 at 05:01:18 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The issue is that if you are to argue about mind or soul or whatever that is observed by us all (unless you get a serious case of solipsism), then starting from a model that assumes it is all a deterministic system of things and forces is kind of odd. Like starting from theology to argue about astronomy. Until you realise that to have credibility you need to seek support in the dominant model of your time wheter it fits or not.

If you are to argue about mind or soul or anything else physics provides a poor model for it is better (from a purely intellectual standpoint) to note that "I observe this, and if your model does not include it, the model is either not appropriate or wrong as empirical observation triumphs over theory". So CH's observations are a heavier argument then the debateble link to QM. At least if you are of the belief that empiricism is a good.

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by A swedish kind of death on Mon Aug 29th, 2011 at 06:02:53 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Isn't the fundamental assumption of physics you have in mind that all we can model is what's observable and that if that isn't the real universe (for whatever value of real you dream up) then we don't and can't care?
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Mon Aug 29th, 2011 at 05:08:05 PM EST
[ Parent ]
More like we model what is observable and assume that is a model of the world rather then a model of our observations. In effect that the model is assumed not to be antropocentric.

So if it then turns out to be antropocentric, that should be studied in detail by explicitly rewriting the model as a model of what we observe, solve the equations to get what we then should be able to observe and compare with actual observations. That should mean that some states in between can not be solved for what is observable, creating a somewhat clearer image. I am not sure of how to do such a re-write.

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by A swedish kind of death on Mon Aug 29th, 2011 at 06:45:11 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I think quantum gravity strikes at the heart of this, but I'm not able to say a lot about it in a rush...

Economics is politics by other means
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Aug 30th, 2011 at 02:40:34 AM EST
[ Parent ]


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