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Were There Ever Empirical Reasons to Bring Human Consciousness into QM?

by jon4444
Tags: schrodinger's cat
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questionpost
#19
Mar8-12, 05:20 PM
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Quote Quote by Ken G View Post
Yes but that's just my point. We have no idea what chemicals like that "should" do, we only know what they do in our own brains, because we can correlate two things we understand-- we understand the chemicals, and we understand what our brains are doing (from the internal perspective). Remove either of those pillars and we have nothing that we could call understanding, we have only correlations (when chemical X does Y, animal A does B, but we can say that for a stimulant or a pesticide). None of that can be called "using math" or even "thinking", because we only know what those things are because we do them. Indeed the very definitions of these terms reveal the extent to which we rely on our own minds to give meaning to these terms.
And that should not be too surprising-- fish brains and human brains evolved along similar lines. I'm not saying fish think differently from us (we should expect both similarities and differences), I'm saying that everything we can say about how fish think relates directly to how we think, because that's how we understand what thought (and math) are. So we are always looking in the mirror to some extent, and that's not a bad thing-- it's just how we understand.
I;m losing sight of the point of your argument...
Fish can collapse wave functions just as humans can...
lugita15
#20
Mar8-12, 08:54 PM
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Quote Quote by questionpost View Post
I;m losing sight of the point of your argument...
Fish can collapse wave functions just as humans can...
Look at my post. It's largely a matter of interpretational preference what collapses wave functions and what doesn't. It's perfectly consistent to believe that only human consciousness can collapse the wave function.
Ken G
#21
Mar8-12, 11:28 PM
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Quote Quote by jon4444 View Post
But if we compare our thinking to what we see in animal behavior, I think it's fair to draw general conclusions on basic mental processes common to both.
That is exactly what I'm saying. Whenever we talk about "thought" or "using math", what we are doing is trafficking in general conclusions about processes common to our minds and whatever other minds we are including. This means that we are always looking in the mirror when we talk about what thought is.
Ken G
#22
Mar8-12, 11:31 PM
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Quote Quote by questionpost View Post
I;m losing sight of the point of your argument...
Fish can collapse wave functions just as humans can...
The way this emerged was that I was talking about human consciousness, and was asked why limit it to that. I said because that's what we understand. To make the point that other animals can have a consciousness that we understand, on the basis that we understand it when it is similar to our own, is not refuting this core point.
lugita15
#23
Mar8-12, 11:32 PM
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Quote Quote by Ken G View Post
That is exactly what I'm saying. Whenever we talk about "thought" or "using math", what we are doing is trafficking in general conclusions about processes common to our minds and whatever other minds we are including. This means that we are always looking in the mirror when we talk about what thought is.
If you want to take this tack, then it's a short route to not believing that other people are conscious.
Ken G
#24
Mar8-12, 11:37 PM
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Quote Quote by lugita15 View Post
Look at my post. It's largely a matter of interpretational preference what collapses wave functions and what doesn't. It's perfectly consistent to believe that only human consciousness can collapse the wave function.
Right, and even if one chooses not to hold this, which as you say is also perfectly consistent, it does not rescue us from the need to account for consciousness somewhere in the program. That's because the consciousness is where we register that collapse has occurred, even if we hold that it actually occurred earlier in the "chain." There just is no chain without the consciousness to anchor it. The reason I mention this is that there are two very separate ways that consciousness can matter to collapse-- one is that it can be connected to the physical cause of collapse, and another (which is the approach I take) is to say that there is no specific "cause of collapse" anywhere in that chain, there is merely the fact that the chain exhibits collapse, and the chain is anchored by consciousness, so consciousness plays a role even if we do not hold that it is a physical cause.

An analogous situation is in Doppler shift of light-- it is neither the motion of the source nor the motion of the receiver that "causes" a Doppler shift, it is the relative motion, and one does not have relative motion until one can anchor that relative motion on some kind of receiver. Without the anchor, there is no cause of the Doppler shift, but one does not say that the motion of the receiver causes the shift.
lugita15
#25
Mar8-12, 11:50 PM
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Quote Quote by Ken G View Post
Right, and even if one chooses not to hold this, which as you say is also perfectly consistent, it does not rescue us from the need to account for consciousness somewhere in the program. That's because the consciousness is where we register that collapse has occurred, even if we hold that it actually occurred earlier in the "chain." There just is no chain without the consciousness to anchor it. The reason I mention this is that there are two very separate ways that consciousness can matter to collapse-- one is that it can be connected to the physical cause of collapse, and another (which is the approach I take) is to say that there is no specific "cause of collapse" anywhere in that chain, there is merely the fact that the chain exhibits collapse, and the chain is anchored by consciousness, so consciousness plays a role even if we do not hold that it is a physical cause.
It is of course a perfectly acceptable interpretation to cut the Von Neumann chain off at consciousness, but it is not required by the theory of quantum mechanics to have a special place for consciousness. You can have a race of robots doing quantum experiments on an island never observed by humans, and there's nothing wrong in thinking that the robots are collapsing the wave function. We don't need to be in the Von Neumann chain at all.
questionpost
#26
Mar9-12, 07:20 AM
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Quote Quote by lugita15 View Post
Look at my post. It's largely a matter of interpretational preference what collapses wave functions and what doesn't. It's perfectly consistent to believe that only human consciousness can collapse the wave function.
I's not really consistant at all because if animals didn't and all of their particles always existed in superposition no matter what they would be a tiny bit different. If a simple machine can collapse a wave function, surely animals can. In fact, it's more than illogical to think animals can't considering both humans and the rest of the animal world are made from the same building blocks and chemicals all with similar biological structures. All animals have a brain of which it can be proven that signals are sent to, and if signals are sent from the outside world to it then it is capable of measurement. This is how we know machines are capable of measurement, unless machines don't actually collapse a wave function in which case we have a few major problems with our understanding of QM and every single quantum physicist is non-sense.

Quote Quote by Ken G View Post
The way this emerged was that I was talking about human consciousness, and was asked why limit it to that. I said because that's what we understand. To make the point that other animals can have a consciousness that we understand, on the basis that we understand it when it is similar to our own, is not refuting this core point.
Sure, but that's like saying black holes don't exist because we don't actually "know" what they look like because we've never direcly seen one.
jon4444
#27
Mar9-12, 09:53 AM
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Quote Quote by lugita15 View Post
It's perfectly consistent to believe that only human consciousness can collapse the wave function.
Well, this gets back to my original question. Say you had a double slit experiment, that creates a now-familiar interference pattern on inked paper. Are you saying that it's reasonable to interpret results as each time a human looks at the paper, he creates the interference pattern (since the human is bound in the same system as the inked paper and the particles/waves going through the slit)?

If this were true, shouldn't we expect that after a few billion humans looked at the interference pattern, some would see a slightly different pattern of stripes? (I.e., isn't this testable at some level?)

And to bring furry pets back in, what if you trained a dog to bark when he saw a certain pattern of stripes--are we to go so far as to bind the human hearing the bark into the same system?
Ken G
#28
Mar9-12, 08:50 PM
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Quote Quote by lugita15 View Post
It is of course a perfectly acceptable interpretation to cut the Von Neumann chain off at consciousness, but it is not required by the theory of quantum mechanics to have a special place for consciousness. You can have a race of robots doing quantum experiments on an island never observed by humans, and there's nothing wrong in thinking that the robots are collapsing the wave function. We don't need to be in the Von Neumann chain at all.
Ah, but we do-- look at your own words: "nothing wrong in thinking that the robots are collapsing..." Who is doing that thinking that there is nothing wrong in? Where is that thinking happening?
Ken G
#29
Mar9-12, 08:53 PM
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Quote Quote by questionpost View Post
Sure, but that's like saying black holes don't exist because we don't actually "know" what they look like because we've never direcly seen one.
I would prefer to say it that the existence, or non-existence, of black holes depends on our participation in the process of doing physics. This is actually perfectly clear-- where does the concept of a "black hole" come from anyway? It makes no difference if we see them or not, what matters is that we conceptualize them. We participate in their existence, whether we choose to hold that they really exist, or we choose to hold that they don't.
Ken G
#30
Mar9-12, 08:57 PM
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Quote Quote by jon4444 View Post
And to bring furry pets back in, what if you trained a dog to bark when he saw a certain pattern of stripes--are we to go so far as to bind the human hearing the bark into the same system?
One would simply say that if we regard a dog consciousness as similar to our own, then the dog collapses it, and if we don't, then it collapses when the human hears the dog bark. What experiment will you do that could refute that view?
questionpost
#31
Mar9-12, 09:03 PM
P: 198
Quote Quote by jon4444 View Post
Well, this gets back to my original question. Say you had a double slit experiment, that creates a now-familiar interference pattern on inked paper. Are you saying that it's reasonable to interpret results as each time a human looks at the paper, he creates the interference pattern (since the human is bound in the same system as the inked paper and the particles/waves going through the slit)?

If this were true, shouldn't we expect that after a few billion humans looked at the interference pattern, some would see a slightly different pattern of stripes? (I.e., isn't this testable at some level?)

And to bring furry pets back in, what if you trained a dog to bark when he saw a certain pattern of stripes--are we to go so far as to bind the human hearing the bark into the same system?
No, consciousness hardly has anything to do with it, it's statistics and math. No matter who's looking at what (or vica versa), particles will have the wave mechanics that they do. Sin(45)=sqrt(2)/2 or 1+1=2 is not based on who is measuring it, it's based on the fundamental logic of what makes a value that specific value. When wave-functions collapse, it's the same principal as making a mathematical statement true, which will be true regardless of who is looking at it. If there is something to measure a particle's position, it's the same equation for any observer (not including Einstein physics, but like if there was multiple species of animals in the same room), so you will yield the same statistical results for each observer.
bhobba
#32
Mar9-12, 11:56 PM
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It had to do with Von Neumann's analysis in the Mathematical Foundations Of QM. He had an argument that seemed to prove the collapse occurred in the mind. Challenging a mathematician of Von Neumann's caliber is no easy task and it took a while for Bell and others to find the 'errors'.

Thanks
Bill
bhobba
#33
Mar10-12, 12:08 AM
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Quote Quote by jon4444 View Post
Well, this gets back to my original question. Say you had a double slit experiment, that creates a now-familiar interference pattern on inked paper. Are you saying that it's reasonable to interpret results as each time a human looks at the paper, he creates the interference pattern (since the human is bound in the same system as the inked paper and the particles/waves going through the slit)?

If this were true, shouldn't we expect that after a few billion humans looked at the interference pattern, some would see a slightly different pattern of stripes? (I.e., isn't this testable at some level?)

And to bring furry pets back in, what if you trained a dog to bark when he saw a certain pattern of stripes--are we to go so far as to bind the human hearing the bark into the same system?
The claim of Von Neumann and others is the system and observer (or observers if more than one person views the outcome at the same time) causes the collapse - once it has occurred then its set in concrete and all subsequent observers at later times will observe the same thing if the observation left a record like the live or dead cat in the Schrodinger's cat experiment. To get around the problem you simply need an interpretation that avoids the issue such as the Ensemble Interpretation or Consistent Histories - but all of them suck in their own way - however to me the Ensemble Interpretation sucks the least - but that is a matter of taste.

Thanks
Bill
lugita15
#34
Mar10-12, 12:18 AM
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Quote Quote by bhobba View Post
It had to do with Von Neumann's analysis in the Mathematical Foundations Of QM. He had an argument that seemed to prove the collapse occurred in the mind. Challenging a mathematician of Von Neumann's caliber is no easy task and it took a while for Bell and others to find the 'errors'.
In fact, what Von Neumann proved rigorously in his famous book was not that wave function collapse must occur in the mind, but rather that it makes no experimental difference at what stage you assume the wave function collapses. And then after he proves the theorem, he makes the philosophical argument that if you just believe the wave function collapses at some arbitrary stage, then you just have a set of particles (the apparatus) collapsing the wave function of another set of particles (the system under observation) - and pretty much every possible stage looks the same way. Thus there is no principled way to select one of these stages as being when collapse occurs, so he argues that collapse should occur at a stage that is special. He settles on this special stage being the interaction of the mind and the brain, because bs believed that the brain is physical but the mind isn't.

But they key point is, you have to distinguish between his formal proof, which as far as I kniow is unimpeachable, and the philosophical discussion that follows.
bhobba
#35
Mar10-12, 03:17 PM
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Quote Quote by lugita15 View Post
But they key point is, you have to distinguish between his formal proof, which as far as I kniow is unimpeachable, and the philosophical discussion that follows.
That's the whole issue - his mathematics was unimpeachable as you would expect of a mathematician of his caliber - it the interpretation that's the problem. The same with Bell's rebuttal of Von Neumanns proof no hidden variables are possible - the proof was unimpeachable - it was the hidden assumptions that went into it that was the issue. As Bell said once you understood that then you realize the proof, while correct, was silly.

Thanks
Bill
questionpost
#36
Mar10-12, 04:42 PM
P: 198
Quote Quote by bhobba View Post
It had to do with Von Neumann's analysis in the Mathematical Foundations Of QM. He had an argument that seemed to prove the collapse occurred in the mind. Challenging a mathematician of Von Neumann's caliber is no easy task and it took a while for Bell and others to find the 'errors'.

Thanks
Bill
Simple machines certainly don't have minds. It doesn't have much to do with a mind or consciousness as much as it does with interaction and math. When things interact, they mathematically change the probability of finding something to a finite point. If I say 1+1=2, you can see that there is no consciousness in that equation, that statement is always true regardless of the observer.
If I have 10 different species of animals in one room who all observe an atom, they will all observer the same statistical probability because there it is the same mechanics of an atom for each individual animal.


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