Questions Concerning Consciousness and Its Relation to Quantum Mechanics

#1
I'm interested in consciousness and its relation (if any) to quantum mechanics.

Questions:

What relation (if any) does consciousness have with quantum mechanics?
What is the difference between the collapse of the wave function and decoherence?
What constitutes an observation in the context of quantum mechanics?
What interpretation of quantum mechanics necessarily invokes consciousness?

Note: If anyone participating in this thread has formal training in physics, please let us know. Thanks.
 
#2
What is the difference between the collapse of the wave function and decoherence?
I'll start off by clarifying this question by addressing the difference between state vector (wave function) reduction and state vector collapse. This will also clarify the complimentity principle.

Think of a state vector as containing possible locations of a photon, and then think of the double-slit experiment. If there is no attempt to gain which-path information, you will get an interference pattern on the detection screen. In this case, the wave function travels through both slits, interfering with itself and affecting the probability distribution of its location.

Now let's say you try to find out which slit the photon "really" went through. I am going to oversimplify, but let's just say there are non-invasive measurements that can be done to do this (using polarization), so the effect on the photon isn't like the typical description of "well if you bounce a particle off it to measure it, then you affect it." And by attempting to find out this information in a non-invasive way, you then find the photon going through one or the other slit and a diffeaction pattern on the detection screen.

So what happened? Most would say that the wave function collapsed, but this is not correct. What happened is that our end observation was now the result of a system that involved another device that gave us information as to which path the photon would follow, thereby restricting possible locations along the photons path. This is decoherence (interaction that limits potential locations), and what occurred was not collapse but state vector reduction. The possible locations were limited but did not collapse to one trajectory through the single slit. It still was a wave (a wave packet) traveling through the single slit. It acted more like a particle, but is still a wave and described by wave equations.

So decoherence is state vector reduction, or restriction on possible locations through interactions. State vector collapse is what you get at the end of the experiment when the photon hits the detection plate. In this case, there is a single position that resulted.

It is important to note that the observation (photon hitting detection plate) creates the history. Now we will have to address what an observation is.
 
#3
What interpretation of quantum mechanics necessarily invokes consciousness?
To my knowledge, the only interpretations that actually invoke consciousness are variations of the von Neumann interpretation.

The Copenhagen interpretation is often mistakenly said to invoke consciousness, but it does not. It stops short of doing this, and doesn't really answer the question in an almost operationalist way. Von Neumann essentially extended the Copenhagen interpretation to answer the question of collapse by invoking consciousness as a logical necessity to collapse the wave function.

Henry Stapp follows the orthodox von Neumann interpretation and explains it quite well, although the ideas of what consciousness is does vary, and this is where you get some different varieties of this interpretation.

For example, Amit Goswami requires consciousness to be unitary in order to avoid paradoxes that result in multiple consciousness', such as Wigner's Friend paradox.

Qubism comes close to invoking consciousness, but does not, and rather invokes experience of material entities.

Some quantum information computation models can, in my opinion, be excellent descriptions of what is going on in the von Neumann interpretation, but these models in how they are created really don't invoke consciousness, but I think this is where they are missing out.
 
#4
What constitutes an observation in the context of quantum mechanics?.
An observation is generally the conscious observation of the result of a measurement.

A physicist may object that consciousness has nothing to do with it, but in traditional quantum experiments you cannot separate a conscious observation and a measurement. We do science and measurements through conscious awareness, and since it is possible that it may play a role, we should not jump to conclusions by saying it has nothing to do with measurement since there is no way to separate the conscious observation and measurements. Von Neumann chains are logically entailed by just a measurement, since this is what the wave equations would describe until we find out the end result.

However, parapsychology has found a potential test of von Neumann chains through retroPK experiments. These essentially separate the measurement and the conscious observation. Helmudt Schmidt has done work that may support the concept of von Neumann chains, and that conscious observation, not measurement, is what results in the outcome observed.
 
#5
I would like to add that Dean Radin's experiments with enclosed double-slit devices and Michaelson interferometers seem to suggest that conscious awareness can directly extract quantum information from a system, which affects the outcome.

I would argue that these experiments do not necessarily suggest conscious collapse, but rather information extraction that at least results in state vector reduction.
 
#6
Think of a state vector as containing possible locations of a photon, and then think of the double-slit experiment. If there is no attempt to gain which-path information, you will get an interference pattern on the detection screen. In this case, the wave function travels through both slits, interfering with itself and affecting the probability distribution of its location.
Don't we infer that it is a wave because it displays an interference pattern? But the interference pattern itself was formed by one photon hitting the plate at a time?

Now let's say you try to find out which slit the photon "really" went through. I am going to oversimplify, but let's just say there are non-invasive measurements that can be done to do this (using polarization), so the effect on the photon isn't like the typical description of "well if you bounce a particle off it to measure it, then you affect it." And by attempting to find out this information in a non-invasive way, you then find the photon going through one or the other slit and a diffeaction pattern on the detection screen.
In this case, it doesn't form an interference pattern. Right?

So what happened? Most would say that the wave function collapsed, but this is not correct. What happened is that our end observation was now the result of a system that involved another device that gave us information as to which path the photon would follow, thereby restricting possible locations along the photons path. This is decoherence (interaction that limits potential locations), and what occurred was not collapse but state vector reduction. The possible locations were limited but did not collapse to one trajectory through the single slit. It still was a wave (a wave packet) traveling through the single slit. It acted more like a particle, but is still a wave and described by wave equations.
Most physicists would say this?

So decoherence is state vector reduction, or restriction on possible locations through interactions. State vector collapse is what you get at the end of the experiment when the photon hits the detection plate. In this case, there is a single position that resulted.
But the only information we are getting in the state vector reduction is what slit the photon went through. And there are only two possibilities here because there are only two slits. Right?

It is important to note that the observation (photon hitting detection plate) creates the history. Now we will have to address what an observation is.
Are there many different trajectories that can lead to the same end point?
 
#7
The Copenhagen interpretation is often mistakenly said to invoke consciousness, but it does not. It stops short of doing this, and doesn't really answer the question in an almost operationalist way. Von Neumann essentially extended the Copenhagen interpretation to answer the question of collapse by invoking consciousness as a logical necessity to collapse the wave function.
Doesn't the Copenhagen interpretation hold that an observation collapses the wave function?

For example, Amit Goswami requires consciousness to be unitary in order to avoid paradoxes that result in multiple consciousness', such as Wigner's Friend paradox.
What exactly does "unitary consciousness" mean?

Qubism comes close to invoking consciousness, but does not, and rather invokes experience of material entities.
The experience of material entities?

Some quantum information computation models can, in my opinion, be excellent descriptions of what is going on in the von Neumann interpretation, but these models in how they are created really don't invoke consciousness, but I think this is where they are missing out.
So, you think there is a relation between the processing of qubits and consciousness?[/quote]
 
#8
An observation is generally the conscious observation of the result of a measurement.

A physicist may object that consciousness has nothing to do with it, but in traditional quantum experiments you cannot separate a conscious observation and a measurement. We do science and measurements through conscious awareness, and since it is possible that it may play a role, we should not jump to conclusions by saying it has nothing to do with measurement since there is no way to separate the conscious observation and measurements. Von Neumann chains are logically entailed by just a measurement, since this is what the wave equations would describe until we find out the end result.
Okay. So, you do believe that an observation ultimately involves consciousness.

John von Neumann presented a rigorous treatment that is also referred to as the Copenhagen interpretation. He showed that if quantum mechanics applies universally - as claimed - an ultimate encounter with consciousness is inevitable, although, for all practical purposes, we can consider macroscopic apparatus as classical. According to this view, Bohr's separation of the microscopic and the macroscopic is only a very good approximation...But whenever we refer to "observation," the question of consciousness lurks. (source: pp. 100-101, "Quantum Enigma: Physics Encounters Consciousness" by Bruce Rosenblum and Fred Kuttner)
However, parapsychology has found a potential test of von Neumann chains through retroPK experiments. These essentially separate the measurement and the conscious observation. Helmudt Schmidt has done work that may support the concept of von Neumann chains, and that conscious observation, not measurement, is what results in the outcome observed.
That's interesting. Unfortunately, mainstream science doesn't appear ready to accept any finding from the field of parapsychology.
 
#10
Doesn't the Copenhagen interpretation hold that an observation collapses the wave function?
Yes, but orthodox Copenhagen doesn't invoke consciousness.

Dillinger said:
What exactly does "unitary consciousness" mean?
It means that there is only one consciousness that causes collapse.

Dillinger said:
The experience of material entities?
Yes, as opposed to invoking consciousness.

Dillinger said:
So, you think there is a relation between the processing of qubits and consciousness?
My opinion is yes, since exchange of a qubit does not require any energy, and would offer a bridge between consciousness and matter. If consciousness can extract, insert, or interpret quantum information, it would offer a possible explanation for experiments like Dean Radin's. I think it may offer an explanation that is similar to computational materialist models of consciousness, where consciousness arises from processing and integration of information, except in this case, the right processing and integration of quantum information in the brain may offer a possibility for where conscious awareness comes from within consciousness.
 
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#11
Don't we infer that it is a wave because it displays an interference pattern? But the interference pattern itself was formed by one photon hitting the plate at a time?
Yes.

Dillinger said:
In this case, it doesn't form an interference pattern. Right?
Right. It forms a diffraction pattern.

Dillinger said:
Most physicists would say this?
No, but it is a common misconception about quantum theory.

Dillinger said:
But the only information we are getting in the state vector reduction is what slit the photon went through. And there are only two possibilities here because there are only two slits. Right?
In that sense, yes.

Dillinger said:
Are there many different trajectories that can lead to the same end point?
What I mean is the photon still has a sort of "blurry" path through one of the slits. It cannot have a defined trajectory because this would violate the uncertainty principle. It's not that the wave function collapsed into a particle...it's still a wave, just smaller and acts much more like a particle. There are slightly different possible locations of the particle as it goes through one slit.
 
#13
Do you believe that most physicists don't understand the implications of von Neumann's work?
I don't know how I could really answer that. There is a very wide variety of opinions on the measurement problem, and there are Nobel laureates behind just about any interpretation. Some reject all the interpretations as just philosophy. But generally speaking, consciousness seems to be mostly rejected as having nothing to do with the measurement problem. It doesn't seem to be well represented when you hear debates and discussions on the measurement problem.

That's why I think invoking quantum theory to explain psi effects requires caution and reservation. How can one justify an explanation of an unknown with another unknown? It is referenced as if it is a given that consciousness is necessary for quantum theory, but most physicists reject this, and at least in one respect they are right because they can make their calculations and predictions very successfully regardless of their interpretation.

I think experiments by Dean Radin are beginning to directly address the issue and may prove fruitful.
 
#14
Yes, but orthodox Copenhagen doesn't invoke consciousness.
But in light of von Neumann's work, we can say that an "observation" actually does entail consciousness. So, if an observation collapses the wave function, then we can say that consciousness collapses the wave function.

It means that there is only one consciousness that causes collapse.
Do you mean an all-pervading consciousness like Brahman? Or, are you referring to something else?

Yes, as opposed to invoking consciousness.
I'm still not following you here. How is the "experience" of a material entity different from the "consciousness" of a material entity? Can you give an example of the "experience of a material entity?"

My opinion is yes, since exchange of a qubit does not require any energy, and would offer a bridge between consciousness and matter.
Can you elaborate on what exactly constitutes an "exchange of a quibit?" (I understand the state of a qubit to be in a superposition of both a 0 and 1. This is in contradistinction to a classical bit which is in state of either a 0 or 1).
 
#15
What I mean is the photon still has a sort of "blurry" path through one of the slits. It cannot have a defined trajectory because this would violate the uncertainty principle. It's not that the wave function collapsed into a particle...it's still a wave, just smaller and acts much more like a particle. There are slightly different possible locations of the particle as it goes through one slit.
Let me ask you this. In the single-slit experiment, are the possibilities of all the locations in the wave function "reduced" by 50%?
 
#16
But in light of von Neumann's work, we can say that an "observation" actually does entail consciousness. So, if an observation collapses the wave function, then we can say that consciousness collapses the wave function.
I don't think we can say that definitively. However I do think that the PK experiments by Radin and retroPK especially by Schmidt do suggest this model. At least I can say there is empirical evidence to support this idea.

But I also don't know if the description of wave function collapse really gets at what I imagine. Really the wave function "exists" in information fields outside of spacetime, and when there is conscious observation, there is the experience of one of the possibilities, which is projected and manifested as our experience of spacetime and matter.

I feel it is like the quantum computation models, just involving consciousness. "Collapse" is really just the conscious experience of a possibility. Sort of like a video game, really, where the world is created and projected as you move through it.


Dillinger said:
Do you mean an all-pervading consciousness like Brahman? Or, are you referring to something else?
Brahman is the best description, yes.

Dillinger said:
I'm still not following you here. How is the "experience" of a material entity different from the "consciousness" of a material entity? Can you give an example of the "experience of a material entity?"
To me it seems as a sort of epistemic interpretation without invoking consciousness. But I think I should read more about it.


Dillinger said:
Can you elaborate on what exactly constitutes an "exchange of a quibit?" (I understand the state of a qubit to be in a superposition of both a 0 and 1. This is in contradistinction to a classical bit which is in state of either a 0 or 1).
I don't know if I could say what really constitutes and exchange. Quantum teleportation is really teleportation of information states of particles, or an instantaneous teleportation of qubits. No energy is required for the transfer. Think of quantum information as distinctions between one thing and another.
 
#18
I don't know how I could really answer that. There is a very wide variety of opinions on the measurement problem, and there are Nobel laureates behind just about any interpretation. Some reject all the interpretations as just philosophy. But generally speaking, consciousness seems to be mostly rejected as having nothing to do with the measurement problem. It doesn't seem to be well represented when you hear debates and discussions on the measurement problem.
This probably just reveals a materialistic bias in the physics community.

That's why I think invoking quantum theory to explain psi effects requires caution and reservation. How can one justify an explanation of an unknown with another unknown? It is referenced as if it is a given that consciousness is necessary for quantum theory, but most physicists reject this, and at least in one respect they are right because they can make their calculations and predictions very successfully regardless of their interpretation.
That's the instrumental interpretation (which basically comes down to just do the calculations and don't worry what that math means). At any rate, the Copenhagen interpretation is still the standard interpretation in the physics community.

I think experiments by Dean Radin are beginning to directly address the issue and may prove fruitful.
I'm not really familiar with his work in this area. I know he has done a lot of psi research with random number generators.
 
#19
But I also don't know if the description of wave function collapse really gets at what I imagine. Really the wave function "exists" in information fields outside of spacetime, and when there is conscious observation, there is the experience of one of the possibilities, which is projected and manifested as our experience of spacetime and matter.
What exactly causes decoherence to occur?
 
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