My philosophy and quantum physics

Probability waves of an electron in a hydrogen atom.
Source: Wikipedia.
In my book Why Materialism Is Baloney, I argue that we do not need to postulate a whole universe outside consciousness – outside subjective experience – in order to make sense of empirical reality. The implication is that all reality, including our bodies and brains, are in consciousness, not consciousness in our bodies and brains. My worldview is compatible with a classical view of nature: it doesn't exclude the possibility that objects may exist in definite states and locations even if no living creature is observing them. Indeed, my worldview accepts a non-personal form of consciousness underlying all nature, in which objects can still exist as non-personal experiences, with definite outlines, even when not observed by personal psyches. The latest experiments in quantum mechanics, however, seem to defeat this classical view of empirical reality.* They seem to show that, when not observed by personal psyches, reality exists in a fuzzy state, as waves of probabilities. Although this seeming implication of quantum mechanics is in no way incompatible with my worldview, this essay aims to make more explicit the harmonious – even natural and synergistic – relationship between the two.

Before we begin, let me briefly recapitulate the core ideas in the book. Consciousness is the only carrier of reality anyone can ever know for sure; it is the one undeniable, empirical fact of existence. My view is that we do not need more than this one undeniable fact to explain reality: all things and phenomena can be explained as excitations of consciousness itself. As such, underlying all reality is a stream of subjectivity that I metaphorically describe as a stream of water (water being analogous to consciousness). Inanimate objects are ripples in the stream, experienced subjectively by the mind-at-large that is the stream itself. Living creatures are localizations of the flow of water in the stream: whirlpools. The body-brain system is, as such, the image of a process of localization in the stream of subjective experiences of mind-at-large. The body-brain system doesn't generate consciousness for exactly the same reason that a whirlpool doesn't generate water. And since there is nothing to a stream full of ripples and whirlpools but water in movement, all reality is simply consciousness in movement. The movement of consciousness/water is what we call subjective experience.

Because of a natural mechanism of amplification that I explain in Chapter 5 of the book, and briefly summarize in this article, the movements of water within each whirlpool obfuscate the movements outside the whirlpool. Therefore, a living creature is self-reflectively aware only of the ripples that penetrate the rim of its own whirlpool – in our case, our skin, eyes, ears, tongue, and nose – but is unaware of everything else going on in the stream. This is the reason why we can't see when we close our eyes: the ripples from the broader stream that we call photons can no longer penetrate the rim of our whirlpool and get amplified within it. And since our thoughts, emotions, and other forms of perception do get amplified inside, the outside ripples in the form of photons end up becoming obfuscated like the stars are obfuscated by the sun at noon. Yet, those ripples are still in consciousness, for the same reason that the stars are still in the sky at noon. They just aren't in our personal consciousness; that is, they don't penetrate our whirlpool. As such, all nature is in consciousness in the form of ripples (inanimate objects and phenomena) and whirlpools (living creatures) in the stream. But only certain aspects of nature enter personal consciousness, in the form of ripples that penetrate a whirlpool and get caught and amplified within its internal vortex.

This worldview is entirely compatible with classical physics: it does not exclude the possibility that the ripples of the broader stream that never penetrate a whirlpool can still exist in definite form, in a definite space-time locus. They can still exist as definite experiences in non-personal mind-at-large; that is, the stream itself. But quantum mechanics has been showing that such a view is untenable: when not observed by personal, localized consciousness – that is, when not penetrating a whirlpool – reality isn't definite.* Instead, it exists only as fuzzy waves of probabilities. How to reconcile this with the worldview just described?

Clearly, the ripples in the broader stream (mind-at-large) must be ripples of probabilities, governed by Schrödinger's equation. They are subjectively experienced by mind-at-large as fuzzy possibilities, not definite storylines. There is nothing counterintuitive about it: when we ponder about our own uncertain futures, we know exactly what it feels like to experience reality as fuzzy possibilities. Now, we know from direct experience that, when a ripple of probabilities does penetrate a whirlpool, the many possibilities superposed in it collapse into one well-defined, classical storyline. Thus, it is reasonable to infer that whatever collapses the ripple of probabilities into one specific storyline has something to do with the amplification inherent to each whirlpool. I would go further and speculate that the mechanism of collapse is the amplification: only one of the possibilities superposed in the ripple gets amplified, obfuscating all others in exactly the same way that all reality external to the whirlpool is obfuscated. In other words, collapse happens for exactly the same reason that you can't see when you close your eyes. This is quite parsimonious because both collapse and obfuscation are explained by one and the same mechanism in the whirlpool. Now, as it turns out, the particular storyline 'chosen' for amplification by one whirlpool is consistent with what other whirlpools also 'choose,' since we all seem to share the same reality. How exactly this synchronization happens is an open question, although there are reasonable avenues of speculation. But that it can happen isn't at all surprising, since all whirlpools are, ultimately, one and the same mind. It is intuitively reasonable to expect that one consistent storyline should prevail in this one mind-at-large.

There is a sense in which what I describe above brings the Copenhagen and Many-Worlds interpretations of quantum mechanics closer together: a kind of collapse does occur, in that only one out of the many possibilities superposed in the probability ripple is amplified and thus experienced in a classical sense. This clearly differentiates one storyline from all the others and avoids the need to postulate classical parallel universes. But this collapse isn't a fundamental ontological transition: it consists simply in the amplification of one particular possibility, which then obfuscates all others. All possible storylines continue to be experienced as fuzzy, obfuscated possibilities in the stream of mind, but only one is amplified and clearly experienced in a classical manner. Again, this is parsimonious in that it avoids the need to postulate different ontological categories for superposed ('fuzzy') and collapsed ('definite') storylines. It all becomes a matter of degree, not of change in fundamental nature. Finally, notice also that this interpretation is entirely compatible with quantum decoherence, for reasons that escape the scope of this brief essay but which physicists will immediately recognize.

This is a relatively unexplored avenue of thought that, currently, is still too speculative. In Why Materialism Is Baloney I made the deliberate choice not to include it. The first reason for this I just mentioned: it isn't mature enough. The second reason was my goal to make the ideas in the book entirely compatible with the classical view of nature, because that's much more intuitive and accessible to the average person. It is possible, however, that in the future I will elaborate more on the above. Please let me know in the comments section below if you think this is a good idea (Attention: if there are more than 50 comments you have to click on "Load more" at the very bottom of the page to read the latest comments.)

* See, for instance:
  1. Kim, Y.-H. et al. (2000). A Delayed Choice Quantum Eraser. Physical Review Letters 84, pp. 1–5. The authors show that observation not only determines the reality observed at present, but also retroactively changes the history of what is observed accordingly. This is entirely consistent with the notion that reality is fundamentally a story playing itself out in mind.
  2. Gröblacher , S. et al. (2007). An experimental test of non-local realism. Nature 446, pp. 871-875. The authors show that reality is either entirely in consciousness or we must abandon our strongest intuitions about what objectivity means. Physicsworld.com, in a related article, went as far as to claim that ‘quantum physics says goodbye to reality.’
  3. Lapkiewicz, R. et al. (2011). Experimental non-classicality of an indivisible quantum system. Nature 474, pp. 490–493. The authors show that, unlike what one would expect if reality were independent of mind, the properties of a quantum system do not exist prior to observation. Renowned physicist Anton Zeilinger, in a related New Scientist article suitably titled “Quantum magic trick shows reality is what you make it,” is quoted as saying that “there is no sense in assuming that what we do not measure about a system has [an independent] reality.”
  4. Xiao-song Ma et al. (2013). Quantum erasure with causally disconnected choice. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 110, pp. 1221-1226. Again, the authors show that no naively objective view of reality can be true, which is consistent with the notion that reality is fundamentally subjective. A less-technical explanation of the experiment in this paper, as well as its results, can be found here.
Copyright © 2014 by Bernardo Kastrup. All rights are reserved.

Comments

  1. I think you need to explore this further -- this is a natural step in the evolution of your idea, in my opinion.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I wonder - can we not dodge some of this by simply saying that the environment is itself an observer? If all there is is consciousness, then the environment is always experiencing itself.

    David Bohm made some steps in this direction with his idea of 'active information', and that the structure of experiments themselves dictated the outcome, rather than simply the observation - extending this to a dual mind/matter view. Worth a read here:

    http://www.tcm.phy.cam.ac.uk/~mdt26/local_papers/bohm_mind_matter_1990.pdf

    There's a better paper in which he discusses an experiment where light can follow one of two possible paths, and the observation would imply that the light must have 'known in advance' about a later obstacle - unless of course the whole experimental setup acts as a single environment that informs the behaviour as a whole. The probability is thus effectively pre-collapsed; the pathway is already made which will guide the light.

    "He rejects the view that their motion is fundamentally uncertain or ambiguous; they follow a precise path, but one which is determined not only by conventional physical forces but also by a more subtle force which he calls the quantum potential. The quantum potential guides the motion of particles by providing "active information" about the whole environment. Bohm gives the analogy of a ship being guided by radar signals: the radar carries information from all around and guides the ship by giving form to the movement produced by the much greater but unformed power of its engines."

    - http://www.theosophy-nw.org/theosnw/science/prat-boh.htm


    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. >> wonder - can we not dodge some of this by simply saying that the environment is itself an observer? If all there is is consciousness, then the environment is always experiencing itself. <<

      Yes, I love it. The problem, however, is that if this were the case, the issue would never have come up in the first place! The world would always be classic. There would be no quantum measurement problem. So, empirically speaking, this cannot be the answer, not matter how much I love it. :)

      Delete
    2. Okay, brief stab at this - - -

      By "observer" we don't necessarily need to mean that "consciousness" collapses a wave function. A wave function is never collapsed except from a particular perspective. Rather, the environment has a "shape" which dictates what happens - as in the apparatus setup in a 'quantum eraser' experiment is itself defining the outcome. That one piece of equipment is specially labelled as the 'detector' because it happens to produce a human-readable output is neither here nor there - the whole experiment is a detector, or a "guiding pattern".

      This is what Bohm means by 'active information' - basically, that the arrangement of equipment is 'active' in the events which occur within it. This is a little similar to de Broglie's "pilot wave" concept. Readable chat on that here:

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pilot_wave

      So this comes in two parts:

      1. That quantum effects can be interpreted in terms of the experimental environment as a whole dictating the outcome, rather than just the end-point 'magically and retroactively' dictating what happened.

      2. That if everything is made from consciousness, still no special considerations need to be included for 'probabilities collapsing' and the like,

      I've always thought that Copenhagen, Many Worlds, and the notion that quantum mechanics 'just works but cannot be understood; it's a mathematical structure only' (Bohr) are a bit dubious...

      Aside: After all, the 'space-time deformation' view of gravity is effectively an active information theory - i.e. that information about the arrangement of objects is available to the environment as a whole and dictates events that arise within that environment, without 'direct encountering' being required.

      Delete
    3. I should add: This means that there is no collapse of probabilities; it is all deterministic, but determined by the overall setup (e.g. like shaped space-time, or an interference pattern arising from the apparatus arrangement) rather than by a moment-by-moment sequence of events (e.g. billiard balls).

      (This is remarkably hard to convey - I need diagrams! :-)

      Delete
    4. >> By "observer" we don't necessarily need to mean that "consciousness" collapses a wave function. <<

      There has been decades of discussion on this in QM. But the point of the papers I link at the bottom of the essay is that Realism is becoming untenable, which implies that consciousness is primary. That's my starting point.

      The experimental arrangement determines the 'question asked,' but not the answer. The answer is given by nature e.g. through 'collapse,' or MW-splitting, etc. The experimental setup does not determine the answer. And decoherence is not an interpretation: it doesn't answer the question of how the environment becomes classical in the first place.

      >> That if everything is made from consciousness, still no special considerations need to be included for 'probabilities collapsing' and the like <<

      I don't understand what you mean with the above quote.

      Delete
    5. The 2007 Gröblacher paper basically means that most global hidden-variable theories cannot be true. I am saying this because of your reference to pilot waves.

      Delete
    6. Thanks, I haven't read that paper so will do! David Bohm's answer to this was the 'quantum potential', which isn't entirely classical, but there are problems there too:

      http://www.fdavidpeat.com/bibliography/essays/fzmean.htm

      I'll do some musings anyway, if I may:

      Is the core problem to all of this that we insist on viewing things as unfolding in time, as if each moment followed 'afresh but caused' from the next? Whereas it might be better viewed as a single pattern where 'everything is taken into account' - it's just that we experience it one moment at a time? From any point, the future is a 'fuzzy possibility' from that perspective, as are aspects of the present moment, but it is in fact determined by the event that will be experienced as occurring later.

      Your whirlpools exists "now", but what motivates their evolution and change? Where is yesterday and tomorrow in that model? Are they implicit somehow?

      A holographic type view would have it that implicit in every part of the water is the whole pattern (the entire pattern of all moments in time and space), but at any point only one part of the pattern becomes explicit or manifest.

      Or Julian Barbour's idea of a timeless universe consisting of a configuration space ("Platonia") where each moment appeared afresh is a similar approach.

      In either of those approaches, our 'intentions' would be injected not just into the moment, but into all moments - that pattern as a whole - and the next moment to become 'explicit' would have all of this taken into account.


      Delete
    7. I entertain a lot the idea of timelessness in my private musings. I do think many of the issues we wrestle with today are artificial 'inventions' of the time perspective and, ultimately, don't really exist. That said, I am attempting here to stay as close as possible to scientific thinking and QM. I do think we can make quite some progress while still sticking to space-time thinking, even if we can't arrive at the ultimate destination that way. Moreover, our very thought processes are inherently tied to space-time concepts. We can't think or communicate logically without pre-supposing space-time and causality in some form. And I do think we can still make quite some progress within these constraints, merely because our current mainstream worldview is so screwed-up it leaves a lot of room open for improvement. :)

      Delete
    8. Heh, last statement very true! My concern is that without including an implicate order or timelessness of some sort, you are reduced to trying to incorporate some sort of messaging of probabilities, and this adds an extra 'functionality' layer to your model that it may not require - and will move it away from what makes it attractive in the first place.

      As it stands, you've successfully dodged 'timelines' and 'branching' and other essentially diagrammatic-representations-taken-as-reality...

      Delete
    9. George, I hear you, and see the value in what you're saying... will contemplate this over the coming days... thanks! PS: Are you a physicist?

      Delete
    10. Former solid state physicist, lured elsewhere for da cash! I was always more interested in the philosophical aspect anyway really.

      Delete
    11. George this was a very interesting discussion, you should join us on Bernardo's forum.

      Delete
    12. George, that's a very good suggestion by anonymous...

      Delete
  3. >I wonder - can we not dodge some of this by simply saying that the environment is itself an observer? If all there is is consciousness, then the environment is always experiencing itself.

    Using the water/whirlpool analogy, consensus reality is a larger localized pool of water containing all our whirlpools and the rest of Nature and acting as Observer for quantum collapse purposes. Note: no need to invoke God.

    I think the only problem with all this is that if there was higher level consciousness collapsing wave functions, the issue would never come up and be seen in the first place?

    Bob

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. >> I think the only problem with all this is that if there was higher level consciousness collapsing wave functions, the issue would never come up and be seen in the first place? <<

      Exactly! That's the problem.

      Delete
    2. Unless wave functions only appear collapsed from the perspective of that higher level - which is 'timeless' or 'sees all time'. For sub-whirlpools unfolding through that time-space, the illusion of probabilities and collapsing possibilities would still exist.

      Delete
    3. >Unless wave functions only appear collapsed from the perspective of that higher level - which is 'timeless' or 'sees all time'. For sub-whirlpools unfolding through that time-space, the illusion of probabilities and collapsing possibilities would still exist.

      hmm.. hadnt thought of that. fits NDE accounts. very, very interesting.

      Delete
  4. "The first reason for this I just mentioned: it isn't mature enough."

    We talkin' terrible twos, or tween, or what?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. :-) Not sure how immature. For now, I can't, for instance, answer how or why every whirlpool seems to 'choose' the same storyline to amplify, so reality is consistent across observers...

      Delete
  5. Welcome back Bernardo. Hope you had a good trip. I missed you. Couple things. The theory of Quantum decoherence isn't falsifiable so it's not great science per se. I still don't understand why folks have a problem with the Copenhagen interpretation after all this time. It seems to have stood the test of time unlike hidden variables. Trying to relate quantum mechanics to consciousness is tough. Both are so difficult to intuit. Personally I still see QM as part of this space time while consciousness is transcendent outside space time. How they interact (and they definitely interact) here is a great challenge of our time. They appear to share some qualities like entanglement, non locality, and retrocausation. However, consciousness is still fundamental while QM is not. QM is still electromagnetism and consciousness is not. It's going to be hard to get past the One experiencing Itself as us, like the Dreamer experiencing Itself as you in your dream. I think dream theory can help us here. You understand.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. If my "non-dual idealism" is right, QM just captures patterns and regularities intrinsic to consciousness; it's not separate from consciousness. Regarding the Copenhagen interpretation, I sympathize with it like you, but leaving it at that doesn't cover every base, I think. If I were to stop at Copenhagen I would say that ripples in the broader stream (mind-at-large) are ripples of probabilities, and then say that when a ripple of probability penetrates a whirlpool it, for some unexplained reason and in some unexplained way, collapses into a single possibility across the entire stream. But wait... How? Why? What is it about a whirlpool that causes this extraordinary global effect? Moreover, I would be faced with two ontological categories: ripples of probabilities and ripples of definite stories, and a somewhat magical transition between the two. To me, these are just too many gaps. So I feel the need to look closer into what is going on. What I wrote above, I believe, is parsimonious in at least two ways: it doesn't require the two ontological categories (there are only possibilities, some of which happen to be amplified) and it doesn't require multiple whirlpool mechanisms (the same mechanism of amplification also does the collapsing). Cheers, B.

      Delete
    2. I understand. However I don't see the Copenhagen interpretation in your analogy as ripples in the stream but ripples in your whirlpool. In your analogy for me way "upstream" in an endless still ocean of consciousness the larger stream doesn't ripple it "just is" the fabric or "substance" of every thing that does.
      I have no doubt you'll get it.

      Delete
    3. Hhmm... in my analogy, rocks are ripples in the stream, which penetrate certain whirlpools (the ones looking at, or in any way perceiving, the rocks). All inanimate objects are ripples in the stream. Living beings are whirlpools in the stream. Ordinary perception by a living being happens when those ripples in the stream penetrate the being's whirlpool. Our sense organs are the rim of our whirlpools. When we close our eyes, we can't see because the ripples we call photons can't penetrate our whirlpool.
      According to the latest QM experiments, it appears that only INSIDE the whirlpools is reality definite. Ripples in the stream that haven't penetrated any whirlpool are ripples of probabilities, not of definite things or events.

      Delete
    4. Hey John!

      retrocausation - now there is some scary, we are not in Kansas any longer, mojo if there ever was.

      Bob

      Delete
    5. RHC. Love QM. Was probably here long before we came and will probably be here long after we leave. But, it's not consciousness. Just normal electron stuff popping in and out of exist at the planck scale so the see we can see stuff while here. What I hope Bernardo figures out is how we we interact with it to see something from "nothing".

      Delete
    6. John, no small task. Your faith in me is humbling. :)

      Delete
  6. Interesting, Bernardo. What would be your opinion on such things as the ease of crystallisation of newly-synthesised chemical compounds? As Rupert Sheldrake has entertainingly observed, it's widely known that over time, crystallisation becomes easier and easier (but chemists may seriously believe that crystals of new compounds may be carried on the beards or hair of chemists from one laboratory to another, thus seeding the next crystallisation).

    Maybe what's happening is that there's an attractor towards which the crystallisation process is being pulled, and maybe consciousness has a part to play in that: the more people observe a phenomenon, the more it gets pulled towards the attractor? Just a guess, of course, and I don't really know how or even if that would relate to QM. There are other somewhat similar phenomena like how the effectiveness of many new drugs seems to reduce over time, which could point to some effect at the level of localised consciousness: maybe initially, new drugs seem to work due to a placebo effect that in time wears off, at which point the drug has arrived at an attractor that dictates it isn't effective.

    Are you saying that things like the stars we can all observe are a fully collapsed possibility in mind at large? Rather than implying that local consciousnesses do the collapsing? If that's the case, then wouldn't mind at large have a kind of reflective awareness? One could, I suppose, view organic evolution as analogous to what happens in the case of crystallisation: a potential in the consciousness of mind at large that is gradually heading towards an attractor or goal it has without knowing exactly what the endpoint might be.

    Maybe I'm talking out of my rear end: I don't know. But I don't mind expressing my thoughts and asking my questions even if they're preposterous.

    One other point: I'd really like to see you go on to write something about how quantum physics relates to Idealism, but if you do, please remember folk like me who are mathematically challenged: I'd hope you would be able not to lose us! ;-)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I am open to the idea of teleological attractors, but I don't know how that relates to QM and the measurement problem. And, in any case, I don't think it is useful to bring that into the problem before we sort some basic questions around QM. We don't even know how a table is a table, let alone how attractors --if they exist -- work in QM.

      >> Are you saying that things like the stars we can all observe are a fully collapsed possibility in mind at large? <<

      I am saying that my philosophy of "non-dual idealism" allows for this to be the case, although QM increasingly suggests that this cannot be the case. And, as I argue in the essay, non-dual idealism is consistent with QM too, and may even help explain the measurement problem of QM.

      >> Rather than implying that local consciousnesses do the collapsing? <<

      No. QM is showing that local consciousness seems to be necessary.

      >> If that's the case, then wouldn't mind at large have a kind of reflective awareness? <<

      Yes, but that doesn't seem to be the case. :)

      >> One could, I suppose, view organic evolution as analogous to what happens in the case of crystallisation: a potential in the consciousness of mind at large that is gradually heading towards an attractor or goal it has without knowing exactly what the endpoint might be. <<

      I am very sympathetic to this notion, although I wouldn't conflate it with the subject of this essay. Here we are dealing with much more basic things that still have no satisfactory explanation.

      >> I'd hope you would be able not to lose us! ;-) <<

      I am doing my best! No equations above! ;)

      Delete
    2. "I am saying that my philosophy of "non-dual idealism" allows for this to be the case, although QM increasingly suggests that this cannot be the case. And, as I argue in the essay, non-dual idealism is consistent with QM too, and may even help explain the measurement problem of QM."

      Right. Thanks for the clarification. Thing is, I have a hard time grokking that. Stars, and even moreso galaxies/clusters of galaxies, are portrayed as progressively enormous and very distant phenomena.

      I could understand it better if what we see in the night sky wasn't the way it was generally interpreted. I think I've conjectured in the past that it may all be a consensual "reality" out there that is not really any "distance" away. So far, the only observer that's gone out there an appreciable "distance" is the voyager explorer, which has reportedly barely gone outside the solar system. Is Voyager, as a possible extension of us as human observers in a sense creating data as it "travels"?

      Maybe it's a bit like Tom Campbell's TOE interpretation: consciousness at large continuously updating in real time a virtual reality in such a way that everything can be coherent, as well as consistent with what has been previously observed by localised consciousness.

      I mean: in ancient times, we used to look at the stars and maybe think of them as pinpricks in the dome of the sky or something. And then we thought of them as distant objects, and now some things that at one time we thought of as stars we think of as galaxies. And, lo and behold, once we start observing data, the universe is unfolding for us a story of itself. But why should what we once thought a star have turned out to be a galaxy itself seemingly composed of stars? And how can human consciousness affect what we see out there if stars and galaxies are in fact enormous objects enormously far away?

      It seems to me that either the cosmos (roughly at least) is as it's currently interpreted (and is that way because it's a collapsed possibility in mind at large); OR it's at least partly the product of consensual localised consciousness and not really as it's currently interpreted.

      Maybe mind at large and localised consciousness in some way BOTH participate in creating the way that reality is perceived. Whatever, it's mind-blowing stuff...

      Delete
    3. My formulation can accommodate the hypotheses you raise, as well as the ones you oppose. I won't endorse or refute either side; just saying that they can all be easily accommodated in my worldview, so I'll remain agnostic. :)

      Delete
    4. I don't really oppose anything, Bernardo. I too have to remain agnostic; but certainly, there are hypotheses I lean more towards than others.

      This information you have provided is new to me: QM seems to refute the idea that mind at large has collapsed certain cosmic possibilities. That's not something that sits particularly easily with me, but I trust what you say and so I have to factor it into the mix. It'll be something that I know I'll be turning over for a while.

      Delete
    5. If it serves as consolation, I'm also not too comfortable with QM results... but I have known them for a while, so had time to get used to the implications. :) Either way, they do strongly support idealism in that they show that there's no definite reality "out there" without mentation (personal mentation, as the case may be).

      Delete
    6. A very productive exchange, Bernardo, for which I thank you. We can't simply reject what we don't like when there's sound evidence for it, can we? We have to embrace it and modify our world view.

      Delete
  7. This is an important and significant idea that addresses perhaps the most important issue resulting from quantum theory. I look forward to your pursuing it in more detail. Looks like you have the subject for your next book!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Next-next book then ;) The next is already under way, and it's not about QM... ;)

      Delete
  8. I've enjoyed this very much, but have just been skimming, not reading too carefully. This may or may not be relevant, but I just received this in my email this morning, and thought it might relate in some way.



    His familiar ‘I’ is simply the sort of person a man imagines himself to be, an imagination which he changes from time to time during life. All the other persons also exist besides ourself but like our own personality, they exist as thoughts. Only when we or they find the truth behind personality do we or they attain an existence higher than that of a thought. For the person to which we all cling so stubbornly is after all but a mere shadow thrown by the Overself, a pale relic of its transcendent self. It may now become a little clearer why the egoistic approach to the world prevents us from arriving at truth, and therefore why the philosophic discipline demands the reining‑in of the person. For the birth of objects as ideas cannot be accounted for and must remain incomprehensible and mysterious so long as we persist in thinking that the world-experience is solely our own experience. The egoist ignores the one World‑Mind within which his little mind is itself contained, fails to perceive that his is only a semi‑independent perception. Human experience is the final residue of a process of inter‑action, a fabric conjointly woven with a common mind in which all human beings dwell and think and which dwells and thinks in them. The world itself is the outcome of a combined cosmic and individual imagination.
    -- The Wisdom of the Overself, Chapter VI, The Secret of the 'I', The Hidden Observer.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Bernardo,
    After studying your ideas for the past few weeks and the philosophical implications of Quantum Mechanics for several years, I really think you ought to look into the epistemic view that the quantum state is information or incomplete knowledge of one system about another system. A measurement in this scenario is then just an updating of knowledge, and the measurement problem is dissolved because there is no ontology to deal with. You cite Zeilinger et al.'s work in your book to support your idea that there is no ontology or hidden variables to which we can assign unique values; in fact, Zeilinger is known as a neo-Copenhagenist (the prefix "neo-" reflects the fact splitting the world as in the Copenhagen Interpretation into quantum and classical is seen as ad hoc nowadays--it's QM all the way down), and the Copenhagen Interpretation is an epistemic one that holds subjective experience as primary. The so-called Quantum Bayesianists or QBists, e.g. Chris Fuchs and company at the Perimeter Institute, also take an informational approach and is compatible with your metaphysics. The Everettians (Many Worlds and Many Minds interpretations) regard the quantum state Psi as a real physical thing where each of its components correspond to a separate universe (or mind). It is a realist and literal interpretation of QM and as such I don't think it is compatible with your idealist metaphysics. (Does your version of QM have to fit your metaphysics or does your metaphysics have to fit your QM?).

    I find it interesting that in a later chapter of your book you discuss "Partial Images" and fundamental limitations of ego-consciousness to know itself and/or patterns in the "unconscious". This reminds me of the two famous "no-go" theorems that prove the impossibility of local and non-contextual hidden variable theories. I will spend another couple of years pondering the details of your various metaphors and analogies. I hope you find my observations useful.
    Matthew

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Matthew,
      I explore more of this in an upcoming book titled "More Than Allegory." It's a book about religious myths but, in Part III, I take an opportunity to return to the measurement problem with a more specific and detailed perspective. The book should be out early next year! To anticipate it, I can say that I am sympathetic to the QBism interpretation, for reasons that I can't really explain in a comment but are clear in the book.
      Cheers, B.

      Delete
  10. Thanks for this, Bernardo. As someone who is relatively new to your wonderful writing, I've wondered about your take on quantum mechanics. I'm all in favor of you diving into that topic more fully. To that end, this recently came across my radar, which might add a new twist: http://www.wired.com/2014/06/the-new-quantum-reality/

    Also interested in hearing how your work intersects with Bohm's (et al.) "holographic universe," implicate/explicate order ideas. You may have already addressed this, but if so I have not yet found where.

    Thanks! Keep it up. I am thoroughly enjoying reading your work!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Tim, and apologies for the late reaction. Several comments here fell through the cracks when I was away at an event last year. I talk about the relationship of my philosophy and Bohm's ideas in my latest book Brief Peeks Beyond, essay 2.6, page 50. Cheers, B.

      Delete
  11. Even the little I've read of yours, it's interesting how many of the same conclusions I've come to while formulating my own worldview, like the eddies in a river analogy (my favorite). I am happy to see in your work much of what I would express myself... happy because now I don't have to :-) Of course, I'm not a physicist and my proclivities run towards fiction, rather than non-fiction, so thanks for delving in depth into these concepts.

    Regarding QM, perhpas you can enlighten me, but it has always bothered me when people blithely extrapolate abstract mathematical inequalities and probability distributions to state unequivocally that physical properties don't really exist until observed: that because mathematical models and measurements are inexact, reality is also inexact. There is a leap of logic rarely acknowledged between the two and some people take that leap and run with it, which makes their speculations suspect to me, even if they're right.

    As I understand it, when we observe something, like a particle or a star, we take a particular viewpoint that is by definition limited in scope, preventing us from knowing all its properties at once. But that doesn't mean a particle/wave does not in fact have both a distinct position and momentum prior to being observed. It only means we can't see both properties at the same time. And what is an electron: can we really say it's a particle, or does it simply look like one from a certain perspective. From their different positions, the elephant appears to be different animals to the proverbial blind men, and this all fits, I think, with what you say above.

    But also, it is often the case that by observing something, particularly such tiny things as sub-atomic "particles", we are interacting with them... touching them... and thereby having an effect on them. Again, it doesn't necessarily follow that the observed object existed in an indeterminate, fuzzy state until "observed". It may very well mean we can't observe something without interacting with it, and thereby changing its state, but that's different than saying it didn't already have a state.

    The same can be said of a galaxy which is so distant that it has never been observed by any living thing. As a panpsychist, I believe everything is to some degree conscious, so of course the galaxy is there, "observed" by its own constituents, and an electron has distinct properties because in essence it is aware, making them as much a part of the mind of God, mind-at-large, as we are with our anthropocentric viewpoint, which tends to exclude or denigrate the perceptions of non-humans.

    Anyway, bit of a tangent there. I look forward to reading more of your work. I hope to learn more, following your logic, which I can apply to my worldview and fiction writing.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Sebastian,
      First of all, apologies for the late reaction. Several comments here fell through the cracks when I was away at an event last year.
      This passage from an upcoming book of mine may be helpful to you:

      "The latest experiments in the field of quantum mechanics have rendered all but untenable the notion that there is anything objective at all. For instance, Kim and others have shown that observation not only determines the world perceived at present, but also retroactively changes it, so that its history becomes consistent with what is measured now.107 This suggests that the world is merely a self-consistent myth constructed in the mind. Moreover, it further substantiates our earlier discussion that explanatory truths are entirely subjective. Gröblacher and others have also shown that the world is either entirely in consciousness or we must abandon our most basic intuitions about what objectivity means.108 Their work is probably the most compelling to date in refuting the notion that reality is ‘out there,’ as opposed to ‘in here.’ Lapkiewicz and others have shown that, unlike what one would expect if the universe were independent of mind, the properties of a quantum system do not exist prior to being observed.109 This suggests that things only exist insofar as they are experienced. Ma and others have again shown that no naively objective view of the world can be true.110 Finally, as I was writing this book, two new results emerged: first, a group of scientists in Australia confirmed, through yet another, more sophisticated experiment, that the universe really does not exist except insofar as it is observed.111 Then, physicists in the Netherlands performed the most rigorous experiment yet, closing a number of possible loopholes. The respected scientific journal Nature even called it the ‘toughest test yet.’112 Unsurprisingly by now, their results further confirmed the outcomes of earlier experiments.113"

      For the references, see slide 16 of this document:
      https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B173TJDGJ2MoUS1GUE41ZHV6bmc/view

      Cheers, B.

      Delete
    2. Oh, and regarding panpsychism, my position is explained here:
      https://youtu.be/hx7cspjwvHM

      Delete
  12. I generally agree with your view and I am precisely undertaking this work of arguing for this "mind makes collapse" interpretation of quantum physics. The point is, clarifying the foundations of mathematics and physics is my main field of interest. I already wrote the main ideas about this some time ago, but I am now documenting myself on what had been done by others, and preparing to complete and clean up my arguments:
    http://settheory.net/quantum-interpretations.htm

    Here are a few aspects of what I already wrote:

    - I express my view of metaphysics a bit differently from your way (I would say, I make it more complete) : I hold a sort of dualism combining this concept of universal consciousness, which you expressed, with a mathematical Platonism. Then, the "physical reality" comes as a composite of both : the physical world is the trajectory of a visit of consciousness in the mathematical world.
    http://antispirituality.net/metaphysics

    - I bring a clearer presentation of the mathematical structure of quantum physics (states, decoherence and measurement) in the simpler language of geometry (affine geometry and projective transformations), thus more clearly suggestive of its metaphysical aspects:
    settheory.net/quantum-measurement

    - I explain the foundations of mathematics (settheory.net), showing the presence of a "time" in the world of mathematics itself, that, while flowing independently of our usual time, has remarkable similarities with it : in both cases, time is the order of existence (namely : the past exists but the future does not exist yet). This nature of time of consciousness is implicitly needed for the interpretation of quantum physics (it is the source of the thermodynamic time orientation), and it is remarkable to see the similar dynamic of existence occurring in the universe of pure mathematics as well.

    When exploring the works of others, of course I saw the main intuitive ideas (consciousness collapsing the wave-function) mentioned by diverse authors, but I unfortunately did not find a very clean, correct and extensive formulation and argument for this interpretation of quantum physics, to earn the respect as compared to other interpretations. It seems that Wigner almost did it, but then abandoned it because, if I followed well, he failed to conceive consciousness as universal : starting from a concept of consciousness defined as a strictly individual one, it seemed to logically lead to solipsism, which was indefensible. At this time the most visible proponent of the mind makes collapse idea seems to be Henry Stapp, but his work has a lot of flaws, which causes a lot of damage to the scientific respectability of this view, as long as there is no better available reference.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The problem I see with mathematical Platonism is that the Platonic realm cannot be conceived as anything other than mental. So you end up with a segment of mind visiting another segment of mind, which boils down to idealism. I had this precise discussion with Edward Frenkel last week (it was captured in video and, hopefully, will be online soon). The apparent objectivity of mathematics only shows that there are non-personal realms of mentation, not that there is anything outside mentation.
      This new video may shed more light into my position:
      https://youtu.be/hx7cspjwvHM
      Cheers, B.

      Delete
  13. Why the need to postulate ‘possibilities’? Can you point to one, or experience one? The only thing truly experienced is experience; I don’t see what the idea of possibilities adds to the theory. It seems to complicate it, and ends up being something that needs to be explained. For example, it causes you to say things like MAL experiences all possibilities (I’m paraphrasing), but that sounds like a rats nest to me. You’d have to explain how and why (at least it seems to me you would).

    I should note that these ideas are FAR beyond me, but having said that it seems to me QM ties itself into knots trying to explain ‘possibilities’ when in fact they seem to me to be simply something we as people think about. They are not facts (i.e., experience).

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I sympathize with what you say, yet we have to come to grips with what empirical experiments are telling us... Cheers, B.

      Delete
  14. Very interesting! Are you aware of the double slit experiments conducted by Dean Radin and his team at the Institute of Noetic Sciences ?
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nRSBaq3vAeY

    ReplyDelete

Post a Comment

Most popular posts of the past 12 months

Thoughts and plans for 2017

Conquering the fear of oblivion (in 15 minutes)

Aristotle, Nagarjuna and the Law of Non-Contradiction in Buddhist Philosophy

Idealism vs. Common Sense

Dismantling idols: the current cultural inflection point