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You can of course believe whatever you like I guess. I think the point Topher is making is that if you are setting up your own judgement in a particular field against those with more knowledge or experience, or if one's beliefs don't stand up to critical examination then they are likely to be ill-founded and plain incorrect.

This of course is academic unless one enters into a discussion about such beliefs at which point any weaknesses in the rationale behind our beliefs is likely to be exposed. This shouldn't be a problem unless we are convinced we are correct in which case the deciding factor will be the strength of the argument deployed to support our beliefs.

"Art, You can of course believe whatever you like I guess. I think the point Topher is making is that if you are setting up your own judgement in a particular field against those with more knowledge or experience," - Paul

I have spent the last 11 years reading and studying about the question of life after death. Hundreds of books, articles, websites, etc. The connection between NDE's, death bed visions, quantum physics, and the holographic universe theory is obvious to me. If someone else can't see the implications of that connection then I suppose they will just have to wait till they get to Heaven to understand what it means.

You may well be right and it seems to me that since there is no way to prove you wrong at present and you seem to be able to muster evidence to support your position, your belief is probably reasonable based on evidence you have read. That doesn't make it correct of corse as I am sure you'd agree. Hopefully we will all be able to debate it at length post mortem :)

Whether others agree or not only matters if you feel the need to convince them.

Topher Cooper
"It's been several decades since it was demonstrated conclusively with experiments that the QM "operation" of observation does not require anything conscious (the first such demonstration I know of was conducted by two physicists who were also parapsychologists)".

This is not an issue of QM and a fortiori not of science, but rather is a metaphysical issue.

You cannot in principle demonstrate that consciousness is not required. I'm guessing you mean that QM no more requires consciousness than does classical mechanics.

You know that show "Heroes" and the character Hiro Nakamura? The "master of space and time?" Well that is what we are all going to be like on the other side. And yes it's a holographic universe thing!

"From this vantage point, I had to merely think of a place and time and I was there, experiencing everything about the place and time and people present."
- excerpt from Mark Horton's NDE,

Yes, consciousness place no part in the theory of QM. Whether QM may be reduced to a deeper level theory which consciousness is a part of is another issue. The universe may, of course, only exist when a conscious entity observers it. Each time it is observed it may so be reconstituted modified since its previous existence just as if it had existed between those events. Or what we call consciousness may in some way be embedded within all physical matter (though I have always been at a loss to see any relationship between such a consciousness and my own experience of what I call consciousness) so that it observes itself and thus has a continuous existence. Or human consciousness may be irrelevant because the Great Flying Spaghetti Monster continuously observes everything.

But the speculation that there is a special role for consciousness in the collapse of the quantum state vector has been thoroughly disproved.


Hi Art

I hear what you're saying however what you say does not seem to be consistent with communications through mediums which in many cases have been shown to be highly evidential. Maybe in time you are correct and we all end up like that but based on the evidence from those who appear to live there, I wouldn't be so certain and certInly not immediately.

Please don't get this quite interesting discussion about quantum mechanics sidetracked with the usual ramblings about the holograhic universe and Mark Horton's NDE.

Topher, could you point us to some external evidence that disproves consciousness plays a role in the collapse of the quantum state vector. I would like to read such an article.

Good point sbu. Knuckles considered rapped. :)

"Topher, could you point us to some external evidence that disproves consciousness plays a role in the collapse of the quantum state vector. I would like to read such an article."

You might as well ask if he could point to an article that proves God doesn't exist. It's about interpretation - and worldviews, isn't it? Or are you just being tongue in cheek?

Barbara -- We are talking about whether it is necessary for a corporeal entity conventionally to be observing it for the quantum state vector to collapse. That is as much a physical (i.e., non-meta-physical) question as weather gravity obeys an inverse square law.

Whether there is a broader, extra-physical sense in which consciousness plays a role in physical law in general is, indeed, meta-physical. But that is another issue.
Any decent meta-physician (a classic branch of philosophy) will tell you that The Fallacy of Equivocation (changing the sense of words in mid-argument) is bad meta-physics.


"the speculation that there is a special role for consciousness in the collapse of the quantum state vector has been thoroughly disproved."

The delayed-choice quantum eraser experiment is sometimes cited as evidence for a "special role" for consciousness. Topher, how would you interpret this experiment?

I'm enjoying your contributions to this thread.

Topher, could you point us to some external evidence that disproves consciousness plays a role in the collapse of the quantum state vector. I would like to read such an article.

You could read any article about the difficulty of creating a quantum computer, since of what would be, in the Copenhagen Interpretation of QM, spontaneous collapse is the difficulty. If only it were as simple as stepping out of the room (sigh).

The so-called Quantum Zeno Effect (although I always preferred the name "The Quantum Watched Pot Effect" given in a title of a news report about it) depends on a difference in behavior when frequent, purely physical "observations" (e.g., it is hit by a burst from a laser which is then absorbed by the chamber wall) are made between recorded observations than when no such intermediate observations are made. For example, a continuously observed radioactive particle would never decay.

Or you could check out the Wikipedia article on quantum decoherence
( and follow its references.

Bottom line, this is no longer something experimentalists are testing, its something they have to work hard to take account of in contemporary experiments.



I am going on memory here, but didn't Von Nueumann's mathematical studies ultimately place consciousness outside of the quantum system? Also, read Henry Stapp's take on this same problem. I believe that consiousness may not be needed in the decoherence of the wave function, but in the experimental "choice" aspect, which lies outside the QM system. In VR terms that would be analgous to the query to the probability computer. Consciousness does not collapse the wave function but it chooses what is measured. The delayed choice experiment seems to support this. GregL

Von Nueumann essentially said that the precise point between the quantum system and the experimenter at which the collapse occurs is arbitrary and that there is no way to distinguish, and thus no need to distinguish, where in that chain the "observation" can occur. Later experimentalists showed that there is in fact, a way of making the distinction.

Originally Stapp clearly fell into the camp of those who believed that consciousness collapses the state vector. As the evidence against that accumulated its been a bit harder, for me at least, to figure out exactly what he is talking about. Sometimes he seems to just be talking metaphysics (nothing wrong with that, as long as you are not claiming it is physics, i.e., something with some experimental consequences at least in principle) or proposing a modified version of QM where consciousness can influence the way that the state vector collapses (nothing wrong with that either, and in fact, in a different manner, I have proposed the same, but it is not QM as currently understood -- in fact, it specifically violates some of the postulates of QM).

In experiments people generally decide what they are going to measure, and therefore, what kind of interaction their quantum system will have with its environment. In QM the kind of interaction has consequences not just for what is measured but what it is that is being observed (at least as seen from the straight-jacket of Copenhagen Interpretations). In some experiments, however, that choice is made mechanically and even randomly (e.g., Aspect type experiments) so the choices of a conscious agent are not always relevant even in the operation of an idealized experiment. In point of fact, though, much of the work in setting up QM experiments even without a deliberate random component is in minimizing the degree to which the environment interacts with the system in other ways, contrary to the point of the experiment (and in opposition to the conscious choice) and then properly accounting statistically for the inevitable, unpreventable residue of non-chosen interactions.

"Von Nueumann essentially said that the precise point between the quantum system and the experimenter at which the collapse occurs is arbitrary and that there is no way to distinguish, and thus no need to distinguish"

I believe that you are wrong here, I disagree anyway, Von Neumann appears to have essentially said that the experimentor must lie outside the QM system. I do not think he said that it is "arbitrary." I thought his whole analysis was to determine how the experimentor interacted with the QM system, and that his math led him to the conclusion that "consciousness" was outside of the QM system. Stapp has advanced this position into metaphysical realms, yes, even to propose a theory of life after death.


Actually he assumed that "the experimenter must lie outside of the QM system." That was a fundamental assumption that Bohr made in the original Copenhagen Interpretation -- an assumption he felt as necessary because of his extreme, naive objectivism.

Bohr took it as a simple fact of observation that the world obeys classical physics. Since quantum effects are unambiguously non-classical, they must represent interaction with "something" other than the world we inhabit, which is therefore unknowable and therefore not worth thinking about since it had no "objective" existence. We could only know and describe its interaction with the classical world (i.e., the world).

With further development it became obvious that the behavior of very small particles like electrons, when scrutinized closely enough, were dominated by these interactions. We could not (in Bohrian terms) really know much about such particles outside the realm of their interactions with the unknowable otherness.

Von Neuemann then did a thought experiment in which he first described a canonical QM experiment assuming that the sensors in the instruments were classical. Then he showed that you got the same result by assuming that the rest of the instrument was classical but the sensors were quantum (i.e., entangled with the superposed particle and also became superposed). He argued that you could proceed up the causal chain repeating the same argument, until you reached the experimenter himself (yes, himsel -- presumptions of the period, remember). (If he had dropped the assumption that the experimenter inhabits a classical world and kept going with his chain, he would have ended up with the Everett Interpretation, where no collapse occurs at all in any absolute sense)

By assumption the experimenter inhabits a classical world, so somewhere in the chain from the quantum system right up to the experimenter himself the state vector got collapsed, but there was no way to tell where. Von Neuemann was also an objectivist (though an immensely more nuanced one than Bohr) and so he concluded that since you couldn't tell where the collapse occurred, it was of no conceivable interest where it occurred.

It was Wigner who interpreted the Von Neuemann chain more specifically. He argued that since there was no distinguished points along the chain, the only place where there could be something with the special physical property of being able to cause the state vector to collapse must be at the end point. Therefore there must be a special property at that point and he felt that it must be what we call consciousness (it never seemed to occur to him, that, even given his other assumptions, there might be some purely physical property of the brain, e.g., some configuration of electrical fields, or a concentration of some unknown type of matter, that might be the source of that special property).

But more complex experiments do distinguish the points along the chain and have discovered the properties of matter necessary to cause the apparent collapse -- it just needs to be sufficiently complex and with sufficiently low entropy that the system will take part in an irreversible interaction with it.

So, a) Von Neuemann didn't demonstrate that the experimenter was outside the quantum system, b) His argument was not particularly mathematical, c) he wasn't particularly interested in consciousness as anything special, at least in this argument, d) Stapp's theory is built upon Wigner's, not Von Neuemann's, e) Von Neuemann did indeed say that within an analysis of a quantum experiment the choice of where one should consider the collapse to occur is arbitrary, f) he was, in any case later proven wrong (except that I don't remember Von Neuemann as claiming to be addressing anything beyond the then current knowledge).


"Von Neumann’s shifting of the boundary specifically put the brain of the agent inside the world governed by the quantum rules, and thereby made it the locus upon which the psycho-physical Process 1(choice) acts. Von Neumann called the mental aspect of Process 1 the "abstract ego." Stapp pointed out that von Neumann’s approach avoided the need to divide the dynamically unified physical world into differently described parts. It shifted the causally efficacious mind out of the brain. "

From a synopsis of Henry Stapp's QM presentation at Esalen.

I think I'll take a full blown (world renown) physicist's interpretation rather than yours. No offense intended.

I have to ask, what do we think became of Osama when he crossed over.

Read that paraphrase of Stapp more closely. It does not actually say that Von Neumann's concept "abstract ego" is an aspect of consciousness (think about why it would be abstract). It also doesn't say that Von Neumann agreed that he had "shifted the boundaries" (in his original paper, he considered that the question of what specifically collapses the state vector an unsolved, and possibly unsolvable -- certainly unsolvable at the time of the paper -- problem but one whose solution would make no physical difference and which therefore had no objective reality).

Part of the puzzle was that Von Neumann believed that thought was a physical process. This is the same Von Neumann who was one of the grandfather's of AI (with Turing), invented the basic architecture of the modern computer, and contributed significantly to the development mathematical logic, which he seemed to consider the mathematicalization of human thought.

Of course, there may be stuff that I haven't read, where Von Neumann changed his beliefs -- that contrary to his previous stance his chain demonstrated a specific solution to the problem of where the state vector collapses rather than demonstrating the futility of trying to answer it. He was an astoundingly complex individual, and even the simplest of us sometimes change our minds.

But to be convinced of that I will need something better than a paraphrase by an unknown summarizer of a lecture by Stapp that implies but does not state that that radical change in Von Neumann's thinking occurred.


Kris, I addressed your question in a new post!

Awesome thank you!

Here's an interesting article, "Dream Machine," on the Many World's interpretation, from the May 2 New Yorker. Here are the first paragraphs:

"ABSTRACT: ANNALS OF SCIENCE about David Deutsch and quantum computing.

"On the outskirts of Oxford lives a brilliant and distressingly thin physicist named David Deutsch, who believes in multiple universes and has conceived of an as yet unbuildable computer to test their existence. Deutsch, who has never held a job, is essentially the founding father of quantum computing ..."

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