Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Collapse and the continuity of consciousness

One version of the quantum Zeno effect is that if you collapse a system’s wavefunction with respect to a measurement often enough, the measurement is not going to change.

Thus, if observation causes collapse, and you look at a pot of water on the stove often enough, it won’t boil. In particular, if you are continuously (or just at a dense set of times) observing the pot of water, then it won’t boil.

But of course watched pots do boil. Hence:

  • If observation causes collapse, consciousness is not temporally continuous (or temporally dense).

And the conclusion is what we would expect if causal finitism were true. :-)


Martin Cooke said...

Watching a pot boiling is nothing like continuously collapsing a system's wavefunction, though, not even if you managed to stare at it continuously. The pot is being hit by photons all the time you watch it, for instance; at the very least that means that its state will be constantly changing. Basically, the system is not isolated enough for the measurement to remain constant, even if observation does cause collapse. Note that that would be true even in the dark, as the pot is being constantly hit by molecules from the heating device. (Might I add that your argument is what we would expect if Aristotelians were not best placed to think about quantum mechanics?

Alexander R Pruss said...

It doesn't matter whether the pot changes or not and whether it is isolated or not for the Zeno effect.

Alexander R Pruss said...

The case that interests me most isn't a pot, but our observations of our own brain states.