Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Consciousness causing collapse and temporally extended conscious states

I have recently been arguing that states of consciousness are not localized to specific times. Instead, during an interval of times of non-zero length, say from t1 to t2, there can be a fact of the matter how many states of a particular sort have occurred.

It’s now occurred to me that there is an interesting difficulty for conjoining this theory with the consciousness-causes-collapse interpretation of quantum mechanics. Let t2 be the earliest time at which it is correct to say that a collapse-causing consciousness state Q has happened, and suppose that Q does not occur at t2 but over an interval of times ending at t2. Then when does collapse happen? Suppose that collapse happens at a time t < t2. Then we have a problem for consciousness-causes-collapse. For by time t there has yet to have been a conscious state. If God were to annihilate the universe right after t2, there would be no conscious state, and yet the collapse would presumably have already occurred. So the collapse wasn’t caused by consciousness—unless there is backwards causation, which is counterintuitive.

So collapse can only happen at a time t ≥ t2. If collapse happens at a time t > t2, then either there is backwards causation or else the conscious state cannot count as an observation of the collapsed state, since the collapsed state is occurring after the conscious state. Again dismissing backwards causation, and assuming that the conscious states that cause collapse are observations, it follows that the collapse must occur precisely at t = t2.

But now we have something weird: The bulk of the conscious state that causes collapse occurs before t2. Yet only what is happening at t2 can be caused by the collapse. So the very last moment of the temporally-extended conscious state has to be what makes the difference as to the qualitative content of the conscious state—say, whether it is a consciousness of a red light or a green light. That’s a bit strange, but not impossible.

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