I am a quantum physics enthusiast, but merely an amateur who finds the discussion threads of this group to be quite interesting. I have never before commented because, to be honest, I am rather lost in regard to the discussion of first person and third person. I am trying to figure out exactly what everyone is talking about, but it would be helpful if someone would point me to some source material on which these discussions are based. I would like to say however, that I found the idea of shadows and smeared selves to be a fascinating concept to think about; a delightful mental exercise. I will read with interest the comments that are bound to come from those who are the experts in this group.
Jeanne ----- Original Message ----- From: "Giu1i0 Pri5c0" <[EMAIL PROTECTED]> To: <[EMAIL PROTECTED]>; <[EMAIL PROTECTED]> Sent: Saturday, June 12, 2004 11:48 AM Subject: Shadows and smeared selves > In this note I try to outline my current thoughts on quantum physics, > for your comments. I am sending this to a few mailing lists with > overlapping memberships, so you may have received this twice or more. > I apologise if this is the case and also for the very imprecise > language and gross simplifications and analogies that I am using to > make my point. While this is really a sketch of a sketch, I wish to > discuss the core idea with people who understands these things better > than I do, so please let me have your comments (even "go back to your > first year textbook and stop wasting my time"). > I think that, while Everett's Relative State formulation of quantum > mechanics makes a lot of sense, its popular interpretation as "Many > Worlds"(MWI) should be taken only as a simple pictorial device useful > for a first understanding of the theory. > As a more accurate interpretation, I propose thinking of perceived > realities as shadows of a more complex reality. I suspect this is what > some authors, perhaps including Everett himself, were trying to say, > and that others may have said it explicitly (perhaps Lockwood), so I > would appreciate any pointer to relevant works. > I will use poor Schroedinger's cat as an example. Following Everett, > the cat is in a superposition of [cat dead] and [cat alive] states > before an observer opens the box and looks inside, and stays so after > (there is no collapse). After opening the box and looking inside, the > observer is in a superposition of [observer who remembers having seen > the cat dead] and [observer who remembers having seen the cat alive]. > The MWI says that after the act of observation (measurement) the > universe is split in two branches where the first has [cat dead] and > [observer who remembers having seen the cat dead], and the second has > [cat alive] and [observer who remembers having seen the cat alive]. > The difficulty that I have is: on the one hand we are saying that > fundamental reality contains no such things as cats dead or alive, but > on the other hand we are describing the world(s) with cats dead and > cats alive. > To clarify the first part of the statement: as we can choose any two > directions to form a basis to use for the description of a particle's > spin, all > choices generating equally valid descriptions, besides [cat dead] and > [cat alive] we should be free to use another basis to describe the > cat. While any pair of independent linear superpositions of [cat dead] > and [cat alive] will do, of course I have no idea of what such a > superposition would "look like". > Since I cannot remember having ever seen one, I do not know what a > superposition of [cat dead] and [cat alive] would look like, so > probably I would not recognise one if I saw it. Perhaps this is the > reason why I cannot remember having ever seen one. > In other words, perhaps since reality is One Big World too complex for > our minds to process efficiently, we use a simplified representation > as Many (small) Worlds for our processing. This is not so surprising > when we remember that our best computer programs use data compression > and segmentation techniques, throwing most of the information away, to > perform complex tasks such as face recognition efficiently. Perhaps > reducing a complex reality to parallel worlds is a successful trick > that sentient beings have developed to process reality more > efficiently. > I believe thinking of shadows may be a better mental device than > thinking of parallel worlds. Using this model the realities that I, > and my doubles in other branches of the MWI model, perceive can be > thought of as shadows of a more complex reality. Observing a shadow > permits saying certain things about its source, like size and overall > shape, but not other things like colour and smell. The shadow does not > contain such information. Also, much of what we can say about shadows > has more to do with illumination and the surface where the shadow is > cast than with the actual source. > Thinking of multiple worlds as shadows brings us back to Plato's cave, > but there are two important differences: First, each of us observes > shadows of the *real* world in a very large number of caves in > parallel. Second, we are shadows ourselves, our mental computational > processes being shadows of other, possibly much more complex, > computational processes. > In my view of the world, saying "my mental computational processes" is > just another way to say "I". So what am I a shadow of? I don't know, > but perhaps by observing the shadow I can develop some plausible > assumptions on the source. > I know that I am a conscious being: though I am not able to put my > finger precisely on what consciousness *is*, I know that it is a > property that I posses. I also think that consciousness must have > something to do with complexity: if a computational process is complex > enough, it may become a conscious process. > So, since it seems reasonable to think that a source must have a > degree of complexity not lower than its shadow, we should consider the > possibility that we are shadows cast by conscious sources. > Following Greg Egan who outlined something similar in his novel > "Quarantine", we can use the term "smeared self" to indicate such a > source. Your smeared self is simultaneosly conscious of a very large > number of Everett branches, and you, who can only perceive one, are > the shadow that your smeared self is casting on this specific branch. > The mental activity of your smeared self may well be much more complex > than yours, and perhaps the interaction between I who wrote this very > speculative and imprecise note, and you who are reading it, is the > shadow of a much more complex interaction between our smeared selves. > >