At 05:04 AM 5/23/2005, you wrote:
On Sun, 22 May 2005, rmiller wrote:
I'm approaching this as a sociologist with some physics background so I'm
focusing on what the behavior system perceives ("measures"). If all
possible worlds exist in a superpositional state, then the behavior
system should likewise exist in a superpositional state.
First, it looks like you are confusing the multiverse of QM with the
plenitude of "all theories" or all UTM programs (Level 3 with Level 4
multiverse in Tegmark's terminology). Different level 4 worlds do not
superpose, they don't relate to each other in any way, by definition.
That depends on how one characterizes them. I'm describing a behavior
system that is described as a "snapshot" of interactions between
elements. It's an abstraction, of course, but not all that far removed
from, say, a snapshot of a neural net.
"Behaviour systems" are complicated enough that it is a mathematical
certainty that they fall in the second class.
In which case there is no way to detect that the superposition is
happening; for all practical purposes each world goes its own sweet way.
No. Probabilities differ by a small degree across z space, but there are
not necessarily discrete differences. It would be "infinite" in the sense
that a continuum is infinite, or that a line contains an infinite number of
That's a very basic assumption, of course---one that cannot be proven
without measurement. Obviously the source material (whatever that is) is
available for the behavior system to define as discrete bits of
information, but the hard fact is, we're assuming we know the mathematical
characteristics of this "source material" when we really don't.
If there are say, 10 possible "worlds" available to the behavioral state
(percipient) but each world differs from the other by elements that are
not observed by the percipient, then the behavior system is under the
assumption that interaction is taking place with a single, unified environment.
Recalling the Copenhagen interpretation: does Chicago exist if you happen
to be by yourself in a hotel room in Des Plaines, IL? The answer is
irrelevant until the behavior system begins to experience some aspect of
The superposition properties depend on the information available in the
whole system (e.g. your hotel room), not just the mind of the observer.
The world is constantly in close touch with itself.
Yes it is. But we have characterized this "matrix of information" based
upon interesting experiments that study the mortar between the bricks (as
it were). Inferring much more gets us into great discussions of whether
the universe is really a big computer and leads to films like, well, The
Matrix. As Abraham Kaplan (1964) said, "when we don't know something, we
don't know it." And we really don't know much about the character of the
information that constitutes "the world". Let's take a look at the
assumptions about Chicago, for example:
For instance, if Chicago vanished in a large quantum fluctuation photons
which would otherwise have been reflected from its streets to the clouds
would be different.
We're assuming that photons (rather than probabilities) exist independently
of our observations and measurements of them. While obviously something is
"out there" that when measured will fit the profile of a photon, it's a
stretch to suggest that it can exist *as we know it* independently of our
observation. We don't know the properties of "out there" very well, so
perhaps we shouldn't assume that "reflection" and even "distance" are
relevant. Our observations that lead us to the concept of entanglement
lead us to assume the entangled objects are separated by "distance" when
distance is, let's face it, an abstraction. (There was only one article
that has ever called "distance" into question, and it appeared in Omni
magazine a few months before it's demise. I'll say it before you: Maybe
that was the reason it finally failed---it was heading in the direction of
Hume with no Descartes to rescue it.)
Hence photons leaving (assumption: separation) the clouds that land
(assumption: separation) in fields 40 miles away (assumption: distance)
would be different and so on. Very soon (within microseconds) the photons
coming through your hotel window are affected, and you become 100%
correlated with the state of Chicago (assumption: we know the phase state
of Chicago---that it is commensurate with collapsed probabilities
associated with a quantum fluctuation resulting in photons becoming
separated with an object and impinging on another object, etc. Lots of
collapsed probabilities here with no measurement in sight--and no proof
that Chicago exists independent of individual measurement. It's not just
a limitation, it's an assumption--and maybe an improper one. Broadly
(I'm not talking about Copenhagen, here) we generally assume that because
the object has been measured once, it exists thereafter. Does it? We
assume that if everyone measures the object it exists for those who have
not measured it. There's no proof for that. None. Zip. It's just a
convenient assumption we make. In fact, one interpretation of the
beryllium "watched pot" experiment shows that the percipient interacting
with the "object"--in this case, the Be atoms being exposed to RF--is the
principal observer. What of the rest of us? What mechanism links our
world view to that of that particular principal observer? Obviously,
there is one, otherwise, nothing would get done and the scientific method
wouldn't work very well. But what is the nature of that mechanism? We
really don't know. The only experiments to find out are usually
performed by psychologists or physicists with an interest in
consciousness--and we end up with vague terms like mathematics-free terms
From your point of view, Chicago is either there or not.
From the isolated percipient's point of view, that which is unobserved may
not necessarily *have* to exist. Two isolated percipients (behavorial
scientists might call them a "dyad") observing Chicago from, say, the
Hancock building may see different things, but what they see---and
presumably what they share--are abstractions. They can't see into the
buildings. However, they may be superimposed with situations in which they
do observe, say, the deep-dish pizza in that little restaurant on Rush
street. The sum of these collapsed probabilities across z space---and
their interaction with the observations of others--- may constitute
consciousness. Put another way, this connected fibre bundle of "measured
probabilities" through z space---in conjunction with all others may
constitute our shared reality. Viewing behavior systems topologically, I
believe, can help answer questions about decoherence. In this view a
behavior system exists across a continuum through "layers" of varied
probabilistic environments. One set of layers (one lane of the highway)
may be chosen based upon its utility. I suggest that the "hidden observer"
phenomenon--the "executive" function found only under deep hypnosis may be
a evolutionary structure that has developed over time to sample
What if Deutsch is incorrect about contact between the various worlds?
i.e., what if quantum theory is wrong and a different theory applies?
That's not what I'm asking---no more than Godel proved all math is a waste
of time. I'm suggesting that by viewing a behavior system
topologically--we can better understand some of the results we are
seeing--including those on the speculative side. Sheldrake's dogs who trot
to the front door ten minutes before their master arrives may simply be
sampling un-collapsed probabilities on either side of the one they
inhabit. The remote-viewing folks may be tapping in to probabilities in
which they visit the site or otherwise have an opportunity to view it. Not
the same thing as a closed time-like loop, but, last I heard those things
haven't exactly been ruled out, either.
But the only reason we have to believe this stuff is the evidence in
favour of QM (which is pretty overwhelming).
QM is extraordinarily predictable, but it is not particularly good at
explaining what is going on "out there." Quantum entanglement is a huge
mystery. Do we have a good explanation of delayed choice? (As for
"sci-fi" mentioned later) Cramer's transactional interpretation suggests
communication between particles from future to past---he might be right,
but I wonder if, as a kid he read Isaac Azimov's *End of Eternity*? In
that novel, they weren't called "particles"--they were called
"kettles." QM is *predictable*, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't
seriously examine the model to see how it's quirkier aspects fit with
observations in other fields. Psychologists and sociologists rarely take
on QM (though some do); it's usually the physicist who tackles
consciousness. As a result we have consciousness books out there that
discuss "qualia" and quantum processes taking place inside microtubles, but
nothing that directly addresses measurement. Check the indices in some of
these books. Hilgard is never mentioned, and neither is Jung (who happened
to be a friend of Dirac and was himself interested in QM.)
More to the point, if you happen to know why the mere act of
measurement--even at a distance-- "induces" a probability collapse, I'd
love to hear it.
Suppose the behavior system normally exists across a manifold of
closely-linked probabilities, with the similarities forming a central
tendency and the differences existing at each edge of the distribution?
Again, QM makes definitive (but difficult-to-understand) predictions about
I know. That's why I brought this up.
Yes there is a manifold of possibilities, in fact an infinite number of
them, for instance "configuration space" which is the manifold of all
particle positions (3N dimensional for N particles), or "momentum space",
the manifold of all particle momenta (also 3N dim).
Yes. Manifolds are part and parcel of the canon. We're talking about the
According to QM, the probability distributions in these manifolds are
not independent, e.g. config and momentum wave functions are related by a
I'm not sure I follow you there. A Fourier transform is a mathematical tool
used to deconstruct a complex wave form into its component parts. Wouldn't
it be more accurate to say that configuration and momentum wave functions
can be *described* using Fourier transform? Even if the config, momentum
etc. share equivalent wave functions, does that necessarily imply
relationships? I don't mean to chase any rabbits down that particular
trail, I'm only saying we often assume more than we know.
Your "central tendency" is just the wave function, which is peaked around
some configuration of particles in any given branch.
Same argument. A wave function describes, and the central tendency (in
say, a normal distribution) can be described as a wave function,
certainly. But I would argue that the wave function itself is not the
What people generally don't factor into this is just how *BIG* 3N
dimensional spaces are, when N is macroscopic. Even apparently minor
differences, such as the presence or absence of a speck of dust,
correspond to enormously large separations in configuration space.
Well, yes---if everyone on the planet measured every speck of dust there
would be an enormous amount of data involved--and somewhat less, perhaps if
one person measured every speck of dust (had he the time and funding.) But
if all the dust specks exist as probabilities then we really don't know how
much 3N space it takes up. Of course, it may require thousands of pages of
mathematical description to nail down properly, but that's a limitation of
the tools, not a limitation of the thing we're describing. Just because an
"object" requires a lot of paper to describe it doesn't necessarily mean it
takes up a commensurate amount of space. Space implies distance--greater
the distance, bigger the space---but then what are we to make of
entanglement--which seems to suggest distance is irrelevant. If distance
is irrelevant, then maybe we're assuming something we shouldn't. We're
trying to describe a circle using the quadratic formula when it can just as
easily be described in terms of radius.
Although technically there is some (usually infinitesimal) amplitude for
all configurations, the only way you can get a useful amplitude for two
macroscopically different "worlds" is to amplify some quantum behaviour,
in which case the wave function splits into 2 or more branches, each of
which behaves more or less according to classical physics.
That's when we *measure* them. The measurement of an object is not the object.
The "width" of the distribution for a single branch corresponds to
ordinary microscopic quantum fuzziness.
Again, if we assume the variable position of a dust particle--for
example--is the criteria for a discrete branching. There are other ways to
describe branching that do not imply a discrete and individual
"direction." Each point in space may involve a unit probability; the
branching occurs when the behavior system interacts with enough of them to
form a unique field of probabilities--resulting in a unique outcome
commensurate with the environment. Maybe worlds branch as a result of
observation and interaction.
Hence the branches don't overlap in configuration space (or in the space
of any other macroscopic variable), and so can't communicate.
By that model, no. But again, we're talking about the limitations of
measurement, and those limitations should not be the occasion to decide
that "communication" cannot exist between worlds. We investigate a house,
and that house includes two different rooms. The rooms are different and
they are at opposite sides of the house. Worse, the house has been in an
earthquake and a two inch gap exists between room 1 and room 2. We declare
that the rooms are different, and are not even connected to each other. To
describe one room in terms of the other results in an unintelligible
mess. So, we decide there is no communication between the rooms--and
ignore the fact that we've strolled through the entire house.
If the behavior system can perceive only a small chunk of information at
a time, then it may be possible that each percipient really does live in
his or her own little world---a small island of similar probabilities
made"real" from the larger cloud of probabilities.
We are all in our own little worlds, but in an objective sense; the same
is true for "non-behavior" systems, e.g. rocks.
In a different sense. A rock doesn't interact in the same way a behavior
system does, and it doesn't change very much throughout it's
history. There's very little evidence to suggest that rocks talk to each
other and modify their activity as a result. You could probably say the
same thing for some people, but generally, we interact with one another and
(generally) we think. Rocks don't do that very well, either. If our
thinking involves sampling probabilities (lanes) on either side of our
world line, then we have it over rocks big time. We now have access to
information that the typical rock (or mountain lion) may not have. We can
call it hunches, or our "guardian angel" whispering in our ear. We can
produce works of art that mimic what will be seen in the news months later,
or in the case of the first nuclear test---the very next day. I'm not one
to believe in ESP or precognition (necessarily). But this sort of thing can
be explained as the behavior system simply being a part of and taking
information from the "lane" next to the one it's on. The effect might be
described as having a very wide specious present.
If we quantify a behavior system in terms of elements and interactions
between elements, we arrive at a complex, but definable state. If that
behavior system exists across multiple worlds that differ in minute
details (i.e. a unobserved kitchen saucer moved an inch to the side) then
the behavior systems would exist as identical entities (or, as my friend
Giu P. would say, *shadows*) across the similar "sections." Employing a
little math, the behavior system could exist as an object in Z space--not
too different than a fibre bundle in topology. Differences among the
realized probabilities among these "shadow worlds" might show up at each
end of the normal distribution, but may be still be perceived by the
behavior system as guesses or hunches, depending upon where the primary
centre of the behavioral bundle is at the time. Psychology experiments
in the 1980s suggest (to me anyway) that a psychological mechanism has
evolved that helps the behavioral system "negotiate" this territory.
If this has anything to do with the basic laws of physics we have to
Well, of course I would never suggest we "break" any of Newton's laws; and
I don't recall either Bohr or Everett ever drafting any. QM is predictive;
the math fits the results, so the results naturally fit the math. No one
knows why it works that way, but it does. So, there is no need to replace
anything. I'm not suggesting anything as outlandish as a particle
traveling forward in time, then reversing itself and traveling backward
(that's been done), or a light photon communicating with itself in the
past. I'm only suggesting that we take a closer look at the measurement
issue--and how the behavior system interacts with the world. A model of
the behavior system as a topological object may explain things a bit.
Personally it sounds to me like great SF and very duff science.
Great SF requires the author of the novel to explain how the weird things
happen. By those standards, QM is not even great SF. Just because we can
predict something to a ten-digit accuracy shouldn't imply we know what is
going on--any more than the Tribriand Islanders know why the sun comes up
every morning. Worse, we seem to have largely given up on trying to
understand QM--almost to the point where we're treating it like we treated
Newtonian physics. Things happen that way because they happen that
way. QM has become the new Classical Physics.
Coming soon to a theatre near you: "The Laws of Quantum Physics." Break
them at your peril.