:: Sunday, July 25, 2004 ::
More on this
On the topic of the reality of objects in a quantum universe and the role of observation in reality:
Deutsch dismisses them all. "Some are gibberish, like the Copenhagen interpretation," he says-and the rest are just variations on the many worlds theme.Except, Deutsch is slightly off too. He should talk to the cognitive scientists who work in psychology, philosophy, and linguistics.
For example, according to the Copenhagen interpretation, the act of observing is crucial. Observation forces an atom to make up its mind, and plump for being in only one place out of all the possible places it could be. But the Copenhagen interpretation is itself open to interpretation. What constitutes an observation? For some people, this only requires a large-scale object such as a particle detector. For others it means an interaction with some kind of conscious being.
Worse still, says Deutsch, is that in this type of interpretation you have to abandon the idea of reality. Before observation, the atom doesn't have a real position. To Deutsch, the whole thing is mysticism-throwing up our hands and saying there are some things we are not allowed to ask.
It's not that observation forces an atom to make up its mind and place itself in one place of all possible places. It's that humans are only capable of experiencing one universe at a time, and so when they manage to observe an atom, what they observe is the atom in the particular universe that the humans have succeeded in tuning in to. In that particular universe, the atom is precisely where it's supposed to be and in the only place it can be. (there's nowhere you can be that isn't where you were meant to be, it's easy...)
It doesn't matter if it's a particle detector or a conscious being that makes the observation, because, in the end, it's still a human that perceives that an observation has taken place. That perception, and, by extension, observation, is all about the human -- the interplay of our physically-based senses, our physically-based mental interpretations of our senses, and our experientially-based mental interpretations of our senses. Those three things are required for perception and observation to take place, and those three things, in turn, determine the outcome of the act of perception and observation -- that is, our decision regarding what it is that we perceived and observed and what that thing we perceived means.