Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Why human consciousness isn't involved in quantum stuff

It was the early quantum physicists who are guilty.  They struggled with what quantum mechanics was all about and in doing so came up with thought experiments (such as Schrodinger's Cat) and phrases ('the observer effect') that messed up thinking about quantum mechanics for close to a century; a mess that shows little sign of fading.

One of the worst aspects of all this is the supposed connections between quantum mechanics and minds.  It's very easy to clear this up, and the connection between quantum mechanics and minds is very easy to express: none at all.  There is no connection between minds and consciousness and weird quantum effects, and observations by human minds aren't at all relevant to quantum measurement or wavefunction collapses or anything else.  The reason is clear: human minds don't operate on a quantum scale, and with very good reason: quantum mechanical effects are to do with probabilities while human brains need to deal with accuracy.  Fortunately for human mental processes the building blocks of the human brain - cells - are so large as to be beyond the scale of quantum strangeness.  What can happen in individual molecules within cells, such as transmission of energy in light capturing systems in plants, can involve quantum mechanics, but on the overall scale of cells, quantum strangeness doesn't happen.  This is good for the brain - it means it can use cells to wire things up in intricate patterns and get reliable results from signal processing by such cells.  Cells are the building blocks of the brain, but the basic units of operation of the brain are though to be larger - they are neural networks, consisting of connected groups of brain cells.  Neural networks are robust, and their functioning can survive both the death of individual cells and the addition of new cells.  So, if the removal and replacement of entire cells doesn't significantly effect what goes on in the brain, there is no way at all that any tiny, brief and incredibly fragile quantum effect is going to do anything at all.

So, we can't experience quantum effects, and there is also a good reason why we can't be 'quantum observers':  we are made of atoms.    At the smallest scale, we are made of parts that are absolutely typical of what the universe is made up on.  A quantum state that encounters our bodies doesn't experience anything different than if it encountered a brick wall.  There is no special 'observer' nature to the atoms of our bodies, and so to our cells, and so to our brains and so to our minds.  Because we aren't made of anything that is in anyway different from the rest of the universe, there is no reason to believe we have any effect on quantum systems that is in anyway different from the rest of the universe.

What we observe is what comes in through our senses.  Our senses can't pick up individual quantum events (with some very rare exceptions - astronauts can experience flashes of light which are the result of cosmic rays colliding with their eyes!).

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