“To see why the quantum state might represent what someone knows, consider another case where we use probabilities. Before your friend rolls a die, you guess what side will face up. If your friend rolls a standard six-sided die, you’d usually say there is about a 17 percent (or one in six) chance that you’ll be right, whatever you guess. Here the probability represents something about you: your state of knowledge about the die. Let’s say your back is turned while she rolls it, so that she sees the result—a six, say—but not you. As far as you are concerned, the outcome remains uncertain, even though she knows it. Probabilities that represent a person’s uncertainty, even though there is some fact of the matter, are called epistemic, from one of the Greek words for knowledge.

This means that you and your friend could assign very different probabilities, without either of you being wrong. You say the probability of the die showing a six is 17 percent, whereas your friend, who has seen the outcome already, says that it is 100 percent. That is because each of you knows different things, and the probabilities are representations of your respective states of knowledge. The only incorrect assignments, in fact, would be ones that said there was no chance at all that the die showed a six.”

The above passages come from an article in Nautilus magazine. The article is titled: Is Quantum Theory About Reality or What We Know?, and it discusses epistemological approaches to quantum theory.

I sort of unknowingly (no pun intended) took this approach at my book group a few weeks ago while reading Deepak Chopra’s new book (Chopra is a very anthropocentric subjective idealist, btw). In the book, Chopra was using quantum theory to make a case for subjective idealism by citing the famous thought experiment about a dead cat dreamed up by Erwin Schrödinger. Schrödinger used the thought experiment to illustrate the problem he saw with the Copenhagen Interpretation of quantum mechanics, which essentially states that an object in a physical system can simultaneously exist in all possible configurations, but observing the system forces the system to collapse and forces the object into just one of those possible states. So, as Berkley would say, to be is to be perceived. And this is what Chopra also wants to argue: reality, at its most fundamental level, is more like the human mind than anything else.

Approaching this from a panpsychist/panexperientialist point of view, I speculated that if we understand that physics, like biology, is the study of living organisms that also have various degrees of subjectivity like humans (i.e. physics studies the smaller organisms and biology studies slightly larger ones), then yes, those organisms which constitute the box are also constantly prehending/feeling/taking account of things in their environment, and certainly do participate in creating reality. So, like the dice example mentioned in the passages above, the organisms that make up the box for example, which again are also perceiving subjects, help to end the quantum superposition, collapsing it, and thus already have knowledge of the cat’s status inside the box even if the outside observers are left with epistemic uncertainty. I think it’s reasonable to speculate that both the observers outside the box (the scientists) and the observers inside the box (the simpler organisms constituting the box) can assign different probabilities without being wrong.

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