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Collapse and Measures of Consciousness

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Abstract: There has been an upsurge of interest lately in developing Wigner’s hypothesis that conscious observation causes collapse by exploring dynamical collapse models in which some purportedly quantifiable aspect(s) of consciousness resist superposition. Kremnizer–Ranchin, Chalmers–McQueen and Okon–Sebastián have explored the idea that collapse may be associated with a numerical measure of consciousness. More recently, Chalmers–McQueen have argued that any single measure is inadequate because it will allow superpositions of distinct states of equal consciousness measure to persist. They suggest a satisfactory model needs to associate collapse with a set of measures quantifying aspects of consciousness, such as the “Q-shapes” defined by Tononi et al. in their “integrated information theory” (IIT) of consciousness. I argue here that Chalmers–McQueen’s argument against associating a single measure with collapse requires a precise symmetry between brain states associated with different experiences and thus does not apply to the only case where we have strong intuitions, namely human (or other terrestrial biological) observers. In defence of Chalmers–McQueen’s stance, it might be argued that idealized artificial information processing networks could display such symmetries. However, I argue that the most natural form of any theory (such as IIT) that postulates a map from network states to mind states is one that assigns identical mind states to isomorphic network states (as IIT does). This suggests that, if such a map exists, no familiar components of mind states, such as viewing different colours, or experiencing pleasure or pain, are likely to be related by symmetries.


Funder: Foundational Questions Institute; doi:


Article, Wigner hypothesis, Quantum mechanics, Wave function collapse, Consciousness, Integrated information theory, Symmetry

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Foundations of Physics

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Springer US