Large Grants
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Previous Programs

2018 Agency in the Physical World
Awardees; RFP download

2016 Physics of the Observer
Awardees; RFP download

2015 The Physics of What Happens
Awardees; RFP download

2013 Physics of Information
Awardees; RFP download

2010 The Nature of Time
Awardees; RFP download

2008 Foundational Questions in Physics and Cosmology
Awardees; RFP download

2006 Foundational Questions in Physics and Cosmology
Awardees; RFP download

Aephraim Steinberg
University of Toronto

Project Title

Quantum and classical agents and their ability to clone and erase information

Project Summary

Quantum mechanics makes measurement central to the understanding of reality, and has taught us that every observation must disturb the system we observe. Nevertheless, our understanding of conscious agents typically relies on fundamentally classical notions of measurement. (This even despite much speculation about whether quantum phenomena play a role in consciousness). Classical observations of a quantum system irreversibly disturb it, but their results can for instance be copied with ease. Quantum measurements are different: they cannot be “cloned,” but on the other hand, they may in some cases be undone (“erased”). We will study, theoretically and experimentally, what measurements with varying degrees of “quantumness” enable agents to accomplish. This is a first step towards elucidating the implications of such quantum agents, and in particular whether it is even possible to observe the world “quantumly” and still maintain a sense of independence and an objective view of reality. 

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