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Previous Programs

2020 Consciousness in the Physical World
Awardees

2019 Intelligence in the Physical World
Awardees

2019 Information as Fuel
Awardees

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

Howard Wiseman
Griffith University

Eric Cavalcanti
Griffith University

Peter Evans
The University of Queensland



Co-Investigators

Antoine Tilloy, Max-Planck-Institut fur Quantenoptik

Project Title

Quantum and consciousness: paths to experiment, and implications for interpretations

Project Summary

Quantum theory seems to work perfectly for predicting the outcomes of laboratory experiments, but at the expense of dividing the world into an observer (experimenter) and the observed (system). In 1961, Eugene Wigner asked: what happens when one conscious observer treats another (his ‘friend’) as a system? Wigner concluded that quantum theory must break down in this situation, but he did not formulate his argument precisely, nor suggest any way his conclusion could be tested experimentally. Recently, there has been a surge of interest in doing both these things, with arguably the most powerful result being developed by two of us. However, our work raises many further questions which we aim to answer in this project. First, what sort of ‘friends’ could be incorporated into experiments of increasing complexity, to what extent they would be conscious, and exactly what would each experiment prove? Second, if these experiments are performed, what will that mean for the various proposals that have been made for making sense of the system–observer divide in quantum theory? Third, what new ideas for making sense of quantum theory are suggested by these results? Answering these will reveal much about consciousness and the physical world.



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