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Zenith Grant Awardee

Kelvin McQueen

Chapman University


Marcus Müller, IQOQI Vienna, Austrian Academy of Sciences

Project Title

Mathematical models of idealism and dualism: an adversarial collaboration

Project Summary

Science has enriched our lives with ever-improving technologies. But we would also like science to answer our deepest questions about the universe and our place in it. Questions such as: Why are we conscious? What other things are conscious? Do we have free will? Are we purely physical? What is the nature of physical reality? Despite its successes, science has remained mostly silent about these questions. While many scientists claim to have answers, there is extraordinarily little agreement. The issue deserves a fresh approach. The two investigators in this project, Markus P. Müller and Kelvin J. McQueen, have individually tried to answer these questions within two quite different and unconventional scientific theories. The project will have these two theories collide head-on. The investigators propose an adversarial collaboration. Just as we hope that a trial with both prosecutor and defense will give the jury a balanced view of the evidence for or against a subject, we hope an adversarial collaboration will give a balanced view of how well these theories can answer fundamental questions. In addition, the investigators will build on their common ground (especially their common use of information theory) to find new insights into the nature of reality.

Technical Abstract

What is the role of consciousness and the observer in quantum mechanics, and how should we model it mathematically? The two investigators, Kelvin J. McQueen (KM) and Markus P. Müller (MM), disagree on the answer: MM developed a leading mathematical model of idealism, while KM (in collaboration with David Chalmers) developed a leading mathematical model of dualism. In KM’s model, consciousness collapses the wave function. This is described by combining collapse theories (e.g., CSL) with mathematical theories of consciousness (e.g., integrated information theory (IIT)). In MM’s model, collapse is not a real physical process. A structural notion of “self” is fundamental, quantum states represent probabilities of future records, and the external physical world is emergent. We propose an adversarial collaboration, in which we join forces despite disagreement. We will analyze how well our (or other similar) models can address the fundamental questions. What are the goals, advantages, and challenges of the different models? Which underlying assumptions are reflected by the mathematical modeling? Can our models be improved by using the other one’s tools (algorithmic information theory in MM’s case, IIT in KM’s)? We will aim for an undogmatic and balanced view, informed by mathematics, and aimed at a broad audience.

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