Professor of Physics Emeritus Philip Pearle was an invited participant at a philosophy workshop that took place recently at NYU. Titled “Consciousness and Models of Quantum Mechanics,” the event was sponsored by the NYU Global Institute for Advanced Studies. Philosophers from NYU, Columbia University, and Rutgers were among the participants who discussed papers on the workshop topic.
Pearle’s Continuous Spontaneous Localization theory (CSL) gives a mathematical modification of quantum theory. It provides a description of what is called “wave function collapse,” the actual occurrence of events rather than just the probabilities of occurrence of events as in the unaltered standard quantum theory.
CSL was an important part of two of the papers discussed in the workshop. In these, the authors combined a recent mathematical characterization of consciousness – known as Integrated Information Theory – with CSL. The goal was to explore whether an idea, attributed mainly to Physics Nobel Laureate Eugene Wigner, could be made precise in order to create a theory in which an individual’s conscious awareness would play an active role in the physical world, causing wave function collapse.