July 18, 2024

In episode 33 of the Quantum Consciousness series, Justin Riddle interviews Kelvin McQueen on his recent theory on how consciousness might collapse the wave function. Kelvin is a professor of philosophy at Chapman University who investigates the nature of consciousness and role it might play in quantum mechanics. The measurement problem in quantum mechanics is that there is a smoothly and deterministically evolving superposition that is abruptly “measured” and reduced to a finite physical state, but it is unclear what constitutes a measuring device. In collaboration with David Chalmers, Kelvin explores the hypothesis that the measurement device in quantum mechanics might be consciousness. However, consciousness is typically an ill-defined vague idea that does not produce any tangible upgrade to the mystery of what a measuring device is. Here, Kelvin uses the definition of consciousness from integrated information theory (IIT) by Giulio Tononi. Consciousness is the minimally reducible information state of a system, which is defined as a recurrent network of interconnected nodes that predict the next state of the system. According to Kelvin, this definition allows for testable predictions to be made regarding the role of consciousness. In the upgraded quantum IIT theory, the nodes are quantum bits (or qubits) and the edges are entanglement relationships. Thus, QIIT defines an interconnected quantum computer (of sorts…) as consciousness and this reduces the wave function. Furthermore, the collapse of the wave function is not instantaneous but instead is continuous, drawing from the continuous spontaneous localization theory of quantum mechanics. Altogether, these ideas present a picture where consciousness is integral to a fundamental description of the physical universe and might provide room for an expanded sense of self. In this interview, I interrupt intermittently to describe the relevant ideas with graphical representation and compare this model to the Orchestrated Objective Reduction model by Stuart Hameroff and Roger Penrose. There are some amazing new ideas that Kelvin McQueen describes in this episode, so be sure to check it out!