Wigner's friend

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Wigner's friend is a thought experiment proposed by the physicist Eugene Wigner; it is an extension of the Schrödinger's cat experiment designed as a point of departure for discussing the Quantum mind/body problem.


The thought experiment

The Wigner's Friend thought experiment posits a friend of Wigner who performs the Schrödinger's cat experiment after Wigner leaves the laboratory. Only when he returns does Wigner learn the result of the experiment from his friend, that is, whether the cat is alive or dead. The question is raised: was the state of the system a superposition of "dead cat/sad friend" and "live cat/happy friend," only determined when Wigner learned the result of the experiment, or was it determined at some previous point?

Consciousness and measurement

Wigner designed the experiment to illustrate his belief that consciousness is necessary to the quantum mechanical measurement process. If a material device is substituted for the conscious friend, the linearity of the wave function implies that the state of the system is in a linear sum of possible states. It is simply a larger indeterminate system.

However, a conscious observer (according to his reasoning) must be in either one state or the other, hence conscious observations are different, hence consciousness is material. Wigner discusses this scenario in "Remarks on the mind-body question", one in his collection of essays, Symmetries and Reflections, 1967. The idea has become known as the consciousness causes collapse interpretation.

Consciousness and Superposition

A counterargument is that the superimposition of two conscious states is not paradoxical — just as there is no interaction between the multiple quantum states of a particle, so the superimposed consciousnesses need not be aware of each other.[1]

Just as in any Many-worlds interpretation, a bad world-count can lead to different probabilities.[citation needed]

Alternative interpretations

Wigner's friend in Many Worlds

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