Thursday 24 March 1pm AEDT
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Abstract: Experimental metaphysics is the study of how empirical results can reveal indisputable facts about the fundamental nature of the world, independent of any theory. It is a field born from Bell’s 1964 theorem, and the experiments it inspired, proving the world cannot be both local and deterministic. However, there is an implicit assumption in Bell’s theorem, that the observed result of any measurement is absolutely real (it has some value that is not real only to the observer who made it, or only in the ‘branch’ in which it appears). This assumption is called into question when one thinks of the observer as a quantum system (the “Wigner’s Friend” scenario), which has recently been the subject of renewed interest. In , I and co-workers derived a theorem, in experimental metaphysics, for this scenario. It is similar to Bell’s 1964 theorem but dispenses with the assumption of determinism. We show that the remaining assumptions, which we collectively call "local friendliness", are still predicted, by most approaches to quantum mechanics, to be violable. We illustrate this in an experiment in which the “friend” system is a single photonic qubit. In , I and other co-workers argue that a truly convincing experiment could be realised if that system were a sufficiently advanced artificial intelligence software running on a very large quantum computer, so that it could be regarded genuinely as a friend. We formulate a new version of the theorem for that situation, using six assumptions, each of which is violated in at least one approach to quantum theory. The popular attitude that “quantum theory needs no interpretation” is untenable because it does not indicate that any of the assumptions are invalid.
 Bong et al., “A strong no-go theorem on the Wigner’s friend paradox”, Nature Physics 16, 1199 (2020).
 Wiseman, Cavalcanti, and Rieffel, “A ‘thoughtful’ Local Friendliness no-go theorem”, in preparation.
photo credit: ANDY AARON/IBM RESEARCH/FLICKR (CC BY-ND 2.0)