Panel: Quantum Theory and Free Will

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A panel discussion recorded at SAND14 with Chris Fields, Henry Stapp and Donald Hoffman.

Quantum theory incorporates two seemingly-contradictory ideas about free will. On the one hand, an observer can choose both the system to measure and the kind of measurement to make; given these choices, the theory predicts a probability distribution over the possible outcomes and nothing more. It is quantum indeterminism. On the other hand, a system that no one is looking at evolves through time according the dynamics that are perfectly deterministic. No one is “looking at” the universe as a whole – all observers are inside the universe by definition – so the time evolution of the whole universe must be perfectly deterministic. This clash between indeterminism and determinism is sharpened by the existence of a strong theorem, the Conway-Kochen “free will theorem,” that says that if human (or any other kind of) observers are assumed to have free will, everything
else in the universe, even electrons, has to be assumed to have free will, too.

Is this conflict real, or might it dissolve on further analysis? This panel will examine some of the strikingly different views advanced by physicists on this question, illuminating the concept and role of entanglement in the process.

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