Fallacies of measurements, judgements


‘Wigner’s friend’ is an intriguing thought experiment in theoretical quantum physics, the brainchild of Nobel Laureate quantum physicist Eugene Wigner. It involved a scientist as external observer observing another scientist measuring a quantum phenomenon and their contradictory measurements and conclusions. Scientist A observes Scientist B performing a quantum measurement on the polarity of a photon, which could be either horizontal or vertical. They both conclude about the polarity after measurement according to the laws of quantum theory. Their conclusions are contradictory. When A observes the photon, which is in a superposition – simultaneously in both the polarities – the act of observation causes the wave of superposition to collapse into one polarity. Say he notes the polarity to be horizontal. For Scientist B who is not measuring but just observing the experiment of Scientist A, the photon continues to be in the superposition of both states. This leads to both arriving at different results and conclusions of the same object at the same time. This thought experiment generates profound doubts about existence of any definite state of the observed world. But it raises a more serious issue, that is, the inherent variance in the conclusions of any two observers observing same object or event from different perspectives. The mind’s obsessive need to measure, quantify and objectify is rendered defunct as it has only resulted in generating a hierarchy, a bias, that segregates and divides. Self-assessment, self-esteem, are oxymorons in the sense that these are crystallised only when one attempts to measure or evaluate. They don’t exist as an independent, exclusive entity. Is it really necessary to evaluate ourselves, as also others? Opinions, evaluations, judgements, are all observer-dependent empirical transient measurements, generated by an observer measuring a parameter which existed in multiple states (Superposition), reducing it to a state limited by his perception. The subject can only observe and perhaps never endeavour to measure for measurement only leads to erroneous and false conclusions. Objectifying the subjective is perhaps bane of all scientific ideology. The search for the Higgs Boson had become obsessive primarily for man’s inexhaustible quest to understand the objective nature of matter. He felt he had vindicated his hypothesis when this elusive particle was discovered. But, it might be another step leading him deeper into the mysteries of creation.
Every observer creates his own reality, a function of his perceptive capabilities. His biases, limitations, and misconceptions distort his observations and his comprehension. Is it really necessary to draw conclusions from all our observations? We all have experienced gradual metamorphosis of our own conclusions as we deliberate on any event from an impersonal, third person perspective. This faculty is made available to the human brain by a highly evolved centre called the Precuneus. Recent research has delineated a network of brain areas largely involving the Precuneus, in self versus non-self representation: self-referential judgements, first versus third-person perspective taking. The inherent limitations of evaluation as in taking positions, arriving at conclusions prematurely, being judgemental, are perhaps the philosophical implications of this quantum experiment. The ramifications of this quantum paradox apply in good measure to spirituality. Be a non-judgemental witness. All efforts to judge or evaluate people, situations, are inherently flawed and can never indicate the truth of all being simultaneously in multiple states of Superposition that exists as an unmanifest, infinite potentiality.
By Deepak M Ranade


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