So do human beings have free will or not? That’s not just a theological or philosophical question, it’s also a scientific one. In a completely deterministic world as envisioned by Newton and his followers, every action is pre-determined by the conditions which lead to it. (Biology has a version of this question in its nature vs nurture debate.) Quantum effects, with their fundamental unpredictability are usually invoked to counter a deterministic world view, and create the space for free will actors in the Universe.
So here’s something interesting today involving an idea that would seem to backdoor a way to explain away the results of Bell’s Theorem which has confounded many for years. The issue is whether or not the randomness and unpredictability of the quantum regime is not actually fundamental. It arises because there’s a deeper physics we don’t understand. (This was Einstein’s suggestion, and its line of reasoning is what led to Bell’s work and the experimental verification of the non-locality of quantum effects.)
But Bell’s analysis of the situation depends in a fundamental way on the observer in the system having free will. So what happens if the observer doesn’t?
This is on the ArXiv blog today:
“Jonathan Barrett from the University of Bristol and Nicolas Gisin from the University of Geneva provide us with an interesting new take on this problem. They assume that entanglement does occur as quantum mechanics proscribes and then ask how much free will an experimenter must have to rule out the possibility of hidden interference.
The answer is curious. Barret and Gisin prove that if there is any information shared by the experimenters and the particles they are to measure, then entanglement can be explained by some kind of hidden process that is deterministic.
[…]In fact, if an experimenter lacks even a single bit of free will then quantum mechanics can be explained in terms of hidden variables. Conversely, if we accept the veracity of quantum mechanics, then we are able to place a bound on the nature of free will.”
Read the full article here.