Is our thinking quantum? Is human thought, which is one of the most difficult phenomena to be apprehended by science, especially because the observer and his subject are confused, can it be quantum? This executive sumamry of France Culture's podcast (which follows the release of the magazine Science et Vie number 1177) raises the question of whether we can understand quantum through, a question that induces a certain paradox when one remember the famous phrase of quantum physicist Richard Feynman "I think I can say that nobody really understands quantum physics."
A priori no relation between thought and quantum, except to imagine that the neurons are the seat of quantum phenomena. Some psychologists defend the idea that it is our thought itself that would be the seat of quantum mechanics. All the phenomena of superposition of state, non-commutativity, entanglement and oscillation are as much domain of the quantum mechanics that would be at work in our brain when we think.
This synthesis takes up the ideas and remarks of the guests of the program:
Michel Alberganti, Scientific journalist Producer of the program "Science Publique (France Culture)
Mathilde Fontez, journalist for the magazine "science et vie"
Ariane Lambert-Mogiliansky, specialist in psychological effects in economics at the Ecole d'Economie de Paris.
Michel Bitbol, Research Director at the CNRS, at the Husserl Archives of the ENS in Paris
Alexandre Pouget, Director of the Laboratory of Theoretical Neuroscience at the University of Geneva
A new quantox ?
Most of the time, one has to be careful when making analogies that come down to taking something very mysterious like quantum mechanics to try to explain something else that is just as mysterious, human thought. One can have a movement of recoil on hearing this discourse for the first time.
The analogy is always daring and risky when there is a transfer from one scientific field to another. It would be legitimate to ask whether this is a new quantox, ie the misuse of quantum concepts which would lead to misinterpretations of the theory, as has already been developed in certain alienating or sectarian drifts .
In response to this question, this article does not pretend to define how thought is created in the brain, nor to explain the functioning of neurons. On the other hand, it lays the foundations for the construction of a model to think and describe how a human being, you, me, make a decision. He suggests that human thought, which is essentially governed by the logic of reasoning, would be the seat of a much more complex domain: perhaps this is the reason why decision-making sometimes escapes rationality.
Experience shows that decision-making sometimes eludes rationality.
In a famous experiment, conducted since the 1990s, players are advised that they have a 1 in 2 chance of winning $ 100, and one in every 2 chance of losing $ 200. And a category of player is informed of their winnings or loss, or they are told nothing.
- If they are informed that they have lost, 60% of them will decide to replay and take the risk. If they are informed that they have earned $ 200, 70% of them will wish to replay to win again.
- But if they are not informed of their loss or gain, 35% of them will decide to replay, as if the uncertainty in which they are is more serious for them than being certain.
So this non-determination interferes destructively with the information of knowing that they have won or lost.
The brain would thus work in a non-algorithmic way.
The brain works with a global approach, with a global adaptation to an environment that is not predetermined, and which starts from the interaction with this dynamic system and its environment allows to crystallize own behaviors, and therefore well-determined behaviors.
Behaviors depend on interaction with the world. They are not precoded in any way whatsoever in the dynamics of the brain and cognition.
Superposition of state of our thoughts
If one takes the example of superposition of state in choices and decisions, one tends to think that there are several beliefs that are possible at the same time. For example, when one considers a question such as: what age has Obama from a picture, one does not have a single belief at the top of his age. We have several assumptions at the same time. We know that he is not 10 years old, nor 90 years old, but rather 55 years plus or minus 5 years. So I'm considering that he is 55 years old, 54 years old, 53 years old ... and we can consider that there is a superposition of these hypotheses, with a high level of belief.
But in quantum mechanics, we go further, because the state is not determined at all. The state of the system is unknown. The brain is uncertain about the state of the system, but it is assumed that the system is in a particular state, that Obama has a particular age.
Thus, even if the external system is indeed in a particular state, it is the representation that is made of it that is in superposition of state. The overlay is not just uncertainty. Perceived reality is always a reality represented.
Psychology understands this well since the classical theories of cognition consider that there are INHERE certain properties of the world, such as the age of Obama, and OUTTHERE in my brain assumptions about this reality of the world, see determinations of certainty regarding This reality of the world.
There are new theories at present, which say that there is no determinate property of the world, no pre-determined property in the brain, but there is a co-determination from one to the other.
Our human cognition is a priori completely indeterminate in the face of certain situations. It is determined only when cognition encounters a particular situation. It is only then that something crystallizes and expresses a certain disposition to act, which was not actualized until then. So the quantum modeling which considers that one is in superposition of state, seems more powerful to explain the functioning of the human thought. It is a new paradigm of understanding our human behavior.
Non-commutativity of our preferences.
In economics, the agents are defined not their preference and their information. However, preferences are very unstable and are undergoing profound changes. There is a fundamental questioning of the individual. There is no longer any individual. Through interaction, the individual is constantly transformed.
So you realize that you can be influenced simply by the order in which you are given the information or you are asked the questions.
Example, the website is an influence agent, and the very organization of a website is key, which will influence your journey through the site, and therefore your user experience. The same goes for the order in which you are given information about products, which will influence your willingness to want or not to want to buy.
The measure determines the preference
Another example of the applicability of quantum mechanics to cognitive phenomena would be that measurement determines the preference of our choices. How? Based on Yung's famous slot experience:
- In this experiment there are phenomena of interferences (that is to say, two waves which interfere with one another, and which produce figures made up of minimum and maximum intensity), which shows that the Light has wave characteristic.
- On the other hand, this mixed experience shows that quantum entities behave like particles. And it is always difficult to understand what this strange association of undulatory and corpuscular means meant, that is to say something infinitely extended in space and perfectly localized in one point. It seems totally impossible.
The application to cognitive theory shows us that we must not consider that the objects are both undulatory and corpuscular. But that measurement determines the relation with the object, and thus influences the preference.
It suffices to admit that objects of any kind that have no properties before they are measured can behave differently depending on the context in which they are measured, which depends on the question asked.
Our human cognition is a priori completely indeterminate in the face of certain situations. It is determined only when cognition encounters a particular situation. It is only then that something crystallizes and expresses a certain disposition to act, which was not actualized until then.