You are on page 1of 7

The 4th International Conference on Cognitive Neurodynamics ICCN2013 VERY ROUGH DRAFT (2013-10-24) , PLEASE DO NOT CIRCULATE

Weak vs. strong quantum cognition
Paavo Pylkkänen Department of Cognitive Neuroscience and Philosophy, University of Skövde, P.O. Box 408, SE-541 28 Skövde, Sweden and Department of Philosophy, History, Culture and Art Studies, P.O. Box 24, FI00014 University of Helsinki, Finland. e-mail: paavo.pylkkanen@his.se Abstract In recent decades some cognitive scientists have adopted a program of quantum cognition. For example, Pothos and Busemeyer (PB) argue that there are empirical results concerning human decision-making and judgment that can be elegantly accounted for by quantum probability (QP) theory, while classical (Bayesian) probability (CP) theory fails. They suggest that the reason why quantum probability works better is because some cognitive phenomena are analogous to quantum phenomena. This naturally gives rise to a further question about why they are analogous. Is this a pure coincidence, or is there a deeper reason? For example, could the neural processes underlying cognition involve subtle quantum effects, thus explaining why cognition obeys QP? PB are agnostic about this controversial issue, and thus their kind of program could be labeled as “weak quantum cognition” (analogously to the program of weak artificial intelligence as characterized by Searle). However, there is a long tradition of speculating about the role of subtle quantum effects in the neural correlates of cognition, constituting a program of “strong quantum cognition” or “quantum cognitive neuroscience”. In this paper I will be considering the prospects of strong quantum cognition, by briefly reviewing and commenting on some of the key proposals. Keywords Quantum cognition, quantum probability, analogy 1. Introduction In their recent Behavioral and Brain Science target article “Can quantum probability provide a new direction for cognitive modeling?” Emmanuel Pothos and Jerome Busemeyer (PB) (2013) make a convincing case that there are empirical results concerning human decision making and judgment that can be elegantly accounted for by quantum probability (QP) theory, while classical (Bayesian) probability (CP) theory fails. In particular, they point out that human

provides a natural explanation of cognitive process. Anticipating the current research on quantum cognition. For example. David Bohm speculated about this possibility already in 1951 in his textbook Quantum theory. But this gives rise to a further question: why are these phenomena analogous to each other? Is it a mere coincidence or is there some deeper explanation? For example. violations of the law of total probability and failures of compositionality. it would clearly be a major scientific breakthrough is strong quantum cognition would turn out to be correct. and that in such cases QP . they suggest that QP is potentially relevant in any behavioral situation that involves uncertainty.g. also the program of “weak quantum theory”. cf. there is a long tradition of speculating about the role of subtle quantum effects in the neural correlates of cognition. constituting a program of “strong quantum cognition” or “quantum cognitive neuroscience”. there . First of all. Such success in modeling raises the question of how can it be that QP which was developed to account for quantum physical phenomena could possibly be able to account for cognitive phenomena. The aim of this paper is to briefly review and comment some major developments. and thus we might call their program an instance of “weak quantum cognition” (somewhat analogously to the program of weak AI in artificial intelligence research. Harald Atmanspacher (2011) has provided a useful overview of various programs of what I have above call “strong quantum cognition”. 2. might the neural processes underlying cognition be quantum-like in some way? PB remain agnostic about this controversial issue. However. but suggest that the reason is because some cognitive phenomena are analogous to quantum phenomena. following Niels Bohr. Strong quantum cognition: subtle quantum effects in the neural correlates of cognition? There are various ways in which the neural processes underlying cognition could be quantum-like. in synapses) were subject to quantum-theoretical limitations (for a discussion of Bohm’s analogies see Pylkkänen 2004). 2002). he drew attention to what he considered to be remarkable point-by-point analogies between quantum processes and thought. but not all formal features of quantum theory to explain cognitive phenomena. The strongest possibility is that they literally involve subtle quantum effects. While it may be a good research strategy in cognitive science to pursue weak quantum cognition without worrying about the underlying reasons for why QP works for cognition.2 judgment and preference often display order and context effects.with features such as superposition and entanglement . PB do not discuss this issue at great length. where one applies some. More generally. He added that it would provide a natural explanation of these analogies if it turned out that some key neural processes (e. see Atmaspacher et al. It is thus worth giving attention to the current state-of-the-art in strong quantum cognition.

Penrose is not satisfied with quantum state reduction as this is characterized in the usual interpretation of quantum theory. the studies on energy-harvesting in photosynthesis and avian magnetoreception. and need not obey the usual quantum laws). where it is assumed that due to quantum mechanical processes the frequency of exocytosis at a synaptic cleft can be controlled by mental intentions. without violating the conservation of energy (for a discussion of this last approach see also Hiley and Pylkkänen 2005). This involves an extension of current quantum theory. However. The idea is similar to Stapp’s later ideas. there are many recent research developments suggesting that biological organisms at ordinary temperatures exploit subtle quantum effects. it is however still a controversial issue whether subtle quantum processes play a significant role in the neural correlates of . in which latter the state reductions obey the usual laws of quantum probability. Their assumption is that ORCH-ORs in neural microtubules constitute conscious moments. there is the Beck-Eccles approach. Atmanspacher also draws attention to programs of strong quantum cognition that involve further extensions or generalizations of present-day quantum theory. in Stapp’s later development of this approach the neural correlates of conscious intentional acts are assumed to involve quantum state reductions. and biological evolution would thus have been able to solve the decoherence problem at least in some biological contexts (e. However. Finally. Penrose’s approach involves going beyond it (in that the reductions can be objective and orchestrated. and in an orchestrated way. P. Together with Hameroff. Most notably. He thinks that such process might well be related to quantum state reduction. as vacuum states of quantum fields (this approach has been given an imaginative philosophical interpretation by Globus 2003). particularly memory states. Those who advocate strong quantum cognition typically encounter the criticism that quantum effects are washed out in the “warm. Penrose proposed that neural microtubules might provide a site where ORCH-ORs could take place. Instead. there is Penrose’s proposal that human (say mathematical) insight is non-computable and that the physiological correlates of such insight thus need to involve non-computable physical processes. but one difference is that while Stapp stays within the usual interpretation of quantum theory. It is thus concluded that quantum theory is only relevant to physical processes in the (sub)atomic domain and should be ignored in other physical domains. There is the Ricciardi-Umezawa-Vitiello approach that sees mental states. for a short review.g. which allows the possibility of an orchestrated objective reduction (ORCH-OR) – the idea being that the reduction can take place without the activity of a human conscious observer. see Ball. There is the von Neumann-Wigner line of thought that assumes that consciousness plays a role in quantum state reductions.3 are approaches that stay within the usual interpretation of the quantum theory. (2011)). As Atmanspacher points out. wet and noisy” conditions of the macroscopic world and brains in particular (the “decoherence problem”). he proposes that gravity brings about the reduction under certain circumstances.

They propose that the approach enables new ways of understanding such key philosophical problems as mental causation. Bohm’s key long-term aim was to understand quantum theory better. which crucially involves the organization of the lower levels of . They refer to experimental work according to which cortical oscillations may propagate in the cortex as if they were waves. it is not surprising that he applied the new ideas arising from his various quantum schemes to describing the mind. in the form of printed words) is carried toward the more subtle levels in the nervous system. and to simulations of the mammalian brain which show the presence of interference in the cortex. and the analogies he drew attention to then reflect this. Note that those researchers who accept that cognition is quantum-like and seek to explain this in neural terms need not necessarily adopt the program of strong quantum cognition. where the human mind. Bohmian programmes of quantum cognition We already mentioned briefly above that the physicist David Bohm speculated early about strong quantum cognition in his 1951 textbook. Given his early intuition that quantum theory and thought are analogous. Bohm emphasized that this field does not push and pull the particle mechanically but rather in-forms its energy. This line of research has been developed by e. At that time he was thinking within the usual interpretation of quantum theory. where the meaning of the information is apprehended. which in turn could control neurophysiological processes in. intentionality and even consciousness. the key new ontological feature of quantum theory is the existence of objective and active information at the quantum level. synapses. so that cognitive informational processes could be connected to quantum information. involves not only the lower levels. Such apprehension of meaning is an activity. for example. classical level while others are more “subtle”. In perception. In later work with Basil Hiley.g. Bohm extended this model to include higher-levels of information.4 cognition and consciousness. In Bohm’s active information scheme it is assumed that quantum theory needs to be extended into a hierarchy of levels of active information. but “natural” from the physical and mathematical point of view). 3. In 1952 Bohm published two articles in Physical Review where he proposed (following deBroglie’s earlier ideas) that an electron is a particle guided by a field. Something like this is implied by Barros and Suppes (2009) when they suggest that classical interference in the brain may lead to contextual processes. but can nevertheless give rise to quantum-like neural activity. Bohm and Hiley argued. and this led him to develop a number of different alternative schemes. Pylkkänen and Hiley. information encoded in manifest levels (e. Thus. say.g. but also the more subtle levels (Bohm claimed that such an extension of quantum theory is not arbitrary. As is well known. Some of these levels are at the manifest. For there is also the possibility that the neural processes underlying cognition involve no subtle quantum effects.

This has been discussed in some detail by Pylkkänen (2007. the movement of the hand). our experience also involves an anticipation the future tones. Bohm thus provided a new way of thinking and modeling a central issue in phenomenology. in my view. where. It seems that Bohm meant both complex neurophysiological processes (already described in cognitive neuroscience). A symphony involves a movement in which a total order builds up and grows.5 information. which can be recorded in a hologram). manifest levels. One key idea is that the more subtle. For example. Of course. this suggests that the universe is a movement in which a holistic order. it is a major unsolved problem in the Bohm scheme what exactly is meant by the “subtle levels”. and we need a clear quantum ontology to tackle in a quantum-theoretical way the mind-matter problem. Such an application of the implicate order to describe phenomenal experience can be seen as an instance of “weak quantum . physical (“mental”) levels are influenced by and can also influence the lower. the implicate order prevails – thus the universe is holomovement. and some subtle quantum and “superquantum” effects taking place in the brain but not yet discovered. we obtain a new way of understanding mental causation. it has some advantages over the other schemes of strong quantum cognition (see Hiley & Pylkkänen 2005). Yet. This process of unfoldment and enfoldment takes place so rapidly that we do not see it but instead typically perceive an enduring three-dimensional reality of macroscopic objects. Applied to the universe. the conscious experience of listening to music can be understood in terms of the implicate order. At each moment we are most explicitly aware of certain tones. Thus this is currently a heavily speculative scheme which needs much further critical examination and development. actively transforming structures. It is in this way that we can understand how mind (understood as involving very subtle physical levels) can influence the more manifest aspects of the physical domain (e. but can influence these latter. and also prevails in biological and psychological phenomena. namely time consciousness. Bohm proposed that the implicate order is fundamental and general. also known as the ontological problem (Churchland 2013). thus providing a new way of understanding mental causation.g. information about the whole is enfolded in each region (as in the movement of lights waves. Mind is not floating free from the quantum and classical levels. for example. only to enfold back in the next moment. At each moment a three-dimensional explicate order unfolds from the holomovement. The implicate order refers to holistic phenomena. It can be argued that the Bohm-Hiley ontological interpretation provides currently the best ontological scheme for quantum theory. There is thus a two-way traffic between manifest and subtle levels. This framework became known as the implicate order. while the previously explicate tones are experienced as enfolded. ch 5). The level of quantum information is especially important in providing the missing link between the traditional categories of physical and mental. In the early 1960s Bohm began to seek a more general scheme in which one could bring quantum theory and relativity together. In other words.

P. Language and Arts. 272-274). Quantum structure in cognition. URL = <http://plato. “Weak quantum theory: Complementarity and entanglement in physics and beyond”. (2003) Quantum Closures and Disclosures: Thinking-together postphenomenology and quantum brain dynamics. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. this need not imply the assumption that mental processes are reduced to some quantum mechanical processes. Römer. Quantum mechanics.). (2013) Matter and Consciousness. .. Journal of Mathematical Psychology 53 (2009) 314-348. H. Amsterdam: John Benjamins. (2004) Can quantum analogies help us to understand the process of thought?. Churchland. Zalta (ed. Mass. H.) Being and Brain.edu/archives/sum2011/entries/qt-consciousness/> Atmanspacher. pp. 4. At the Boundary between Science. P. Barros. P. Pribram and G.:MI TPress. Globus. pp. P. (2013) Can quantum probability provide a new direction for cognitive modeling? Behavioral and Brain Science Pylkkänen. as one is using a theoretical scheme inspired by quantum theory while not claiming that phenomenal experience is literally a quantum phenomenon. R. Edward N. Cambridge.A.6 cognition”. and Walach. interference and the brain. 167-197. Vitiello (eds. However. Philosophy. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.. G. Globus. (2002). 379–406. 3rd edition.stanford. J. Pothos. (2011) Quantum Approaches to Consciousness. D. (2011) The dawn of quantum biology. Harald. Journal of Mathematical Psychology 53 (2009) 306-313. Foundations of Physics 32. Nature 474. M & Busemeyer J. Discussion Strong programs of quantum cognition typically underline the importance of physical considerations when trying to understand they mind. H. Atmanspacher. & Suppes. K. in G. Ball. […] References Aerts.

7 .