The World Hologram

The nature of the observer in quantum theory is something that has eluded precise definition. As Nobel Laureate Frank Wilczek writes, this is a major problem and a fundamental issue:

The relevant literature [on the meaning of quantum theory] is famously contentious and obscure. I believe it will remain so until someone constructs, within the formalism of quantum mechanics, an “observer,” that is, a model entity whose states correspond to a recognizable caricature of conscious awareness, and demonstrates that the perceived interaction of this entity with the physical world, following the equations of quantum theory, accords with our experience. That is a formidable project, extending well beyond what is conventionally considered physics.
Like most working physicists, I assume, perhaps naively, that this project can be accomplished, and that the equations will survive its completion unscathed. In any case, only after its completion might one legitimately claim that quantum theory is defined by the equations of quantum theory. (2006, 142)

The following concepts are claimed to complete this project.

The Mind

Here we take the mind as the missing ”observer” Wilczek defines. The mind in this regard is described by the philosopher of physics Michael Lockwood. He uses the definition given in Hugh Everett’s Many Worlds interpretation. As Everett describes, the operational entity in quantum mechanics is the ‘state of the memory’ of the observer. And this is defined as the ‘record of observations’.

The record of observations sounds like just some information stored in the brain. But this is something that each person is directly and intimately familiar with. This is the ‘perceptual reality’.

The Perceptual Reality

As you make observations, you generate an internal picture of what is in front of you. It is this representation that you actually experience directly. This is the perceptual reality, the reality you actually perceive.

The perceptual reality
The perceptual reality

Each experience is produced by the brain. It takes the information reported by the eyes, and other senses, and forms this into the picture that is directly and immediately perceived. As Lockwood describes, this is literally the ‘conscious point of view’.

As Everett describes, it is the recording of the experience in memory that constitutes the making of an observation. The record of observations is the record of all the experiences.

The sum of all the recorded experiences is what gives you the knowledge and understanding of the world. This is a mental construct that you build up over time. The integrated synthesis of all the observations forms your concept of the world, your internal map of reality. And this of course is what you are making use of when you imagine some other place, or work out how to get there. The perceptual reality as whole is how you see things, and the way you understand things. This is your perceptual reality as a whole.

This is the state of the memory in Everett’s formulation. This is the mind as defined by Lockwood. As we shall see it is much ‘bigger’ than we usually realise. It is actually an entire holographic universe.

Virtual Reality

The actual form of this field of information is totally obvious when we describe it, but this is still not widely known and understood. It is a virtual reality. As the famous biologist Richard Dawkins states:

Our brain constructs a three-dimensional model. It is a virtual reality in the head. (1998, 276)

The same thing is stated by David Deutsch, a renowned physicist who works on fundamental issues:

What we experience directly is a virtual-reality rendering, conveniently generated for us by our unconscious minds from sensory data (1997, 120)

The sensory data is information from the environment. Our eyes perceive the world, and the result is formed into a three-dimensional rendering of the environment. This is the observation, which is recorded in memory.

The integrated synthesis of all the observations forms the virtual reality as a whole. This virtual reality forms your map of the world, your concept of reality. Whenever you think about any aspect of the world, where you went yesterday, what might be happening now far away, what you are actually experiencing is in fact this virtual reality. Of course.

The World Hologram

As Deutsch goes on to describe, the virtual reality representation is mentally projected out onto the real world. In other words, although the virtual reality itself is going on ‘in here’ within the brain, it is experienced as going on ‘out there’ in the world.

So the virtual reality being experienced takes the form of a hologram. It is a spatially-distributed, three-dimensional image that is mentally projected onto the real world, so as to match up precisely. I call it the ‘world hologram’. This is the actual form of the mind. This is what the conscious point of view is ‘made of’.

A view of me working at my computer screen, with the world hologram in my head, and projected out onto the world.
The world hologram

It is this entity that is present in a great number of worlds in the many-worlds universe. And so it is this entity for which the world is a superposition of worlds. The mind lives in a personal world, a relative world that is indeterminate except where observed.

But what about the body? We are physical entities, so what is the world like for us as physical entities? The body lives in an ordinary world. This leads to the strange revelation that the body and the mind live in different types of world. ‘Quantum decoherence’ means that any physical object is ‘quantum entangled’ with all the things around it. So the body is part of the physical world in a straightfoward manner. But the mind lives in a superworld, the superposition of all the worlds in which a body gives rise to this mind.

The ”Observer”

This difference is the reason none of this has surfaced in the realm of physics. The observer is always taken to be the physical entity. But when we go to apply Everett’s resolution of the great paradox of quantum theory, this does not work. The many attempts are described in detail by the philosopher Jeffrey Barrett in his book The Quantum Mechanics of Minds and Worlds (1999). When the observer is a physical entity, the paradox is insoluble. ‘Many Minds’ theories take the observer to be the mind, but such ideas are almost entirely ignored.

The world hologram fufills Wilczek’s requirements. The mind is not just something that corresponds to conscious awareness, it is the conscious awareness. The mind is the perceptual reality. Also, there is no question this interacts with the physical world following the equations of quantum theory. This is described in detail in the Avant Garde section of the site, on pages Measurement Problem and The Movie of Life.

Overall, the meaning is that our minds are who we really are, and our bodies are just the physical vehicles. The superworld is the world experienced directly, and in this world the mind is the whole of the conscious individual. This is described on the next page The Self.