Quantum Identity Is Strong

Krugman just wrote “Plutocrats Against Democracy”. I have to comment much further about this pet subject of mine. Or how evil plutocrats collapse civilization. However, I got distracted meanwhile by an article on identity. (Some of the essay below is highly technical, requiring first year Quantum Mechanics; I recommend hyper jumps around the technical stuff, as the end contains a nice hook.)

The author says: “The philosophical problem of identity is epitomized by the paradox known as the “Ship of Theseus.” Suppose a ship is rebuilt by removing one plank at a time, and replacing it with a new plank of the same shape and material. Is it still the same ship?… suppose all the planks that were removed are brought together and used to construct a new ship of identical form. Wouldn’t it be more appropriate to say that is the same ship as the original, and the one with new planks is a duplicate? There is no easy answer. Every possible reply seems to lead into a morass.

The Ship of Theseus and several related paradoxes have been tangling philosophers in knots for thousands of years, dating back to the ancient Greeks and continuing with Locke, Hume, Kant…”

It’s telling that the author evokes as authorities enslaving, racist “philosophers”. Those “philosophers”, or shall we call them racist slave masters? to sell their enslaving and racist philosophy, had to make us all stupid, and this is an esoteric example. In truth, there is no morass whatsoever.

In the old theory of atoms, the one Lucretius wrote a poem about, 2,000 years ago, atoms were all the same. So one could imagine a morass.

However, astoundingly, Quantum Physics has given us back a strong notion of identity. So strong it is, that Quantum Physics can be used to tell us if a message, a message which looks completely intact, has been read (this is the essence of “Quantum Cryptography”).

The author above also mentioned the duplication of the starship captain in Star Trek. I replied:

“Most people just adopt their philosophical identity without examining it. Thus millions of people are basically mental clones, philosophically speaking, and have no real Free Will, or personal identity (see the Islamic state).

However that does not mean one can extend the principle of replication to the real world. Twenty-five centuries old considerations and Star Trek are not the most up to date references.

Anybody with a serious knowledge of Quantum Physics would doubt that duplication is possible. Indeed replication requires the full inspection of the element to be duplicated. That’s impossible, from the so called Heisenberg Principle, the Uncertainty Principle intrinsic to waves.

Indeed, in Quantum Physics, the no-cloning theorem forbids the creation of identical copies of an arbitrary unknown quantum state. It was stated by Wootters & Zurek, and Dieks in 1982. It has profound implications in quantum computing.

The state of one system can be entangled with the state of another system. One can entangle two qubits. This is not cloning.

No well-defined state can be attributed to a subsystem of an entangled state (this is the essence of the Schrodinger/Einstein cat). Cloning is a process whose result is a separable state with identical factors. Publication of the no-cloning theorem was prompted by a proposal of Nick Herbert for a superluminal communication device using quantum entanglement.

Cloning would violate the no-teleportation theorem, which says classical teleportation (not to be confused with entanglement-assisted teleportation) is impossible.

So sorry, physics says: no double Perseus ship, and no double Kirk.


Bill replied in turn that: “I can’t see anything I wrote that depends on an ability to replicate quantum states. (I’m not sufficiently into the Star Trek universe to know whether the Transporter is supposed to operate on that level, but that’s not how I was thinking about it.) Anyway, identical quantum states are not required for identity: a rock at two different times is in quite different quantum states, but it is still the same rock.”

I then made a crucial observation which escapes totally the Multiverse crowd:

Quantum States are NOT all that we are, but they are a great part of what we are. Real duplication would imply duplicating them, and that cannot be done.

Besides, saying that a “rock at two different times is in quite different quantum states, but it is still the same rock,” is, with all due respect, not correct.

Let’s call the quantum states lx>. According to the Hilbert axiomatics of QM, the rock is going to be: SUM over Ix> [(f(x;t) Ix>]. There t is one group parameter of transformation (known as” time”).

Thus the isolated rock is always in the same quantum states, although the mix may vary according to t, unbeknownst to us (this is the essence of the quantum cat paradox).

A rock at different times will be found in different quantum phases, but the same quantum states (this is the essence of the 2012 Nobel Prize in Physics given to Haroche from Ecole Normale Superieure Paris).

Quantum Physics has enormous implications even for something as simple as “identity”. Moreover, those implications are still under development. If they were not, we would already have Quantum Computers. But we do not.

Yet we know that biology can Quantum Compute. How? Birds can see the Earth’s magnetic field. That is only possible if birds use Spintronics, a type of Quantum Computing that barely works occasionally a bit in the lab, at very low temperatures.

Birds use it, in the wild, at room temperature, and see very well, thanks to it.

Patrice Ayme’


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21 Responses to “Quantum Identity Is Strong”

  1. gmax Says:

    Wow. Quantum Mechanics keeps on surprising. SMALL is BIG, far-away is local, time does not exists, and now fuzzy and undefinable has a strong identity?

    Could you develop more the sneak attack on the Multiverse nuts? They don’t understand Quantum Mech? Well, they don’t understand “UNI” already!!!!

  2. garcol euphrates Says:

    No-Cloning Theorem is proved for the General Case, however,some specific cases are allowed. Imperfect cloning can produce “nearly identical” copies.

    Take a simple example: A Xerox copy of a Xerox printed “original” – is one a duplicate? Or are both duplicates?

    “Identical Copy” lends itself to philosophical bandersnatchery – the intent and the “letter of the proposal” are not the same – proving (disproving) one does not prove (disprove) the other.

    • Patrice Ayme Says:

      Hi Garcol: The basic reason for “no-cloning” is the Uncertainty Principle, as I said. It’s a Quantum argument. You seem to use a philosophical play-on words: “This pipe is not a pipe, a la Magritte/Cretan Paradox… What did I misunderstand?

  3. dominique deux Says:

    I’ll keep to what I at least partially understand (sutor, ne ultra crepidam). After all, that Krugman link is also about ID – voters’ ID and its denial by Pluto.

    You and I alike keep being of two minds about people like Krugman or Hollande. Is Krugman a Pluto shill masquerading as a Liberal, or an embedded rebel? Has Hollande gone over to the Dark Side, or is he keeping France mostly free of the nefarious “reforms” forced upon it by its enemies, while mouthing adoration to Merkel and deftly escaping her kicks in the ribs? For that matter, was the Francisque-decorated Mitterrand a Vichyst with a Resistance insurance card, or a Resistant with a successful cover? That one is still raging across the political spectrum, which does not bode well for the likeliness af an answer to the two other questions.

    Similar situations are frequent in history. The artisans of Perestroika were all Communist Party leaders in excellent standing.

    I would submit that in a situation where a nefarious ideology has grabbed all the powers – especially the media – ambiguity is a necessary tool for survival. And I mean real, unsolvable ambiguity, not merely covert action. In a world which is completely smothered by Pluto, we have to rely on safely ensconced Schrödinger Cats for bits of wisdom.

    • Patrice Ayme Says:

      Dear Dominique: I had this problem bigger and shocking with my friend Obama. I, and spouse, spent more than 2 years supporting our friend’s Obama candidacy. It was happenstance: said spouse knew Obama since primary school. People were laughing that he would never be elected. We acted behind the scene very efficiently (influencing the influencers).

      Once close to election, Obama got surrounded by the Dark Side all over, he nearly disappeared from view. It was not obvious even for him (a corruption scandal blew all too close, he had to talk the FBI 2 months AFTER being elected).

      Anyway. So here on one side a lonely voice of philosophicus maximus, on the other side all the establishment one can imagine…

      My position is that SYSTEMS OF THOUGHTS and MOODS have to be judged, fought, or helped. It’s not about individuals. I did come across conscientiously vicious Plutos. But those are the exception. Most just embrace vicious systems of thoughts and moods (I would believe that it may be the case, even for a killer like Putin).

      For example Krugman, let alone Obama, are decent people, but they believe in lots of erroneous stuff… Or have no choice, but to act as if they believed them. (Krugman would be fired from the NYT and other prestigious positions, and Obama was always stuck, because he had to preside, not tyrannize).

    • Patrice Ayme Says:

      BTW, nobody understands Quantum Physics (Feynman, among others, said). So, anybody can say anything. Ought to say anything, Bohr would add “Crazy, but not crazy enough” he said more than once…

  4. Paul Handover Says:

    There was much I struggled with in this essay but one thought did occur.

    Years ago, I discovered that using a divining rod, actually a ‘Y’ section of a Hazelnut branch, worked allowing me to locate water below the ground’s surface.

    Later on, when asking about the science behind divining, I was told that pockets of water, and certain minerals, very slightly distort gravity and that there is a part of the human body, around the lower part of the back of the neck, that is sensitive to magnetic lines of force.

    Any thoughts?

    • dominique deux Says:

      Other theories suggest that minute electric/magnetic field distorsions may influence muscle/nerve tonus. What you feel is not the rod twitching but your arm muscles twitching. And the way you hold the rod – tense but very light touch, kind of unbalanced – is meant to make that muscle switch noticeable, which it is normally not.

      • Paul Handover Says:

        Yes, that was how it was explained to me. That tensioning the divining ‘rod’ enabled the muscles in the forearms, connected across the back of the shoulders, to magnify the minute nerve changes in the neck, such amplification showing as twitches in the rod.

        What blew me away was how strong those sensations were. To the extent one could ‘feel’ the contours of the underground water.

        I want to try it here as there are some buried electrical cables I wish to locate. But no hazelnut trees grow locally; apparently oak branches work?

        • Patrice Ayme Says:

          What works is the placebo effect. So I suggest you go fetch a neighbor to find you some pretend hazelnut… As my daughter said when she was three, serving pretend tea: “Just pretend!”
          I pretended and pretend tea has been delicious ever since.
          In other news, I think that, whenever anybody invest time and effort into something real weird, especially something real weird, the placebo effect will kick in

    • Patrice Ayme Says:

      Imaginable. (Some) Birds see the magnetic field. But notice it’s proven for birds, not humans. They do spintronics quantum computing as I mentioned in an essay recently. And as far as the hazelnut being all seeing, well, I am going to eat even more hazelnuts than I already did, then!

      • Paul Handover Says:


      • dominique deux Says:

        The latest on pigeon navigation:


        The classical setup: sensory organ (possibly the inner ear with help of magnetite dust) linked to processing neuronal networks.

        • Patrice Ayme Says:

          Thanks Dominique, very interesting! I completely missed it… Although I am a full subscriber to Science Mag! But experience shows I miss most of the exciting news in Science and Nature…
          In any case, the Earth magnetic field is detected by its effect on electrons (I would reckon). And this in full subtlety: north, south, polarization, longitude, latitude… Thus, it’s full spintronics in action. At room temperature. The whole Quantum Computing problem has been how to amplify Quantum effects, to read the Quantum and feed info into it, without disturbing it so much that its quanticity (neologism) survives.

        • Patrice Ayme Says:

          I have more on identity coming very soon… Category is the word.

  5. Bill Skaggs Says:

    @Patrice Ayme: A real rock is not isolated; this does not prevent it from remaining the same rock. Regarding metaphors, it is reasonable to dismiss the Transporter, but there is nothing impossible about the Ship of Theseus. I might not have explained it clearly enough.

    The idea derives from the fact that in wooden ships the parts always deteriorated and needed to be replaced every so often. It’s reasonable to imagine a ship where after a few years every single part had been replaced. Suppose now that the (somewhat mangled) parts that were removed are stored for a few years in a dry place and then reassembled into a (somewhat shoddy) ship.

    That’s the thought experiment. It might or might not mean anything, but there is nothing impossible about it.

    • Patrice Ayme Says:

      OK, down to what the honorable Bill Skaggs seems to have wanted to say, as far as I can comprehend.
      Forget the ship and Hollywood. As I said, Quantum Identity is strong, and makes those time honored examples impossible.

      The better model is category theory.
      Category Theory is about diagrams. Category Theory has been increasingly replacing advantageously Set Theory. It’s not only because it does not have to ponder the nature of objects, elements, sets.

      Category Theory was long derided as “abstract nonsense” and “diagram chasing”. But it gives very deep, powerful theorems. They should translate directly into… neurology.

      When are two diagrams equivalent? When are they IDENTICAL? Cantor defined as of the same cardinal two sets in bijection. Category Theory defines as identical the same drawing. Say: A>B>C>D>A is the same as E>F>G>H>E.

      When are two diagrams identical in category theory? When they are modelled by the same neuronal network. And reciprocally!
      I agree that, to have a theory of the mind, we need to have a notion of identity. What better place to start, than the most basic of maths? Especially if it looks readily convertible in neural networks.

      In conclusion, two objects are identical, neurologically speaking, if they are so, in category theory.

      Ah, in other news, and to answer a point of Bill: whether a rock can be truly isolated is an open problem, experimentally speaking. According to the theory of gravitation of Einstein and company, no (because the rock is immersed in spacetime, which is about gravitational waves, which ought to appear in a particular effect, the graviton).

  6. CATEGORIZING the MIND | Patrice Ayme's Thoughts Says:

    […] forget Theseus’ ship and Hollywood’s Star Trek “Transporter”. As I said in “Quantum Identity Is Strong”, Quantum Identity is not erasable, and makes those time honored examples impossibly disconnected […]

  7. Alexis Helligar Says:

    Patrice Ayme, what do you think about this?

    Many Interacting Worlds theory: Scientists propose existence and interaction of parallel worlds.
    Griffith University academics are challenging the foundations of quantum science with a radical new theory based on the existence of, and interactions between, parallel universes.
    Alexis Helligar

    • Patrice Ayme Says:

      ..Hmmm… Thanks for this Alexis, very nice. I am as adamant as ever against the Multiverse. It’s completely grotesque in many ways. HOWEVER, my own theory could be interpreted as local multiverse. So I am highly favorable to go and experiment. Quantum Computer will force them into that. Anyway, re-thanks.

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