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If it is true that consciousness is realistic, then quantum computers cannot be conscious

If you want to read what I have written about consciousness previously, see https://www.sam-rodriques.com/post/can-we-build-a-consciousness-measuring-machine.


I have previously discussed the observation that consciousness in the only thing we know of in the universe that is definitively realistic, and the conjecture (originally proposed by Wigner) that consciousness may in fact be the thing that collapses the wavefunction. To be clear, this is a conjecture, it is not known for sure. (Here, realistic means that observables have definite values.)


However, this conjecture has some interesting consequences. Let’s consider a human who has to make a calculation, where the result of the calculation depends on the spin state of an electron. When the human makes the measurement of the spin of the electron, quantum mechanics predicts that they should become entangled with the electron; but instead, there is some kind of wave function collapse, and the human (as a conscious being) observes a realistic pointer state. After observing the pointer state, the human completes their calculation.


On the other hand, let’s suppose that we are inferring a super-intelligent LLM on a quantum computer, and asking the LLM to do the same calculation. The quantum computer would measure the state of the electron, and would then become bona fide entangled with the electron. It would perform the calculation, and then a human would measure the state of the quantum computer to read out the answer. Because the quantum computer is coherent, the state of the electron would not collapse until the human observer measures the computer state. The quantum computer would never observe the state of the electron; it would actually, bona fide, perform both calculations.


If the Wigner conjecture is true, then one would have to conclude that the quantum computer itself is not conscious, at least not in the way that humans are, no matter how powerful the algorithm it is running. It could in principle have some superconsciousness, but the experience of that consciousness being would be very different from our own experience of consciousness.

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