1. 2

Caroline L. Jones, Markus P. Mueller (Feb 15 2024).

Abstract: There has been a surge of recent interest in the Wigner’s friend paradox, sparking several novel thought experiments and no-go theorems. The main narrative has been that Wigner’s friend highlights a counterintuitive feature that is unique to quantum theory, and which is closely related to the quantum measurement problem. Here, we challenge this view. We argue that the gist of the Wigner’s friend paradox can be reproduced without assuming quantum physics, and that it underlies a much broader class of enigmas in the foundations of physics and philosophy. To show this, we first consider several recently proposed extended Wigner’s friend scenarios, and demonstrate that their implications for the absoluteness of observations can be reproduced by classical thought experiments that involve the duplication of agents. Crucially, some of these classical scenarios are technologically much easier to implement than their quantum counterparts. Then, we argue that the essential structural ingredient of all these scenarios is a feature that we call “Restriction A”: essentially, that a physical theory cannot give us a probabilistic description of the observations of all agents. Finally, we argue that this difficulty is at the core of other puzzles in the foundations of physics and philosophy, and demonstrate this explicitly for cosmology’s Boltzmann brain problem. Our analysis suggests that Wigner’s friend should be studied in a larger context, addressing a frontier of human knowledge that exceeds the boundaries of quantum physics: to obtain reliable predictions for experiments in which these predictions can be privately but not intersubjectively verified.

Arxiv: https://arxiv.org/abs/2402.08727