Problems of the Deutsch-Wallace version of Many Worlds

I'll copy my comment from the other thread:

That is, if a quantum world is something whose existence is fuzzy and which doesn't even have a definite multiplicity - that is, we can't even say if there's one, two, or many of them - if those are the properties of a quantum world, then is it possible for the real world to be one of those?

The real world is a single point in configuration space (there are uncountably many such points). So what's the point of keeping track of the blobs? It's because the Hilbert space is so vast that it's very unlikely that tw... (read more)

The real world is a single point in configuration space

That can't be what they think in Oxford, or else they would agree with argumzio, who says there are uncountably many worlds. In the Oxford version of MWI, the real world is one of those "blobs", therefore it's partly a matter of definition, and that's why there's no exact number of worlds.

Problems of the Deutsch-Wallace version of Many Worlds

by Mitchell_Porter 1 min read16th Dec 201193 comments


The subject has already been raised in this thread, but in a clumsy fashion. So here is a fresh new thread, where we can discuss, calmly and objectively, the pros and cons of the "Oxford" version of the Many Worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics.

This version of MWI is distinguished by two propositions. First, there is no definite number of "worlds" or "branches". They have a fuzzy, vague, approximate, definition-dependent existence. Second, the probability law of quantum mechanics (the Born rule) is to be obtained, not by counting the frequencies of events in the multiverse, but by an analysis of rational behavior in the multiverse. Normally, a prescription for rational behavior is obtained by maximizing expected utility, a quantity which is calculated by averaging "probability x utility" for each possible outcome of an action. In the Oxford school's "decision-theoretic" derivation of the Born rule, we somehow start with a ranking of actions that is deemed rational, then we "divide out" by the utilities, and obtain probabilities that were implicit in the original ranking.

I reject the two propositions. "Worlds" or "branches" can't be vague if they are to correspond to observed reality, because vagueness results from an object being dependent on observer definition, and the local portion of reality does not owe its existence to how we define anything; and the upside-down decision-theoretic derivation, if it ever works, must implicitly smuggle in the premises of probability theory in order to obtain its original rationality ranking.

Some references:

"Decoherence and Ontology: or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love FAPP" by David Wallace. In this paper, Wallace says, for example, that the question "how many branches are there?" "does not... make sense", that the question "how many branches are there in which it is sunny?" is "a question which has no answer", "it is a non-question to ask how many [worlds]", etc.

"Quantum Probability from Decision Theory?" by Barnum et al. This is a rebuttal of the original argument (due to David Deutsch) that the Born rule can be justified by an analysis of multiverse rationality.