“…our main hypothesis is that the brain makes decisions through a procedure that is similar to quantum measurements. This does not require the brain to be a quantum object, but merely takes into account the dual nature of the decision process, involving both conscious logical evaluations as well as subconscious intuitive feelings”
From the paper “How Brains Make Decisions”, by V.I. Yukalov and D. Sornette.
I’m perpetually surprised at how rare it is to find this kind of sensible approach to the application of the mathematics of quantum theory to non-literal quantum phenomena.
The history of science should have taught us by now that the math that was developed for one application… often will have its greatest applications to subjects far afield from the original one.
In science, literalism is akin to death. The ability to abstract out the principles is key. There is great symmetry between how quantum processes work, and how many processes in biology, ecology, economics, and behaviour work.
They continue (bold text is mine):
“We have presented the Quantum Decision Theory that we have developed in the last four years, which is based on combining utility-like calculations with emotional influences in the representation of the decision making processes. We have emphasized that decision making by humans is principally different from the direct calculations by, even the most powerful, computers. This basic difference is in the duality of the human decision-making procedure. The brain makes decisions by a parallel processing of two different jobs: by consciously estimating the utility of the available prospects and by subconsciously evaluating their attractiveness.
We have shown how the duality of the brain functioning can be adequately represented by the techniques of quantum theory. The process of decision making has been described as mathematically similar to the procedure of quantum measurement. The self-consistent mathematical theory of human decision making that we have been developed contains noparadoxes typical of classical decision making. It is important to stress that this theory is the first theory allowing for it quantitative predictions taking into account behavioral biases.
We stress that the description of the functioning of the human brain by means of quantum techniques does not require that the brain be a quantum object, but this approach serves as an appropriate mathematical tool for characterizing the conscious-subconscious duality of the brain processes. This duality must be taken into account when one attempts to create an artificial intelligence imitating the human brain. Such an artificial intelligence has to be quantum in the sense explained above.”
And that’s the key: a process can be “quantum” in the literal sense of quantum particles, or quantum in the sense of how it acts.
I think that the application of the mathematics of quantum theory will have a profound effect on a great many seemingly intractable problems all over biology and social science research (certainly in economics), in much the same counter-intuitive sense that complexity theory has proven to be unreasonably accurate in its predictions in fields never dreamed of at the beginning.
We don’t need to wait for Quantum Computers to make great strides in applying Quantum Games and Quantum Decision Theory to the descriptive side of science. We can get started now.
Now go lift something heavy,