Cause and Effect in a Quantum World

QuICS Special Seminar

Rob Spekkens (Perimeter Institute)
Thursday, December 6, 2018 - 10:00am
1116 Skinner Building, Department of Philosophy

Scientific explanation often requires one to make inferences about what
is unobservable based on what is observable.  An important example of
this pattern is to make inferences about causal mechanisms based on
observed correlations. In the context of quantum theory, the problem of
uncovering causal mechanisms is particularly vexing. One of the central
results in the foundations of quantum theory, Bell's theorem, can be
understood as demonstrating that it is impossible to provide a causal
explanation of the correlations that are observed to arise for entangled
quantum systems without resorting to fine-tuning. Impossible, that is,
using the standard framework of causal models.  An intrinsically quantum
notion of a causal model, however, holds promise for achieving such an
explanation.  I will describe a bit about the research program that
seeks to develop a framework for such models.  In particular, I will
discuss one the foundational principles underlying this framework: an
intrinsically quantum counterpart to Reichenbach’s principle.