On Causal Explanations of Quantum Correlations


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Conference on the Foundations of Physics, Robert Spekkens (Perimeter Institute) gives a talk at the 17th UK and European Meeting on the Foundations of Physics (29-31 July, 2013) titled "On Causal Explanations of Quantum Correlations". Abstract: If correlation does not imply causation, then what does? Causal discovery algorithms take as their input facts about correlations among a set of observed variables, and they return as their output causal structures that can account for the correlations. We show that any causal explanation of Bell-inequality-violating correlations must contradict a core principle of these algorithms, namely, that an observed statistical independence between variables should not be explained by fine-tuning of the causal parameters. The fine-tuning criticism applies to all of the standard attempts at causal explanations of Bell correlations, such as superluminal causal influences, superdeterminism, and retrocausal influences that do not introduce causal cycles. This suggests a novel perspective on the assumptions underlying Bell's theorem: the nebulous assumption of realism can be replaced with the principle that all correlations ought to be explained causally and Bell's notion of locality can be replaced with the assumption of no fine-tuning. Finally, we discuss the possibility of salvaging a causal explanation of quantum correlations by casting quantum theory as an innovation to the theory of Bayesian inference.

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