Journal Article

Technology and the Conditions on Interpretations of Quantum Mechanics

Pieter E. Vermaas

in The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science

Published on behalf of British Society for the Philosophy of Science

Volume 56, issue 4, pages 635-661
Published in print December 2005 | ISSN: 0007-0882
Published online December 2005 | e-ISSN: 1464-3537 | DOI:
Technology and the Conditions on Interpretations of Quantum Mechanics

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In this paper I consider the problem of interpreting quantum mechanics. I argue that this problem has evolved in part into the problem of selecting tenable interpretations from a set of available interpretations. We lack the means to make this selection. There is consensus that interpretations should be consistent and empirically adequate. But these conditions are not particularly discriminative. Other conditions may be discriminative but are not generally accepted. I propose two new conditions for selecting tenable interpretations, motivated by the use of quantum mechanics in technology. The first requires that interpretations ascribe the physical properties to technical artefacts that are entailed by the ascription of technical functions to those artefacts. The second requires that they ascribe the physical properties represented by engineering sketches of those artefacts. I consider the example of quantum teleportation in some detail.


The problem of interpreting quantum mechanics

Technical functions

Decoders in quantum teleportation

Engineering sketches


Appendix: Quantum teleportation

Journal Article.  11407 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Philosophy of Science ; Science and Mathematics

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