Actually the jailer would have to cooperate by performing an entangled measurement. Further, I think the empirical behavior of players in the dilemma can be understood without invoking the metaphor of quantum superposition but by using a concept that cognitive scientist Douglas Hofstadter has called “superrationality”—that is, based on players thinking, “My opponent is like me, so he will do what I do.”
commenting at www.ScientificAmerican.com
MUSSER REPLIES: Jailers in the real world are unlikely to let prisoners use entangled particles anytime soon. The question is how to model an expanded notion of rationality mathematically; it is one thing to suppose that human beings do behave rationally in some sense, quite another to capture this notion with precision. That is where quantum superposition might help. It provides a useful set of mathematical tools without having to assume that our thought processes literally are quantum.
Michael Shermer's notion that the Dateline NBC program he worked on, as described in “Shock and Awe” [Skeptic], replicated Stanley Milgram's famous shock experiment (in which an authority figure instructs a subject to take action that the latter believes is harming a second subject) is flawed. The point of the original experiment was testing whether people would follow authority, and scientists doing a scientific experiment were used as that authority.
Shermer's Dateline “replication” told the subjects that the purpose was a reality TV show! “Trusting authority” does not mean “trusting anybody who tries to make me do something.”
SHERMER REPLIES: Savage makes an excellent point, but this would apply to Milgram's original studies as well because they were inspired by the obedience to authority the psychologist thought was on display in the Holocaust. At no stage of the extermination of Jews and others did the Nazi perpetrators think they were being instructed by scientific authorities conducting research in the name of science for the betterment of humanity. Their motives were entirely different from those of the subjects in Milgram's lab or in our TV studio.
The most such social psychological research can hope for is an approximation of conditions that an institutional research board will approve of, and neither this experiment, nor Philip Zimbardo's famous Stanford Prison Experiment, will likely ever be approved for replication again. So we have to come at these social problems from different angles and interpret our provisional results cautiously and extrapolate them judiciously.
“What Is It?” by Ann Chin [Advances], asserted that “about 97 percent of Greenland's ice sheet melted” last summer. It should have stated that 97 percent of the surface of the ice sheet melted.
This article was originally published with the title Letters.