An Interview with David Bohm, English Part 4



Bohm: … subtle, it is very hard to exactly pin him down. I think he would say that there’s no point to this sort of speculation, he would regard it as a kind of speculation, which was not tied to an experimental fact perhaps, I don’t know you see. But I feel that it is important to be able to make it intelligible and also to show the connection between this and the whole range of experiments in other fields.

Interviewer: But in effect there is no difference at all between your view and the classical view of quantum mechanics, the Niels Bohr view of quantum mechanics, in its experimental predictions.

Bohm: No, they will give the same experimental predictions, but I think experimental predictions is only one of the functions of a theory. It enables you to understand what is going on, to make it intelligible.

Interviewer: But then when the general audience is presented with your views of the universe, it is often based on your interpretation of quantum mechanics, do you think the general audience acknowledges that it is some kind of minority kind of interpretation.

Bohm: Well, I don’t know, it is hard for me to know. But I think the other interpretation, the reason it is not generally known, is that it is not intelligible to them. It is so abstract and difficult that they really can’t understand what it says. I think this interpretation will make the whole thing more accessible to more people and also perhaps show the connection of different fields in some sense.

Interviewer: But in a way, what people from the Niels Bohr Copenhagen interpretation school would say is that you are reviving a classical world view.

Bohm: I’d say it is not classical. For example, this idea of active information is quite foreign to classical physics. I’d say that the thing that makes classical physics is not just the form of Newtons law, but what you say about the forces, if you say that they are this character of information, it changes it. I am going to introduce an entirely non classical concept which is the activity of information. That it contributes fundamentally to the properties of substance. Now the fact that you still think of a particle doesn’t say that it is classical you see.

Interviewer: But in some senses your view is more classical than the Bohr view.

Bohm: It’s more like the classical yes, it looks more like the classical but it’s also quite different.

Interviewer: So could you say that it’s the classical world view but with information added.

Bohm: Well some other things added as well, which I haven’t gone into, but I think that when you have changed the concept so much, it wouldn’t be right to call it classical. I think the main point, it is hard to say, the main point would be whether we want to take the wave function as the whole description or not. See I add this particle and say the wave function as the meaning of information that acts on the particle.

Interviewer: Maybe you should explain the wave function.

Bohm: Yes, this wave function is a mathematical representation of the field of information. In the case of one particle it is like a wave, but it’s a wave that acts according to its form and not according to its intensity.
With many particles it is more complex.

Interviewer: And in the Bohr interpretation of atomic physics, he would say that the wave function is just something that we make up to describe…

Bohm: We make it up, well it’s something that, Bohr called it an algorithm for calculating experimental results in the phenomenon. The wave function is part of an algorithm. You know what an algorithm is?

Interviewer: A way of calculating.

Bohm: A way of calculating,  yes.

Interviewer: And no more than that.

Bohm: And no more than that. Now, when Neumann said some things a little bit different, that the wave function is a complete description of the quantum reality. Now, it is not clear whether Bohr ever talked of a quantum reality, because he only talked about this whole phenomenon.

Interviewer: But then in your interpretation it is very important that the wave function is not just part of our description but part of …

Bohm: We regard it as part of the reality. We make an analogy to society. One view would be if we say society consists of a lot of people you could see interrelated. But another view is to say they’re interrelated by information exchange. That’s crucial, without that the society would collapse. So I say that’s part of the reality of society.

Interviewer: Could you elaborate on your view if you take it to societal analogies. How is your world view, if you give it as a description of human affairs in society.

Bohm: Yes, well you see if you think of society, if you compare, you can have every individual try to follow his own pool of information and leading to chaos. Or you can have people trying to move together with a common pool.

Of course you can have the attempt to impose the pool, but that might lead to a conflict with the pools that are already there. I think it’s essential to have coherence and order and harmony, that the whole society moves together with a common pool of information. Like this ballet dancer. Which is not imposed. But which is established by exchange and dialogue.

Interviewer: Do you think that we are moving in that direction.

Bohm: I think potentially we are, we need to. And some people may be, but the general trend hasn’t got very far. Because everything is divided into nations and religions and other kinds of groups which behave as if they where independent when they’re not. So people will have to give all that up and they might find that hard. To deal with the ecological problem, I think people will have to give a great deal of that up.

Interviewer: So you’re moving your emphasis from the person as individuals, the divided parts, to the information flow, the information field of society.

Bohm: Yes, that’s right. But I would say that each individual contains the whole information field of society in his own way.

Interviewer: How?

Bohm: Well, it is in his mind, in his brain. You see, everything you know comes from society practically. Both information and misinformation. It determines what you do.

Interviewer: But you have to read books to get the information.

Bohm: Yes, but that comes from society. Books are part of society, or they wouldn’t exist. So I say that the individual is formed out of society, but together the individuals form society. Now the individual needs to have freedom to look at all the information and determine in his own way whether it’s right or not. But finally he has to be part of society. We’ll call it the culture if you like then.

So the individual, now what we need for this is that is that we have so many different individuals each with his own view and different groups, each with their own view coming into clash. We have got to be able to talk about it, to dialogue, to entertain each others view, to look at it, calmly. So that each one can look at all the views. Each individual, if he holds all the views then he holds the whole. He doesn’t necessary agree with them but out of that I think will emerge a common pool of information which would guide society.

Interviewer: And when you say that each individual himself or herself has the whole human experience or knowledge, how does it get in there?

Bohm: In many ways. It gets in there first of all by osmosis. They pick it up, implicitly, from family, from friends, from school, what you read, what you watch on television. Television is making this much more so, right. And also it might be build in, some instinct of information which is common. And there may, for all we know, be hidden connections and which we don’t know, but implicitly each person contains the whole.
It is like a hologram which contains the whole, though not in all the detail.

Interviewer: And the hologram is ..

Part 1 - Part 2 - Part 3 - Part 5


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