Consistent histories is the (essentially unique) formalism for describing the past in a fully quantum universe, and this paper shows how to talk about realistic, localized, and above all redundant records about that past. The paper is longer than usual, but that’s mostly pedagogy; the new content is very compact.
The introduction contains a summary of the set selection problem, with a historical overview and many references. If my ranting about the importance of this problem has got you curious enough to dive into the literature, this is where I recommend you start (even if you don’t care about redundant information and Darwinism).
The second and third sections of the paper contain condensed summaries of decoherence & quantum Darwinism, and the consistent histories framework, respectively. We’re trying to tie together two pretty different topics, so we figured many readers would be familiar with only one or the other. But if you’ve seen that stuff before, then skip it.
The meat is in the fourth section, where we extend an old and underappreciated idea due to Finkelstein that links decoherence with consistent histories. Sections five and six are examples and discussion.
This paper will eventually be followed up by a sequel that fleshes out the connection with prior work on quantum Darwinism, but it may have to wait until I’ve got a permanent job…… [continue reading]