Woman in a box – a thought experiment.

woman_in_a_box_thought_experimentThis is a little thought experiment I came up with some time ago to help me think about conscious awareness, and how information within the external world is stored, combined and shared.

Woman in a box

A woman called Freda attending hospital for a routine operation is asked to choose a number between 111 – 999, and key it into an electronic device without anyone else seeing, and to also write the number secretly on a card, and seal it inside an envelope. Such that no one other than Freda knows the number. Freda is not told the reason for this.

Freda is then taken into the hospital theater and anaesthetised so as to induce a loss of consciousness. Unknown to Freda, the electronic device into which she entered the number is actually a portable timer, and the number she entered corresponds to the number of seconds that the timer will begin counting down from, once activated. Whilst active, the timer will continue counting down until it reaches zero, at which time it is capable of triggering the activation of any device it is attached to.

Whilst still under aesthetic and unconscious, Freda is put inside a steel container, within which is a self-contained mechanism for releasing a lethal gas. The portable timer is connected to the lethal gas mechanism in such a way that when the timer reaches 000 it will trigger, and the gas will be released. The timer is designed to activate, and remain activated only whilst the container door is sealed.
The steel container is closed and sealed, thus the timer begins counting down. As the timer has been set somewhere between 111 seconds and 999 seconds, it is decided that container will be unsealed after 499 seconds, which is approximately half of the total possible time that the timer could run for.

When we unseal and reopen the container, the gas either will, or will not have been released, and Freda will either be alive, dying, or dead. Those on the outside of the container cannot know exactly when the timer will reach 000. Freda on the inside of the box was alive but totally unconscious, has not been told that her life is at risk, or the significance of the number she chose and entered into the electronic device.

If Freda is dead (or dying) when we unseal and open the container, there would appear to have been a physical/objective event that took place inside the container which killed her, despite her being alive, but totally unconscious. At all times, there was no conscious human presence inside the container who could have had any conscious awareness of these events.

It appears that whether there is, or is not, an observer with conscious awareness of events inside the container, this classical experiment (or any other we propose) will play out as if there was an objective/physical state inside the container, *if* there are any past objective/physical facts (information) available anywhere, or at anytime, which may have a bearing (a correlation) on any classical test set-up we propose.


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