Unpacking Black Hole Complementarity

British Journal for the Philosophy of Science (forthcoming)
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To what extent does the black hole information paradox lead to violations of quantum mechanics? I explain how black hole complementarity provides a framework to articulate how quantum characterizations of black holes can remain consistent despite the information paradox. I point out that there are two ways to cash out the notion of consistency in play here: an operational notion and a descriptive notion. These two ways of thinking about consistency lead to (at least) two principles of black hole complementarity: an operational principle and a descriptive principle. Our background philosophy of science regarding realism/instrumentalism might initially lead us to prefer one principle over the other. However, the recent physics literature, which applies tools from quantum information theory and quantum computational complexity theory to various thought experiments involving quantum systems in or around black holes, implies that the operational principle is successful where the descriptive principle is not. This then lets us see that for operationalists the black hole information paradox might no longer be pressing.

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Siddharth Muthukrishnan
University of Pittsburgh


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