From Quantum Entanglement to Spatiotemporal Distance

In Christian Wüthrich, Baptiste Le Bihan & Nick Huggett (eds.), Philosophy Beyond Spacetime. Oxford: Oxford University Press (2021)
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Within the field of quantum gravity, there is an influential research program developing the connection between quantum entanglement and spatiotemporal distance. Quantum information theory gives us highly refined tools for quantifying quantum entanglement such as the entanglement entropy. Through a series of well-confirmed results, it has been shown how these facts about the entanglement entropy of component systems may be connected to facts about spatiotemporal distance. Physicists are seeing these results as yielding promising methods for better understanding the emergence of (the dynamical) spacetime (of general relativity) from more fundamental quantum theories, and moreover, as promising for the development of a nonperturbative theory of quantum gravity. However, to what extent does the case for the entanglement entropy-distance link provide evidence that spacetime structure is nonfundamental and emergent from nongravitational degrees of freedom? I will show that a closer look at the results lends support only to a weaker conclusion, that the facts about quantum entanglement are constrained by facts about spatiotemporal distance, and not that they are the basis from which facts about spatiotemporal distance emerge.

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Alyssa Ney
University of California, Davis


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