Revisiting Consistency Conditions for Quantum States of Systems on Closed Timelike Curves: An Epistemic Perspective


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There has been considerable recent interest in the consequences of closed timelike curves (CTCs) for the dynamics of quantum mechanical systems. A vast majority of research into this area makes use of the dynamical equations developed by Deutsch, which were developed from a consistency condition that assumes that mixed quantum states uniquely describe the physical state of a system. We criticize this choice of consistency condition from an epistemic perspective, i.e., a perspective in which the quantum state represents a state of knowledge about a system. We demonstrate that directly applying Deutsch’s condition when mixed states are treated as representing an observer’s knowledge of a system can conceal time travel paradoxes from the observer, rather than resolving them. To shed further light on the appropriate dynamics for quantum systems traversing CTCs, we make use of a toy epistemic theory with a strictly classical ontology due to Spekkens and show that, in contrast to the results of Deutsch, many of the traditional paradoxical effects of time travel are present.



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