Schrödinger’s Programmer

Schrödinger’s Programmer is a thought experiment. A real-life paradox which comes as a result of the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics. The thought experiment presents a programmer that may or may not have written software.

You have a closed office. In this office is a computer (with internet access) and a software programmer. She is tasked with writing a piece of software that can be written in an hour. However there is an equal chance that she will instead find and read something interesting on and accomplish nothing in an hour.

After an hour has elapsed one would say that the software is finished if meanwhile she did work. The psi-function of the entire system would express this by having in it the both project completed and nothing done state mixed or smeared out in equal parts.

It is typical of these cases that an indeterminacy originally restricted to whether or not something of interest is on becomes transformed into macroscopic indeterminacy, which can then be resolved by direct observation by opening the office door. That prevents us from so naively accepting as valid a “blurred model” for representing reality. In itself, it would not embody anything unclear or contradictory. There is a difference between a shaky or out-of-focus photograph and a snapshot of clouds and fog banks.