The Einstein–Langevin equation (15) may also be derived by a method based on functional techniques [258]. Here we will summarize these techniques starting with semiclassical gravity.

In semiclassical gravity functional methods were used to study the backreaction of quantum fields in cosmological models [109, 147, 153]. The primary advantage of the effective-action approach is, in addition to the well-known fact that it is easy to introduce perturbation schemes like loop expansion and nPI formalisms, that it yields a fully self-consistent solution. (For a general discussion in the semiclassical context of these two approaches, equation of motion versus effective action, contrast, e.g., [137, 193, 194, 251] with the above references and [3, 4, 148, 154]. See also comments in Section 8 on the black-hole backreaction problem comparing the approach by York et al. [380, 381, 382] to that of Sinha, Raval and Hu [332].

The well known in-out effective-action method treated in textbooks, however, led to equations of motion, which were not real because they were tailored to compute transition elements of quantum operators rather than expectation values. The correct technique to use for the backreaction problem is the Schwinger–Keldysh [14, 56, 82, 87, 227, 323, 343] closed-time-path (CTP) or ‘in-in’ effective action. These techniques were adapted to the gravitational context [54, 72, 94, 222, 223, 296] and applied to different problems in cosmology. One could deduce the semiclassical Einstein equation from the CTP effective action for the gravitational field (at tree level) with quantum matter fields.

Furthermore, in this case the CTP functional formalism turns out to be related [58, 69, 70, 73, 134, 239, 247, 256, 258, 267, 343] to the influence-functional formalism of Feynman and Vernon [108], since the full quantum system may be understood as consisting of a distinguished subsystem (the “system” of interest) interacting with the remaining degrees of freedom (the environment). Integrating out the environment variables in a CTP path integral yields the influence functional, from which one can define an effective action for the dynamics of the system [58, 134, 191, 206]. This approach to semiclassical gravity is motivated by the observation [181] that in some open quantum systems classicalization and decoherence [46, 131, 221, 352, 389, 390, 391, 392, 393] on the system may be brought about by interaction with an environment, the environment being in this case the matter fields and some “high-momentum” gravitational modes [50, 51, 143, 182, 195, 231, 283, 374]. Unfortunately, since the form of a complete quantum theory of gravity interacting with matter is unknown, we do not know what these “high-momentum” gravitational modes are. Such a fundamental quantum theory might not even be a field theory, in which case the metric and scalar fields would not be fundamental objects [187]. Thus, in this case, we cannot attempt to evaluate the influence action of Feynman and Vernon starting from the fundamental quantum theory and performing the path integrations in the environment variables. Instead, we introduce the influence action for an effective quantum field theory of gravity and matter [95, 96, 97, 98, 297, 298, 331], in which such “high-momentum” gravitational modes are assumed to have already been “integrated out.”

4.1 Influence action for semiclassical gravity

4.2 Influence action for stochastic gravity

4.3 Explicit form of the Einstein-Langevin equation

4.3.1 The kernels for the vacuum state

4.2 Influence action for stochastic gravity

4.3 Explicit form of the Einstein-Langevin equation

4.3.1 The kernels for the vacuum state

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