Quantum social science

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Quantum social science is an emerging field of interdisciplinary research which draws parallels between quantum physics and the social sciences. Although there is no settled consensus on a single approach, [1] a unifying theme is that, while the social sciences have long modelled themselves on mechanistic science, they can learn much from quantum ideas such as complementarity and entanglement. Some authors are motivated by quantum mind theories that the brain, and therefore human interactions, are literally based on quantum processes, while others are more interested in taking advantage of the quantum toolkit to simulate social behaviours which elude classical treatment. Quantum ideas have been particularly influential in psychology, but are starting to affect other areas such as international relations and diplomacy in what one 2018 paper called a "quantum turn in the social sciences". [2]

Contents

History

The idea that quantum physics might play an important role in living systems has long been considered by physicists. Niels Bohr for example believed that his principle of complementarity extended into both biology and psychology, [3] while Erwin Schrödinger wrote in his 1944 book What is Life? of a "quantum theory of biology" that saw genetic mutations in terms of quantum leaps. In his 1989 book The Emperor's New Mind , Roger Penrose hypothesized that quantum mechanics plays an essential role in human consciousness. His 1994 follow-up book Shadows of the Mind speculated that these quantum processes take place in microtubules inside neurons.

Some physicists have also been willing to consider an even more direct connection between mind and quantum matter, in a quantum version of panpsychism. In his 1975 book Disturbing the Universe, Freeman Dyson wrote that "mind is already inherent in every electron, and the processes of human consciousness differ only in degree but not in kind from the processes of choice between quantum states". [4] David Bohm's 1951 book Quantum Theory included a chapter on "Analogies to Quantum Processes" where he considered applications including the understanding of thought processes, [5] and in 1990 he published a paper named "A new theory of the relationship of mind and matter" which asserts that consciousness permeates all forms of matter. [6] These ideas were popularised and extended by Danah Zohar in books including The Quantum Self [7] and (with Ian Marshall) The Quantum Society. [8] Karen Barad's 2007 book Meeting the Universe Halfway took "Niels Bohr's philosophy-physics" as a starting point to develop her theory of agential realism. [9]

Beginning in the 1990s, a separate approach to quantum social science was taken by a number of interdisciplinary researchers, working in what became known as quantum cognition, who argued that quantum probability theory was better than classical probability theory at accounting for a range of cognitive effects of the sort studied in behavioral economics. [10] [11] [12] Others worked on developing "weak" or "generalised" versions of quantum theory which extended concepts such as complementarity and entanglement to the social domain. [13] [14] In their 2013 book Quantum Social Science, Emmanuel Haven and Andrei Khrennikov developed mathematical formalisms for the application of quantum models to topics including psychology, economics, finance, and brain science. [15]

Most researchers in areas such as quantum cognition view the quantum formalism solely as a mathematical toolbox, and do not assume that human cognition is physically based on quantum mechanics. Separately however, researchers in quantum biology have uncovered evidence of quantum effects being exploited in processes such as photosynthesis and avian navigation; and some authors, notably political scientist Alexander Wendt, have argued that human beings are literally what he calls "walking wave functions". [16]

Core ideas

While quantum social scientists are divided on the question of whether social processes are physically quantum in nature, or just happen to be amenable to a quantum approach, there are a number of common ideas, themes, and concerns. The most fundamental is that, since its inception, social science has been based on a classical worldview, which needs to be updated in accordance with the teachings of quantum physics. In particular, as Wendt points out, quantum theory disputes key tenets or assumptions of the social sciences including materialism, determinism, and mechanism. [17] [ dubious ]

An example is the notion of entanglement. In mechanistic or pre-quantum science, particles are seen as individual entities that interact only in a mechanistic sense. In quantum mechanics, particles such as electrons can become entangled so that a measurement on one instantly affects the state of the other. In quantum social science, people are similarly entangled, whether through shared institutions such as language, or (according to some interpretations) through actual physical processes. [16] An implication is that people are never completely separable, but are entangled elements of society.

Another example is the idea of wave function collapse. In standard interpretations of quantum physics, a particle is described by a wave function, and attributes such as position or momentum are only discovered through a measurement procedure which collapses the wave function to one of a number of allowed states. In quantum social science, mental states are best described as potentialities that "collapse" only when a judgement or decision is made. [18] One consequence of wave function collapse in physics is that a measurement affects the system being studied, and therefore any future measurement. A corresponding phenomenon in social science is the so-called order effect, where responses to survey questions depends on the order in which they are asked. [19]

Applications

Ideas from quantum physics have long inspired thinkers in areas such as politics, diplomacy, and international relations. The journalist Flora Lewis spoke of the "Quantum Mechanics of Politics" in 1975. [20] In a 1997 lecture on "Diplomacy in the Information Age", former US Secretary of State George P. Shultz credits the physicist Sidney Drell for coining the term "quantum diplomacy" to describe how diplomats need to account for uncertainty and the fact that "the process of observation itself is a cause of change". [21] In a 2011 paper, James Der Derian proposed quantum diplomacy as a way to understand the entanglements brought about by a globalized media and a multiplicity of actors operating at different levels. [22] These ideas have been a theme of Der Derian's annual Q-Symposium since 2014. In a 2018 address to the Trilateral Commission, Danah Zohar argued that a mechanistic worldview has led to problems from inequality to climate change, and that we need to shift to a quantum perspective which incorporates effects such as uncertainty and entanglement. [23]

While Wendt's 2015 book Quantum Mind and Social Science [16] does not focus on political science, it does discuss the applicability of quantum theory to social systems in general, and its publication led to a great deal of analysis and discussion on this topic. [24] [25] [26] Other related areas where quantum ideas are seeing applications include quantum game theory, quantum decision theory, quantum finance and quantum economics. In a 2019 article for the Bretton Woods Committee, Andrew Sheng wrote that "A quantum paradigm of finance and the economy is slowly emerging, and its nonlinear, complex nature may help the design of a future global economy and financial architecture." [27]

Criticism

Quantum social science is contested by critics, who argue that it is inappropriately importing ideas from quantum physics to the social domain. [28] [29] [30] The most common criticism is that due to quantum decoherence, quantum effects are filtered out at the macroscopic level, so cannot affect social systems. The physicist Max Tegmark for example has argued that brains cannot sustain quantum coherence. [31]

A related topic of controversy is whether quantum science should be applied to social systems only in a metaphorical sense, or whether it should be taken as a physical description of those systems. [32] [33] This in turn relates to a broader debate in the sciences about scientific realism, which applies also to quantum physics. [1]

Related Research Articles

The Copenhagen interpretation is a collection of views about the meaning of quantum mechanics principally attributed to Niels Bohr and Werner Heisenberg. It is one of the oldest of numerous proposed interpretations of quantum mechanics, as features of it date to the development of quantum mechanics during 1925–1927, and it remains one of the most commonly taught.

Quantum entanglement Correlation between measurements of quantum subsystems, even when spatially separated

Quantum entanglement is a physical phenomenon that occurs when a pair or group of particles is generated, interact, or share spatial proximity in a way such that the quantum state of each particle of the pair or group cannot be described independently of the state of the others, including when the particles are separated by a large distance. The topic of quantum entanglement is at the heart of the disparity between classical and quantum physics: entanglement is a primary feature of quantum mechanics lacking in classical mechanics.

Schrödingers cat Thought experiment devised by the physicist Erwin Schrödinger

In quantum mechanics, Schrödinger's cat is a thought experiment that illustrates an apparent paradox of quantum superposition. In the thought experiment, a hypothetical cat may be considered simultaneously both alive and dead as a result of being linked to a random subatomic event that may or may not occur.

Reality is the sum or aggregate of all that is real or existent within a system, as opposed to that which is only imaginary. The term is also used to refer to the ontological status of things, indicating their existence. In physical terms, reality is the totality of a system, known and unknown. Philosophical questions about the nature of reality or existence or being are considered under the rubric of ontology, which is a major branch of metaphysics in the Western philosophical tradition. Ontological questions also feature in diverse branches of philosophy, including the philosophy of science, philosophy of religion, philosophy of mathematics, and philosophical logic. These include questions about whether only physical objects are real, whether reality is fundamentally immaterial, whether hypothetical unobservable entities posited by scientific theories exist, whether God exists, whether numbers and other abstract objects exist, and whether possible worlds exist.

An interpretation of quantum mechanics is an attempt to explain how the mathematical theory of quantum mechanics "corresponds" to reality. Although quantum mechanics has held up to rigorous and extremely precise tests in an extraordinarily broad range of experiments, there exist a number of contending schools of thought over their interpretation. These views on interpretation differ on such fundamental questions as whether quantum mechanics is deterministic or stochastic, which elements of quantum mechanics can be considered real, and what is the nature of measurement, among other matters.

In physics, hidden-variable theories are proposals to provide explanations of quantum mechanical phenomena, through the introduction of unobservable hypothetical entities. The existence of fundamental indeterminacy for some measurements is assumed as part of the mathematical formulation of quantum mechanics; moreover, bounds for indeterminacy can be expressed in a quantitative form by the Heisenberg uncertainty principle.

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Bohr–Einstein debates Series of public disputes between physicists Niels Bohr and Albert Einstein

The Bohr–Einstein debates were a series of public disputes about quantum mechanics between Albert Einstein and Niels Bohr. Their debates are remembered because of their importance to the philosophy of science. An account of the debates was written by Bohr in an article titled "Discussions with Einstein on Epistemological Problems in Atomic Physics". Despite their differences of opinion regarding quantum mechanics, Bohr and Einstein had a mutual admiration that was to last the rest of their lives.

The Afshar experiment is a variation of the double slit experiment in quantum mechanics, devised and carried out by Shahriar Afshar while at the private, Boston-based Institute for Radiation-Induced Mass Studies (IRIMS). The results were presented at a Harvard seminar in March 2004. Afshar claimed that the experiment gives information about which of two paths a photon takes through the apparatus while simultaneously allowing interference between the two paths to be observed, by showing that a grid of wires, placed at the nodes of the interference pattern, does not alter the beams. Afshar claimed that the experiment violates the principle of complementarity of quantum mechanics, which states roughly that the particle and wave aspects of quantum objects cannot be observed at the same time, and specifically the Englert–Greenberger duality relation. The experiment has been repeated by a number of investigators but its interpretation is controversial and there are several theories that explain the effect without violating complementarity.

In physics, complementarity is both a theoretical and an experimental result of quantum mechanics, also referred to as principle of complementarity. Formulated by Niels Bohr, a leading founder of quantum mechanics, the complementarity principle holds that objects have certain pairs of complementary properties which cannot all be observed or measured simultaneously.

Quantum mechanics is the study of very small things. It explains the behavior of matter and its interactions with energy on the scale of atomic and subatomic particles. By contrast, classical physics explains matter and energy only on a scale familiar to human experience, including the behavior of astronomical bodies such as the Moon. Classical physics is still used in much of modern science and technology. However, towards the end of the 19th century, scientists discovered phenomena in both the large (macro) and the small (micro) worlds that classical physics could not explain. The desire to resolve inconsistencies between observed phenomena and classical theory led to two major revolutions in physics that created a shift in the original scientific paradigm: the theory of relativity and the development of quantum mechanics. This article describes how physicists discovered the limitations of classical physics and developed the main concepts of the quantum theory that replaced it in the early decades of the 20th century. It describes these concepts in roughly the order in which they were first discovered. For a more complete history of the subject, see History of quantum mechanics.

Abner Eliezer Shimony was an American physicist and philosopher. He specialized in quantum theory and philosophy of science. As a physicist he concentrated on the interaction between relativity theory and quantum mechanics. He has authored many works and research on complementarity in quantum entanglement as well as multiparticle quantum interferometry, both relating to quantum coherence. He has authored research articles and books on the foundations of quantum mechanics. He received the 1996 Lakatos Prize for his work in Philosophy of Science.

The quantum mind or quantum consciousness is a group of hypotheses proposing that classical mechanics cannot explain consciousness. It posits that quantum-mechanical phenomena, such as entanglement and superposition, may play an important part in the brain's function and could explain consciousness.

Some interpretations of quantum mechanics posit a central role for an observer of a quantum phenomenon. The quantum mechanical observer is tied to the issue of observer effect, where a measurement necessarily requires interacting the physical object being measured, affecting its properties through the interaction. The term "observable" has gained a technical meaning, denoting a Hermitian operator that represents a measurement.

Quantum cognition is an emerging field which applies the mathematical formalism of quantum theory to model cognitive phenomena such as information processing by the human brain, language, decision making, human memory, concepts and conceptual reasoning, human judgment, and perception. The field clearly distinguishes itself from the quantum mind as it is not reliant on the hypothesis that there is something micro-physical quantum mechanical about the brain. Quantum cognition is based on the quantum-like paradigm or generalized quantum paradigm or quantum structure paradigm that information processing by complex systems such as the brain, taking into account contextual dependence of information and probabilistic reasoning, can be mathematically described in the framework of quantum information and quantum probability theory.

Ravi Gomatam

Ravi Veeraraghavan Gomatam is the Director of Bhaktivedanta Institute and the newly formed Institute of Semantic Information Sciences and Technology. He teaches graduate level courses at these institutes. He was an Adjunct Professor at Birla Institute of Technology & Science (BITS), Pilani, Rajasthan, India (1993-2015).

Diederik Aerts

Diederik Aerts is a Belgian theoretical physicist, professor at Brussels Free University and founding director of the Center Leo Apostel for Interdisciplinary Studies (CLEA). He is best known for his work in the Foundations of Quantum Theory, his interdisciplinary contributions to the investigation of Worldviews, and his pioneering work on the domain of research called Quantum Cognition.

The von Neumann–Wigner interpretation, also described as "consciousness causes collapse", is an interpretation of quantum mechanics in which consciousness is postulated to be necessary for the completion of the process of quantum measurement.

Quantum economics is an emerging research field which applies methods and ideas from quantum physics to the field of economics. It is motivated by the belief that economic processes such as financial transactions have much in common with quantum processes, and can be appropriately modeled using the quantum formalism. It draws on techniques from the related areas of quantum finance and quantum cognition, and is a sub-field of quantum social science.

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