The Quantum Turn in Social Science - Physics-Astronomy.org

The Quantum Turn in Social Science

Quantum physics is very hip and attractive thanks to its scientific popularizers, but few people truly understand it yet, and little attention is paid to its developments in the social sciences. Recent literature indicates that a proposed quantum ‘turn’ may be taking place in the social sciences. It has already taken root in my worldview, so I will try to demonstrate the case why it has to happen. Paradigmatic ‘turns’ happen often in discourse, as with the constructivist turn (circa ‘90s) in International Relations, based on the work of Alexander Wendt. Wendt has left that paradigm behind and is now leading a new turn, towards a quantum social science.

The Quantum Turn

A quantum turn has been a long time coming, as scientists, academics, and writers have struggled to import quantum tools in more than a metaphorical way. New Agers have simultaneously hi-jacked the lexicon to make their own meaning out of it, thereby diluting the discourse. The main thesis goes back at least to Zohar and Marshall’s The Quantum Society (1993), which Wendt found as inspiration for his book, Quantum Mind and Social Science, eventually published in 2015. Their basic idea he ran with is that “the mind and social life are macroscopic quantum mechanical phenomena.”For all intents and purpose, the knowledge of quantum physics would be of no practical import to sociology, except for the fact that human beings and society itself are quantum phenomena. This constitutes a major shift in how we do sociology. Classical social science, which is still the dominant mode today, is based on the study of real material objects and forces, but society is hardly real or tangibleYou can only touch local instantiations of it, not the totality or abstract idea of it.In classical social science, we take for granted certain entities as real, such as states, which are actually provisional social constructions rather than natural objects. Thus, the answers we get are approximations based on assumptions, framed by the way we ask questions. That doesn’t mean they are not functional answers, but functional for who? The framing and perspective of classical theorizing is inherently one-sided and instrumental rather than holistic.All our classical social science is flawed precisely because it is laden with assumptions of classical (mechanical) analysis, which then imperfectly structures theories and policies down the line. Quantum physics gives a more complete account of reality because it describes all the possibilities within a system, which collapses (decoheres) into a classical outcome at the moment of measurement. This does not mean classical science will be obsolete, but just secondary to the quantum approach.
The ‘quantum consciousness hypothesis’ (QCH) is the cognitive basis for a quantum social science. “We are walking wave functions,” as Wendt likes to put it. And we are quantumly ‘entangled’ through language and communication. This serves as a bridge between quantum physics and quantum sociology. It even ties in abstraction explicitly, in how our visualization matrix (or imagination) is essentially a holographic projection:


“When considering a quantum-like model of the functioning of the brain … abstract mental images, such as concepts, are processed on the basis of the quantum-like representation of information. A physical mechanism of creation of the quantum-like representation of classical signals is presented. Quantum-like images are encoded by covariance matrices of classical signals. In the quantum terminology, these are density matrices. Thus concepts are represented by density matrices (which are in fact classical covariance matrices). The same model can be applied to “collective brains” and thus social systems.” p. 27, Contrary to fantastic beliefs that we might be living in a computer simulation, we are in fact living in a social simulation, constituted by the activities and beliefs of everyone participating. Wendt’s decisive proposal for a quantum turn suggests society is a holographic organism that we are linked to via our quantum minds. Each individual is an instantiation, embodying particular collective notions. Like a pixel, or holon, we encode information about the whole. Of course, it is not a perfectly homogenous hologram, but consistent enough and a much better methodological starting point.


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