On ‘Quantum Social Science’ (Part Two)

There is a Chinese proverb which states: “Any circumstance hitting a limit will begin to change. Change will in turn lead to an unimpeded state, and then lead to continuity.” And with change, the new approach becomes the general approach, whereas the old approach becomes a “special case” of the general approach. 

Thus, the “quantum” approach towards the social sciences and social reality sets itself apart from the “classic” approach based on six principles, according to Jerome Busemeyer and Peter Bruza. For one, a classic approach towards social reality assumes that human cognition and decision-making is based on “definite” or resolute states. For instance, it is a given in the classic approach towards social reality – which one must note, dominates the basic functions and operations in a place like Washington – that either race, sex, money, or power are the main determining factors in human cognition and decision-making. However, the “quantum” approach towards social reality assumes that human cognition and decision-making can be in a “superposition state” where there is “potential” for complex decision-making and thinking:

“In quantum theory, there is no single trajectory or sample path across time before making a decision, but instead there is a smearing of potentials across states that flows across time. In this sense, quantum theory allows one to model the cognitive system as if it was a wave moving across time over the state space until a decision is made. However, once a decision is reached, and uncertainty is resolved, the state becomes definite as if the wave collapses to a point like a particle. Thus, quantum systems require both wave (indefinite) and particle (definite) views of a cognitive system.” 

Second, given that “definite” states are constructed out of “indefinite” states, it follows that “the quantum principle of constructing a reality from an interaction between the person’s indefinite state and the question being asked actually matches psychological intuition better for complex judgments than the assumption that the answer simply reflects a preexisting state.” 

Third, context and situation must be considered when assessing human cognition and decision-making. With changes in context and situation, human cognition and decision-making can also change. Fourth, the “quantum” approach to the social sciences assumes that “classic logic and classic probability theory are too restrictive to explain human judgments and decisions.” Fifth, the “quantum” approach towards social reality contends that the classic approach is “oversimplifying the extremely complex nature of our world.” And sixth, because of the complex nature of social phenomena, it follows that such phenomena cannot be generalized or simplified in a manner whereby specific parts of various phenomena are patched together or synthesized in order to explain everything. Given that each experience is sui generis, it follows that each experience is a basis or foundation for deciphering and understanding the complexity of broader social phenomena. 

Also, social change is enabled by the complexity of social phenomena. If social phenomena could be generalized and simplified as is done in the ‘classic’ approach, then the potential for change would be greatly limited or perhaps even non-existent. And as the quantum social scientist Karen O’Brien wrote: 

“Quantum social change describes a conscious, nonlinear, and non-local approach to transformations that is grounded in our inherent oneness. It recognizes that we are entangled through language, meaning, and shared contexts, and that our deepest values and intentions are potential sources of individual change, collective change, and systems change. This recognition, when expressed through a particular quality of agency, can shift systems and cultures in a manner that is both equitable and sustainable.”

And as mentioned before, it will take a great deal of time before the “quantum” approach of social change supplants the “classic” approach towards social reality, given the way in which the “classic” approach has entrenched itself and in turn has shaped the status quo, especially in Washington but also in other Western capitals, despite the façade and veneer of enlightenment and sophistication. 

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