IN Marshall:
QUANTUM SOCIETY (William Morrow, 1994)

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(Copyright © 1999 Piero Scaruffi | Legal restrictions - Termini d'uso )

The authors apply the indeterminacy of quantum mechanics to human society, in particular to justify a holistic vision of both social and individual life. They claim that the unity of consciousness is evidence that the mind is a quantum phenomenon, precisely the phenomenon of Bose-Einstein condensation. The book discusses Marshall's thesis (advanced years earlier) that the brain exhibits such a physical property and it is precisely this Bose-Einstein condensate that allows the brain to organize millions of neuronal processes into a coherent whole (thought).

Marshall thinks that the collapse of a wave function is not completely random, as predicted by Quantum Theory, but exhibits a preference for "phase difference". Such "phase differences" are the sharpest in Bose-Einstein condensates. This implies that the wave function tends to collapse towards Bose-Einstein condensates, i.e. that there is a universal tendency towards creating the living and thinking structures that populate our planet. Marshall views this as an evolutionary principle built in our universe.

In other words, the universe has an innate tendency towards life and consciousness. They are ultimately due to the mathematical properties (to the behavior) of the quantum wave function, which favors the evolution of life and consciousness. Marshall thinks we "must" exist and think, in accordance with the strong anthropic principle (that things are the way they are because otherwise we would not exist).

Marshall can then solve the paradox of "adaptive evolution", discovered in 1988 by John Cairns: some bacteria can mutate very quickly, way too quickly for Darwin's theory to be true. If all genes mutated at that pace, they would mostly produce mutations that cannot survive. What drives evolution is natural selection, which prunes each generation of mutations. But natural selection does not have the time to operate on the very rapid mutations of these bacteria. There must be another force at work that "selects" only the mutations that are useful for survival. Marshall thinks that other force is the wave function's tendency towards choosing states of life and consciousness. Each mutation is inherently biased towards success.

By extending the same arguments at the interpersonal level, the authors arrive at a quantum model of community. The wave/particle dualism of Quantum Theory also relates to the role of humans in society: individual action can be better viewed as part of a bigger wave of actions of all individuals. Human behavior in general can be viewed as both particle and wave (both as a self with boundaries and an "unstructured potential"). The higher reality of society (for example, its nature as a shared repository of skills and knowledge) is due to the overlapping of the wave aspect of our personas.

The authors argue that the power, and even necessity, of pluralism in society is proven to be essential to evolution itself. This is a fascinating book that mixes Quantum Physics, speculations on the nature of mind and social and political philosophy. Quantum mechanisms and Darwin's theory of evolution get interpreted as a celebration of pluralism and diversity. They are both essential to our being what we are, and they are inherent in everything that happens and that we do. An uplifting, if not always plausible, message.

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