CHAPTER 5: A CAT IN A BUBBLE
We may have a better chance of getting the attention of a leader if first we get the attention of his followers. Interested non-experts may help you access the time of the expert.
We should also remember that we all belong to many groups. We may be an expert in one group and an interested non-expert in another.
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I have delayed a more detailed description of quantum physics. Can we say exactly what it is?
Quantum physics is the weirdest set of ideas ever invented by the human mind. Absurd thoughts that quantum physics claim may be true include: something can be in two places at the same time; there are multiple universes and new ones may be continuously created; and something done here can have an immediate effect on the other side of the universe. Quantum physics says even time and distance can be quantatized (there is a smallest duration of time and a shortest distance – in the quantum world where it is generally believed that we are looking at very small distances, you move by “quantum leaping” from one point to another nearby point. You cannot leap half way. There is no half way. This is like saying in our world that if a grocery store is a mile away, you can travel to the store, but you cannot go half way to the store).
Quantum physics could be dismissed as so much gibberish – except for the fact that experiments have shown that many of its outlandish ideas are true. Without this branch of science, modern technology (for example, the computer) would be impossible.
Quantum physics also believes that nothing is true until it is observed. Reality requires an observer. And the act of observing can create multiple, alternate universes.
If everything is connected, quantum physics is connected to life. Both are connected to neural networks. When we speculate on how neural networks are formed and their effects on life, let us also consider how quantum effects may also be present.
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Modern science has done pretty well living in ignorance. Only a few scientists today even consider other universes or what timeless means. Even these few seem to be half kidding.
Misconceptions about reality does not stop us from understanding, or at least working with, things in our universe, our little bubble of time. We can consider universes embedded in our universe. We can build computers and atomic bombs
We can conduct thought experiments, point out analogies between apparently unrelated situations, and look for supporting observable facts, while, all the while, remaining in our safe bubble. Good practice for thinking more deeply about what I am going to call Never Never Land.
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Does it tell us anything if we discover that statistical techniques used by our marketing experts to categorize people also work with electrons? This is the kind of question that I would not have dared ask if quantum physics hadn't freed me from being rational. This is a stupid question.
A stupid question ignores conventional wisdom. Since before the birth of Albert Einstein, conventional scientific wisdom has been that electrons are minuscule points of energy. All are indivisible, simple, identical, point-like, fuzzy. Since forever, conventional wisdom has held, I think correctly, that humans are not simple, not identical, not point-like, and not fuzzy. Does this question become not stupid if conventional wisdom is wrong and electrons are complex and not identical?
Another related question is "Can we see quantum effects in everyday life?". There is proof we can, and moreover, when we see these effects, we may be able to seize opportunities and avoid dangers.
I should clarify and expand on what I mean in the previous paragraph. It is based on my worldview - that is all I have and you have to decide if it makes sense or not. Reality is too complex for us to understand anytime soon. Observing and verifying that quantum effects are true may tell us something about reality, but not to the level where we can really use this knowledge. For example, if time travel is possible, I don't think we will learn how to do it from these observations. I could be wrong.
Understanding quantum effects on life, however, could be very useful.
Life is not as complex as reality. We could observe how life behaves and consider quantum influences. We might then make reasonable speculations that move us toward revolutionary treatments for various psychological problems. All these observations, however, tell us nothing about reality – we still do not know what a "psychological problem" is.
Schrodinger's cat was a fictional cat belonging to Erwin Schrodinger, a Nobel Prize-winning theoretical physicist from Austria. Schrodinger made up the following story about his cat to illustrate quantum effects.
One evening in 1935, as Schrodinger told the story, he put his cat and a vial of poisonous gas into a box. The top of the vial, which had been specially designed, was attached to a Geiger Counter outside the box. If the Geiger Counter detected radiation, the vial top would open and release the poisonous gas, killing the cat.
Outside the box was also another vial, this one containing radioactive uranium. Whenever one of the atoms of uranium in this vial decayed into a more stable atom, radiation would be produced, the Geiger Counter would detect it, and the cat would die. Schrodinger knew that while he could not predict when any one specific uranium atom would decay (that was part of quantum theory as it was then and is today), he could adjust the number of uranium atoms in the vial so that there was a fifty-fifty chance the cat would live through the night (the more uranium atoms in the vial, the more likely one will decay). He closed the lid of the box and went to bed.
Schrodinger awoke the next morning and ..., At this point, Schrodinger asked his friends to finish his story.
Schrodinger simply asked “Was my cat alive or dead?
His friends who were classical physicists said "Who knows - Look and see.".
Schrodinger, who was a quantum physicist, said they were wrong, or at least, not right. Schrodinger gave an exalted position to the observer, in this case, himself. Until he opened the box and looked, Schrodinger claimed the cat was in limbo; half dead, half alive; both alive and dead. In the quantum world, it was important to label, to say "that cat is dead" or "the cat is alive". Only then was the cat truly alive or truly dead.
If Edwin Schrodinger had been a Marketing Expert, he would have told you that you must brand your product “good”, your competitor's “bad”.
The creative fiction writer could expand Schrödinger's cat story into an epic of life and death. Delving into the stranger aspects of quantum theory, a science fiction writer could build another kind of story. And many detailed thought experiments can be created from this simple cat story.
What should we choose?
The quantum nature of reality bleeds through to our world and through some mechanism people recognize this. They wage a constant battle to kill Schrödinger's cat. To show this, let us revisit Schrodinger in a slightly different universe.
In this universe, we are on a first name basis with Schrödinger, so we will call him Erwin. Erwin is richer and more famous. He has a much larger family including a wife and they all live in his mansion. He has two cats, a kitten and an adult cat. Erwin still lives in Austria, but Austria has a democracy modeled after the United States.
When we join Erwin, it is the day before election eve. Both Presidential Candidates plan to visit Erwin, his wife, and his children, all voting age, the next day - to win their votes and all important endorsements.
Finally, to finish setting the stage, Erwin has a maid, but she plans to leave for America early the next morning. In this Austria, cultural values include a deep belief that all kittens are cute, adorable, good. On the other hand, adult cats are pretty despicable, they will drag dead rats into the house, they are too aloof. Despite an almost pathological hatred of adult cats, the influence of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals reigns supreme. Erwin would never consider an experiment where a cat might be killed.
Erwin Schrodinger lives in a bedroom rich mansion. All these bedrooms are upstairs. Even though he loves his wife, she has her own bedroom. Each of the children have his or her own bedroom. Even the maid has her own bedroom.
That evening, Erwin is tired. Of course, in this universe, instead of putting a vial of poisonous gas into the box, he carefully lays in a fluffy pillow. Turning to his wife, he says "I am going to bed. Will you put the darling kitten into the box before you come up? We want to make sure she is safe.".
After cleaning up the dishes and turning out the lights, Erwin's wife heads upstairs. As she is about to go into her room, she meets the maid. The maid has not been with the family long, but she is always cheerful and hardworking. Apparently a nice person. The maid expresses the appreciation she feels toward the Schrodinger family and also talks about how excited she is to be moving to America. The maid says she is going downstairs to make a cup of coffee and needs the coffee to stay awake. She has to finish packing and wants to leave early. The maid needs to be at the train station by 6 am. Mrs. Schrodinger knows she will not see the maid again. She wishes the maid well and turns to go. Then she stops and says "Oh, I forgot the cat. Will you put the kitten in her box while you are downstairs?".
After making coffee, the maid sips at the cup and tries to relax. She thinks about her childhood in England. The normal people there, like her, are normal. They think kittens are cute, but the people here are a little strange. It is almost as if everyone here worships young cats. And that reminds her. She needs to put the kitten into the box. She looks around. She doesn't see the kitten. She looks in the broom closet. There is the old cat, asleep. "Oh well", she says to herself, "I'll do it in the morning before I leave". The maid never thinks about cats again.
The maid slips out of the house before anyone else is awake. She travels across town to the railway station to begin her exciting journey.
In this thought experiment about an alternative Austria, I am happy to report that no cats were harmed. The only casualty was a British maid, crossing a street in front of the railway station. The Schrödinger family never knew her fate.
A little later that morning, the Schrödinger family gathered for breakfast. The main topic of conversation was the Election. Erwin moved to open the box. What are the quantum implications? Obviously, the choice is no longer a live cat or a dead cat. The cat can't be in some sort of limbo, becoming dead or alive when observed.
It may be that no one in this alternate Austrian universe thinks a empty box is possible. Erwin thinks the kitten is in the box, his wife put her there. His wife thinks the kitten is in the box, the maid put her there. The maid no longer thinks. The children went to bed early. They all know Erwin loves the kitten and always puts her in the box. So, all but one of the children, thinks the kitten is in the box. One child, however, knows the kitten is not in the box. The kitten came to her room last night. She played with the darling thing and it is now upstairs, sleeping on her bed. This child knows that Erwin also loves the disgusting older cat. She thinks that cat is in the box.
If our imagination is all that is required, you could imagine anything (well, almost anything, there may be things our minds are not capable of imagining). Maybe a burglar broke into Erwin's mansion at 3 am, stealing the kitten, and leaving an old shoe in the box. In this case, anything and everything could be in the box. When Erwin looks in the box, one of an infinity of possibilities is selected. But this selection has nothing to do with what Erwin is thinking.
If we lived in a rational world, saying anything and everything could be in the box would be ridiculous and we could throw out quantum physics. But we can't do this because quantum physics works. So let's look at this situation in another way.
Quantum physicists have postulated multiple universes, an infinite number of them. Moreover, they have theorized that new universes are being continuously created. Let me give a concrete example of what I think the quantum physicists are trying to say. If Erwin puts the kitten into a box, and the next morning, he takes the kitten out of the box, that is one universe. If Erwin puts the kitten into a box and, at 3 am a burglar takes the kitten out of the box and puts an old shoe in, a new universe is created. In this universe, Erwin is very surprised when he opens the box the next morning and finds an old shoe.
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After almost a century of speculation, quantum science doesn't seem to be any closer to explaining how universes are created. It has also failed to show if or how communications between universes occur.
Life does not know enough about reality and quantum physics to know what will be in the box when it is opened. Life, at least when we are talking about "smart" life like people, ants, lions, cats, dinosaurs, bumblebees, and dolphins, does know how to find or create universes it wants to live in. Life does this by engaging in a continuous battle, a battle to "kill Schrödinger's Cat".
Every living creature seems to know or feel that it is unique. No other creature has the exact same DNA. No other creature starts life in the same womb or egg. No other creature sees, feels, endures, or is changed by each instance of existence in the same way.
Yet, in many ways, all life is the same. This is especially true when you look at particular species. A bumblebee is very much like another bumblebee. A man is very much like another man. Both have been tailored by millions of years of evolution to have the best chance to survive a hostile environment long enough to reproduce.
The problem is the environment that living creatures are born into is not just hostile – it is actively random. In a few decades, global warming can turn the perfect home into hell. Individuals, or, in some cases, many species at once (think dinosaurs), may just have bad luck.
Nothing can be done about bad luck, but sometimes creatures that are “not quite the same” can thrive when the environment changes. People sometime recognize that they need to show they are not quite the same, but better. Maybe other creatures also try to improve themselves.
I can't speak for other creatures, but can give a human example of trying to change and excel as our environment, the modern world, changes.
Suppose you are an insurance agent, qualified, trained, certified, and experienced. Unfortunately, there are thousands of insurance agents who are qualified, trained, certified and experienced. So how do you show you are "Not quite the same"?
Experts will often tell you to specialize. You might want to be an authority on term insurance, knowing all of its advantages, as well as the disadvantages of other options such as whole life (since I am not a life insurance agent, I don't know if other options beyond whole life even exist).
This expert advice is not bad, but is very limited. You might want to give yourself even more uniqueness by claiming expertise in a third related field. Or, even better, claiming expertise in a third, apparently unrelated field, that you can show is related.
We all want to be seen as an expert. People will trust our advice. People will seek us out and pay for our opinions. When we are experts, people will remember when we are right and forget when we are wrong. Even better, if you can become famous and admired, you will become a universal expert, considered by your admirers as wise in all subjects.
Most of us are not experts. On the other hand, we do have excellent common sense. Common sense allows us to take limited information, apply it to a field in which we are not experts, and arrive at valid and unexpected conclusions. The experts rarely apply their common sense to their own fields - they are use to thinking in specific ways about specific problems.
There is, unfortunately, little demand for experts in common sense. You can't be certified in this field. You can't major in common sense or probably even take a single course.
If you met me at a networking function and were selling term insurance, you would have a slight initial advantage because I have a bias toward term insurance. Nevertheless, I am almost positive you would be wasting my time, and more importantly, your time, if you tried to sell me term insurance. An expert would probably advise you to be a friend with valuable information to share, not a salesman. This advice is not bad and is designed to separate you from other salesmen. But it is advice we have heard many times before and is something we probably try to do anyway.
If your common sense and your knowledge of insurance could let you relate to me an unusual way term insurance might help me, I might pay a little more attention. But not to a significant extent. After all, common sense is not usually appreciated.
The internet can solve this problem. You will not be talking to one prospect. You may be addressing thousands at one time, at a time when they are ready to buy. Their primary thought will not be "I don't want to be sold". Anything you communicate will be coming from an expert, including your specifically targeted common sense.
Reaching people at the right time is very powerful. Our changing world makes it necessary that we are not quite the same. The thing that are changing our world, namely technology, is, ironically, the very thing that lets us prove we are not quite the same.
. . . .
Let us return to the Austrian universe where on election eve morning Erwin has just opened the box and found it empty. What does he think on a deep, deep level? Sometime in the last 1500 million years, life has learned how to create a thought. And then millions of thoughts for each creature's lifetime. More thoughts than can be remembered. So life has learned how to flag some thoughts as important. To a fly, any thought related to a spider, is important. Then life learned about the power of imagination. If a creature could envision a universe where he is alive, happy, and has many children, while his enemies are dead or at least have been avoided, Reality may reveal that universe or create it from scratch. And what is an enemy? Something bad, evil, disgusting, deceitful. Not good like the creature and his friends. Life has invented morality, a sense of good and evil, right and wrong.
Those with a spiritual mind may want to say life was inspired to invent morality. This may well be true, but could morality have existed or had any meaning before life?
Some creatures, including humans, live in large communities. Fellow creatures can help or impede progress toward better universes. Life discovered that successful branding is critical to a creature's survival. Branding can be seen in action in Schrödinger's Austrian mansion and then we may notice how it dominates human societies today.
When Erwin looked into the empty box, for one split second fear leaped at him. He wanted to live in a rational universe. In an irrational universe, he might not wake up tomorrow, or he might wake up without a head. Fortunately for Erwin, he quickly realized why the box was empty - it was his wife's fault and his fear became anger. Turning to her, he said "I told you to put the kitten in the box". He was wise enough not to say what his tone said "I told you to put the kitten in the box, you stupid woman".
Irwin's wife instantly ducked the unspoken "stupid woman" label, saying "that stupid maid, I told her to put the kitten in the box". Now the universe returned to stability and everybody felt better when the adorable kitten was retrieved. She was safe and so cute as she played on the kitchen floor.
The kitten had moved to the large banquet hall when the first presidential candidate arrived. "What a lovely, darling kitten" were his first words. After a few pleasantries, the candidate launched his pitch. I will not quote him verbatim, but will relay his main points.
Both his domestic and foreign policies would be kitten-like. He would approach both areas with a fun like, but serious intent. Like a kitten with a ball of string, he would play with problems until they were unwound, straighten out, and solved. And like a cuddly kitten, he would always worship and be loyal to the voters who had made him President.
He didn't want to say bad things about his opponent (it wasn't kitten-like), but surely if you have seen the other candidate, you must have noticed how much he is like an old cat. He was very aloof and condescending. He looked down at everyone, especially the voters. Just like you wouldn't trust an old cat with your darling kitten, you shouldn't trust this creature to handle either domestic or foreign policy.
The candidate told Erwin one more time how much he appreciated the hospitality and, one more time, asked for the family's votes and support. And then he was gone.
The family was impressed. They liked the guy. He was a winner, not a loser. Everyone could see themselves supporting and voting for him. But it was only fair to delay their decisions until after they had heard what the second presidential candidate had to say.
Later that afternoon, the second candidate arrived. This candidate was proud of being friendly. He liked to think he could be on a first name basis with everyone. He planned on smiling and saying "Hi, I'm Victor". But then, Erwin, carrying the old cat, answered the door.
Victor was proud of and famous for his broad smile. Whenever he met someone new, like Erwin, Victor would automatically flash this smile. Everyone said his face would light up like a full moon. This time all that he could muster was barely more than a sick, half smile. All he could think about was the disgusting old cat.
Erwin put down the old cat. The cat walked slowly out of the room. Much too slowly.
Erwin turned and stuck out his hand. Victor was also proud of his firm handshake. He knew almost nothing made as bad a first impression as a limp, weak handshake. So Victor grabbed Erwin's hand enthusiastically. Unfortunately, a firm handshake it was not. Victor couldn't squeeze. He couldn't shake hands properly because he couldn't shake one thought. He might be, in fact, he was, squeezing disgusting, old cat hairs.
Victor, like the first candidate, started with a few pleasantries. He met the family and expressed appreciation for their hospitality. He, however, appeared ill at ease. He was ill at ease. After all, he didn't know what he was dealing with. Was this family a cult of old cat loving, kitten hating fanatics?
For the first time in the campaign, Victor was afraid to label. He was afraid to brand his opponent. The candidate tried to relate his unique ideas for changing the current foreign policy of Austria. In the area of domestic policy, he spoke of what changes he wanted and why these ideas were better than his opponent. He painted a logical picture of a future universe, but there was no excitement, no detail, no emotion. He was the President in this universe, and his opponent was the Loser, but the Schrödinger family couldn't see it happening. Neither could reality.
When Victor left, every Schrödinger knew they would vote for the first candidate tomorrow. And they would urge all of their friends to do the same.
When Victor left Erwin's mansion, he was not in a good mood. He got into his carriage and simply said to his coachman "take me home". By the time he arrived home, he had regained his ability to label, to brand. Before going into his study to "think", he said to his wife "That Schrödinger family is the most stupid, idiotic group of people I have ever met in my life. They are all a bunch of old cats".
Victor was 47 years old and owned the largest transportation company in the Western Hemisphere. To some, it seemed as if he had always been a winner, beginning with his birth when he had been born "cute as a kitten".
As a young boy, Victor excelled in sports and was a very good student. His father owned a small plant in Vienna. The company mainly survived by manufacturing buggy whips. His family was neither rich nor poor. His father made just enough to feed the family - well, maybe they were poor.
While still in his teens, Victor went to work for his father. As a young man, he recognized the benefit of selling to regional carriage manufacturers. Soon he was shipping buggy whips to customers all over Europe.
Starting with nothing, he steadily increased his wealth. By the time Victor was 27 years old, the value of what people were calling his empire was estimated to be $20 million. And, he had a new, beautiful wife. Victor saw himself as a success. Everyone else saw him as a success - a Winner.
Three years later, his fortune had grown to $30 million. The world branded him still a Winner. Victor's wife, however, had divorced him. For the first and only time, Victor labeled himself a Loser. If he could have traveled to the alternate universe where Schrödinger's cat was either alive or dead and no one cared if it was really an ugly cat or a cute kitten, Victor would have opened the box and found a live cat standing on a dead kitten.
By the time Victor was 35, his situation had changed. He had met and married his second wife, the love of his life. He was a Winner again. A world wide recession and the cost of buying many of his carriage manufacturing customers (a move Victor called investing for the future) had shrunk his fortune back to $20 million. Even though everyone admitted he was still very, very rich, Victor was now branded "Loser".
The post 35 year old Victor found success. His marriage was happy and every year his wealth increased. The Winner label was firmly attached.
Then Victor decided he wanted to be President of Austria.
When he plopped down on the leather sofa in his study, Victor was mad, depressed. He almost labeled himself a Loser. Had he destroyed everything, making pointless all that he had done the last two years? How many hours had he spent thinking about being President of Austria? How many speeches had he given detailing what he would do when he was President of Austria? How many old cat like meetings had he been to?
Victor then saw a ray of sunshine, a cute kitten. Last week's Presidential Debate had gone well. Everybody said afterwards that he was a winner. He had talked about his kitten like qualities with humor, humility, and forcefulness. Every time his opponent tried to lay the old cat label on him, Victor adroitly show why his opponent was really the old cat. Then, for good measure, he pointed out numerous reasons why no one in their right mind would think his opponent had a single kitten like quality.
Surely, one bad afternoon at the Schrödingers couldn't be that significant. A bunch of old cat lovers couldn't have that much influence.
When Victor emerged from his Study, he was in a good mood. The first thing he said was "What's for dinner?".
The next evening the winner was announced and the Austrian People knew who they would be calling Mr. President for the next four years. The loser would find that the Loser Label would be almost impossible to tear off. The President would be wearing his Winner Label proudly. He had created the universe he wanted to live in.
Austria's president, however, would soon return to a normal existence - fearing and fleeing ubiquitous Loser Labels.
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Leaders and Experts, along with their close associates, want their particular group to be successful, to grow. If the group grows, they receive more respect, possibly money, possibly sex, in general, more of the things each person desires.
Depending on the group, many different methods are used to promote the group. Often the upper eschilon adopt pro-growth or other policies that help the group. They justify their actions by saying these actions are morally right and help and protect the followers and interested non-experts.
This is not as cynical as it sounds. In some cases, it is true or partly true.