Saturday, April 5, 2014

Quantum Action versus Newtonian Action

Quantum Physics is based on probable outcomes, whereas Newtonian Physics uses a cause-effect relationship.   Our behaviors can be classified in the same way.

I was thinking the other day how stupid I was as a kid.  Maybe not stupid, but naive.   I got into an accident when I was like 21 or so, and rear-ended a car while on an on-ramp.  When the cop arrived to take the report, I was like, "Well, it was an accident!"  As if somehow it wasn't my fault.   My 20-somthing mind believed that accidents were something that just happened.  After all, I hadn't intended to hit this lady's car, right?

But since I was looking over my shoulder while merging (something my brother taught me to do) it was a predictable outcome that such an accident would eventually happen.  It is like rolling a stop sign.  You can do it again and again and nothing will happen.   But from a probabilistic point of view, you will eventually get into a wreck, if you engage in that behavior.

You see, I was living in a Newtonian world of cause-and-effect.   Issac Newton derived the basic laws of physics, which stated that for "each action, there is an equal and opposite reaction".   And for young people, this cause-and-effect mentality rules the universe - in their minds.

So, people who live the Newtonian lifestyle put bumper stickers on their cars saying, "Watch for Motorcycles!" - as if being hyper-vigilant would somehow alleviate the slaughter of bikers on the road.  The reality is, in a Quantum Physics world, such events are probabilistic in nature, and you can predict, within a region of uncertainty, that certain actions will have probabilistic outcomes.   If you own a motorcycle, you will get into a wreck eventually, regardless of the number of bumper stickers or how hyper-vigilant we all are.

For example, consider my friend in Connecticut back in 1980.  He bought a new Harley Sportster and drove it everywhere as fast as possible, without a helmet.  One day, he was going about 50 in a 35 zone, and a kid in a Jeep pulled out in front of him.   He drove the Harley through the Jeep, severely injuring himself (as well as the kid), and he spend months in the hospital with, among other things, a cracked skull.

I went to visit him, and he had all the Harley brochures spread out, trying to decide which bike to get with the insurance money he was do doubt going to collect.   He learned nothing from the near-death experience, but rather, decided to double-down his bet.

From his Newtonian perspective, the "cause of the accident" was the kid who pulled out in front of him.   Not wearing a helmet and speeding were not even tangential issues.   "But for" the car pulling out, the accident would not have happened.

And Issac Newton would agree.   One action has an equal and opposite reaction.

But a Quantum Physicist would disagree.   They would point out that there is a certain finite probably (that is actually quite high) that a car will pull out in front of you, if you ride a motorcycle long enough.  If you are going too fast, you won't be able to stop in time.  If you aren't wearing a helmet, your injuries will be far worse than if you were.   These are statistical probabilities that you can calculate down to the last decimal.

And you can avoid these bad outcomes not by looking for cause-and-effect solutions, but simply by choosing to avoid risky behaviors.   Wear a helmet.  Slow down.   Sell the motorcycle.

Similarly, I wrote about a friend of mine who shot himself in the head "by accident" and miraculously did not die.   I talked with him recently and he also believed in the Newtonian world, stating that the shooting was "an accident" although he does not remember how it happened.   Instead of getting rid of his guns, he can't wait to get them back, although he conceded that "maybe he needs to lock them up" or something.  "But then they are no good for protecting yourself!" he says, still lying in the hospital with tubes in him.

He believes in cause-and-effect, not quantum mechanics.   "But for" the "accident" he would not have been shot.  The Quantum approach would show that having guns in the house - particularly loaded ones on your nightstand - creates the very real risk that the gun will hurt you or a loved one, about 22 times more than it would hurt an intruder (and intruder crimes are just not that common).   Keeping the guns locked up, or not having guns at all, reduces this danger by a huge margin - or eliminates it entirely.  Given the potential hazard, it seems reasonable to eliminate such a risk, doesn't it?

But from his perspective, that doesn't register.  The problem was the specific events that lead up to his accident, even if he can't remember what they were.  "If only" something hadn't happened that night, he would be right as rain.   Guns don't kill people, people kill people - right?  That is the Newtonian view.

Now, this is not to say that your actions don't have equal and opposite reactions.   I have noted again and again in this blog than you are not a statistic and your choices are more important than statistics in your life.

But the Newtonian thinkers take the opposite tack.   They believe they can prevent bad shit from happening to them, simply by making the right choices, and "but for" some action by another, their world would be perfect.

And if they make the wrong choices?   It is only then that their world turns Quantum - that they are "victims" of the laws of probability and bad luck.   And they view anyone who is successful as "lucky" and blessed by the fates.   It takes the Newtonian/Quantum analysis and stands it on its head.   Anything bad that happens to them is the result of someone else's bad choices.   And their bad choices (if they even admit to them) are overwhelmed by probabilistic outcome.   No matter how you slice it, nothing they did was wrong!

You do have choices and the choices you make should be based on both direct outcomes (in a Newtonian sense) as well as Quantum Probabilities.   Yes, driving your motorcycle into a tree, intentionally, will injure you, and it is a good idea not to do that.   But that doesn't mean that "but for" doing something really stupid, no bad shit is going to happen.   The better Quantum decisions you make, the better off you will be.  Slowing down and driving more carefully and wearing a helmet and full leathers are choices that will ameliorate risk, but not eliminate it.   Not owning a motorcycle is one way to eliminate it entirely.

Now granted, you may say, "Well, gee, that is no fun, not having a bike!  You might as well do nothing!"  And that is a valid point.  You do have to take risks in life - a lot of them.   And nothing you can do will 100% insulate you from all possible risks.    But you can anticipate that some outcomes are fairly predictable.  

You will likely have a health crises in your life, for example.  So it might be a good idea to plan for such a "rainy day" rather than spend all your money on toys and eye candy and then act blind-sided when you are saddled with huge hospital bills.  So many people, in the past, did just that.  They turned down health insurance as "unaffordable" as they would rather have had a new car.  And when they wrecked the car and ended up in the hospital, they act all shocked that this outcome occurred.  It was predictable.  It was quantum.

Similarly, Newtonian thinkers, when they invest (which is rarely) will invest in long-shot payouts and expect "best case scenarios" to pan out.   When their investment in Gold or BitCoin or Groupon fails to pan out, it is because someone else made a mistake, not them.   The fact that failure rates on IPOs and startups are high, and that long-shot investments rarely pan out does not register with them.  They deny probability and the Quantum effect.   Everything in their world is cause-and-effect, and someone else is to blame (preferably black people or Democrats) when their mini-mansion investment went South.

The Newtonian thinkers base everything on a best case scenario and never plan for Quantum effects.   They stretch their finances to the limit, making payments on crap, and when they lose their jobs, they act like a deer in the headlights - as if some unforeseen unpredictable tragedy that has never occurred in the history of mankind has singled them out as victims.  The reality is, of course, that all of us should plan on being laid off at one time or another.   And you should think, on a day-to-day basis, "What is my Plan B?" if something bad should happen.

That is Quantum Thinking in a nutshell - understanding that unforeseen events and bad things can happen, and then making decisions that ameliorate or eliminate such risks.  Relying on the Newtonian cause-and-effect mentality will only insure that you are blindsided, again and again in life, as tragedy will seem to strike you "from out of nowhere" and moreover, you will never learn from the mistakes you make.