Since late 1970s, more and more people became interested in new studies of physics, quantum mechanics, chaos and complexity theories. Every nuance of these new sciences held promised that we would find new ways of understanding, being and doing in our own development and that of society, culture and organizations.
The whole of our culture sense, the scientific revolution going back to the late 16th century focused on Newton’s work in the 17th century, had a deep impact on thinking in every other field for the next 300 years right up to this day. Newtonian physics posits a theory of the universe as being more or less ordered, measurable and predictable. So when we talk about Newtonian physics, that’s just physics, but the mechanistic paradigm, the Newtonian paradigm. This paradigm influences how people think about psychology, society, economics and management in terms of the same categories, concepts and idea structures that form Newtonian physics. For example, Sigmund Freud (1856-1939) aspired to be the Newton of psychology; John Stewart Mill (1806-1873) who helped to write liberal political philosophy and capitalism said that he owed everything that he ever knew to Newton. Fredrick Taylor (1856-1915), the founder of scientific management theory, was consciously very influenced by Newton. To a large extent, modern cognitive science is still very influenced by the Newtonian paradigm – focusing on material and considering mind as machines. For example, we are used to approach every dimension of organizations in a Newtonian/mechanical manner. Frequently used words such as “optimization”, “efficiency”, “control”, “streamline” are essentially engineering language applied to the machine. Consciousness is outside of the scope of this paradigm. It’s through fundamental shifts in science that signals fundamental shifts in culture, though it may take 100-200 years to catch up.
The fundamental shift in physics was at the beginning of the 20th century with the discovery of the atom, the splitting of the atom and eventually quantum physics, which was mathematically formulated in 1927. This actually describes the fundamental categories of causality, perception, and relationship, David Bohm’s work on implicate order and explicate order, the wave function and world, etc. Quantum physics, on the other hand, works according to probability not predictability. It assumes all pasts and future’s of the subatomic world to be true simultaneously, and as such posits a much more randomized and chaotic vision of existence and matter. ‘Chaotic’ in a way that it is a tamed chaos, an organized chaos, chaos with purpose and clear direction since some elements of quantum instability can be found on the macro scale, but even then they behave in a more orderly fashion. Take a simply example of a tree. When we look at a tree, knowing that it will be there the next day, in the same place and that it will grow a little taller each year – it is all the organized atoms inside this tree that make this stability and predictability possible. This realm of organized chaos is the very place where our soul has chosen to awaken the true, inner order of the spiritual realm. This also has profound implications on business, market and even entire global systems. Corporations are living systems; all living systems are complex adaptive systems. They can be thought of as living quantum systems.
Although, many of the physical laws and theories that have been derived from classical physics do not apply to the quantum world, it is important to acknowledge that both Newtonian physics and Quantum physics reflect different ways of reality at macro and micro level. For instance, while Newtonian physics is not complete, it is still the most useful theory in many of our day-to-day calculations; if an engineer constructs a building, he will apply Newtonian (classical) physics rather than quantum mechanics. On the other hand, quantum physics is needed in the development of nano-technology and modern computers. None of the electronic gadgets or computer chips would run without quantum physics. On a more practical standpoint, Newtonian vs. Quantum resembles material aspect and spiritual/non-material aspect of life. To deal with material/external challenges, there is a benefit to understand the occurrences below the surface. From a quantum perspective, there is a whole new way to think about psychology, society, economics, leadership, and spirituality. Especially for such people-related fields, it is important to adopt a quantum view to solve many existing challenges that Newtonian approach fails to address. It is important to note that Newtonian thinking still pervades the society. Newtonian systems models have been, and in many cases still are, applied to human systems like the market or business organization.
It takes time for these scientific thoughts to seep into the general consciousness and form a whole cultural paradigm, which requires education, awareness raising and individual’s inquisitive mind.
The first application of quantum paradigm in Finance, particularly risk management is outlined in the hope of bringing holism to the reductionist analytical approach to build a foundation for finance in service to the society and life. Feedback is greatly appreciated!