What Is a "Quantum Society"?
The weapons of the positive revolution are not bullets and bombs but simple human perceptions. Bullets and bombs may offer physical power but eventually will only work f they change perceptions and values. Why not go the direct route and work with perceptions and values?
Edward de Bono*
We can think of society as a milling crowd, millions of individuals each going his or her own way and managing, somehow, to coordinate sometimes. This is the Western way.
We can think of society as a disciplined army, each member a soldier marching in tight, well-ordered step. Individual differences are suppressed for the sake of uniform performance. This is the now-discredited collectivist way.
Or, we might think of society as a free-form dance company, each member a soloist in his or her own right but moving creatively in harmony with the others. This is the new way I am going to describe in this book.
This is a book about changing our social perceptions and values. It is about changing the way we look at society and at our relations to each other within it. And it is a book about restructuring the customs and institutions of society through the power of this new vision. It is, if you like, a book about learning to dance together.
It is also, though, a book about fundamental physical reality, about the latest insights of quantum physics and quantum thermodynamics and how these insights can relate to our everyday concerns about self and society. In particular, I shall be looking at the origins of human consciousness in the wider world of the new physics and suggesting how we might use an understanding of those origins to define a new social vision that is at one with ultimate reality.
The idea of a "quantum society" stems from a conviction that a whole new paradigm is emerging from our description of quantum reality and that this paradigm can be extended to change radically our perception of ourselves and the social world we want to live in. I believe that a wider appreciation of the revolutionary nature of quantum reality, and 0f the possible links between quantum processes and our own brain processes, can give us the conceptual foundations we need to bring about a "positive revolution" in society.
The notion of a quantum society is also meant to suggest the image of a society firmly rooted in nature. Rooted not just in the nature of trees and rivers and the ecosphere, but in the nature of physical reality itself -- a society drawing its laws and principles, its self-images and its metaphors from the same laws and principles underlying all else that is in the universe.
One of the leading physicists of this century, David Bohm, has used the image of a dance to illustrate the dynamic unity of quantum laws and principles. He compares the movements of electrons in the laboratory to those of ballet artists responding to a musical score. The score itself, he says, constitutes "a common 'pool' of information" through which the dancers can move together in an organized and orderly way.1
The human brain is the natural link between our perceptions and values and the "cosmic dance" of physical reality. The brain is the physical basis of our conscious life. A better understanding of how the brain gives rise to mind can give us a better understanding of the potential latent within thought. Early on in this book, then, I am going to suggest a new quantum physical model of how the brain works and explore how the use of such a model can itself become a powerful "weapon" for personal and social transformation.
The word society is used in many ways to describe quite different social arrangements -- nation-states such as "British society" or "American society," religious or ethnic subcultures such as "Christian society," or even the cultural patterns of class groups such as "middle-class society" or "high society." I am writing here about society in its most general and inclusive sense, as the domain in which we dwell together with others. This domain, which includes what sociologist Emile Durkheim calls our "collective patterns of thinking, feeling and action," extends from the most private world of intimate relationships to the increasingly global world of economic, political, and power relationships. I assume that to be involved in relationship, or even impinged upon by it, is to dwell in society.
It is nothing new to suggest a direct link between our understanding of the physical world and our thinking about patterns of social and political relationship. The ancient Greeks believed that the movements of the heavens were the source of all transformation in the world, social as well as physical. Heraclitus' principles of strife and tension in the physical realm were applied to relations between people in society. The vortex theories of Democritus and Epicurus were an early Greek attempt at thermodynamics. They saw the earth at the center of a vast, eddying whirlpool of ether that kept the stars and planets in motion. These physical images or visions also became the central explanatory principle for all social change.2
Today, our perception of social and political reality, our whole perception of "modernity," is a mechanistic perception. It was formed in direct response to the philosophical and scientific revolution of the seventeenth century that gave birth to modern science and is reinforced daily by our constant exposure to the technology that surrounds us. The greatest figure in this new mechanical science, Isaac Newton, believed that the foundations of his work could be applied to problems in moral philosophy.3 The French Polytechnicians of the eighteenth century tried to extend his ideas to questions of history and spirit. As Giorgio de Santillana expressed it, "these men tried to build a religion as they had learned to build a bridge."4 Others shared this wider mechanical vision. The sheer power and simplicity of Newton's three mechanical laws of motion, and the apparent force of the new empirical method, drew nearly every influential social, political, and economic thinker of the seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth centuries to use them as a model.