Time, as every reader of this blog knows, plays a fundamental role in Boyd’s philosophy of conflict. The whole idea of fast transients, for example, which morphed into “operating inside the OODA loop,” depends on one side’s ability to change the environment more rapidly than the other side can comprehend, that is, within the time it takes them to reorient.
Does time exist? Not a question I’m going to go into here because even if it didn’t exist, what difference would it make to, say, operating inside the OODA loop? In either case, we can still imagine, and work with, an arrow of time: Just as you can tell whether Kill Bill (either part) is playing forward or backwards (hint — blood); in a business competition, you can generally tell who is operating inside whose OODA loop.
New research now ties the phenomenon we call the “arrow of time” to quantum entanglement. As the researchers note:
Energy disperses and objects equilibrate, they say, because of the way elementary particles become intertwined when they interact — a strange effect called “quantum entanglement.”
“Finally, we can understand why a cup of coffee equilibrates in a room,” said Tony Short, a quantum physicist at Bristol. “Entanglement builds up between the state of the coffee cup and the state of the room.”
Way beyond me to comment on the physics, but I’m sure you all are wondering about deeper meanings. Boyd, for example, used stuff from thermodynamics and quantum mechanics, and this new research involves both of these. So if you’re like me, your first impulse might be to go:
“Wow! This means that an organization might become “entangled” with the states of competitors and with the environment in general and this entanglement pumps up the entropy in the organization, like a coffee cup cooling off. To keep this from happening, we need to implement tight controls over who interacts with whom outside the organization!”
I have worked in companies that seemed to operate according to this type of logic.
What this is, though, is reasoning by analogy. For example: “If A is like B and C is like D, and B causes D, then A must cause C. Voila!” Maybe, but until you go out and test it, you just have an idea, a suspicion, an hypothesis.
Well, I hear you ask, isn’t that what Boyd did in “Destruction and Creation” when he invoked Gödel, Heisenberg, and the 2nd Law? The short answer is “Absolutely not!” There are a couple of ways that you can convince yourself he wasn’t reasoning by analogy. First, you could look at the explanations of Boyd’s method that I do in “John Boyd, Conceptual Spiral, and the Meaning of Life” and that Chuck Spinney put into Evolutionary Epistemology, Chart 32, both available on our Articles page. The other possibility is to actually read “Destruction and Creation.”
I’ll save you a little time. All three of these laws and theorems address systems, and Boyd was applying them to a particular system, which he defines in the opening paragraphs of the paper. You can argue whether his application is valid, but it is intellectually dishonest, or at least lazy, to claim he was relying on analogies.
But perhaps you don’t need to employ analogies in the case of quantum mechanics and the arrow of time. The researchers are proposing that entanglement affects what we do every day out in the real, observable world:
According to the scientists, our ability to remember the past but not the future, another historically confounding manifestation of time’s arrow, can also be understood as a buildup of correlations between interacting particles. When you read a message on a piece of paper, your brain becomes correlated with it through the photons that reach your eyes. Only from that moment on will you be capable of remembering what the message says. As Lloyd put it: “The present can be defined by the process of becoming correlated with our surroundings.”
Is there something here? More to the point, is there a potential part for a new snowmobile? I don’t know — nothing strikes me at the moment, but that shouldn’t stop you. And analogies are fine, so long as they get translated into the real world and tested.