Quantum entanglement, the arrow of time, and John Boyd?

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.



9 thoughts on “Quantum entanglement, the arrow of time, and John Boyd?

  1. Perception…..what do you perceive? The cycle is always in motion and what you perceive as opposites are rally just the same thing in a different state. perhaps this is why human conflict cannot totally cease. The OODA loop does not change the environment per se, but allows one to capitalize of their “perception” of that environment. That is what I have taken away from multiple reading of Destruction and Creation, and further backed by ” The Tao of Physics” by Fritjof Capra…..

  2. Interesting theory. It could also work both ways as the competition equillibrates with you. Even farther to the extreme would be when your own operations begin to reach a stage of equilibrium with themselves; leading to a homeostatic condition and ultimately to stasis itself resulting in “death.”

  3. I think one way organizations become entangled is within their capabilities. This chart http://www.huffingtonpost.com/soren-petersen/design-matching-innovatio_b_5199562.html lists organizational capabilities as: Culture, structure, procedures, and assets.

    The article stresses the importance of culture, which I think all here agrees culture trumps all other capabilities. So it is a small wonder why organization’s first impulse is to throw a wall in front and say, “To keep this from happening, we need to implement tight controls over who interacts with whom outside the organization!””

    As you say, I think this is a wrong approach, but then organizations seem to have very little faith in themselves, at least when it comes to the most important assets human . Without faith or trust in its people and culture and when a competitor is operating in your loop, harmony is not in the organization’s favor.

    And now with entanglements, we can see clearly why harmony is destroyed. It’s not so much because because your competitor is maneuvering faster, but they are operation at another wavelength or height.

    So, due to entanglements, it maybe that a less maneuverable and slower organization could operate within anothers loop by operating at a slower but more harmonic pace. In other words, put the friction inside the entanglements to work for yourself, and exclude it from your competitor’s capabilities (friction being contained within an organization’s structure).

    I am sure business is, in general, well aware of the importance of time, as much of their strategy, at least in manufacturing, is built on an as-needed culture to control assets, but when thinking about entanglements, culture, structure, and the process are just as important to think of in units of time (those units of time having both length and height).

    Maybe what I am really saying is that entanglements should not become a security issue just because it is easier to throw money in one direction (although there is an element of that) but be thought of in context of all the capabilities of an organization.

    Probably all the real successful organizations are already doing just that.

  4. I sense that quantum phenomena are with us all the time, it’s simply the scale and proportion
    of mass, as you move up in scale that moderates the effects or randomness. At the sub atomic scale the passage of time is also different and has less of a moderating effect.

  5. “it’s simply the scale and proportion
    of mass”

    It is not simply the scale and proportion of mass, but structure does matter. So it’s simply the scale and proportion of mass and the potential of the distribution “that moderates the effects [of] randomness.”
    That is why the power at the sub-atomic scale is so huge. It becomes the power of the universe as distance disappears from observation, i.e. energy equals force at a distance and at the subatomic level power is force over time.
    As you say, at the subatomic level the distance are great, but it takes no time to get there.

  6. It is not possible for Boyd to be referring to the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principal or the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics in relation to his observation theory by anything other than analogy. The uncertainty principal is not observed in the macroscopic world, and therefore cannot account for the uncertainty that he talks about. In fact, the uncertainty only applies to quantum mechanical objects that have observable operators that don’t commute. It turns out that position and momentum do not commute for quantum particles which implies a degree of uncertainty. However, for macroscopic objects, like a baseball, this is not the case. We can measure the precise position and momentum of a ball and predict with certainty where the ball will land, how it will bounce…etc. The uncertainty principal does not effect the macroscopic world like it does the quantum world.

    The use of entropy also seems to be incorrect. Entropy is inherent disorder, but it is not the chaos and disorder that he refers to. It is the randomization of nature such as a cooling coffee cup reaching equilibrium with the room, but not the chaos of war. In fact, war is the exact opposite of an increase in entropy (increase in disorder), it is a very structured and ordered event. But using the term entropy for a system of this kind is simply inherently incorrect.

    If Boyd is not arguing from analogy, than I am afraid that he is even farther from being correct than I originally thought.

    • Christopher,

      Thanks. Boyd argued that he was using these principles in their more generalized forms and that physicists were using special cases of them. You may or may not agree with this — fair enough — but that’s quite different than arguing from analogy.

      Your insistence that “war is a very structured and ordered event” strikes me as a little odd. Do you have a basis for this assertion?

      Best regards,

    • “…it is a very structured and ordered event.”
      In the terms of structure, it is an ordered event.
      I mean, that is what war is about. One side puts up a structure and waits for the other side to tear it down, while the other side builds the mechanism to tear the structures down.
      On the other hand, quantum physics is about both structure and culture. Culture being the stuff inside said structure.
      I am going out on a limb here, but Boyd’s OODA loop is the distribution of energy according to quantum physics and takes place in three domains, physics, logic, and ethics.
      The problem is: you’re an expert in quantum physics, which, according to a German particle physicist I talked with, means you don’t know quantum physics.
      Your problem with Boyd has nothing to do with the physics he uses. Your problem is that you don’t know of what you speak, as Chet perhaps suggests.
      When you master physics, logic, and ethics, then you will know Boyd.
      I still don’t know Boyd, but I know enough to believe that Orientation is both a position and a posture.
      Position is the observable potential energy in the loop, while posture gives us the observance of potential movement (kinetic energy).
      The time/step between Decision and Action is the release of kinetic energy and where position and posture takes place.
      After that, I presume, it is all quantum physic.
      As I don’t know quantum physics, I don’t know where “all” is.

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