Thursday, October 16, 2008

The physics of social change

The Newtonian World view

Newtonian physics showed the world that the universe was intelligible. In other words, we could find all of the answers. We could break reality into small parts and then see how they interacted. Using this method we would soon learn all there is to know about Reality. This approach was developed by Rene Decartes, a French philosopher who first posed the idea of reductionism. This philosophy led Isaac Newton to view the world from a reductionist perspective. He represented this idea with equations in physics. Newton defined formulas that could predict the future accurately. This is known as Classical mechanics. Classical mechanics is still used today to build motors, bridges, buildings and what not. Society then began to view the world as a machine. Interactions whether physical or social were mechanical, predictable and free from emotion or mysticism. The intelligibility of the universe transcended into every aspect of our life. The mystical sort of vanished from our society. As a result we became very materialistic and our arrogance elevated as we considered ourselves the Masters of the Universe. Those repercussions were detrimental, take the Titanic for example.

Post modern world view

All this began to change when Einstein developed his Theory of Relativity, and when Quantum theory emerged. One misconception of Einstein’s theory is that he proved that absolute truth was relative. Einstein did not prove that absolute truth was relative. What Einstein proved was that instead of time being an absolute quantity and the velocity of light being a relative quantity, it was the opposite; the speed of light was an absolute quantity and time was a relative quantity. No matter how fast or slow you travel, the speed of light is always the same. So you never see light slow down when you travel faster and you don't see it speed up when you travel slower. This rattled Newton's view of the Universe and the contemporary consensus. Now, since the velocity of light is constant, time must change as we move at different speeds to compensate. Society viewed the Theory of Relativity as a way to say that reality or truth is relative to each individual. The idea of "relativity" is what transcended into culture even though that was never the implication of Einstein’s theory. During the same century Quantum Theory emerged. Technology developed so that we had the ability to study phenomenon on the Quantum level. What we found was that on the fundamental atomic level new doors had to be opened in the area of physics. Our classical mechanics did not apply. What further baffled physicists is that the logical implications of quantum theory are absurd. Quantum theory itself is full of logical contradictions that cannot be explained. We know that particles in the universe interact with each other instantaneously. Some type of communication is taking place faster than the speed of light! The fact that our physics completely changes on the quantum level proves we have not been enlighten enough to see the greater unified theory yet. But society again used this concept to further the post-modern view of the world that already began to take hold of society. After the devastating realities of WWII on modern society, people were ready for new answers. Simple formulas did not carry the weight they used to. People began to realize that reality dealt with a lot more than just the mechanics of nature. People wanted something that resonated with their soul. Physicists unintentionally gave them a pseudo justification for adopting relativism and dualism into society’s philosophical framework.

In communities the affects of post-modernism have driven people to search for authentic personal connections. Many businesses build clientele from personal relationships instead of using convincing pie charts and graphs that show how good the product is. Marketing schemes are being redefined. People are having to be treated as people and not numbers. Holistic medicine is becoming more popular. Communities are becoming smaller more personable and tribal.

Keep in mind that societies philosophical framework is not always perfect. Some areas of life are very mechanical. The economy, and engineering for example. But human relationships, emotion, supernatural intervention play a significant role in both the economy and engineering as well. A balance is what is needed. It is easy to operate from one framework and throw the other out completely. You can't be all mechanical or all touchy-feely.

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