Superposition and Decisions

Indecision is a masterful blockade of exploration and progress. When indecisive it’s often difficult to embody the weighted state that guarantees a single path. I was reminded of this qualm while watching Allan Addams’ lecture on a particular phenomena in quantum mechanics known as superposition.

Addams introduces the concept by talking about the color and hardness boxes which are representative qualities of electrons — an electron can be black or white and hard or soft.

The color box has one input and two outputs; one white out and one black out. The hardness box has similar ins and outs, with one hard out and one soft out.

A white electron sent through a color box will come out white — a black electron exits black. Similarly in a Hardness box a soft electron exits soft, and a Hard electron will exit Hard.

The question is now, what if we send an electron of confirmed color through a hardness box, or confirmed hardness through a color box?

This is were it gets strange.

A white electron sent through a hardness box exits the hard out 50% of the time and soft out the other 50%. Similarly if you send a Hard electron through a color box; 50% white and 50% black.

It’s at this point in the lecture Addams says outright, “It is meaningless to say that an electron is both hard and white, or soft and black”. In this revelation of quantum uncertainty, Allan is describing one of the foundational phenomena with respect to quantum studies — Superposition.

Superposition results in the fact that the energies involved are too low to qualify distinct entities. Low energy resulting in uncertainty; I can’t help but think of cognitive indecisiveness.

Simple and complex decisions alike require investment. Consider all the times you’ve made a decision, like picking up a mug or decisions that require more attention like publishing a blog post, or sending an e-mail.

So then, for anything that is not superposed, its energy is too high for it to be anything but concrete. One has invested just the right volume of energy to satisfy one state over the other.

What benefit is provided in making this analogy?

Meaning comes from consistency, recurring stimulations signify importance and perceptual processing, i.e added energy garners meaning. Consider the constant abstraction humans impose on the world in order “to make sense” of it. What we experience consistently is what we percieve as certain.

Of course, intellectual superposed states have weights; their link to survival, and other needs which then cast desire and experience and guide our values.

In exploring the relation between superposition and cognitive indecision, consider what it means to abstract, to superimpose our thoughts on the world: things just ‘are’ without the mind, yet with it, things are ‘because’

Not unlike what philosopher Ruth Chang says about making hard choices — the two are “on a par” with each other. They are the same league of value, yet have different kinds of value. The electron has a kind of Hard/Soft and a kind of Black/White and they exist in the same league of ‘electron-likeness’. Abstraction is the one thing that abolishes uncertainty in us — the ability to create meaning is what makes decisions.

Originally published at