by Kim Pederson…….
Since Donald Trump’s surprise victory in the presidential election, there’s been mucho finger pointing. Hillary and her senior staff were too arrogant and overconfident. The Democrats ignored/shunned the locals in all the wrong places. The gobsmacked media gave DT too much free attention and Hillary too little. The FBI director deliberately torpedoed the Dem’s chances at the last minute. No one (except DT perhaps) saw the outcome coming and everyone (except DT perhaps) was shocked by it. But, as I’ve discovered, we would not have been fish-slapped had we adopted a different perspective. As Parag Khanna writes on Quartz, “Donald Trump’s election victory is only a shock if you have been looking at the world through simple equations.”
The simple equations Khanna refers to in “Want to understand how Trump happened? Study quantum physics” are Newton’s three laws of classical physics. Actions have equal reactions. Objects at rest tend to stay at rest (true for me anyway). Force equals mass plus acceleration. But algebra is not good enough, Khanna tells us, to understand the world. We need quantum mechanics to describe the “uncertainty and ambiguity that is harder to measure but defines our true reality.” In the same way, “as recent geopolitical shocks have proven, outdated methods are no longer capable or sufficient to explain global society’s complex and interconnected systems.” The question the author poses is “can we understand geopolitics if we don’t understand its physics?”
The upshot of all this, as far as my overstretched brain can figure, is that governments and politicians need to abandon their “antiquated, Newtonian logic” and start thinking quantum mechanically. The world is not complicated (although it is), it is complex, that is, an association of related things often in intricate combination. It’s complexity comes from global connectivity, which has always existed but now with technology is orders of magnitude greater. “One of the most important quantum insights,” Khanna writes, “is that the nature of change itself changes…. Complexity makes a mockery of linear projections. It made a mockery of Hillary Clinton’s projected win.”
The concept of complexity may be difficult to comprehend (tell me about it) but it’s one that DT and his administration and Congress and…well, everyone need to understand if we are to succeed to any degree going forward. Right now, DT does not acknowledge complexity. It seems he wants to drag our country back into the twentieth century or earlier. Perhaps his slogan should have been “Make America Simple Again.” In some ways, too many ways, he already has. It won’t work. Khanna explains why not: “In a complex system, leaders have little choice but to be open-ended in their decision-making, perpetually adapting to changing circumstances.” In other words, the world is a politician’s nightmare. Let’s hope it doesn’t become ours as well.
On the upside, this argument tells us that finger-pointing is a waste of time. The world is complex and chaotic and no one can predict anything really about what the future will bring. If you still need to blame someone for recent events, however, I have a suggestion (shamelessly ripped off from John Donne): “Do not ask to whom the finger points, it points to thee.”
*Copy of a painting of Isaac Newton by Sir Godfrey Kneller(1689) painted by Barrington Bramley. Public Domain.
Visit Kim Pederson’s blog RatBlurt: Mostly Random Short-Attention-Span Musings.