Nature Does Play Dice.  Or Doesn’t She?

Interesting opinion piece out of Scientific American. Don’t have to agree or disagree, but the work pulls in quantum mechanics principles, COVID-19, and lack or abundance of scientific data, applying these to risk taking. Worth reading from the source, below. Because Quantum is Coming. Qubit

Living with Scientific Uncertainty

Points to note…

+  One might naively assume that fundamental uncertainties in our lives merely reflect lack of information; and that by tracing the missing information, we would be able to clear the fog of the unknown. However, quantum mechanics, which lays the foundation for our physical reality, implies that there is a limit to the clarity we can hope to achieve. The Heisenberg uncertainty principle states that the there will always be residual uncertainty for some observables. If we attempt to refine our knowledge of the position of an electron, our measurement process will inflate the uncertainty in its momentum. The product of the uncertainties in position and momentum has a fundamental minimum set by Planck’s constant.

In Albert Camus’ book The Plague, a life-threatening disease provides a vivid illustration of our existential reality. We know that we will die one day but cannot prepare for it since we have no way of forecasting when it will happen. Existential uncertainties extend beyond our private lives into the societal arena. The Vietnam War was triggered by ambiguity in the interpretation of the Gulf of Tonkin incident and shaped the life of a generation.

+  This implies that even if we retrieve all available information through a perfect experiment, we would still be unable to forecast the future of the electron deterministically. Traditionally, our life was shaped by massive objects, such as the car we drive in, for which Heisenberg’s uncertainty is entirely negligible. But with the advent of information technology, artificial intelligence and quantum computing, the quantum world may end up shaping medical decisions in life and death situations. The bedrock of reality is probabilistic. We can only assign likelihoods to different outcomes.

+  Is there a better way? How should we cope with the fundamental uncertainties that thread our life? The responsible advice is simple: we should consider all the scientific evidence and adopt a measured risk on the unknowns. We do such a calculation every time we cross the street. Only a fool would never cross the street because of the risk involved. Rewards are often conditioned on risks. You must jump into the water if you wish to learn how to swim; but in the process of doing so, you risk drowning.

Source:  Scientific American.  Avi Loeb,  Living with Scientific Uncertainty…

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