Binaries do not exist in nature. In fact, I’d go so far as to say the universe abhors the binary. Nothing either is or isn’t. If that were the case, if anything simply was or wasn’t, then anyone who’s ever played a game of Go knows that eventually, all things would either be or they wouldn’t.
The universe cannot suffer a binary because, as any first-year physics student can tell you, the universe tends toward entropy.
This means you can boil a pot of water but if you remove it from heat, it will eventually stop boiling.
Thus binaries are impossible. If we break down anything in the universe, from a star to an amoeba, we eventually get down to tiny little particles.
The particles must be quantum. They must be able to be something or something else while also being able to be both of those things or neither! This is the core assertion of quantum mechanics.
Now, let’s reach out and grab a handful of bedrock particles. Whatever it is that’s at the very bottom when we zoom all the way in with our quantum microscope. We’ll go past quarks and gluons and end up…. somewhere.
Let’s imagine there are tiny balls of bedrock bouncing around and we scoop up 10 of them. Because they are bedrock particles, they can only exist if they are touching. Obviously, if we could separate them, they wouldn’t be bedrock — the space between them would have to be filled with something.
So, since all 10 balls are always touching, no matter what, they are not just individual balls of bedrock, they are a system.
And, because our system is quantum, each individual ball is also entangled with each other ball in every possible grouping configuration ranging from 1-to-1 all the way up to a system of 9 excluding 1.
Now, imagine this: you tap ball one. Because it’s touching all the other balls, they feel the tap. But, it’s also in myriad subsystems due to entanglement. These subsystems experience the tap as it occurs throughout the entire system and within the filters of their various subsystems.
And, because the universe is quantum, each ball reacts to each experience of the tap in every possible configuration simultaneously.
If this 10-ball universe were binary, it wouldn’t have the innate storage to contain all possible tap-related configurations in perpetuity. It would need to “resolve.” But a quantum universe can maintain possibilities through potential. That’s how Schrodinger’s cat is both alive and dead at the same time.
It is impossible to predict what tap configuration the 10-balls will ultimately end up in because trying to measure — to observe its configuration — perturbs it.
So, to sum up: we’ve got 10 balls who could be in a mathematically exotic number of configurations depending on the true nature of quantum dynamics, and it’s impossible to determine what state they’ll end up in unless we measure them, and if we do that the whole system changes and our observations lose relevancy.
Quantum systems are typically too mathematically complex for a human to keep in their head. Not only are the numbers too big (exponentially speaking), but the permutations — the variables, so to speak — start approaching the unimaginable at relatively small iterations of complexity.
This might sound like a bunch of big-brained BS, but all of this is basic physics 101.
Where things get interesting is when you apply a universal truth such as “the universe cannot suffer a binary” to the idea of social dynamics.
Humans are a system. So are tall humans, short humans, blonde humans, ginger humans, left-handed humans, humans named Bob, humans named Bob who have sisters named Jill, humans named Bob who have sisters named Jill and have seen the movie How High 2 more than three times… and so on and so forth.
And each of these humans, in any given moment, is capable of acting in a near void. We can be focusing on washing dishes and suddenly come up with the idea for a novel, a riff for a song, or the answer to a tricky chemistry problem. Thoughts pop in and out of our heads with almost no rhyme or reason and there’s no telling what any human could be thinking at any given time.
Our thoughts lead to our actions and our actions are like the taps in an imaginary 10-ball bedrock system.
Here’s the thing: the human social dynamic works exactly like those balls. It’s just as complex and, as we can clearly see, there are a lot more than 10 balls in play. Not only are there the 8 billion of us who exist now, but there’s also the data left over by those who came before us and the potential data of those who’ll be here when we’re gone.
Suffice to say, the social dynamic is really complex. And that means there’s literally only one rational, logical thing we can do in order to advance it: optimize for the individual.
Anyone who thinks their ideas are suitable to the greater good is coming from a place of universe-sized ignorance. The astronomically-large number of intricate subsystems that exist within the grandiose system of “all people” cannot be quantified. Any attempt to codify the differences between humans results in the natural reconfiguration of the systems being observed.
In other words: humanity tends toward entropy.
Here’s a simple query: If you built a neural network with 8 billion nodes, and millions of them weren’t receiving enough energy to function properly, would you give more energy to the ones that were working well in the hopes of inspiring the ones who didn’t have enough energy to work harder? Or would you give energy to the nodes that needed it in order to ensure your network operated at maximum efficiency?
Until humanity prioritizes its resources — all of its resources — to serve those who need the most help first, we’re doomed to continue living in a world where some people have more than they can ever use and others don’t have enough to survive.
In the meantime, everything we do — every tap we send out through the system — affects everything.
Everything we hate, everything we get mad at, everything we want to destroy, is a literal part of us.
And it cannot be destroyed. Data persists even after the node or system that generated it no longer exists.
Imagine the worst, most heinous, and evil person in the history of humankind. They exist in a quantum space that is almost certainly less than 10 bedrock balls away from you. And remember, there is no space between those balls. That person is more a part of who you are, at our core universal essence than your very thoughts and feelings.
We can only ever truly harm ourselves. Eventually, everyone dies and the universe keeps only the data they produced and the stardust they were made out of. The rest is just quantum flux.
Once we all figure that out, at scale, however long it takes, the rest of humanity’s time in the universe should be smooth sailing.
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Tristan is a futurist who values life, humanity, and taco soup. He/him