Quantum Social Science Bootcamp


About the Quantum Social Science Bootcamp and its Mission
The hypothesis, or wager, behind quantum social science is that the human mind and behavior are more like the indeterminate and entangled sub-atomic phenomena described by quantum physics than they are like the deterministic inanimate objects described by classical mechanics. Yet, a century after the quantum revolution, the classical mechanistic worldview remains deeply baked into the ontology and methodology of the social sciences. Consider that every time we reach for probability theory in our work, social scientists are almost certainly – and probably unconsciously – reaching for classical probability theory, not its quantum cousin.

Such classical thinking by default has come under growing pressure, however, from long-standing anomalies in human cognition and decision-making research, as well as seemingly intractable philosophical problems like the nature of consciousness. And now the doubts are intensifying with the emergence of a clear positive alternative, rooted in quantum assumptions about the mind and social world.

Vigorous interdisciplinary research programs on quantum cognition and decision-making, quantum game theory, quantum social theory, quantum semantics, quantum biology and other domains have arisen precisely because they show potential to resolve many of the problems generated by classical thinking. If it turns out that the human mind and behavior are better described using a quantum rather than classical framework, then the social sciences will need to be rebuilt on a quantum foundation. And quantum physics, which we normally think of as the ultimate physical science, would turn out to be a human science as well.

However, because few social scientists have ever considered quantum theory before, very few currently have the conceptual and/or mathematical skills to take advantage of it. Nor are many potential quantum social scientists washing up on the shores of graduate programs, since almost no one studies quantum theory in college except physics majors.

Mershon Center’s Quantum Bootcamp, which has been made possible by a generous grant from the Carnegie Corporation of New York, is a response to this lack of supply of quantum expertise in the social sciences. Not that we can do much more than stir the pot in a week. But what we can do, by bringing together experts with capacities across different forms of quantum social science, is give students with little or no background a sense of why a quantum social science might be needed, and what its basic elements would be. From there, and as members of a growing interdisciplinary community of scholars like those represented at the bootcamp, participants should be able to begin further study on their own.