“I am a part of all that I have met.”
– Lord Tennyson
Below the layers of connection that are being explored today – how our (internal and external) environment, and even our internal dialogue, can affect us at a biological level (as explored in Genetic Uniqueness), there is the quantum world.
History of Connection at the lowest levels
Entanglement is “a phenomenon whereby two distant objects become intertwined in a manner that defies both classical physics and a “common-sense” understanding of reality”[i]. In this state, two (or more) objects act as if connected – even if separated by great distances – and the interaction with one will see the other react as if it is the one being interacted with.
The first hints of this in science (although not recognised as such at the time) were from Thomas Young’s experiments with light in 1801, in which he demonstrated that light can behave both like classically defined particles, and also in the same way as classically defined waves. While Einstein later dismissed the idea of quantum entanglement as “spooky action at a distance”, other scientists were working through the possibilities. The now-famous 1935 thought experiment by Schrodinger proposed that the state of a cat locked in a box with a poison capsule inside that could break at any time would remain unknown until the box was opened – therefore, until it was opened, the cat could be considered both alive and dead. In this way, the cat was simultaneously in multiple states.
Following this, multiple other double-slit experiments on different atoms and molecules followed Young’s initial experiment, all with the same result – that the results from an unobserved experiment (where the subject would act as a particle) differed from an experiment that was observed (which caused the subject to act as a wave). In short, at every level (atoms, molecules, etc), the subjects were shown to change their actions simply by being observed! Interestingly, it has now been discovered that the observer does not even have to be human[ii] – that electronic observation is enough to cause this phenomenon.
There have been many further advancements in recent years. Experiments have started breaking assumed limits, and now threaten to bring the quantum world behaviours into the observable world. In 2013 an experiment showed that entanglement occurred at the molecular level, involving clusters of atoms [iii]. In 2017 the Chinese intertwined quantum particles from a satellite to ground stations that were 1200 kilometres apart [iv], which far surpassed any distance previously obtained. And, most recently, studies in this area have started to shift away from the tiny quantum world, into areas that are visible to the human eye, particularly in a 2018 experiment that saw micromechanical oscillators become entangled [v] – much bigger and more complex things than have ever been entangled before!
But such entanglement is not restricted to just to science – many philosophers and religious scholars have contemplated such interconnections for most of our recorded history. One of the earliest considerations is within the Buddhist traditions, which believes that “no identity can be given for any phenomenon independent of others…this is not only true of ‘wholes’ like tables and chairs, but is also true of parts, however defined (elements, atoms, particles, etc.)” [vi]. And as explored in our discussion on Ambiguity, there are many examples of how seemingly contradictory views do indeed exist, and are even true under different conditions – perhaps suggesting a form of entanglement across human perspective as well?
We know that the conversations we have with ourselves and our staff, and the internal physical environment we choose within our businesses influence and shape the health of our staff, and the business as a whole – especially at the level of Psychological Safety, and the resilience we create to operate in environments of Ambiguity. And we are all genetically unique, which provides us with a broad set of possible outcomes based on the particular mix of people and experiences involved in any situation, including the wisdom we derive from overcoming adversity in both our business life, and our life in general.
But one of the most powerful aspects, one that may multiply success if adhered to, or exaggerate our failure if ignored, is the fact that we are all connected. Every action influences the situation in subtle ways we may not even realise. And science is backing up that position, especially at the quantum level.
In ways we can’t yet fully understand, what Einstein once dismissed as “spooky action at a distance”, quantum connection is actually very real. And as the science moves forward, it is demonstrating that such connection is possible at a much larger level than the sub-atomic[vii], and across greater and greater distances[viii].
But what does that mean for the business leader? Most importantly, it says that everything appears to be connected at a far greater rate than we have previously realised. This also implies that our actions have consequences far beyond that of our conventional understanding, and as science continues to strive to bring this more and more to light, we should maintain an open mind to the connections we may not even understand we have, and honour those we already have.
This may encompass acting wisely, and treating staff and customer/clients with dignity and respect. But most importantly for business success, it means adopting your own personal “Board of Directors” to foster creativity, resilience and interdependence, and give yourself the greatest chance at success – in business, and in life.
[iii] Eibenberger, Sandra, Stefan Gerlich, Markus Arndt, Marcel Mayor, and Jens Tüxen. “Matter-Wave Interference of Particles Selected from a Molecular Library with Masses Exceeding 10,000 Amu.”
[iv] Juan Yin, Yuan Cao, Yu-Huai Li, Sheng-Kai Liao, Liang Zhang, Ji-Gang Ren, Wen-Qi Cai, et al. “Satellite-Based Entanglement Distribution over 1200 Kilometers.”
[v] Ralf Riedinger, Andreas Wallucks, Igor Marinković, Clemens Löschnauer, Markus Aspelmeyer, Sungkun Hong, and Simon Gröblacher. “Remote Quantum Entanglement between Two Micromechanical Oscillators.”: 473 & 476
[vi] McRae, Emily. “Suffering and the Six Perfections: Using Adversity to Attain Wisdom in Mahāyāna Buddhist Ethics.”: 398
[vii] Ralf Riedinger, Andreas Wallucks, Igor Marinković, Clemens Löschnauer, Markus Aspelmeyer, Sungkun Hong, and Simon Gröblacher. “Remote Quantum Entanglement between Two Micromechanical Oscillators.”
[viii] Juan Yin, Yuan Cao, Yu-Huai Li, Sheng-Kai Liao, Liang Zhang, Ji-Gang Ren, Wen-Qi Cai, et al. “Satellite-Based Entanglement Distribution over 1200 Kilometers.”
Eibenberger, Sandra, Stefan Gerlich, Markus Arndt, Marcel Mayor, and Jens Tüxen. “Matter-Wave Interference of Particles Selected from a Molecular Library with Masses Exceeding 10,000 Amu.” Physical chemistry chemical physics : PCCP 15, no. 35 (2013): 14696.
McRae, Emily. “Suffering and the Six Perfections: Using Adversity to Attain Wisdom in Mahāyāna Buddhist Ethics.” The Journal of Value Inquiry 52, no. 4 (December 01 2018): 395-410.
Riedinger, Ralf, Andreas Wallucks, Igor Marinković, Clemens Löschnauer, Markus Aspelmeyer, Sungkun Hong, and Simon Gröblacher. “Remote Quantum Entanglement between Two Micromechanical Oscillators.” Nature 556, no. 7702 (2018/04/01 2018): 473-77.
Yin, Juan, Yuan Cao, Yu-Huai Li, Sheng-Kai Liao, Liang Zhang, Ji-Gang Ren, Wen-Qi Cai, et al. “Satellite-Based Entanglement Distribution over 1200 Kilometers.” Science 356, no. 6343 (2017): 1140-44.