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It can be a little like Schrödinger's cat - Life is strange... — LiveJournal

Jan. 23rd, 2004

10:53 am - It can be a little like Schrödinger's cat

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A question I recently read that deserves a response:

What do you do when you are curious about something, but you're not sure if you really want to know the answer, and aren't sure if asking the questions might be the entirely wrong thing to do?
When I'm curious, I usually ask....

But sometimes I treat the question and the answering of it like the Schrödinger's cat example of Heisenberg's uncertainty principle from quantum physics. The most simplified summary explanation of the idea I can think of is that the observation of something may change it. (For more info, you can look at ex: Wikikpedia on Schrödinger's cat or a teacher's answer for a 6th grader about the cat/uncertainty example (or The Big View's take on uncertainty for a more in-depth study of this and related questions)).

So how does this relate in real life? In many situations I know of, if I actually know the answer, it changes what I think, and thus what I do. So knowing the answer is different than just theorizing about potential answers, it both crystallizes the actual answer into (my) reality and can impel or even compel action.

This all means that if there is a question where there are multiple potential answers, and I want the answer to be a particular one, I may attempt to bias the world in such a way as to create the right conditions for the answer to come out the way I want it to. Of course one needs to do this before actually asking the question. I think we must have all done this from time to time, though perhaps with fewer mental gymnastics attendant.

But the questioner threw in an extra coda on the question, though: "and aren't sure if asking the questions might be the entirely wrong thing to do." That would seem to me to indicate (in the context of the thought-experiment above) that s/he thinks that conditions may be such that asking the question right now may be able to compel or crystallize the answer into a form that they would prefer.


-(Thoughtfully) generalist

Current Mood: thoughtfulthoughtful
Current Music: Guys and Dolls / Fugue of the Tinhorns [i.e.: 'Paul Revere']


[User Picture]
Date:January 23rd, 2004 09:19 pm (UTC)
This plays neatly into my fave issue in this domain:

There are times when you cannot increase the likelihood of the outcome you
desire, but can increase the likelihood of the outcome that you don't
desire, often simply by asking the question, or by asking the question badly.
At such times, hurry up and wait gracefully becomes really important.

I am not always good at this.
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[User Picture]
Date:January 23rd, 2004 10:29 pm (UTC)
Hrm. That actually translates to me as "If I ask this question, it seems highly likely that the asking will dramatically change the manner in which the person being asked interrelates with me".

For me it has nothing to do with crystallizing an answer, as much as changing the circumstances - especially in an instance where a given answer is desired - to the point where such an answer may well become implausible or impossible.
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