Essay—Top Ten Paradigm Shifts (Issue 35)

Summary—This essay discusses paradigm shifts and encourages the reader to prepare for them.

My favorite movie is Thirteen Days (2000) staring the excellent American actor Kevin Costner and the excellent Canadian actor Bruce Greenwood, who played John F Kennedy.  It is a movie about leadership in that we came on the cusp of World War III.  In 1962 the Soviet Union put forty nuclear missiles on the island of Cuba.  The United States military men wished for war.  Kennedy prevented this from happening.  The following is a speech that he gave to his advisors—“Last summer I read a book The Guns of August.  I wish every man on that blockade line had read that book.  It’s World War I.  Thirteen million killed.  It’s all because the militaries of both alliances believed they were highly attuned to one another’s movements and dispositions—they could predict one another’s intentions.  But all their theories were based on the last war.  And the world and technology had changed and those lessons were no longer valid.  But it was all they knew—so the orders went out.  Couldn’t be rescinded.  And the man in the field his family at home couldn’t tell you why their lives were being destroyed.  But why couldn’t they stop it?  What could they have done?  Here we are fifty years later.  Think one of their ships on the blockade line resists inspection.  And we shoot out its rudder and board.  They shoot down one of our planes in response.  So we bomb their anti-aircraft site in response to that.  And they attach Berlin.  So we invade Cuba.  And they fire their missiles.  And we fire ours.”

Two—2001—A Space Odyssey.  A character from the 1968 movie 2001—A Space Odyssey had this to say about paradigm shifts—I am sure that you are all aware of the extremely grave potential for cultural shock and social disorientation contained in this present situation if the facts were suddenly made public without adequate presentation and conditioning.  There are three paradigm shifts in the movie.  The first one has a prehistoric man discovering homicide by clubbing a victim over the head with a large bone.  The second shift reveals itself when a gigantic monolith (ie. a really large brick) is discovered on the moon.  The third one has a shift going from consciousness to self-awareness, which is a higher form of consciousness—ie. consciousness recoiling upon itself.

Three—From Inside to Outside.  To paraphrase Plato (427-347 BC)—Imagine prisoners chained inside a cave such that they only see the shadows projected through eternal objects (eg. the Pythagorean Form) onto the wall from the light of the fire behind them—A prisoner named Socrates breaks free of his chains and climbs out of the cave into daylight—After a time his eyes adjust to the light and he returns to the cave intending to free the prisoners—But back inside the cave Socrates now has trouble making out the shadows—And his obvious attempt at liberation only serves to anger the prisoners for revealing the illusionary nature of their existence—They become so overwrought with anxiety that they proceed to kill Socrates for it.  Plato believed in eternal existence.  I would argue that I am the Plato of our generation.

Four—From Normal to Camus.  The normal distribution is a cornerstone of portfolio theory.  It is all about bringing together all the moving parts into a single portfolio distribution.  The normal distribution can be simulated on an Excel spreadsheet as follows—normsinv(rand()).  The normal distribution has only two inputs—the mean and standard deviation—ie. the first two moments of a distribution.  For the normal distribution the skewness is always zero and the kurtosis is always three.  The tails of a normal distribution are thin and short and effectively end at four standard deviations.  The Cauchy distribution has undefined moments and thicker and longer tails, which represents the paradigm shift.  This counter allegory to the normal can be simulated as such—normsinv(rand()) divided by normsinv(rand()).  I developed the state-of-the art four-moment Camus distribution which is a weighted average between the normal and the Cauchy.  The Camus distribution adds the ability to define the third and fourth moments—ie. skewness and kurtosis.  I constructed the Camus distribution with the vast, untapped potential of simulation-based optimization.

Five—The Michelson-Morley Experiment.  In 1881 two Americans Michelson and Morley performed a monumentally important experiment which established, beyond a doubt, that lightspeed is invariably fixed at 186,284 miles per second—regardless of relative motion.  The experiment presented a problem in that, according to Newtonian physics, velocities are additive, thus contradicting the invariance of lightspeed.  The young Albert Einstein (1879-1955) resolved this dilemma in 1905 with his relativity theory by revealing that space and time are variable, interrelated quantities.  In paralleling Newton, Einstein theorized that the laws of nature are the same for all uniformly moving bodies.  But unlike Newtonian physics, which only concerns itself with mechanical laws, special relativity also accounts for the behavior of light and other electromagnetic radiation.  The Michelson-Morley experiment presents a paradigm shift in going from the variability of lightspeed to its invariability.

Six—The Aspect Experiment.  Up until 1982 the scientific community believed that, according to relativity theory, there was no such thing as faster-than-light signaling.  According to Michael Talbot in his 1992 book Mysticism and the New Physics two photons were connected at speeds faster-than-light—Talbot claimed that this discovery was mind-boggling—It meant that some of our most cherished and accepted notions about reality are radically in error—Einstein pointed out that quantum theory implied the existence of twin particles—Before 1982 the technology was unavailable to conduct Aspect’s experiment.  I would respond to the Aspect experiment with my theory of one (2001) by claiming that there is only one photon which occurs at the boundary of spacetime.

     Seven—From Faith to Reason.  According to William Barrett in his 1958 classic book Irrational Man reason was a Greek invention.  For example, the Pythagorean Form was named after Pythagoras (572-500 BC).  It states that the hypothesis-squared of a right angle triangle is equal to the sum of squares of the other two sides of the triangle.  For instance three-squared plus four-squared equals five-squared.  The Pythagorean Form was certainly used in the building of the Egyptian pyramids from 2630 BC—but only as an a posteriori rule of thumb.  Pythagoras was the first to prove it as a mathematical a priori truth.  So whereas the Egyptians believed in faith that the Pythagorean Form holds true—Pythagoras proved that the Pythagorean Form would hold true by reason.  Note that relativity theory (1905) is based on the Pythagorean Form.

Eight—From Space and Time to Spacetime.  John Wheeler once remarked that we have time so that everything does not happen at once.  And we have space so that we all do not stand in the same place.  The spacetime continuum is our playground.  Albert Einstein (1879-1955) discovered the equivalence of space and time with relativity theory when he realized the invariance of lightspeed contradicts the additivity of velocity.  It turns out that space and time dilate as a function of velocity relative to lightspeed.  Einstein thus concluded that all spatial and temporal referencing is relative except for lightspeed.  And then taking the dilation of space and time to the limit, we see that bodies traveling at lightspeed exist at the very boundary of spacetime—beyond which lies an unimaginable abyss of nothingness.  The paradigm shift occurs here as going from space and time to spacetime.

Nine—From Certainty to Uncertainty.  Einstein asked the metaphysical question—Does the moon really exist when no one is looking at it?  The answer is no.  Some have argued that the moon exists all the time because God is always looking.  But God, being eternal, only sees the eternal—ie. Souls and Forms—eg. the Pythagorean Form.  Newtonian physics tells us the moon is always there regardless of whether there is anyone looking.  Quantum theory tells us that whether or not the moon is there is indeterminate—thus making it a shift from certainty to uncertainty.

Ten—From Objective to Subjective.  Schrödinger set forth his classic cat-in-a-box thought problem in 1935 with the intention of demonstrating the absurdity of the probabilistic interpretation once and for all—A quantum-cat is placed in a box such that no one can know what is happening inside.  A device releases either food or poison with equal probability, and the cat meets its fate—or does it?  Schrödinger absurdly argued that the cat must be both alive and dead until the observer opens the box.  The thought problem ironically leads to the counterintuitive conclusion that the observer’s consciousness is what actually determines the fate of the cat.  According to the objective view, the fate of the cat is predetermined.  Here the consciousness of the observer has no impact on the outcome of the thought problem.  According to the subjective view, the fate of the cat is described with a probability distribution.  And the consciousness of the observer determines the outcome of the thought problem.

Conclusion.  The Thirteen Days movie (ie. the first of ten paradigm shifts) represents the greatest paradigm shifts of all—that of going from world peace to nuclear war.  A paradigm shift is a fundamental shift in reality.  A Frank & Ernest comic strip shows a chick breaking out of its shell, then looking around and proclaiming—Wow, paradigm shift.  Peter Bernstein claimed that paradigm shifts are not unpredictable, just unthinkable.  Hopefully this essay provides the reader with the ability to prepare for upcoming paradigm shifts.