Uncertainty

In physics, there’s an accepted level of uncertainty – no, a required level of uncertainty – that governs how the universe works.

You cannot know both the position and momentum of a particle.

When you work out the math, σx and σp (standard deviation of position, x, and standard deviation of momentum, p) have an inverse relationship. The more precise one measure is, the less precise the other.

It’s important to note that this is not just a mathematical trick. This uncertainty is actually built in to the universe.

I mention this because so often in life, as people, we are striving for absolutes. Searching for truth, justice, right and wrong.

But I’m not so convinced those absolutes exist.

That’s not to say everything is entirely uncertain. There is much we can know that helps define the edges of these amorphous topics. But we can’t define them as absolutely as we might like.

In his book, We are the Ones We Have Been Waiting For, my colleague Peter Levine talks about people having moral maps, networks built from opinions and experience.

The metaphor of a map or network can be very helpful, but I find it somewhat insufficient. My morals aren’t fixed points on a map, they’re constantly shifting and changing, blurs of energy that can’t quite be defined.

No matter how perfect your measurement, you cannot know the position and momentum of a particle. Similarly, no amount of reflection or thought can absolutely define my morals. The uncertainty is built into the universe.

And I embrace that.

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