Waves and Particles, the Analog and the Digital, and the Death of Radar

You see, if light travels as waves, blocking those waves will stop their progress. So, to progress from one point to another, waves of light must travel across the space between, unfettered, in order to arrive at their destination. Should there be obstacles in between, they will be prevented from completing their journey. In this sense, light must follow a path from here to there and travel through whatever lies between, sequentially. The obstacles between are relevant, each requiring its own solution that will allow the light to pass it and continue towards its ultimate destination.

If light, however, also behaves as particles in a quantum realm, as the gentlemen mentioned in a previous post indeed determined it does, then suddenly the concept of the space between becomes irrelevant. Even with barriers between here and there, the particles of light arrive at their destination. And they do so instantaneously, as though they, as with Kirk and his away team, were simply and somehow “beamed” there. And so, given this duality, the possibility that all that exists can somehow follow the same indeterminism becomes a possibility, a consideration, a fantasy, and an influence on social thought and behavior. And as an interesting caveat, if you try to observe particles of light in their mysterious transference from here to there, they will simply disappear. And from this rises a whole other set of implications that have also manifested themselves in current social thought, and education theory.

Current trends in education seem to mimic quantum phenomena. If, as light, we should be able to arrive at our destination without concern about obstacles that lie between, then anyone can believe s/he can achieve anything he or she desires simply by desiring it, without complication, period. As individual particles of light achieve their destinations without interference or observation (and indeed, even simple observation impedes their ability to arrive where they should), individuals should be left alone to decide what is and what is not important for them to learn according to goals they determine they would like to achieve.

The trend in education has been to remove (perhaps better put, ignore) the obstacles, the complications, the challenges, and the rigor that would otherwise, possibly, redirect or derail people in their journeys through life. Current curricular theory reflects this. Assessment is no longer based on standards; it is a derivative of each individual’s own capacities. Learning objectives are no longer wholly derived from prescribed outcomes; they are are derived from what individuals would like to achieve. And left as such, the objectives of learning in many centers of education are now lacking those things that were once core to standards that defined competency according to the needs of community and society.

Now, the argument here is that individuals will learn on their own what their capacities are, and by doing so determine the learning paths they are best for them. However, left completely unprescribed, so much is potentially missed. Were I not exposed to the theorems of geometry, how would I know they exist. Were I not made privy to the mechanics of language, how would I know the rules that apply to the ways we communicate as we do. Were I not taught to memorize passages and learn about icons of our language through memorizing and deciphering the mechanics, meaning, and purpose in prose and poetry, how would I learn to appreciate how language can be an art, a tool, and a means to influence the world around me in multiple and wonderful ways. Were I not taught numbers, formulas, patterns, and process, how would I understand the mechanics of social and physical world of which I am a part.

Very few of the foundational objectives of learning are easy. Few, if any of them, can be learned without frustration. And none of them can be understood clearly and in practical terms without the experiences that only life, in the analog, can provide. And, sadly, none of them is now necessarily required to be learned. While in my youth we lost geometry, there is so much more that has since been deemed unnecessary in terms of formal learning curricula. Instead, they have become options for people to choose in their own self-direction. The sad thing is, in most cases, they are options not chosen since they are simply no longer on the radar. Indeed, GPS has replaced the radar, the particle the wave, and the digital the analog.

For better and for worse, quantum theory played a crucial role in, and has had more and more impact on, the rise of the digital era. The social impacts have, as a result, been greater than any other technological shift that has taken place in the history of humankind. It’s consequences have affected the nature of the human condition in, I would argue, all ways: from the most fundamental needs of survival to the gratuitous wants of escapism, and across all levels of human endeavor between. Social institutions once fundamental to human existence are crumbling. They are deemed as no longer relevant, and indeed, perhaps even as historical mistakes. In many ways, current social thought exudes particular confidence in having seen the light of truth. In metaphorical terms, I understand why: since light is apparently particular, it no longer shines in waves on the messiness of challenges inherent in survival. It beams only on the desirable destinations that lie apparently at the end.

The digital world has allowed us, in fact, to beam ourselves out of the complexities of life and straight to what were once the objectives we ourselves were required to achieve, step by step. We no longer must kill beasts for nourishment. We are no longer required to understand grammar in order to write. We don’t have to meet people in search of relationships. We don’t have to visit libraries. We don’t need books to understand. We no longer need skills of survival to travel from here to there. We don’t have to fix or maintain or renew (we recycle!). We don’t have to write letters. We don’t have to imagine. We don’t have to think. In the quantum-derived digital world, and for most all of us, everything, simply, happens.

We’re finally getting closer to guillotines…