“Quantum Economics” – A commentary on Anders Indset’s new book
“Quantum healing”, “quantum resonance”, ”quantum consciousness” – the list of expressions and promises that come with the prefix “quantum” is long. The occupation with quanta has in recent years developed into a flourishing business. Great promises are made here, from miracle healings, the perfect love relationship, to the discovery of the last secrets through a connection of quantum physics and spirituality. ”Quantum” has become the perfect term for just about anything that cannot be explicitly described. Since the protagonists of these terms are usually hardly familiar with real quantum physics, they rarely have to justify themselves for ignorance. It is thus the ideal esoteric mix for those too lazy to think for themselves. As the intellectual godfather of quantum mysticism serves the phenomenon of entanglement: “Quantum particles that are far apart can be physically connected (entangled) with each other”. This then turns into: “Everything is connected with everything”. It is such sentences that make the hearts of esotericists longing for mysticism beat faster.
To put it bluntly: this constitutes insane nonsense and is a prime example for a leap from the clarity of a coherent and empirically validated physics directly into the mystical, without any argumentative or discursive connection. In the past, when one did not know what to do, he used the expression “The ways of the Lord are unfathomable”.Today quantum esotericists say: ”Quantum theory shows that …”. The post-quantum physical movement looks back on some tradition. Already in the 1970s, the physicist Fritjof Capra wrote The Tao of Physics, a book in which he claimed that the mysticism of the ancient Indians corresponds to nothing less than the insights of modern quantum theory – albeit packaged in some poetic and metaphysical form. Capra’s thoughts fell on fertile ground, his book became a new Bible for all those who wished nothing more than to spiritually replenish the “world view disenchanted by scientific rationality” (Max Weber). With the help of “quanta”, the longing of many people for a world view that is as simple, fundamental, universal and binding as possible, which can be referred to over and over again without having to make the effort to examine things in detail, is satisfied. Knowing well that quantum physics makes bizarre-sounding statements, quantum esotericists cheerfully conclude that everything bizarre-sounding must necessarily be quantum physics. The fact that almost all quantum effects take place far away from our everyday life, at tiny distances and unimaginably short time scales, and thus certainly not in the realm of human life and spirituality, disturbs few of them.
Nor does it disturb Anders Indset, a self-declared “world’s leading economic philosopher”, baptized “Rock-n-Roll Plato” by the media. Indset is unabashedly adding a new dimension to the quantum scene: “Quantum Economics” is the title of his new book, which has meanwhile worked its way onto the bestseller lists. The subtitle asks: “What comes after digitalization”. That arouses curiosity. Will the reader perhaps find out how the second quantum revolution with nanotechnologies and quantum computers is triggering a new industrial revolution that follows the fourth, the digital one? Not at all. Quantum computers and nanotechnologies are mentioned by Indset, but the author leaves us in the dark about how they concretely work. Instead, he programmatically calls on us to put on the “quantum glasses” and thus to recognize that the quantum economy that lies ahead of us “is based on the realization that everything is connected to everything else and influences each other”. We should finally “take a holistic view on things”. Thus, already in the introduction it becomes clear where the line of argument is going. The book’s basic thesis, as already formulated in the first chapter, is that “our consciousness and our social processes are shaped by quantum physical principles such as non-locality and entanglement”. With such sentences, readers who are familiar with quantum physics and/or economics may get the impression that the book aims to ridicule the quantum esoteric movement, and he or she might be looking forward to almost three hundred more entertaining pages along this line.
But the disillusionment soon follows: the author really means what he says! And it gets worse: What follows are more than 300 pages of gobbledygook without any factual argumentation or logical conclusion. The reasoning provided by Indset is flawed in almost every part of the book, contexts are suggested where there are none, assumptions and opinions are sold as facts and supported by reference to some shady “experts” (as for example the “Swiss self-made physicist” Nassim Haramein). The fact that the author often argues in breathtaking brevity (example: “In the quantum economy we have no more energy problems”, p. 246) naturally does not make things any better. There is also no lack of annoying factual misstatements: The economist Thomas Piketty never received a Nobel Prize, p. 79; someone who owns one million Bitcoins at a rate of 100’000 Euro per Bitcoin is not a sextillionaire and thus not a “ruler of the world”but with a net worth of 100 billion “only” as rich as the richest man on earth today, p. 137; René Descartes was historically not a philosopher of the “Enlightenment” but died already in 1650, p. 209); the title of Newton’s main work is misquoted, p. 210; and the Latin word “obsoletus”– “Homo obsoletus” aims at describing the “superfluous man”, made superfluousby artificial intelligence – does not translate to“superfluous” but to“worn out” (Indset should in this context rather speak of “homo abundans”). Adding to all that are wrong quotations (example: neither Einstein nor Socrates ever said “I know that I know nothing”, p. 169). All this further reinforces the impression of a lack of sincerity. The inexperienced reader is provided withexcessively false knowledge,relationships that do not exist and facts are sold that are far from being such.
The author obviously lacks any knowledge of quantum physics as well as economics, which he proves again and again with partly appalling discussions on both topics. Examples are: He claims on p. 171/172 that the laws of quantum physics and its principles are “not rational” and resemble a “lottery”, or on p. 174 that “the foundation of quantum mechanics is unpredictability” (in fact, the quantum states, the wave functions, evolve according o entirely deterministic laws), or on p. 180he states that quantum bits can “process twice as much information per time unit as classical bits” (no idea where Indset gets the factor two from). So, it should not come as a surprise that Indset goes straight from quantum theory to “cosmic energy fields”, a “collective consciousness” and other spiritual concepts (p. 179). The situation is no better in questions of the economy. He lets not the central banks create the money but the commercial banks (p. 282). Furthermore, he considers cash and money as being the same thing (p. 283).
Equally in the field of artificial intelligence (AI), the development of which he portrays as very dangerous for mankind, he obviously lacks elementary basic knowledge. How else can he state the Google computers of the year 2030 will have intelligence quotients of 3,200? He furthermore confuses “strong AI” and ”weak AI” and refers to Google’s AlphaGo as the latter (p. 124), although he later provides a largely correct definition for strong AI, which appears as directly copied from Wikipedia (p. 188).
The frivolous handling of facts, the lack of expertise, the many hardly secured suggestions – all this weighs all the more heavily, as some of the conclusions Indset reaches in the course of his wild argumentative journey are quite reasonable: 1. We have to focus our attention on the development of AI; 2. The capitalist logic of exploitation will not help us to cope with the effects of future technological development; 3. We will have to think about things like an unconditional basic income and a tax on machines; 4. The “share-economy” is an interesting paradigm for a future economy; 5. Contemplative “mindfulness meditation” has considerable potential for improving our mental and physical health; 6. We need sustainable recycling instead of disposable consumption. Unfortunately, Indset’s book makes these very conclusions quite vulnerable. This is the real harm for which the author must be held responsible.