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Mershon Center for International Security Studies

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Mershon Center Conference
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Quantum Theory and the International
From Sunday, April 08, 2018
To Monday, April 09, 2018
Mershon Center for International Security Studies
1501 Neil Avenue, Room 120
Columbus, Ohio 43201

Register here for the conference


Alexander Wendt, Ralph D. Mershon Professor of International Security

Conference Statement

Scientists have long thought that the bizarre and fantastic world of non-locality, indeterminacy, and wave/particle duality that physicists discovered in the early 20th century was confined, for all practical purposes, to the sub-atomic level. At the macroscopic, human level it’s been assumed that our familiar classical, Newtonian physics still rules, a belief duly reflected in the fundamental and almost entirely unquestioned categories of social scientific thought today: classical logic, classical probability theory, classical decision and game theory, and so on, rather than their axiomatically completely different quantum counterparts.

In the past decade however there have been growing hints, from multiple sources, that this foundational classical assumption is mistaken. A field of “quantum biology” for example has emerged after biologists unexpectedly found that birds, plants and other organisms use non-trivial quantum processes to survive (and if birds can do it, why not people?). Closer to home, “quantum decision theorists” in psychology have shown that quantizing the axioms of expected-utility theory can resolve the long-standing anomalies of (classical) rational choice known as “Kahneman-Tversky effects.” While these and other hints are open to interpretation and still very preliminary, if evidence continues to mount of interesting quantum effects at the human level, then the social sciences today could be in a situation similar to physics in 1900 – based on a simple but profound mistake, with a revolution just around the corner.

This workshop won’t try to answer any such grand question; it assumes only that there is enough suggestive stuff happening in this area that it is worthwhile to begin thinking – in a very exploratory and open-minded way – about what a quantum social science might look like in practice. As students mostly of international politics, that subject will provide our substantive focus and primary illustrations. However, the ideas on the table are really for anyone interested in the foundations of social science, so all are welcome to attend.

Conference Schedule

Sunday, April 8, 2018

12 – 1:30 p.m.: Lunch and Introductory Remarks

  • Alexander Wendt, The Ohio State University
  • James Der Derian, University of Sydney
  • Peter Katzenstein, Cornell University

1:30 – 1:45 p.m.: Break 

1:45 – 3:15 p.m.: Session One

  • Michael Schnabel, University of Chicago

     A Conceptual Introduction to Quantum Theory

3:15 – 3:30 p.m.: Coffee Break

3:30 – 5 p.m.: Session Two

  • Kathryn Shaffer

     Translating Quantum Physics:  A Tentative Taxonomy

  • Badredine Arfi, University of Florida

     A Topological Quantum Field Theory Approach to Power in IR Theory

  • Jakub Tesar, Charles University

    Complementarity in a Quantum Model of Strategic Decision-Making 

Monday, April 9, 2018

8:30 – 10 a.m.: Session One

  • Mathias Albert and Felix Bathon, University of Bielefeld

    Quantum Theory and the Social System of World Society

  • Leonardo Orlando, Sciences Po

    Gaia through the Quantum Looking-Glass, and What IR Found There

  • David Orrell, Systems Forecasting 

     The Value of Money: Monetary Exchange as a Quantum System

10 – 10:15 a.m.: Coffee Break

10:15 – 12 p.m.: Session Two

  • Norah Bowman, Okanagan College

    Here/There/Everywhere: Quantum Models for Decolonizing Newtonian Determinism

  • Anna Wojciuk, Institute of International Relations, University of Warsaw

    Non-Locality in Space and Time: A Failed Separatist Attempt in Kharkiv, Ukraine

12 – 1 p.m.: Lunch

1 – 2:30 p.m.: Session Three

  • Scott Hamilton, Balsillie School of International Affairs

    Quantum Governmentality

  • Quinn RIley, Ohio State University

     Quantizing Hobbes: The State of Nature in Quantum Perspective

  • Mark Salter, University of Ottawa

     Quantum Sovereignty

2:30 – 2:45 p.m.: Coffee Break

2:45 – 4:15 p.m.: Session Four

  • Jairus Grove, University of Hawaii

     What If Quantum Isn’t the Right Kind of Weird?

  • David Waldner, University of Virginia

     Schrodinger’s Cat and the Dog that Didn’t Bark: Why Quantum Mechanics is (Probably) Irrelevant to the Social Sciences

  • Colin Wight, University of Sydney

     Wendt’s Wager: What Would a Quantum Social Science Look Like?

4:15 – 4:30 p.m.: Break

4:30 – 5:30 p.m.: Concluding Reflections

  • Steve Fuller, University of Warwick


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