A dream world and society

I had been totally immersed in further development of my supersymmetric mirror models early this year. The COVID-19 pandemic did not draw my attention until about a month ago when it hit the US really hard. Then all of a sudden it really changed me, not only my life but also my way of thinking. I could not focus well on my favorite mirror-matter projects. I should have finished my invisible-decay paper weeks earlier. Instead it has made me pondering more on what a dream world or society should or could be like. With an open universe of physical objects in mind, what an open world of creatures and an open society of human beings could we imagine?

Dynamic Open Hierarchy

My recent work on supersymmetric mirror models points out that physics requires a dynamic open hierarchical universe. In other words, the universe undergoes a dynamic evolution via phase transitions and the hierarchy of the underlying supersymmetric mirror models presents its openness and indeterminacy.

The nature of openness seems to be shared by various fundamental constructs like science, universe, life, world, and society. I have discussed such an ideology in my essay for the FQXi contest titled “no single unification theory of everything” and in my recent blog post. Indeed, indeterminism of quantum theory and success of supersymmetric mirror models indicate that our universe, our world, and our society should be dynamic, free, and open. On the other hand, the degree of openness, as hinted in physics, has to be barely adequate, like a parabola in comparison with a closed ellipse and a wide open hyperbola, or Euclidean/flat geometry as opposed to elliptic and hyperbolic geometries.

Such a degree of dynamics and openness is critical. If laws of physics are too open or dynamic, we will not live in a relatively stable and ordered universe. In the other extreme, the universe will be likely lifeless in a dead silence. So is the case for natural selection in evolution of life. It is the subtle rule of natural selection that results in the emergence of intelligent human beings.

Science is most efficiently advanced in a similar way. If it is done in a closed circle of experts, many innovative ideas for paradigm shift will be hard to come up. If done equally among all citizens regardless of prior knowledge, reinventing the wheel will be unavoidable. A fine balance is needed for healthy advancement of science by supporting both steady processes and risky ideas at the same time.

The sound development of science depends on its adequate openness. So does the human society. Just like in science, such openness has to be aligned right with the fine line, has to be just right, and has to be the golden mean. It is in the same sense that the universe is only just open, quantum physics is barely indeterministic, and each human being has sufficient individual freedom / rights without hurting others’.

Many aspects of a healthy society actually embody such a balance. For example, economy needs both giant corporations for current steady growth and small startups for innovation and future growth. A healthy investment portfolio should be a blend of both risky stocks and stable securities. A better organization structure of a society should be a government in between two extreme forms of anarchism and monarchism.

The requirement of such a balance means the existence of a hierarchy. For physics, it is hierarchical supersymmetric mirror models for describing different phases of the universe with different sets of particles and interactions. For biology, it is evolution theory for connecting various species of creatures. For a society, it manifests as different classes of people with respect to certain criteria, e.g., rich, middle-class, and poor people in terms of wealth;  illiterates, students, and experts in terms of knowledge.

Such a balance also means a suitable dynamics or a healthy flow along the hierarchical structure. For physics, it is the mechanism of spontaneous symmetry breaking or phase transition. For biology, it is genetic mutations with natural selection for bridging the species. For a society, it means that education and work should move people from one class to another.

Education & Dunning-Kruger Effect

As discussed above, a dynamic open hierarchy is the fundamental characteristic of all these constructs. Finding the right balance of a dynamic open hierarchy should be what we dream about an ideal society. Such an ability obviously depends on the collective wisdom of human beings. Unfortunately, the Dunning-Kruger effect, as shown in the figure below, may be an obstacle to our dream world / society. It is an effect first studied in psychology stating that incompetent people tend to be overconfident (depicted as “mount stupid” of the figure).

Dunning–Kruger Effect 01 Courtesy of wikimedia.org

The society is driven by groups of people with high confidence rather than those with high competence. Unfortunately, confidence and competence are not always positively correlated as demonstrated by the Dunning-Kruger effect. The population sitting on top of “Mount Stupid” may cause great dangers of calamitous events in the society such as wars.

Education is probably the best way to make humankind wiser, and most importantly to get over the hump of “Mount Stupid” of the Dunning–Kruger effect. That is essential to pave our way to a dream world and society. It is also how we can really avoid all those dangerous biases / prejudices that manifest as racism, white supremacy, fascism, populism, nationalism, extremism, etc.

Education has to play a critical role of how civilizations started and evolved. Inventions of written languages made knowledge passing and education much more efficient. In earlier civilizations, people were less competent in general and a monarchy could rule efficiently. For modern societies with well educated citizens (i.e., well beyond “Mount Stupid”), a democratic government may be a better option.

The dynamic balance of a society has to depend on the competence of people and its optimized structure has to be related to the educational level within the society. There is no size that fits all. Obviously, the best way is to greatly invest in education and raise the expertise level for as many people as possible in as many fields as possible. The healthy stability or oppositely a possible destruction catastrophe of a society hinges sensitively on the population on top of “Mount Stupid” which could be eliminated by education.

A more realistic Dunning-Kruger effect is probably like the following figure. There might be more humps of stupidity though the first one is the worst one. When education of human beings is getting better and better, we human beings as a whole could overcome more and more humps of stupidity and could collectively make wiser and wiser decisions for the common good of the society.

Extended Dunning-Kruger Effect
Extended Dunning-Kruger Effect

As more and more individuals are well educated, the risk for a disastrous collapse in a society will get lower and lower. Hinted by indeterminism of quantum theory and Gödel’s incomplete theorems of math systems, there may be infinite number of humps of stupidity along the competence landscape. By overcoming these humps one by one through education and innovation, we may be able to approach the dream world and society asymptotically.

You can only educate people with what you have already known. Raising the education level inevitably requires further and further advancement in innovation and research. Therefore, education and innovation lays the foundation for human beings to reach the realm of an ideal world.

Here for education and innovation, STEM is definitely a critical part but not all. Education and innovation in arts, social sciences, and other aspects of the society could be important as well.

The exact confidence-competence curve could be different for different individuals. People with great talents or potential may overcome several humps smoothly like the quantum tunneling process. But when they have reached their potential, the next hump could be so much steeper. This may be why a lot of established experts are also among the most stubborn. Some famous examples include Mach and Ostwald’s opposition to the atomic theory and Einstein’s disbelief in quantum theory. Obstinate experts may occupy important or even critical positions within their fields and then become a severe blocking force against further innovation. This is the case not only for scientific research but also in many other aspects of the society.

Therefore, a good mechanism to replace experts and their positions regularly will be critical for advancement of a healthy society. So is the case for a smooth flow between different social classes as social polarization has the same tendency. Different mechanisms for such movement has been applied in the long history of human society. In ancient times, a sovereign state replaces one monarch with another via violent wars. In modern times, a democratic state changes its leaders regularly every a few years by election. What would be the best dynamic mechanism for an ideal open society?

Road to the Dream World

Recognizing the hierarchical structures of a dynamic open society is the first step to implement good measures. Such structures manifest from individuality as each person is unique in terms of talent, knowledge, skills, and social status. The best measure is to help each individual realize her/his potential keeping a healthy flow between different social classes. The principle of equal opportunity but not equal outcome is probably what should be applied.

Secondly, the best measure is always subtle. Nothing is absolute. There is no absolute freedom or right for one person or group without compromising others’. Majority is typically respected but protection of minorities should be emphasized in a healthy society. This is critical in observation of complexity and diversity of the society. Evolution theory tells us that diversity is essential for preventing extinction of a species. If all individuals of a species have the same weakness, such a species could easily be eliminated by natural selection should adversity occur. Scientific and technological breakthroughs often started from ideas that were initially less attractive. Many greatest artists / scientists could not get themselves and their works well recognized until many years after their death.

As discussed above, the most fundamental driving force for a society is education and innovation. In light of economic status of developed countries like the United States, I don’t see why the college education is not free for everyone. A lot of graduate programs (in particular in STEM fields) have already been kind of free plus stipends with students doing some kind of teaching or research services at the same time. Free college education, at least in the public colleges,  will greatly enhance the overall quality of the people in knowledge and skills. It is also the best way to keep the door open for population with a lower social status to have a chance of realizing their potential and getting into a deserved higher status.

In the following, I’ll keep using the United States as an example to illustrate the dynamic mechanism for a healthy society. Basically, any existing measures that block the efficient flow of population from a lower lying class to a higher lying one should be modified or abandoned.

For example, the medical system of the US is a complete mess. Medical service just like food and water is essential for every individual in a modern society. But its knowledge barrier is too high for a lay person to make good judgement on the fairness of its practice. It should mostly be converted into a public non-for-profit service like in many other countries. It should not become a money-making tool for greedy corporations.

Medical schools (at least the public ones) should be free. Doctors could still be highly paid but they have to serve the public for at least a number of years before they open their private clinics or serve the public at least for certain percentage of their time. Similar situation is also true for the legal service. People can go to law school for free but have to voluntarily spend part of their work time to serve the public in exchange. This will also ensure that population at a lower social status could have a chance to get such education and become a doctor or lawyer later.

It does not mean that private schools have to be free. It is more about opportunities for all people. It is more about delivering the affordable essential services to the general public where the next generation of experts may grow. Private schools can still charge high fees as they provide added premium services. Highly skilled doctors and lawyers can still open their private businesses providing much more rewarded services. In other words, a healthy hierarchy in these enterprises is still preserved.

To encourage innovation, the hierarchical structures have to be preserved in some sort of balance. For economy, more innovative startups have to be supported more by policies than giant corporations. But it is more difficult  to balance the practice in many aspects of the society in terms of pro-innovation. We know we should award high-risk high-gain ideas but to what extent?

Should all people get well educated (e.g., via free college education) and the more dangerous humps of stupidity have been passed, there may be an easier solution for innovation. In this case, the society should provide a basic salary and insurance for all its population that meet the essential living criteria. That is, nobody has to worry about their survival in this society. They can do whatever job they feel like without worrying about failure. Providing equal opportunity for all individuals will be the best way for them to innovate. This will maximize the innovation potential of all people and advance the society in the most efficient way.

Everyone tries their best. Everyone has an equal opportunity to reach the top of the hierarchical pyramid without concerns of staying at the bottom. The most achieved / innovative ones will be rewarded the most. Such an open collaborative society will surely prosper in STEM, arts, entertainment, and other endeavors. How far are we still away from such a dream world and society?

Author: Wanpeng Tan

As a research professor at Notre Dame, I share my ideas and thoughts mainly about mirror matter theory and open science on this blog. Under the new theory, we live in the universe with a mirror (hidden) sector of particles. A perfectly imperfect (minimally broken) mirror symmetry is the key to unlock the beauty and elegance of our universe. Click on the menu links for a popular introduction, a technical summary, and list of my papers on the new mirror matter theory.