Boosting the transformative power of transdisciplinarity with quantum theory – Rigolot (2021) Integration and Implementation Insights

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Boosting the transformative power of transdisciplinarity with quantum theory – Integration and Implementation Insights

Boosting the transformative power of transdisciplinarity with quantum theory

October 12, 2021

By Cyrille Rigolot

How can transdisciplinarity improve its ability to foster very deep, very fast and very large transformations toward sustainability?

Quantum theory might be a major source of insights in that direction. Although quantum theory is not new to transdisciplinarity, lately it has become much more accessible, practical, and potentially transformative on the ground.

Quantum theory for transdisciplinarity research

In the debates last century about the emerging transdisciplinary research field, quantum theory inspired theorist Basarab Nicolescu to develop three basic ‘axioms’, which he argues should be recognized at the core of transdisciplinarity research, namely:

  1. Ontological axiom: The existence of multiple levels of reality. A ‘level of reality’ is associated with certain general laws. Passing from one level to another induces a break in laws and fundamental concepts, such as causality. The paradigmatic example is the passage from classical to quantum physics which involves, for example, a break from local causality to non-local causality (ie., instantaneous correlation at a distance, which relates to the quantum concept of entanglement).
  2. Logical axiom: The logic of the included middle. Given mutually exclusive pairs (such as A and non-A), there exists a third term T, which is, at the same time, A and non-A. This is analogous to a ‘quanton’ in quantum physics, which is both a ‘wave’ and a ‘particle’, and which relates to the quantum principle of complementarity.
  3. Complexity axiom: The structure of ‘reality’ is complex, and every level of reality is what it is because all the levels exist at the same time.

Uniting two streams of transdisciplinary research

Many transdisciplinary practitioners do not adhere to Nicolescu’s axioms, as they are not easily applicable to problem-solving with stakeholders, which is another core principle for transdisciplinarity. As a result, two different transdisciplinarity streams evolved independently (so called ‘theoretical’ and ‘practical’).

But it is now possible to use quantum theory to unite these two streams.

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Boosting the transformative power of transdisciplinarity with quantum theory – Integration and Implementation Insights