George Soros: Humans Can Act as Both Particles and Waves

By Thierry Dugnolle (Own work) [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons
In an interview with George Soros on “The Future of Europe,” Soros makes an interesting analogy on human behavior that potentially links to a school ecosystem.

In this segment of the interview, Soros is describing the completely unexpected—to both Putin and the world—citizen uprising in Ukraine:

Schmitz: How could such a thing happen? How do you explain it?

Soros: It fits right into my human uncertainty principle, but it also reveals a remarkable similarity between human affairs and quantum physics of which I was previously unaware. According to Max Planck, among others, subatomic phenomena have a dual character: they can manifest themselves as particles or waves. Something similar applies to human beings: they are partly freestanding individuals or particles and partly components of larger entities that behave like waves. The impact they make on reality depends on which alternative dominates their behavior. There are potential tipping points from one alternative to the other but it is uncertain when they will occur and the uncertainty can be resolved only in retrospect (bold added).

I found this analogy between human behavior and quantum physics interesting, especially in relation to the perspective of a school as an ecosystem.

Part of the very complexity of a school environment could be described by Soros’ analogy: children and adults in a building exist and act as individuals, but they also can behave in manners influenced by often invisible social and emotional forces and networks. As Soros points out, how a given child or adult may act and for what reason is determinable often only after the act, and thus prediction in the face of this uncertainty is problematic.

I encourage you to read the full interview, as Soros provides a highly interesting macro perspective on political and economic situations in Europe, and his interviewer, Gregor Peter Schmitz, does a great job of pushing him to clarify and elaborate his thinking.

2 thoughts on “George Soros: Humans Can Act as Both Particles and Waves

  1. A useful analogy this one – I might steal! Have recently been studying group dynamics and it has been a constant reminder of fact that pupils and teachers rarely experience ‘whole school’ or ‘individual level’ education, yet these are the levels we tend to talk about things. What actually happens is that pupils are taught in and teachers teach ‘groups’ (i.e. classes). And when we start to think about the interweaving of people in those groups it can lead us to much clearer insights about the ways schools work. This interdependability is a fundamental part of physics which can highlight lots of properties useful for thinking about schools as groups.
    o that end I also recommend reading Philip Ball’s “Critical Mass” (if you haven’t already!)


    1. Laura, thanks for the recommendation, I have not read nor heard of the book and it sounds intriguing.

      I agree that “groups” more closely describe the experience of education, and to couple this concept with physics is a fascinating prospect.

      Beyond physics, I am also beginning to explore this insight more concretely in the manner I view special education services in my building. I’ve come to realize that there is a fundamental tension between the idea of “individualization” inherent in an IEP (legal document for a student receiving special education services) and the reality of the classroom, which is defined by small and large groups. I am now seeking to address this reality by starting with goals and supports aligned to groupings in classrooms, and seeking to provide a bridge to individual needs in this way.

      Share with me any further linkages you find on this, I think there’s a lot of potential power in this understanding!


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