Is Mediation like Quantum Physics?

Browsing the internet for inspiration, I came upon an article in Live Science concerning quantum physics entitled “Does reality exist when we’re not looking” by Paul Sutter. By way of introduction, the author notes:

 The standard interpretation of quantum mechanics places a lot of emphasis on the act of measurement. Before measurement, quantum systems exist in many states at once. After measurement, the system “collapses” into a specific value, so it’s natural to ask what’s really going on when measurements don’t take place. There isn’t a clear answer, and different ideas can go in some really wild directions.

One of the first lessons that physicists learned when they started examining subatomic systems in the early 20th century was that we do not live in a deterministic universe. In other words, we cannot precisely predict the outcome of every experiment. 

For example, if you shoot a beam of electrons through a magnetic field, half of the electrons will curve in one direction while the other half will curve in the opposite direction. While we can build mathematical descriptions of where the electrons go as a group, we cannot say which direction each electron will take until we actually perform the experiment.

In quantum mechanics, this is known as superposition. For any experiment that can result in many random outcomes, before we make a measurement, the system is said to be in a superposition of all possible states simultaneously. When we make a measurement, the system “collapses” into a single state that we observe.

 The tools of quantum mechanics are there to make some sense out of this chaos. Instead of giving precise predictions for how a system will evolve, quantum mechanics tells us how superposition (which represents all the various outcomes) will evolve. When we make a measurement, quantum mechanics tells us the probabilities of getting one outcome over another. (Id.)

So, is a dispute or a conflict nothing more than a state of chaos in which the result could go in any one of numerous directions? Prior to mediation, the outcome could be any one of many: all over the spectrum. The outcomes are far from definitive, depending on the substance and process of the mediation. Is the mediator evaluative? Facilitative? Transformative? Narrative? And the parties- are they actively engaged in the process? What do they bring to the mediation by way of knowledge, information, personality and willingness to compromise?

And like quantum physics, a mediation begins with numerous possibilities and probabilities before it. To say the least, it can be chaotic at the outset. And slowly, as the parties negotiate and listen to each other’s perspectives, they change their respective courses, and the possibility of differing settlement outcomes slowly collapses from a multitude of options into a few or simply just one. The “chaos” of the dispute evolves into a single outcome.

The author ends his article by asking if “… reality exists when we’re not looking?” (Id.) and concludes that it is a matter of interpretation.

So, do disputes or conflicts really exist when we are not looking for them? Are they simply a matter of our own creation? Like reality, aren’t they simply a matter of interpretation? How do we perceive the world and those in it in our everyday lives?

… Just something to think about.


Phyllis Pollack

Phyllis Pollack with PGP Mediation uses a facilitative, interest-based approach. Her preferred mediation style is facilitative in the belief that the best and most durable resolutions are those achieved by the parties themselves. The parties generally know the business issues and priorities, personalities and obstacles to a successful resolution as… MORE

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