Politics: from Quantum to Thermodynamic

In the past, candidates campaigned with a quantum model of the voter. Each voter counts. The candidate needs to convince neighborhoods and each house on a block. It was quantum in the sense that individual action mattered. Every atom/voter needs a packet of energy to transform from one candidate another.

Now the quantum model of the voter can be replaced by a classical thermodynamic model. One thinks in terms of the temperature of groups instead of individuals. Rather than counting individuals, the campaign thinks of percentages.

For many issues, opinions are split nearly evenly. To get the electoral results for a candidate, moving a fraction of voters in the middle is enough. The effect is that, for the majority of the electorate, the candidates don’t need to address them. They won’t matter to the outcome because their votes are free energy to win an election without exerting any work.

Targeted advertising such as what is available with Facebook, YouTube and Google allow candidates to focus their appeals to the subgroups that are in the middle. Adding heat to targeted parts of the pot can be more successful.

Changing the votes of one or two percent in the right demographic can be enough to win the election. Narrow campaigns targeted to subgroups can be more efficient than mass appeals through TV and radio. A campaign’s money can be stretched further when it tries to change the temperature of small groups rather than trying to push individual votes one at a time.

In a quantum model of campaigning, each person matters. When a candidate shifts their efforts to a classical, thermodynamic model, what matters is convincing groups in the margins. People have been reduced from individual human voters into inhuman mathematical abstractions.

Listening with your mind’s eye

I notice that I visualize the letters of the words that people are speaking. I see the text as the words pass. I wonder whether other people experience a visualization like this.

If I were to learn a new language, the need to spell text might be limiting.

Arabic and Farsi would first require me to learn how to pronounce and write Arabic script. It would be an added step that I wouldn’t have learning new European languages. I don’t think visualizing it would be a great challenge once I could read and transcribe words.

Mandarin Chinese, in contrast, might be acutely difficult for me to learn. Since words are not written phonetically, I would need a completely new level of interpretation to see what I am hearing. I suspect that skill would develop very slowly (if at all.) There are phonetic transcriptions of the sounds, but if the variations in the pronunciation of words is subtle, I might not “see” the correct “text.”

In some languages, people speak more words per minute than in English. Would my ability to visualize the words be overwhelmed by the speed that the letters go by?

What would happen if I had a stroke that broke that neural link between my hearing and the visualizations? I wonder whether I could track a conversation when I couldn’t see the words anymore.

I believe song lyrics access a different part of my language system. When I read the lyrics to familiar songs, the words don’t register as familiar. Often, I find that I never really knew what the song was about. My visualizations didn’t seem to help. I’m wonder whether a PET or fMRI of me listening to a song and its lyrics would be different from one recorded while I listening to the same words as prose.

It’s interesting to notice skills that are natural to me. It would also be interesting to learn skills that are natural to other people that I’m unable to experience.

An aptitude might be broken down into micro-level skills. Some may take practice to develop fully. It is a form of neurodivergence to identify skills that might be missing in one person and robustly available in another.

Consider the ability to recognize faces and the ability to visualize images. I’ve heard informal suggestions that people have different levels of proficiency. These are examples of everyday skills that might have a spectrum of ability. Mathematics may be hard for some people because some necessary sub-skill is neurologically disadvantaged.

Brains are mysteries full of puzzles. They hide individual differences. I don’t know things that I can’t do that are natural for you. It’s hard for you to know things I take for granted that you struggle with.