Introduction and welcome

We wish to extend to all of you a very warm welcome to the symposium on ‘Times of Entanglement’. First of all, our hearty thanks go to Hans De Wolf and his team for inviting us to participate in the Brussels Body Speech event at the Shanghai World Exhibition through this symposium. This has given us an extraordinary opportunity to bring together aspects of a different nature, and Shanghai, a world city in the emerging and fascinating reality of China, is a perfect place for such a special endeavor. Our thanks also go to all participants, the Chinese scholars who have agreed to come and contribute to the symposium in such an essential way, and the Clea scholars who have traveled from far away, fighting jet lag right now, to meet with their Chinese colleagues here in Shanghai.

“Times of Entanglement”

As the website explains, with ‘Times of Entanglement’, the Leo Apostel Center of Brussels Free University aims to enter a new era, following a period of fifteen years in which it has been accompanied by the expression of ‘Einstein meets Magritte’, the title of the international conference that gave birth to the center in 1995.

But, with ‘Times of Entanglement’, we would also like to capture the ‘spirit of time of the decades to come’. Since we are convinced that China will play an important role in the times ahead, we think that Shanghai makes the perfect venue to start our endeavor of ‘Times of Entanglement’ right here, at this very special World Exhibition event.

‘The spirit of the decades to come’? Well, the world is a complex place, we all agree about that, and it is becoming ever more complex. But complexity is not synonymous with entanglement. In this short introduction to the workshop, we will not try to point out each and every thought and idea contained in the ‘Times of Entanglement’ endeavor, because quite a few of them will be discussed during the workshop anyhow. However, there is one aspect that we would like to highlight here, before the start of the workshop. It is, by the way, perhaps the most intriguing aspect of the notion of ‘entanglement’, which makes it very different from the notion of ‘complexity’. And it is also the aspect which, in our opinion, offers ‘hope’ for humanity for the future.

Complexity as a notion does not offer much hope for solutions, suggesting that clarity and simplicity can be achieved only by counteracting and even fighting complexity. ‘Entanglement’, on the other hand, involves, on a deeply fundamental level, ‘an ontology of simplicity and clarity’. Sometimes this underlying clarity is thoroughly hidden, and often it is not well understood, acquiring a mysterious aura, certainly at first sight. For example, it is not necessary to disentangle a situation of entanglement to find this simplicity and clarity. In quantum physics jargon, the above is expressed by the statement that ‘entangled states are pure states and not mixed states’. Humanity is aware of this deep structure of reality, also on an intuitive level. One common example of this ‘pureness in entanglement’ is the ‘consensus’ that can emerge from a complicated discussion full of disagreement. It is the synthesis that can ensue from seemingly opposing and conflicting views which stands for the ‘clarity in entanglement’. It is the emergence and creation of ‘the new elements of reality’, elements that did not exist before, which constitute ‘the entanglements of the old elements of reality’. And indeed, consensus integrates disagreement but does not fight it. Synthesis integrates opposition but does not compromise it. And ‘new emergent elements of reality’ are not just a complex mixture of the old elements of reality.

In this sense, ‘Times of Entanglement’ brings a message of hope. Solutions for complex situations that may seem hopeless at first sight will become feasible if the human species identifies entanglement and understands that it is not necessary to disentangle to find simplicity and clarity. And that openness towards consensus, synthesis and ‘the new’ are essential in our search for clarity. Indeed, it is very likely – research in this respect is still needed but ongoing – that entanglement and the new states emerging with it constitute the deep dynamics of the cosmos and of our human world. Hence, humans participating in it may do so while being part of this global evolution – potentially also knowing that they are – , and contributing on this deepest level to our changing world.

Diederik Aerts
September 20, 2010.