Musings on Accounting Research by Steve

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Quantum physics and accounting research


I have been mulling for years over quantum mechanics and it’s direct offshoot quantum physics. The quantum world is pretty mind bending and what’s more it has some interesting implications for social science research if one is willing to make an analogy.

Positivist research can be best explained and understood through classical models like those of Newton in physics. Highly deterministic general laws that are time invariant where once you discover the correct coefficients for the model parameters, know the initial state, one can derive very precise predictions. Furthermore for large non-atomic participles it works well, exceedingly well. The past predicts the future (with measurement error) and the present can be seen to be based on past history (again allowing for measurement error).

However, interpretive research can be seen to analogous to the quantum world. In the quantum world all predictions are probabilistic, any past history could have (or not) occurred ( or indeed all could have occurred in different multiverses), observation of current state of affairs changes the probabilistic outcomes so one can never know the current state and the outcome together as the measuring (or not) of that state affects outcomes. Of course, these phenomena are best seen at the subatomic particle level in the world of quarks, meons et al. And like classical physics it works well, exceedingly well, for is phenomena of interest.

The problem that faces physics, as it faces social science researchers, is that to date it appears both are the best theories for approaching their phenomena of interest. And while lots of work goes on to try reconcile, integrate, combine, metatheorize about, it is not clear yet if any are on the “right” track, if indeed there is such a track.

Something to think about . . . .

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