Here, I think, is a real potential for coping with some of the mathematical problems inherent in today’s democratic system of voting. For instance, when three candidates are running for office, the ultimate winner may not reflect the desire of the majority of the voters. Here’s how it can work:

In a primary election, Candidate A gets 37 percent of the votes, Candidate B gets 33 percent, and Candidate C gets 30 percent. So candidate A and B get into a runoff. But for most of candidate B’s voters, C was the second choice. And for most of Candidate A’s voters, C was also the second choice. So if C were running against A alone, C would win. If C were running against B alone, C would win. But in the primary, C finished third so the ultimate winner will be A or B. Since a majority of the voters prefer C to either A or B, the winner is clearly not the electorate’s optimal choice. A quantum voting scheme could, by incorporating multiple possibilities in the voting, reach a more “democratic” election result.

It sounds far-fetched, but its mere possibility affirms the potentially dramatic value of invoking quantum weirdness to cope with the complexities of the ordinary world. And it may even be possible that quantum game theory underlies much deeper aspects of nature and of life. In the mushrooming literature on quantum games are papers suggesting that quantum strategies at the molecular level may mimic aspects of evolutionary game-theoretic descriptions of the competition between organisms. In particular, Azhar Iqbal of the University of Hull in England argues that quantum entanglement could influence the interactions of molecules leading to a more stable mix of ingredients than would otherwise occur (in analogy to an evolutionary stable strategy for organisms in an ecosystem). A quantum entanglement “strategy,” he suggests, could determine whether a population of molecules can “with-stand invasion” from a small number of new molecules (corresponding to mutants in evolutionary biology).9 If there’s anything to this—and it would seem to be far too early to say—then you could imagine something like quantum game theory playing a role in the origin of stable sets of self-replicating molecules—in other words, life itself. (In which case the Code of Nature might turn out to be solvable only with quantum cryptography.)

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