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Friday, June 27, 2008

Chaos theory: If order just somehow emerges from chaos, why aren't we all young and beautiful?

And rich and famous?

In "High Mouth-To-Brain Ratios And 'Fact Free' Science", Robert Deyes has helped answer a question I have off and on wondered about: What on earth happened to self-organization theory (sometimes called emergent complexity theory), which was supposed to explain
... everything from the sizes of families in Bangladesh to the origin of the first living cell and the long term, million year stability of animal species.
In short, the idea is that within chaos order emerges spontaneously without intelligence intervening.

That has never happened in any publishing enterprise with which I was associated over the last thirty-five years. Order emerged when intelligence was imposed. Of course, to get results from self-organization, maybe I should give it thirty-five billion years. (The universe is about 13 billion years old, so ... ths can't be a rush project, okay?)

Self-emergence theory is precisely the sort which prompts, at least in me, a fundamental question: If order emerges spontaneously from chaos, why aren't we all rich and famous and eternally young? Shouldn't entropy work backward too?

Well, Deyes offers a bit of history:

1995 was to be a year of celebration for the Santa Fe Institute [self-organization central]. The museum of Indian Arts and Culture in Santa Fe hosted a dinner to bring together scientists from all over the United States for a celebratory toast of success. This dinner was attended by all the big names of the Institute - Brian Arthur, Chris Langton, Stuart Kauffman and Nobel Laureate Murray Gell-Man famous for his work on quarks and particle physics. David Liddle, the chair for the board of trustees, ushered in the celebrations with a speech of much optimism and hope. And yet behind Liddle's introductory note lay a growing restlessness over, "the gap between such rhetoric and reality"
Gap's still there, and wider than ever. And we all grow older and disorder increases.

Actually, Stu Kauffman is now at the University of Calgary in Alberta, Canada, actually. And last I was in touch with him, he was promoting a new book, which sounds interesting.

Welcome to Canada, Stu. For your own safety, don't diss any Professional Grievance Bunnies. Not till we chase them back to their forlorn wilderness of picket signs and plight.

The image is from Chaos Review and you can comment on it here.

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