Re: virus: Memetic evolution
Thu, 21 Mar 1996 00:13:08 -0500

> wrote:
>> (in a nutshell)
>> Task: You are one of the caretakers of 20th century scientific knowledge,
>> and a severe budget crisis is forcing your program out of existence. You
>>> may save the knowledge of only 5 twentieth century scientific ideas or
>> technologies for posterity. What ones do you choose and why?
>Here, then, are my candidates, in order of importance:
>1. Goedel/Turing proof of undecidable propositions. Again, two ways of
>saying the same thing, but a bolt from the blue that was both unexpected and
>_unwanted_ and has fundamental importance in almost every field.
>2. Relativity. Can be called simply an explanation of empirical fact, and
>does rely on nineteenth century mathematics that could be called more
>fundamental (Hamiltonian functions, Reimann space, tensor calculus), but
>truly a bolt from the blue that no one expected at the time and has changed
>all of science since then.
>3. von Neumann's theory of self-reproducing automata. Conceptually elegant,
>especially when teamed with Turing's calculating machine, and fundamental to
>both understanding DNA and inventing computers.
>4. Complexity Theory. Here I can throw in a whole grab-bag of related
>ideas, that are necessary to achieve CT, including fractal functions,
>catastrophe theory, chaos theory, and even von Neumann's (again) Game Theory.
>5. Quantum Theory. Sure, I said it was "obvious," but why go through all
>that work again!!!
>How's that, Brad? (C. David Noziglia)

You bring up several interesting points, David.

To rephrase your qualifications for the selection process (tell me if I'm
wrong in this), it seems to be a matter of focusing on the actual
revelations of the physical and natural world (DNA, quantum reality, etc)
versus "bolt from the blue" creative (often theoretical) insights which
also fuel a deeper comprehension of reality (ala Godel's theorem and
Einstein's relativity). In terms of the exercise, your impulse would be to
preserve creative insights as they seem to be less predictably reproducible
throughout history. A meme like Einstein's relativity is, ideationally
speaking, more of a "masterpiece" or "rarity" than that of DNA.

A student summed it up best as he argued with his group: "Look, just
preserve as much of this paradigm as possible."

And doesn't it seem that paradigm formation relies on these "masterpieces"
of insight? Of course, Kuhn have volumes to say about all that, but
in simple terms, it seem that if you select a few masterpieces, the natural
revelations will follow. Not bar none, but quite often.

On another note, I'm curious as to why you selected Complexity theories for
inclusion. I think notions of Complexity would "emerge" of their own
volition when science is ready to observe them, don't you think? The
various intimations of complexity theory that you mentioned seem to bear
that rationale out. No question, the fields are important and may lead to a
critical insight, but in this exercise, couldn't they be gambled on as a
result of sufficient complexity in the nature of modern science itself?