Re: virus: Metasystem Transition
Mon, 3 Feb 1997 15:19:49 -0600 (CST)

On Sun, 2 Feb 1997, Dave Pape wrote:

> At 15:58 31/01/97 -0800, Dan Plante wrote:
> >The pattern I percieve, in every (logically consistant) transition
> >postulated, is this:
> >Start with a system of (usually but not neccessarily) identical, self-
> >reproducible components. Observe that there are no higher levels of order
> >(there are, as yet, no emergent properties related to the interaction of
> >the components).
> I'm with you most of the way here. Trivially, I'm not sure how many real
> world situations you could find that are this clean, though (ie situations
> where you have a system of lots of units interacting with no higher-level
> order visible ANYWHERE). And more basically... do you really need the
> self-reproducing condition? I'd argue that atomic-scale interactors don't
> self-reproduce, but interact to produce metasystems (such as molecules).
> >Change (mutate) some small facet of the nature of the
> >components.
> Is this NECESSARY? Or... could just the addition of energy to the system be
> enough? I think one of the critical metasystem transitions in the history of
> Earth biology was just pre-DNA, when molecular units had interacted for x
> hundred million years, and got in a state of highly complex equilibrium,
> with lots of quite high-mass molecules in all sorts of bizarre
> concentrations. I'm thinking... was the change to the system because of
> energy input from the sun enough?

Hmm. If there's an "entropy pump" in position anyway, it *would* take
just energy to make the above transition. One of my professors, when I
pass qualifiers, is going to submerge me in mathematics papers from Santa
Fe about this; I may be able to make more informed responses after
devouring those.

> >Large, sudden changes in the system /typically/ result in
> >instability of an extent that has a significant detrimental affect
> >on the member components, and therefore do not sustain and/or propagate.
> I'd certainly agree with this.
> >Observe the system again. Sometimes, the small addition/change, given
> >time to reach a critical number/density through component reproduction,
> >will affect the mutual interaction of the components such that a
> >previously non-existant order can be percieved in the system as a whole.
> >This, as I understand it, is a meta-system transition.
> I agree with "mutual interaction of the components" leading to a "previously
> non-existant order" being perceptible in the "system as a whole". I've just
> got reservations about the necessity of the mutation condition.

I have reservations about "previously non-existent order": I'd prefer
"previously unobserved order" [Never mind that this isn't Quantum
Politically Correct]. For instance, in many industries the business
cycle is a direct result of Ordinary Differential Equations
applied to human psychology and resource use/exploitation. The equations
are [mostly] unobserved, but their consequences are quite real.

> >Where I think the PCP people may be going wrong, is in mistaking an
> >emergent property as "control". Influence may be a better term, but
> >even that is not semantically precise. An emergent property is just
> >that: an emergent property. Implicit in the term "control", especially
> >in feedback and control systems theory, is a controller function /not/
> >implicit in emergent properties.
> I'd say that the system and the metasystem just interact, and leave it at
> that, without describing which system has the balance of control over the
> other. PROBLEM WITH CONTROL #3: If a metasystem changes the system from
> which it emerged, then it'll alter itself as a system. I'd imagine that this
> condition would make metasystems less stable than I think they are.
> [CLIP]
> >A more accurate electronic analogy for a metasystem transition would
> >be an oscillator. Connect random transistors and electrical power in
> >various configurations, and nothing much happens (the configuration
> >burns out some components, or the system is driven into a steady-state
> >saturation or cutoff mode; nothing remarkable. But make one or two minor
> >changes, so that the components are connected in a /positive/ feedback
> >configuration, and so that the gain of the system is greater than
> >unity, and something remarkable does happen. The whole system begins
> >to oscillate at a frequency determined by the amount of inductance,
> >capacitance and resistance in the system. A property emerges, a complex
> >behaviour that is completely dependant upon, but whose existence or
> >behaviour is not implicit in, the nature of any single component.
> Lovely. Feedback's one of my favourite things. I think that severe
> schizophrenia looks quite like cognitive feedback... with ideas setting off
> similar ideas to the extent that the patient can't react effectively to
> their surroundings. Is there a semi-analogy here to an information-choked Net?

I wouldn't know *that*. You're describing the basics for a proof of "All
democracies are fundamentally irrational at large scales."


/ Towards the conversion of data into information....
/ Kenneth Boyd