Re: virus: a tangent

Dan Plante (
Sun, 23 Mar 1997 23:46:01 -0800

At 01:43 PM 3/23/97 -0800, Prof. Tim wrote:
>On Sat, 22 Mar 1997, Dan Plante wrote:
>> It is critical, in analyzing systems, to make distinctions between chaos
>> and complexity. The best way I have found to underscore this distinction
>> is to point out that "complexity emerges from chaos". Complex systems are
>> ordered and structured (mind-bogglingly so), chaotic systems are not.
>> >.... If, as you say the static,
>> >undisturbed state is "at its most complex" then, is it necessary to
>> >abandon that state in order to achieve higher levels of complexity?
>> Not necessarily. You can build on the existing system, increase the
>> interconnectivity of the component parts, to increase complexity.
>> Again, this is an observation of function and structure, not a value
>> judgement, either of morality or simple aesthetics.
>I was thinking here about systems that increase in complexity and
>structure up to a certain point, then become chaotic only to resolve
>themselves into a higher level of complexity on the other side of the
>chaotic period.

Certainly. It's just not /necessary/. Also, the process you describe does not
guarantee that the resulting system will be more "complex", and I'm not sure
that, in the context of the human mind, "complexity", in and of itself,
correlates well with the subjective attribute of "enlightenment", if at all.
Take paleo-meterology as described in the geologic record, for instance.
During one part of earth's history, the global weather patterns are shown to be
stable and rather simple. Then the system takes a "hit" from the outside (eg:
an abrupt drop in insolation), and the evidence shows a following period of
chaotic weather patterns. After a while, the system settles into a new
"attractor", and it's found that the the system, although stable, is much more
complex than before. However, a subsequent kick to the system (say, from
continental breakup) much later on, would destabilize the system once more, a
period of chaotic weather patterns would again ensue, but this time, the system
settles on a new attractor (that is, any particular dynamic of the influences
of all the components that is self-stabilizing), and the new, stable system is
actually simpler than the first.
The point is, the emergent mind is a complex system in exactly the same way
that the Earth's weather is a complex system, and will follow the exact same
principles. So, based on what I /think/ you had in mind, it seems to me there's
no guarantee that:

A: the resulting stabilized system (mind-set, or lack thereof, call it what
you want) will be more complex by any metric, or,

B: if more complex, will better manifest the qualities of mind you desire.

As I mentioned before, a rather hit-and-miss process.

However, when engineering work falls within the realm of complex systems,
engineers don't take this approach, since predicting the nature of the
system based on a random choice of workable component-sets is computationally
intractible in most cases.
Instead, they (I, we) decide before-hand, exactly what behaviour we want
the system to exhibit, which component parts we can't play with, then vary
the number/properties of other components to make that particular behaviour
intrinsically stable (constrain the system to a predetermined locus of
attraction) under varying environmental conditions (hits to the system) so it
doesn't "fly off into the woods" (revert to chaos and kill somebody, my own
personal nightmare).
So, in the human mind analogue, you'd want to constrain the results within
context; that is, you'd have to know exactly what qualities you'd want to have
afterward, and be reasonably confident that it's stable - that the basic
components work together to produce the desired results under varying
environmental conditions - or to continue the analogy, that the basic world-
view/philosophies/axioms/etc upon which all your values, opinions, aesthetics
will be based, are non-contradictory. Difficult, for obvious reasons.
That's why I was intrigued by your post about your friend. The therapist
could act to help guide her as she's rebuilding herself. Mucho trust.
The process isn't ideal, but if there was enough honest self-reflection
before-hand, there could be a satisfactory self-reconstruction afterward
(long-term self-contentment). I guess I'm just not satisfied that, since the
constraints would be determined before-hand (ie; still within the context
of cultural, theraputic and egotistical influences), that the process would
go as deep as it can when done solo ("would that be good, or evil? What
is good or evil, anyway, and why?), but like I said, it's not for everybody.

>> Sherlock Holmes
>> and Moriarity could both be seen to have highly complex or "highly
>> evolved" minds (or Sir Arthur Conan Doyle even more so).
>And remember, Holmes shot-up coke. The "highly emotional" state seems to
>have been a necessary counter-point to this characters "elementary

If you mean as a literary tool to give the character dimension, I agree.
But if you're referring to non-fictional characters of similar creative
reputation, I often find myself asking: "Hmmmm.....I wonder what they might have
accomplished if they /weren't/ snorting-shooting-drinking-praying-pickyourdrug.
Another complex systems problem. The world will never know.
I wonder if Doyle shot up?

initial conditions = data (conception)
control of data = information (conception to puberty)
control of information = knowledge (puberty to marriage)
control of knowledge = wisdom (marriage to divorce)