Simple things interacting in simple ways can yield surprisingly complex and elegant outcomes. But can they learn? create categories by themselves? bring order into what previously lacked order? Those are interesting questions, from lots of points of view. Computers consist of relatively simple things interacting in relatively simple ways and, it is sometimes said, computers can only do what they are told to do. Are they really that uninteresting? Could they perhaps learn? create categories? make their own order? And what about brains? Brains too consist of relatively simple things interacting in relatively simple ways. And use categories. Can one imagine how they could learn, create categories, create order? Is it possible that categories and order are actually a construction of brains, instead of something fixed and eternal which brains discover? If so, maybe categories might be made differently by different brains ... and maybe differently by computers and other even simpler systems so long as they satisfy some minimal requirement of kinds of interacting parts?
You can explore these and related questions in the following, using a Java applet to make your own observations. There are five pages following this one, as shown in the list below. Each is linked at the end to the next, or you can go directly to any page, by clicking that page in the list. If you've worked through the exhibit, and just want to play more with the applet, you can click here. The entire text of the exhibit in one file is here.