Life, Death, and the Cycle of Emergence:
Evolution, Entropy, and Matter/Energy/Information
Groping towards a solution?
23 April 2003
Emergent systems (ontogeny, brain, evolution, social/cultural development, personal development, cosmology, ...)
Emergence has "a likely origin in Darwinian thought" Looking more closely at evolution to try and identify the imporant characteristics of emergence as a general phenomenonwhich in turn will require us to think about entropy, matter/energy/information
- Are energy ("negentropy" ... Schrodinger) dependent
- Create multiple levels of organization
- Display a punctuated equilibrium dynamic
- Involve "death"
- Are "information accreting"
- Have yet to be fully implemented "artificially"
- Why can't we get multiple levels of organization in artificial systems?
Find a solution to "levels of organization problem"?
Better understanding evolution:
Needed modifications |
(from conversation 23 April)
Rob: one-sided gaussian distribution generator PLUS change in probability of ball dropping into some cups (for new "levels of organization")
Tim: not undirectional change in catalogue width, progressive information depth but not unidirectional change in total information either
Al, Karen et al: "quasi-stable" is property not simply of assemblages but also of interaction with other assemblages
Mark: replace "progressive" with "directional"
- replacing one "wrong" story of evolution with another "wrong" one - justification?
- kill Paul ... esential for emergence, for new "levels of organizaton"?
- criterion - not correctness, nor falsifiability ... generativity?
Ted: is simply "expansion" (ie could get rid of left-wall)
Anne: "valorizing" newness/change?
With Ted: issue is whether new levels of organization reflect "limited resources" or "necessary act of information compression" (the need to clean up office). Additional possibilities? Processes occuring on different time scales?
see also forum postings
(see also links from Philosophy of Science course schedule)
Better understanding entropy, matter, energy
- Adaptation ("fitness") is a by-product of evolution, not its "objective" nor its direction
- Survival of the fit (rather than survival of the "fittest")
- What changes over time is the breadth of the catalogue of what is fit (not "fitness")
- Evolution is no more and no less than an ongoing process of defining what is "fit", an exploration of the search space of quasi-stable forms of organized matter
- Quasi-stable forms become themselves part of the grist for exploration of new forms
- Non-essentialism, forms in flux
- What drives the process is a quasi-permanent state of continuing movement from less probable to more probable which in turn can generate the less probable from the more probable (The essential link between life and the second law of thermodynamics)
- Randomness alone will yield the directional, "progressive" characteristics of evolution
- The "left-wall effect"
- Brain size and evolution
- No need for "competition", "limited resources" or even differential survival
Pick up from here next week
- Persistant randomness, therefore continuing exploration, therefore given enough time organisms exhibiting altruism (and any other characteristic) are not only possible but inevitable
- Cost (actually driving force) of "organized forms" is increased disorganization elsewhere
- Could have evolution/emergence not only without competition, etc but without death?
- Need differential survival to "shape" the process, give it form/organization?
- the "editor" for a set of typing monkeys
- Possibly need death for more fundamental reasons?
- Disruption of quasi-stable assemblages which inhibit continuing exploration?
- punctuated equilibrium? phase transitions?
- Second Law of Thermodynamics?
Begin with entropy, or, more accurately, with randomness - From random motion to order: diffusion and some of its implications
Second law of thermodynamics
- Spontaneous movement is from order to disorder
- problem: meaning of "order"
- "big bang" - highly "ordered"?
- Spontaneous movement is from improbable to probable (Boltzman
- is the distinguishibility of the state rather than the state itself which is improbable (straight flush quite distinct from losing hand in poker)
- more probable = having fewer microstates in that category
- observer dependent but also "objective"/"meaningful" independent of human perspective
common properties of "probable" microstates include:
- knowledge of one part conveys no info about another part (zero mutual info) in space, no info about next state in time, therefore highly probable but also highly unpredictable (random across space/time allows "big bang"?)
- parts of probable states are similar rather than different
- by virtue of similarity there ceases to be impetus for any change at higher levels of organization (no ability to "do work")
- Spontaneous movement is from difference to homogeneity, is irreversible (involves info loss?)
- Spontaneous movement is from changing assemblies to unchanging assembly
- Spontaneous movement is "irreversible" (involves information loss)
Better understanding information
Laws of information? ... From the Head to the Heart, 1988
Information has distinctive characteristics/rules
- Shannon's quantitization of "information" - 1948 - very close to entropy
- Requires complete description of possible states at outset
- Ignore issues of "meaning" to sender or receiver (where translator?)
- Is indifferent to "order/organization" (assigns same info content to Shakespeare and to product of monkeys typing)
E=mc2, unity of energy/matter, add in information = organized matter/energy
So want something that treats info as embodied matter/energy, deals simultaneously with "meaning"?
(Tor Norretranders, The User Illusion, 1998)
Can "information" overcome the second law of thermodynamics?
Forgetting/erasing is fundamental to emergence? Could instead "compress" information? Creates building blocks for next round? Need not only exploration but also compression? Death as needed destabilizer in non-thermodynamic equilibrium systems?
- The question ... James Clerk Maxwell, 1871
- No, because acquiring information itself can't be done irreversibly, creates disorder ... Leo Szilard, 1929
- No, it doesn't, but demon can't see in absence of differences, source of illumination involves irreversible processes, creates disorder ... Leon Brillioun, 1956
- Don't need to see, can feel, but need to erase, forget and that can't be done without irreversible process, creating disorder ... Charles Bennett, 1987
"Interesting" means continually generating novel change? Neither going toward randomness nor toward stability?
Still to be incorporated?
Pre 30 April 2003:
Requirements for emergence (including new levels of organizaton)?
- Unlimited "driving force" (for "practical purposes")
- No "equilibrium" or "stability"
- "Eternal skepticism"
- A mechanism of storage of previous experience (information) from which new organizations can emerge
- Mechanisms to maximize search space
- To enhance exploration of viable new options
- To avoid premature equilibria, maximize recombination, destabilize ("kill Paul")
- "Death is the way consciousness keeps everything from happening at once"
- Death is information-loss, irreversibility, not "adaptive" but essential
- Prevents achievement of "view from everywhere"
- Prevents "budweiser effect" - the satisfying outcome - which in turn prevents continuing emergence
- Special human requirements to design/engage in emergence:
- Tolerance for uncertainty, tribes, conflict
- Humility, skepticism, patience, ambition
- Willingness to onself engage in transcendence (change and/or death)