An Autonomous Agent

exploring the noosphere

Category: complexity theory (Page 1 of 7)

New Theories on the Origin of Life with Dr. Eric Smith

Dr. Eric Smith’s lecture on the origin of life really challenged everything I thought I understood regarding how life functions and possibly originated on Earth. Make sure to watch the question and answer at the end for some good points regarding panspermia and Miller’s experiments.

Ecology of Mind – Nora Bateson Documentary

Nora Bateson, daughter of Gregory Bateson, created an insightful documentary about her father’s ideas. You can purchase the DVD here. I also found it on YouTube:

On the Distribution of Kingdom/Dynasty/Government Lengths

Do there exist studies on the distribution of the lengths of kingdoms and dynasties —  distinct political entities — since the 3rd millennium B.C.E.? It seems likely that someone has already studied this topic, but I can not find any papers online. To explain, I have included a file, here, containing the beginning and end dates of about 700 distinct social groups since the dawn of recorded history. It was complied from various Wikipedia pages. I do not doubt that the data is not very reliable, however, graphing the histogram of these lengths, see Figure 1, would provide at least a rough idea of their distribution.

Figure 1

It does seem that a nice distribution curve exists which models the data. The distribution seems to take the shape of a power law at first glance. Doing some work in R, I found that a power law with one set of parameters fits the tail nicely but fails to fit the first half; and vice versa, a power law with a different set of parameters fits the majority but not the tail. My hypothesis is that a power law with alpha equal to 3 may be the best fit. This is a prediction based on the lectures of Geoffrey West, in which he explains that most biological systems exhibit power law distributions with alpha in the 2.5-3.0 range. However, as seen in Figure 2, this does not seem to be the correct range for alpha if a power law is the best fit for this preliminary data.

Figure 2
The tail of the distribution does not fit well with the parameters shown in Figure 2. 
I would venture to guess that the data may not be reliable in the displayed tail region. This would suggest that the data may need improvement in the portion where kingdoms and dynasties exist for longer than 200 years. The data I compiled, may of course be missing many kingdoms and dynasties. I believe that my sample is biased, due to these missing kingdoms and dynasties. 
To improve this rough sketch of the distribution of kingdoms and dynasties, a highly systematic method must be devised to correctly measure the length of time of existence for any dynasty and kingdom. Also, this method must consistently be able to distinguish when a kingdom or dynasty begins and ends. The general idea is to measure the length of existence of a distinct political entity in a geographical region.
A sample must be obtained which is not biased. A dataset containing the population of all existing kingdoms and dynasties existing since the 3rd millinium B.C.E. would work best. Even so, this would be biased because it would ignore all the dynasties and kingdoms existing before that time. 

1177 B.C.: The Year Civilization Collapsed – Eric Cline

Eric Cline’s book, 1177 B.C.: The Year Civilization Collapsed, provides a scholarly summary on the rise and decline of the bronze age in the Mediterranean region. Citing a number of different reasons for collapse, I find the most interesting to be a complex systemic failure arising from a continuous wave of natural disasters combined with external attacks by “sea peoples” which the “global” system could not withstand. These shocks were applied to the ancient system at its peak, in terms of power and interconnectedness, which indicates that collapses seem to occur near peaks, not troughs, in societal wealth and prosperity. And several civilizations tend to disappear at the same time; much as species extinction tends to occur in clusters. Chinese dynasties, Mesopotamian cities, Persian kings, the Mongols, the Romans and countless other examples show the same pattern. 

I am interested in seeing a frequency plot showing the number of states, governments, societies which last a given length of time (similar to here except with plots; the average tells us nothing about the shape of the distribution). And if no such plot exists I will try to create one. Collapse occurs time and time again in the history of humans and biological evolution. To me, this seems to indicate a natural law of growth which applies to all biological growth phenomena. And such a law has been mentioned by Robert Prechter and provides a basis for mathematical analysis.

“THE CHAOTIC UNIVERSE” – Ilya Prigogine, John Cage, Huston Smith

Art Meets Science & Spirituality in a Changing Economy – “THE CHAOTIC UNIVERSE” – Ilya Prigogine, John Cage, Huston Smith

Old, but good!

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