Scale, by Geoffrey West, is a thought provoking book about coarse grained quantitative network theories which concern the entire human species and its interaction with the environment. Although verbose — as I think the intended audience is upper high school and entry-level college — it is clear in its depictions and explanations. This book is an important summary of really profound work and research performed at the Santa Fe Institute. And it is a great introduction to understanding power laws and scaling in biology and network topologies.
Category: santa fe institute (Page 1 of 2)
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.
The End of Certainty by Ilya Prigogine provides insight into the natural processes which give rise to the novelty of life. Despite being published in 1997, there are so many great quotes and concepts which are still applicable today, that I will just say, “Read the book!” It will also help to read Stuart Kauffman’s book, Investigations, either before or after reading Prigogine’s book. Approaching from a different angle, Kauffman explores biological processes of nature which give rise to novelty and creative adaptive structures. Both books talk heavily about the dynamics of equilibrium and entropy. In the words of Prigogine, on page 67, “…matter at equilibrium is ‘blind,’ but far from equilibrium it begins to ‘see.'” Thus, non-equilibrium systems can think and observe the world, whereas systems in equilibrium are ignorant of all outside processes.
The approach of Prigogine lies in understanding the importance of Poincaré Resonances on dynamics and the construction/destruction of correlations at the microscopic level. How these resonances and these correlations behave leads to macroscopic features and the breaking of time symmetry. He deals with solving these Large Poincare Systems outside of the Hilbert Space; this is a concept which is important to biology and human social sciences. Because in these fields, we are always dealing with a system (human beings) which is far from equilibrium and behaves in novel and creative ways.
In other words, life, as a non-equilibrium dissipative structure emerging from the non-living world, needs to be studied under the auspices of “The End of Certainty.” Irreversible processes and long range correlations are critical to understanding the development of self-organization and the novelty of life.
All social sciences deal with a biological organism (humans), which is a product of non-equilibrium processes. Even Prigogine and the book itself are correlated with the mass of knowledge produced by humanity in the 20th century. In other words, his ideas and those of all scientists are subject to the same non-equilibrium dynamics which Prigogine talks about in his book. Resonances and correlations in the social sphere can lead to amazing discoveries or a lack thereof.
One subject that I think could see development from Prigogine’s ideas is economics. Economics should be considered: “The study of non-equilibirum dissipative structures created by the self-organized social species known as homo sapiens, to reproduce and adapt in the biosphere called ‘Earth.'”
What I thought about the most was the concept of correlation creation and destruction. In terms of self-organizing systems and financial markets, perhaps crashes are correlation destruction events, while bubbles are correlations spreading through time. And after a crash occurs, correlations can be created which makes a crisis even worse.
Sander van der Leeuw, from Arizona State University and the Santa Fe Institute, discusses anthropology and how modern society has much to learn from its own past. Great presentation, I highly recommend.
The importance of the city and its function in society plays an important role in the 21st century. Understanding its development and future will provide key insights to capital flows and societal change. Sander van der Leeuw quickly outlines these details in the follow videos: