An Autonomous Agent

exploring the noosphere

Category: santa fe institute

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.

The End of Certainty – Ilya Prigogine

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 – Can the Distant Past Teach Us About Modern Crisis?

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.

Fora.tv:
Can the Distant Past Teach Us About Modern Crisis?
Podcast:
Can the Distant Past Teach Us About Modern Crisis?

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:

Geoffrey West Videos

I’ll be attending a talk by Geoffrey West soon. Many of his ideas are great additions to the work of Stuart Kauffman, Ricard Sole, and others at the Santa Fe Institute.

List of talks and lectures by Geoffrey West:

On Metabolism and Scaling Laws

Geoffrey West: The surprising math of cities and corporations

Geoffrey West On Complexity

Scaling Laws In Biology And Other Complex Systems

Urban Friction

YouTube Playlist

Phase Transitions and Signs of Life – Ricard Sole

Phase Transitions by Ricard Sole provides a mathematical account of many current areas of research in the field of of complexity. The book demonstrates the wide range of topics that involve complex systems. I feel that the book would be a good reference for further study, as it contains many references.

I was first introduced to the writings of Sole when I found his book entitled Signs of Life. Signs of Life can be considered as a prelude to Phase Transitions. I believe that it was by accident that I found Sole’s book in the library catalog, or perhaps it was after I had read Emergence The Connected Lives of Ants, Brains, Cities, and Software by Steven Johnson. I feel like Johnson mimicked the outline and ideas of Sole, but that is only my opinion.  Sole’s book provides amazing details on the prevalence of complexity all around us. The book provides a simple and easy to read introduction to the concepts of complexity and serves as a starting point for Kauffman’s books Investigations and Origins of Order (both Sole and Kauffman work/worked at the Santa Fe Institute), which I discuss in other posts. (ISBN: 9780691150758)

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