Spontaneous order

[From Mike Acree (970702.0855 PDT)]

Bill Powers (970701.0713 MDT)

what
happens if we start with a randomly-connected environment and let the
reorganization process sort out the effects of randomly-connected outputs
on a set of randomly-connected input signals?

But suppose it proved to be either true or false that a set of
self-reorganizing control systems could find order and get control in an
environment where the connections between output and input were really
random -- in other words, to create order out of total disorder. Either
result would be important, epistemologically.

This experiment sounds like a more advanced version of what Stuart
Kauffman did back in the 60s, hooking together a bunch of Boolean gates
at random and finding that they typically settled down into a stable
pattern. He has explored this question in great depth and
sophistication in his book _The Origins of Order_, though his newer book
_At Home in the Universe_ (the title implying that we're not freaks of
nature because spontaneous order is natural) is much more accessible. I
know the suggestion of links between your work and that of others is not
one of your favorite responses; I mention it on the off chance that you
may not be familiar with his work, in which case I would expect you to
find it interesting and time saving. On the other hand, if you have
gone well beyond what he has done, or are working orthogonally to it,
that difference would be interesting to hear about, too, if you were so
inclined.

Best regards,
Mike

[From Bill Powers (970702.1832 MDT)]

Mike Acree (970702.0855 PDT) --

This experiment sounds like a more advanced version of what Stuart
Kauffman did back in the 60s, hooking together a bunch of Boolean >gates

at random and finding that they typically settled down into a >stable
pattern. He has explored this question in great depth and

sophistication in his book _The Origins of Order_, though his newer >book

_At Home in the Universe_ (the title implying that we're not >freaks of
nature because spontaneous order is natural) is much more >accessible. I
know the suggestion of links between your work and >that of others is not
one of your favorite responses; I mention it >on the off chance that you
may not be familiar with his work, in >which case I would expect you to
find it interesting and time >saving. On the other hand, if you have gone
well beyond what he has >done, or are working orthogonally to it, that
difference would be >interesting to hear about, too, if you were so inclined.

Thanks for the reference. But you're right -- I do prefer to work things
out for myself first, before seeing what others have said. Sometimes I
waste my time by doing that, but often reading other people's ideas
interrupts my train of thought and seduces me from my own ill-formed but
possibly productive efforts. The result is often a long detour that
involves learning someone else's notation and terminology, a process that
can take months before I realize what the other person was talking about,
and see that it has nothing in it for me. I will take a look at Kaufman's
books, but unless something leaps up and grabs me, I'm not prepared to put
a lot of effort into understanding him.

Best,

Bill P.

[Hans Blom, 970703b]

(Bill Powers (970702.1832 MDT))

Great self-analysis, Bill!

... I do prefer to work things out for myself first, before seeing
what others have said. Sometimes I waste my time by doing that, but
often reading other people's ideas interrupts my train of thought
and seduces me from my own ill-formed but possibly productive
efforts. The result is often a long detour that involves learning
someone else's notation and terminology, a process that can take
months before I realize what the other person was talking about, and
see that it has nothing in it for me.

Yes, that's the risk. Someone else's thoughts might or might not be
useful to you. Finding out whether the gain (of adding a new "tool"
to your "toolbox") is worth the effort (of getting to understand the
tool and how to operate it) is effortful in itself. Whether the
gamble pays off is initially unclear: one has to walk the road in
order to find out whether it leads to (one's own idiosyncratic :wink:
paradise.

I will take a look at ..., but unless something leaps up and grabs
me, I'm not prepared to put a lot of effort into understanding him.

Going the road only for a short distance works only if it has a
clearly discernable (positive! :wink: gradient right from the start. In
a great many cases, however, it seems that one has to go _down_
first, traverse the valley and leave a (comfortable?) local extremum
behind in order to be able to reach that higher peak -- if one
exists. If not, we'd better stay where we are...

How can we know that an as yet undiscovered higher extremum exists?
We cannot, of course, before we are there. Yet, we cannot be certain
that it does _not_ exist either. We can trust others, maybe, just as
many students will only dig into math because others tell them that
later on it will be useful. Or we can trust our own inner feelings,
which tell us that there must be more, even though we do not quite
know where and how to get there. Best of all, maybe, we can trust our
inner (control) mechanisms [alias God] to guide us there -- maybe
even without requiring our conscious effort.

Sorry for these free associations about the theme of spontaneous
order :-).

What I noticed in your post is that you use a control strategy that
you disallow your Monster: go away, maintain or create distance,
attenuate the disturbance right at the source before it enters your
environment. That is, select or create your own ecological niche, far
from predatorial disturbances that only cost and do not gain. This
strategy makes the control problem a lot easier. Once it is in place,
of course...

It neglects, however, that some "disturbances" are not disturbances
at all but may turn out to be utterly satisfying, lead to great new
discoveries, and might even instill new, previously unheard of
reference levels.

Greetings,

Hans