Emergence and Complexity

2 min read

inspired by Professor Robert Sapolsky’s Stanford lecture on emergence and complexity.

What governs the life, universe and everything?

Whatever it is, it seem to have something to do with chaos, randomness, basic building blocks, simple rules, quantity, iteration, emergence.

Basic building blocks following a few simple rules creates complex systems. From the most fundamental quantum particles to human societies.

Chaos means that a minor change today can create enormous differences in the future, and to predict the result is almost impossible, the only way is to wait and see. After passing a complexity threshold, a system enters into the land of chaos. There is no ideal and optimal point to arrive.

There are a finite number of possible stable states. For example plants and animals in a desert ends up with a small set of strategies to survive.

Attraction and repulsion rules between atoms creates simple inorganic molecules. Given enough time, it has been observed that organic molecules begin to form.

We do not have fancy neurons that are different than in any other species. We’ve just got more of them.

And simple nearest neighbor rules, you throw a million of them together and you get a fruit fly, you throw 100 billion of them together and you get poetry and symphonies

Regarding monkeys and humans, the difference seem to have something to do with cell division. If you start with the number of neurons that you find in a rhesus monkey brain and have it do three or four more rounds of cell division, you get a human brain in terms of the numbers.

Qualitatively, it’s the exact same neurons. All that differs is quantity, the difference between us and them is one of quantity.

Throw enough neurons in there, and out begins emerging all these distinctive human things.

Basic blocks + simple rules + iteration + randomness

May 17, 2020