March 28, 2024

So tonight the "Science and Spirituality" group I co-lead talked about John Holland's book "Complexity: A Very Short Introduction".

It was a bit dry, and my approach was a little superficial, so I didn't take much out of it that I didn't bring to it; just the idea the emergence is important, simple interactions lead to unpredictable new behaviors at higher levels.

But it made me think of how much interesting stuff I know about chaos and complexity came from the 90s - and how most of the folks in the groups hadn't heard of Cellular Automata (like Conway's Game of Life) or the Mandelbrot Set or all that kind of stuff, so I had something cool to show them.

One idea that has stuck in the back of my head (from Steven Levy's book Artificial Life) is Chris Langton's Edge of Chaos idea - that there's a variable "Lambda" λ that describes just how much change a system undergoes. Too high a value leads to boring randomness, too low a value leads to static dullness. I think the goldilocks "just right" value was given as around 0.273.

I haven't heard much about Artificial Life lately, not sure if it just petered out or what.