[ExI] Evolved Complexity

The Avantguardian avantguardian2020 at yahoo.com
Tue May 5 00:29:19 UTC 2020

On Thursday, April 30, 2020, 03:10:45 AM PDT, Rafal Smigrodzki via extropy-chat <extropy-chat at lists.extropy.org> wrote: 
On Thu, Apr 30, 2020 at 3:29 AM Ben Zaiboc via extropy-chat <extropy-chat at lists.extropy.org> wrote:
> But ecosystems, or at least the ecosphere as a whole, tending toward more complexity is an interesting idea. If true (which it seems, at first glance, to be), then evolution does produce more complexity. That's something I've never considered before, and I'm wondering what the implications of it might be.

> ### Complexity is built on complexity. As soon as some spots in the universe accumulate some complexity, more complexity can develop in those areas. 

> This goes beyond the living world and the ecosphere - it's a story arc that spans infinities.

Yes, but the ongoing complexification of our universe as a whole is evident from both the expansion of the universe and the second law of thermodynamics, both of which are associated with the arrow of time. This is evident from even a single particle system. The more space there is for the wave function to spread out, the more possible quantum states are available for the particle to assume. An increasing number of possible states leads to greater entropy/information and is synonymous with greater Kolmogorov complexity.

> I keep coming back in my thoughts to Wolfram's new physics. He starts with the simplest possible, irreducible entities and the simplest possible, irreducible operations, concepts seemingly devoid of a relationship to physics and yet he finds they are capable of generating analogues of surprisingly high-level physical concepts. In his vision, what the naive mind might see as simple things, such as space, vacuum, or electrons are in fact made of a stupendous number of irreducible objects/relationships. The humble electron has 10e35 pieces of math in it. The final, indivisible, elementary length is 10e58 times smaller than Planck length.

Leave it to Wolfram to try to brute force a theory of everything. I have been looking over his website but I can't seem to find where he mentions specific figures like the 10^35 parts to an electron. I am a little skeptical of his claims to be honest. To say that the entire universe could arise from a simple recursive rule that adds nodes and edges to a hypergraph sounds a little bit like saying that 42 is the answer to everything. And we certainly can't experimentally probe distances that are smaller relative to a Planck length than the Planck length is to us. With our best supercomputer, we can't even iterate candidate rules 10^35 times within the age of the universe in order to see if we can simulate an electron. His theory is not experimentally testable and is not practical to compute with modern hardware.

> It takes a lot of moving parts to create a quark, it takes millions of years to transform a soup of quarks into galaxies made of boring hydrogen, it takes billions of years to cook up heavier elements out of the hydrogen, it takes hundreds of millions of years to create planets with alkaline seeps in the primordial seas, hundreds of millions of years to create the first self-replicating creatures, it takes about a billion years before some of the creatures to develop nervous systems, then another 700 million years before some of the nervous systems invent the scientific method, then another 500 years before non-biological thinking can develop on the substrate of biological creatures... (You notice the abrupt change in time-scale here, from billions to hundreds of years? An interesting tidbit). 

Where do the moving parts come from one?  It seems like he is saying that you can start with platonic bits and get matter particles out of them after an insane number of iterations. I don't see how that is possible by mathematical induction. Or is he positing some sort of ur-particle more fundamental that the standard model of which quarks and electrons are built and that his nodes and edges represent?

> I don't know what's next but it's clear that complexity has created more complexity since forever, every step of the way enabled only after mind-bogglingly large numbers of moving parts come together in just the right way. There is more complexity coming, if not in our neck of the woods, then somewhere else in the infinite garden of all self-consistent mathematical objects (yes, Jason, if you read it, I am a modal realist, too).

I have to admit that Wolfram's theory seems superficially similar to my recent work on what I call "synergistic systems" or systems comprised of simpler components that display emergent properties that the individual parts themselves do not have. I have been mathematically analyzing how the whole can be greater than the sum of the parts as it were. An example application for my theory is deriving a mathematical description of why water is wet or how cells can live while composed of unliving molecules.  The main similarity between our theories is that we both use hypergraphs but his approach is recursive and my approach is more closed-form and holistic. I am trying to explain how complex systems work and not necessarily trying to be "fundamental". For example, my theory assumes quantum mechanics instead of trying to derive it from simpler theory.

> Wolfram's notion of time is much different from the concept of time in mainstream physics, including general relativity. His measure of time as the number of elementary operations needed to create a hypergraph is incredibly appealing to me in an intuitive way. Time so conceived has a beginning but not an end, since hypergraphs are not limited in the number of elements they can contain. There is no end to complexity in general, although not all branches of the mathematical tree go on forever.

His description of time is problematic. It seems to assume a sort of universal time that would violate GR. How do you resolve conflicts between hypergraph elements as to which came first in temporal order and so would be able to have the rule applied to them to generate the other?

Does F(chicken) = egg or F(egg) = chicken?

> He is not the first thinker to come up with the "It from bit" idea but to the best of my knowledge he is the first researcher to move it from a neat quip, or Game of Life antics to an actual research program. I hope that more amazing things come out of it.

It is an interesting idea, I just think it gets a little hand wavy about at which step the bit becomes an it. Of course a Platonic modal realist might say that all self-consistent maths correspond to the laws of physics in some universe somewhere but then how did those laws get sorted from the Platonic commons to a universe near you? Also, how does pure determinism simulate quantum randomness? Or does a single simple rule generate ALL possible universes?

Stuart LaForge

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