How Emergence plays out
in our map-mediated world
Melbourne Emergence Meetup
11 August 2016
the land was invaded
and people who weren’t here were killed
Cumberland River Poet
1 August 2016
Tonight (+ next 2? years)
• Territory, Maps & Facebook: Popper’s 3 Worlds
• Dissipating Gradients under the Second Law
• Mechanisms of Emergence in the Territory
• Encoding Traces for Dynamic Persistence
• Biology, Neurology, Ecology, Linguistic, Digital
• Conservative Physics v Diminishing Cost of Maps
• Laws Emerge from Words, Gambling from Money
Karl Popper's (1972; 1978, 1994)
three worlds of knowledge.
World 2 is an emergent
property based in World 1.
World 3 is an emergent
property based in World 2
Refer Lynne Kelly
c.f. other species
Refer Bill Hall
Encoding Thoughts for
The Second Law of Thermodynamics
describes closed systems tending to
equilibrium, but our young universe is
populated by stars and more that are far
from equilibrium and provide energy
gradients which can only dissipate at
speeds allowed by other physics.
Within such gradient flows, new entities
can emerge and do ‘useful’ work to
increase the rate of dissipation.
Stan Salthe’s Rule of Thumb says less
than 50% of the flow can be used.
Flow dissipation is but one class of
mechanism for Emergence in the Territory.
Novelty can also Emerge because a network
of processes support each other.
Stu Kauffman has proposed such a metabolic
network as a precursor to cellular life.
A minimal version between two (or three)
entities is more commonly recognised as
Synergy, or as Symbiosis in the life world.
The Territory is built on Synergy between two
very different entities: proton and electron.
Re Conservative Physics
Empty space is far from nothing
Must account for angular isotropy,
unimpeded transit of light and matter
Conservation of linear momentum,
angular momentum, electric charge,
baryon number, energy-mass, etc.
Extrapolating from cellular automata
ﬁndings: conservative bubbles form
when a sufﬁcient (tiny) seed is left
without any embedded (exponential)
reproductive elements, after which it
grows by (polynomial) production
(Schematic opposite presented as
example at workshop on Philosophy
of Complexity held in Stellenbosch,
South Africa, 2007)
12/08/2016 1:00:56 pm
What follows assumes an unpopular notion of time:
The only time that exists is now,
everywhere engaged in producing the next now.
Some entities/patterns persist,
providing traces of earlier times.
Living cells embody a process for encoding traces of
their environment in a form that facilitates ongoing
regeneration of an almost consistent lineage.
Networked neurons embody a very different process
for encoding traces of their environment in a form
that facilitates the flexibility of a mobile animal.
The moon retains traces
of many events against
astronomical odds over
billions of years
C.f. landscapes of a living
earth with tectonic, ice,
hydrological, wind and
other active processes
degrading most traces
Orbital dynamics retain
traces of past encounters,
as in Saturn’s rings
Knowledge needed to
ﬁnd and read traces
By ﬁnding a way of encoding a capacity to adapt to variations
in its environment across time, life effectively invented the
notion of time continuing that so pervades our lives today.
The notion of time as a linear measure, albeit with strong daily
and yearly cycles, has served us well, especially when used by
science to make predictions that can be remarkably accurate.
However this mathematical ideal of time as a linear dimension
conﬁrms that time is only an imaginary measure of distance.
To transform a measure of time into a measure of space needs
not only c, the speed of light, but also i, the square root of -1.
While admitting its dependence on cellular biology and
the similarly different organisational patterns of other
life forms and ecosystems that have co-emerged with it,
we focus here on the neurological encoding of mobile
animals (leaving corner cases for another day).
No matter what else the notion of consciousness may be
burdened with, it does have an active role in encoding
experience of the world, including recursive reference
to earlier encoded memory, in such a way that those
accumulated memories define the individual mind.
And it appears that the sleeping and dreaming, not
quite unconscious, mind plays an active role in further
organising and suppressing some encoded memories.
Acquired brain injury provides supporting evidence.
Many species share Knowledge essential to their
success as populations, with human language
facilitating an apparently unmatched division of
labor, and consequent social complexification.
Lynne Kelly provides a comprehensive account of
how vital orally-maintained Knowledge, indexed
by place and mnemonic devices, transitioned to
performance spaces associated with monumental
architecture to support agricultural settlement.
Bill Hall describes ever-accelerating transitions to
writing, printing, electronic communications and
digital computation keeping Knowledge central to
human affairs, if subservient to power and money.
Our Knowledge is how we Map our Territory
Popper locates this internal neurologically encoded Map in
World 2, but genetic encoding of heredity as external and
thus World 3, seemingly not seeing them as being of the
same kind, even if very different in implementation detail.
Here I focus on their commonality as dynamic encodings
that directly facilitate adaptation, and contrast them with
the representational encodings of natural language,
decorated artefact, art, writing and exploding digitisation.
Such dynamic encodings are tightly coupled to conservative
condensed matter physics which imposes limits on growth.
Representational encodings are effectively decoupled from
most physical constraints, even more so at every iteration.
Mapping the Territory
• We think of Maps as Diagrammatic Representations
• Such Maps are useless without Words and Numbers
• Diagrams take more work than Words or Numbers
• Many views of the Territory mapped by Words alone
• Oversimpliﬁed mapping into Numbers takes control
• Maps decoupled from Territory’s conservative physics
• Flow of Words has little constraint, Money even less
The Song Remains the Same?
Movie at: https://vimeo.com/104588900
A Verbaliser in most humans’ heads forms candidate
sentence fragments almost every waking or dreaming
moment, a few of which are stitched into coherent
utterances or typed and edited with a keyboard.
Such Conversations are only marginally related to
conserved physics, so expand without physical limit.
While much is redundant, ignored or falls on deaf
ears, some is received more warmly and begins a
process of Consensus building via meetings of minds.
So we get articles, books, contracts and regulations
covering every sphere of human interest, and with
Knowledge industries dedicated to their production.
There is an implicit assumption that texts should be an
accurate Map of the Territory, with exceptions for ﬁction
However Language turns out to be a two-edged sword
Language can be a powerful tool for sharing Knowledge
But it is even more efﬁcient at spreading misconceptions
And it is generally inefﬁcient at propagating corrections
Lynne Kelly showed the value placed on knowledge
from long before agriculture and human settlement.
Today an increasingly vicious feedback loop allows
knowledge work to be considerably overvalued.
The commentariat is predominantly white collar and
advocates white collar education and remuneration.
Old expectations and academic pressure towards
hyper specialisation conflict with capital’s desire for
interchangeable workers and rewarding CEOs.
Word v Excel v Draw
Not the place to
say much about
Pictures worth a
Effective use vital
Numbers, Measurement and Counting
In the Territory, quantiﬁcation measures perform consistently
Within Mathematics, numbers have seductive accuracy
In the messy Map of human value judgements, little is stable
Standardisation of measures enables conﬁdent exchange
Many forms of money try to support conﬁdent interchange
Trade needs to be win-win in terms of each trader’s values
Physical markets facilitate trade, generalised to intangibles
Value abstracted: fees, wages, salaries, commissions, rent
Taxation and government, accountants and lawyers
After Cowries and other relatively stable commodities
served as local currencies, gold beat silver to become
the final backing for promissory notes and coinage.
The Gold Standard was then watered down through
legislated prudential ratios before finally being
superseded during the Great Depression of the 1930s.
In October 1976’s last days of Gerald Ford’s unelected
presidency, the USA abandoned any connection of the
value of its dollar to gold, leaving the international
monetary system based entirely on Fiat Currency.
Banks are supposed to maintain a prudential ratio
between assets and loans but policy looseness leaves
no guaranteed cap on their ability to create money.
So we have a world increasingly awash with money
Financial institutions and instruments emerge and grow
Growth statistics more about monetisation than value,
more about rate of ﬂow than built or natural asset value
Neoliberal ideology facilitates the rich mopping up
But then we get Facebook and its supporting cast
Knowledge workers in overdrive creating unpaid content
Universal basic income proposed to restore inﬂows
Putting this into today’s context
While many have deeper routes, all components of today’s
natural environment survived the 2.5 million year Pleistocene
ice age and its repeated inter-glacial succession processes.
Almost all land and coastal ecosystems have more recently
co-evolved with knowledge-centric human communities.
Human industrial scale processes are now breaking all that.
These are being driven by desk-bound knowledge workers
with no material constraints on their words nor their money.
Truth and prudence are losing badly
Bringing it even closer to home
Transurban has to go!
P.S. Agreements and disagreements with Bill Hall
• General thrust and detail of Application Holy Wars
• Concern that environmental threat understated
• But I do see industrial effects outpacing warming
• Disagree on Fermi Paradox for two reasons:
• Combinatorics shows civilisation against all odds
• Evolution mostly prefers specialists to generalists
Responsibility of being ﬁrst to aspire to know all
Needing a Black Swan Event
Movie at: https://vimeo.com/42961266
Assuming they exist at all,
it would not matter who
The Powers That Be are.
They’d have no reason for
doing what they’re doing
beyond Fear and Greed.
Or are ‘they’ an Emergent
entity that Supervenes?