Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Ben as a Complex System

Just a mildly amusing "kids story" today....

I walked into my daughter Zadi's second grade classroom yesterday, to pick her up, and one of the other kids, Caitlyn, pointed at me and said "Zadi's dad: you're complex!"

"Well," I said, "I'm made of trillions of little particles, but so are you -- we're all complex..."

"YOU'RE complex!"

"Well, hmmm.... Why do you think so?"

She laughed. "Zadi said her dad is complex."

"Well YOU're silly!"

Apparently they were studying the word "complex" at school and the kids were asked to give an example of something complex. Zadi suggested her dad.

I asked her later if she could think of anything more complex than me; her reply: "the universe is one example"....




On a serious note I wondered what your definition of a 'complex system' is.

It is a very interesting and debatable point as to whether or not 'The Universe' as a whole qualifies as a complex system. My hunch is that it does.

In my books there are two major componants to a complex system:

Content - Parts functioning harmoniously

Structure - Evolution of the system (time series) towards recognisable goals.

A 'person' clearly qualifies as a complex system. A 'table' clearly does not.

The fascinating question: Does the Universe as a whole qualify?

And if so, what is the mathematical description of 'Content' and 'Structure'?

Joel said...

In reply to Marc:

I guess it all depends on whether we assume that the universe is heading towards greater entropy or extropy...

Ben said...

Marc --

To me, a complex system is one for which there is a large amount of (static and/or dynamical) pattern, emergent among the system's parts, or emergent between the system and its environment.

According to this definition, it's not clear whether the universe is best considered as a complex system or as a set of loosely coupled systems, some highly complex and some not.

We don't really know enough to say...

-- Ben

Anonymous said...

The definition of Universe is

1. All matter and energy, including the earth, the galaxies, and the contents of intergalactic space, regarded as a whole.

2. a). The earth together with all its inhabitants and created things.
b). The human race.

3. The sphere or realm in which something exists or takes place.

Therefore, if a person qualifies as a complex system, then an universe will surely do.