Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Cosmic, overblown Grand Unified Theory of Development

In the 80's I spent a lot of time in the "Q" section of various libraries, which hosted some AI books, and a lot of funky books on "General Systems Theory" and related forms of interdisciplinary scientifico-philosophical wackiness.

GST is way out of fashion in the US, supplanted by Santa Fe Institute style "complexity theory" (which takes the same basic ideas but fleshes them out differently using modern computer tech), but I still have a soft spot in my heart for it....

Anyway, today when I was cleaning out odd spots of the house looking for a lost item (which I failed to find and really need, goddamnit!!) I found some scraps of paper that I scribbled on a couple years back while on some airline flight or another, sketching out the elements of a general-systems-theory type Grand Unified Theory of Development ... an overall theory of the stages of development that complex systems go through as they travel from infancy to maturity.

I'm not going to type in the whole thing here right now, but I made a table depicting part of it, so as to record the essence of the idea in some nicer, more permanent form than the fading dirty pieces of notebook paper....

The table shows the four key stages any complex system goes through, described in general terms, and then explained in a little more detail in the context of two examples: the human (or humanlike) mind as it develops from infancy to maturity, and the maturity of life from proto-life up into its modern form.

I couldn't get the table to embed nicely in this blog interface, so it's here as a PDF:

This was in fact the train of thought that led to two papers Stephan Bugaj and I wrote over the last couple years, on the stages of cognitive development of uncertain-inference based AI systems, and the stages of ethical development of such AI systems. While not presented as such in those papers, the stages given there are really specialized manifestations of the more general stages outlined in the above table.

Stephan and I are (slowly) brewing a book on hyperset models of mind and reality, which will include some further-elaborated, rigorously-mathematized version of this general theory of development...

Long live General Systems thinking ;-)

1 comment:

Patrick said...

Interesting how your spreadsheet seems to correlate (in my mind at least) to the 8-Circuit model presented by Leary/Wilson. I'm going to clean up that paper, btw, and try to get it published in one of the transhumanism journals.