of the Week Selections, Third Quarter, 2001
emphasis on rules might seem like the antithesis
of the open-ended, organic systems we've examined
over the preceding chapters, but nothing could
be further from the truth. Emergent systems
too are rule-governed systems: their capacity
for learning and growth and experimentation
derives from their adherence to low-level
rules: ants choosing to forage or not, based
on patterns in their encounters with other
ants; the Alexa software making connections
based on patterns in the clickstream. If any
of these systems - or, to put it more precisely,
the agents that make up these systems - suddenly
started following their own rules, or doing
away with rules altogether, the system would
stop working: there'd be no global intelligence,
just a teeming anarchy of isolated agents,
a swarm without logic. Emergent behaviors,
like games, are all about living within the
boundaries defined by rules, but also using
that space to create something greater than
the sum of its parts.
is at once the matrix from which creativity
is born and the barrier against which it strains.
As a pattern of ideas absorbed by us as children
from our society, ideology gives each of us
intellectual viability among our fellows and
introduces us to a variety of important issues.
But as an essentially unphilosophical system,
born of social necessity, governed by historical
circumstance, incomplete, arbitrary, and insidiously
tyrannical, ideology is unfriendly to independent
thought. Creativity has no choice but to grow
in ideology, no goal except to move beyond
factors can make ideology a vehicle for laziness
and self-deceit. Ideology enables us to pass
judgments on a variety of issues while lacking
the adequate information or analytic skill
or commitment to discovering the truth. And
ideology not only substitutes for information,
analysis, and commitment, but also for conscience.
The fact that a given action or lack of action
conforms to our ideology absolves us from
having to worry about it or take responsibility
for it. With ideology we may appear to be
well informed, analytically skillful, inquisitive,
conscientious, and morally responsible without
really being so.
Recognizing the operation of ideology in others
is a minor matter compared to locating it
in ourselves and our peers. Ideology lies
deep and is well protected. The mechanisms
with which people defend ideology are precisely
those with which they defend their personal
integrity. For this very reason, the identification
and analysis of one's own ideology are critical
steps in the progress toward self-knowledge.
A quote from Mark Twain's Pudd'nhead Wilson,
sited by Grudin in TGOGT. Top
Big News: Robert Grudin's new novel, The
Most Amazing Thing, is being published
by knOwhere Press, December 1, 2001. Top
town was in the mists of chaos.
- A student's typo
wasn't surprised. What town wasn't?
Everywhere the mists of property, the mists
of language. Every Main Street he'd known
shrouded in itself. The mist-filled churches
and the mist-filled stores in strange collusion.
this was where he chose to live.
Clarities, after all, were supposed to be
otherwise, no fun in the classroom or in the
Life? His neighbors preferred the movie versions,
loose ends tied up, mists of romance and thrill.
And sometimes he did, too.
and again he'd get underneath, see
snakes in among the flowers, hearts askew.
And friends from cities would report
they'd been places where mists had risen.
You needed to look aslant, they said,
so dangerous would the real appear at first.
safety in the universe. He'd stay put.
Besides, he liked to be in the mists of tall
and in the mists of what made him hungry for
He liked the mistiness of familiar boundaries
so he could let in, secretly, what he loved.
the chaos? It favored no geography,
a perpetual rumbling beneath and above him
wherever he was. He had lived with it so long
it was simply the music he worked to, slept
and woke with, in the mists of all.
...It should come as no surprise, then,
that the current penetration of science by
historical concerns has been the result of
advances in these two disciplines. Ilya Prigogine
revolutionized thermodynamics in the 1960s
by showing that the classical results were
valid only for closed systems, where the overall
quantities of energy are always conserved.
If one allows for an intense flow of energy
in and out of a system (that is, if one pushes
it far from equilibrium), the number
and type of possible historical outcomes greatly
increases. Instead of a unique and simple
form of stability, we now have multiple coexisting
forms of varying complexity (static, periodic,
and chaotic attractors). Moreover,
when a system switches from one stable state
to another (at a critical point called bifurcation),
minor fluctuations may play a crucial role
in deciding the outcome. Thus, when we study
a given physical system, we need to know the
specific nature of the fluctuations that have
been present at each of its bifurcations;
in other words, we need to know its history
to understand its current dynamical state.
what is true of physical systems is all the
more true of biological ones. Attractors and
bifurcations are features of any system in
which the dynamics are not only far from equilibrium
but also nonlinear, that is, in which
there are strong mutual interactions (or feedback)
between components. Whether the system in
question is composed of molecules or of living
creatures, it will exhibit endogenously generated
stable states, as well as sharp transitions
between states, as long as there is feedback
and an intense flow of energy coursing through
the system. As biology begins to include these
nonlinear dynamical phenomena in its modelsfor
example, the mutual stimulation involved in
the "arms races" between predators
and preythe notion of "fittest
design" will lose its meaning. In an
arms race there is no optimal solution fixed
once and for all, since the criterion of "fitness"
itself changes with the dynamics. As the belief
in a fixed criterion of optimality disappears
from biology, real historical processes come
to reassert themselves once more.
Diary Dear, eventually the Space Hopper managed
to explain in what sense the Planiturthian
People's Bicircle is Seven Dimensional. It's
all to do with variables quantities
that can change. 'Dimension' is a geometric
way of referring to a variable. Time is a
nonspatial variable, so it provides a fourth
dimension, but the same goes for temperature,
wind-speed, or the number of termites in Tangentia.
The position of a point in three: dimensional
space depends on three variables its
distances East, North, and Upwards relative
to some reference point. By analogy, anything
that depends on four variables lives in a
four dimensional space, and anything that
depends on 101 variables lives in a 101-dimensional
fact, ANY complex system is multidimesional.
The weather in a typical Flatland back garden
depends on temperature, humidity, two components
of wind velocity, barometric pressure - that's
five dimensions already! I didn't know we
had a 5D garden before! An economy with a
million different commodities, each having
its own price, lives in a MILLION-DIMENSIONAL
wonder economies are hard to control!
what does the Mandelblot tell us, then?"
a very simple mathematical rule can lead to
incredibly complicated behaviour," replied
the Space Hopper. "Isn't that amazing?"
guess ... But doesn't that mean that trying
to understand dynamics in terms of rules is
a waste of time?"
at all!" said the Mandelblot heatedly.
"Can't you see how beautiful I am?"
but what's beauty got to do with anything"
shouted the Mandelblot. "Structure! I
may be infinitely complicated, but I'm made
from layer upon layer of intricate pattern!"
right," said the Space Hopper. "What
the Mandelblot tells us is that something
which seems very complicated may in fact arise
from simple rules. So the trick is to understand
the rules, not the complicated behaviour that
follows from the rules. And if you didn't
know there were any rules for the Mandelblot,
you'd still be able to tell there must be
some, because of the patterns. He's not a
random mess, you see."
not any kind of mess," protested the
the base of current developments and activity
it is useful to project a decade or two in
the future and see what scientific and technical
information transfer will look like. We personally
feel that in somewhere between 10 and 20 years
the following description will be reality
for a third or more the those engaged in scientific
and technical endeavors.
researcher has access to a version of (Vannevar)
Memex. Her personal files are on some
sort of storage mechanism. She can plug into
the unit as needed. The unit is designed for
the direct composition and synthesis by the
researcher of papers from files, but it can,
of course, be synthesis by a secretary. A
Memex may also serve as terminal for extracting
or sending items to computer systems or to
other units of the same type. Costs are less
than the mail for communication. Researchers
can always borrow a portable terminal to take
home. They have access to a couple of conference
systems, probably one in their organization
and one for communication with individuals
elsewhere representing their primary professional
peer groups. These latter conference systems
may be commercially offered or they may be
run by professional societies or publishing
professional societies and/or publishers will
operate a sophisticated text system allowing
for graphics and a wide variety of text fonts.
There will probably be center where an author
can go to utilize a sophisticated graphics
system to dress up the final version of his
or her article.
image of the university and the scientific
enterprise as a "community of scholars" is
an attractive one, to which the new technology
of computerized communication - information
systems could give some reality.
transcendentalists held that each physical
thing was the consequence of, or had consequences
for, spiritual thought. Therefore all form
had moral meaning. Emerson said, "esteem
nature a perpetual counselor, and her perfections
the exact measure of our deviations."
It is important to see that, for Wright, the
philosophical ideas of integrity and natural
order were not merely "means" of
designingthey were visions of the world
as it should be. His principles are thus understood
as having both formal and moral power. Emerson
said that "all form is an effect of character,"
and Wright deeply believed this to be true,
pointedly stating that "the sins of architects
are permanent sins."
is buying books? Recently, the American Booksellers
Association (ABA) published these survey results:
of U.S. families did not buy or read a
book in the past year.
of U.S. adults have not been in a bookstore
in the last five years.
of U.S. adults never read another book
after high school.
of college graduates never read another
book after graduation.
in the U.S. spent $25.6 billion on books
in the past year.
billion was spent on movies in the previous
is it," Maestra had asked quite rhetorically,
"that separates human beings from the
so-called lower animals? Well, as I see it,
it's exactly one half-dozen significant things:
Humor, Imagination, Eroticismas opposed
to the mindless, instinctive mating of glow-worms
or raccoonsSpirituality, Rebelliousness,
and Aesthetics, an appreciation of beauty
for its own sake."
of the six qualities that distinguished the
human from the subhuman, both grandmother
and grandson agreed that Imagination and Humor
were probably the most crucial.
J. Adler & Charles Van Doren,
To Read A Book,
pp. 14, A Touchstone Book, 1972.
is only one part of the activity of learning.
One must also use one's senses and imagination.
One must observe and remember, and construct
imaginatively what cannot be observed. There
is, again, a tendency to stress the role of
these activities in the process of unaided
discovery and to forget or minimize the place
in the process of being taught through reading
or listening. For example, many people assume
that though a poet must use his imagination
imagination in writing a poem, they do not
have to use their imagination in reading it.
The art of reading, in short, includes all
of the same skills that are involved in the
art of unaided discovery: keenness of observation,
readily available memory, range of imagination,
and, of course, an intellect trained in analysis
and reflection. The reason for this is that
reading in this sense is discovery, tooalthough
with help instead of without it.
fond farewell to
Mortimer J. Adler, 1902 - 2001