Presentation on theme: "Energy, energy flows, energy stores, cycles, and Complex Systems."— Presentation transcript:
Energy, energy flows, energy stores, cycles, and Complex Systems
Categories of entities (from The Reductionist blind spot)The Reductionist blind spot Naturally occurringHuman designed Energy Status Static. At an energy equilibrium; in an energy well. Supervenience is useful because the whole can generally be analyzed in term of the parts. Atoms, molecules, solar systems, … Homeostatic mechanisms: lowest energy state. Tables, boats, houses, cars, ships, … Homeostatic mechanisms: few; generally dependent to maintenance processes, Dynamic. Must import energy (and usually other resources) to persist. Supervenience is not useful because the parts typically cycle through the entity. We think of these as complex systems. Hurricanes(!), biological organisms, biological groups, … Homeostatic mechanisms: specialized for individual cases. Social groups such as governments, corporations, clubs, the ship of Theseus(!), … Homeostatic mechanisms: specialized for individual cases, ranging from force to incentives. Subsidized. Energy is not relevant since it is provided for free within a laboratory which has built-in support for entities. Ideas, concepts, memes, … The elements of a conceptual system. (This paper is not about consciousness. This category just fits here.) Homeostatic mechanisms: we dont understand how consciousness works. The first class valuessuch as objects, classes, class instances, etc.within a computational system. Homeostatic mechanisms: generally not required since no natural degradation.
Whats the relationship between the act of flipping a light switch and the light going on? Flipping the switch enables electricity to flow, which produces light as it moves through the bulb. More generally, flipping the switch changes the environment which channels the energy of the electric current so that it will produce light. This is a very simple example of an action that produces an effect indirectly. – Its actually a bit too simple and I will back off from this position later.
This sort of indirectionchange the environment so that existing forces will produce desired resultsis characteristic of complex systems. – One version of this is called stigmergy: social insects communicate with each otherthereby affecting the behavior of other insects and channeling their energyby leaving messages in the environment, e.g., the ant foraging example. This is distinguished from traditional systems in which one imagines a central energy source producing results by direct action or through chains of direct actionse.g., a water wheel.
I would suggest that as a top-level analysis actions should be categorized as either – changing the environmentso that something desired will happen when energy that is not under ones direct control is applied in the context of the changed environment – applying energy directly to achieve a result. So the light switch is a bad example because it is a case of releasing stored energy which is under our direct control. Releasing stored energy is much more like applying energy directly to achieve a result than it is like shaping the environment. – The 911 terrorists captured energy and then released it directly.
There would be no complexity were it not possible to store energy. If energy couldnt be stored it would dissipate immediately. Energy dissipation may produce complex patterns (Prigogenes dissipative structures) but its hard to see how these patterns can be built up to multiple levels. – The GoL Turing Machine looks like a counter example, but it isnt because computational processes are energy subsidized. There are no energy considerations when discussing software functionality. Its not that the computer doesnt use energy; its that in using energy the computer gives softwareof any complexitya free ride. One (intuitive) characteristic of living organisms is that they are animated, which implies the ability to store and then release that stored energy in a controlled way. Stored energy
Basic message Complex systems wouldnt exist were it not for energy supplied to them from external sources. – Complex systems maintain global constraints by implementing attractor limit cycles. It requires energy simply to loop through a cyclenot to mention the energy required to return a system to its attractor cycle. Energy, energy flows, and energy storage are fundamental. As are cycles and the energy frameworks needed to retain them. To understand a system one should expose the cycles and follow the energy (as we say follow the money), i.e., trace energy flows back to their sources. Manipulating (or just affecting) energy stores or flows provides major levers for influencing complex systems. Can do it – directlyby capturing and releasing them Typical of biological organisms, force-against-force warfare, 911 terrorists. – indirectly by shaping the environment in which they occur Typical of complex systemssnake farm example.