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Jessica B's picture

Cellular automata and complexity

I think the whole idea of cellular automata and rule 110 in particular is fascinating, but I certainly don't think it's the be-all of science. So far, it seems that all the complexity of the universe ultimately comes down to the interactions of quarks and leptons, though it's possible that there is something even smaller out there (strings, anyone?). Given that, it is possible that there is something incredibly basic that governs the functioning of the universe at large. However, just as a quark itself is not a human, these simple rules cannot in themselves predict the behavior of a large, complicated system.

As far as I've seen, cellular automata can do math. Fine. That's wonderful. The problem is, I can't imagine that my behavior is defined by mathematical operations. Nor can I think that those operations could define the functioning of the stock market or the ecology of the Amazon Rainforest.

Large things are generally more complicated than small things. And while a large thing might be made up of many small things, the interactions of those small things will often give a result that would never have happened without those specific interactions (one of the points of emergence, I think). So even if these simple rules are absolutely what shape the world, the interactions of the things made by these rules itself lends further complexity to the system. It's like how quarks became humans.

I don't know if that made a great deal of sense. Like Natsu, I'm having trouble thinking of concrete examples of how Wolfram is wrong.


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