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Paul Grobstein's picture

computer models and what they're good for

Thanks all for ... helping me discover things I hadn't actually thought about before we started talking (or at least hadn't finished thinking about).  To wit, in this case ...

Yes, computer models can be explored, just as other "real/virtual" things can.  But computer models also have a special characteristic: they prove what can be in principle.   The game of life, for example, shows that one CAN have "unintended order," ie that order does not necessarily require a planner or architect.  Langton's ant shows that observed behavior that one might have thought required a sophisticated brain/inner organization needn't.  It can result from much simpler things.

More generally, emergent models show that the world much actually be much simpler than we sometimes think it is, and can be so without also being trivial or unexciting.  Simple things interacting in simple ways can be quite sophisticted/suprising/interesting.

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