Life, Death, and the Cycle of Emergence:
Evolution, Entropy, and Matter/Energy/Information

Groping towards a solution?
23 April 2003
Emergence Group
Paul Grobstein

The Problem:

Emergent systems (ontogeny, brain, evolution, social/cultural development, personal development, cosmology, ...)

Emergence has "a likely origin in Darwinian thought" Looking more closely at evolution to try and identify the imporant characteristics of emergence as a general phenomenonwhich in turn will require us to think about entropy, matter/energy/information

Find a solution to "levels of organization problem"?

Needed modifications
(from conversation 23 April)

Rob: one-sided gaussian distribution generator PLUS change in probability of ball dropping into some cups (for new "levels of organization")

Tim: not undirectional change in catalogue width, progressive information depth but not unidirectional change in total information either

Al, Karen et al: "quasi-stable" is property not simply of assemblages but also of interaction with other assemblages


  • replacing one "wrong" story of evolution with another "wrong" one - justification?
  • kill Paul ... esential for emergence, for new "levels of organizaton"?
  • criterion - not correctness, nor falsifiability ... generativity?
Mark: replace "progressive" with "directional"

Ted: is simply "expansion" (ie could get rid of left-wall)

Anne: "valorizing" newness/change?

Between meetings

With Ted: issue is whether new levels of organization reflect "limited resources" or "necessary act of information compression" (the need to clean up office). Additional possibilities? Processes occuring on different time scales?

see also forum postings

Better understanding evolution:
(see also links from Philosophy of Science course schedule)

References: Better understanding entropy, matter, energy

Begin with entropy, or, more accurately, with randomness - From random motion to order: diffusion and some of its implications

Second law of thermodynamics

Better understanding information

Laws of information? ... From the Head to the Heart, 1988
Information has distinctive characteristics/rules

BUT ...
E=mc2, unity of energy/matter, add in information = organized matter/energy

So want something that treats info as embodied matter/energy, deals simultaneously with "meaning"?

Maxwell's Demon (Tor Norretranders, The User Illusion, 1998)

Can "information" overcome the second law of thermodynamics?

References: Forgetting/erasing is fundamental to emergence? Could instead "compress" information? Creates building blocks for next round? Need not only exploration but also compression? Death as needed destabilizer in non-thermodynamic equilibrium systems?

"Interesting" means continually generating novel change? Neither going toward randomness nor toward stability?

Still to be incorporated?

Pre 30 April 2003:
Requirements for emergence (including new levels of organizaton)?