Nature is change. The nature of change always preoccupied humankind. Since change may be hazardous, Babylonians searched for signs associated with favorable and unfavorable change. The art of association is highlighted in Astrology.
Next, Aristotle said that any change has a cause. An idea which is more useful than the associative method of the Babylonians, since one could intervene in the chain of causes. Western religions preferred to deal with the first cause. Leonardo de Vinci, on the other hand, showed that in order to build useful machines one ought to manipulate change.
Cause is central to Newton’s laws. It is a comforting concept which led Laplace to believe that the present state of the universe is the effect of its past and the cause of its future and this change is governed by eternal laws.
Then came Poincare and showed that Newton’s laws do not suffice to forecast the outcome of even three interacting bodies. The outcome is chaotic. Suddenly humankind was stripped of its optimistic belief in cause and effect. Here you have a change which obeys Newton’s laws and nevertheless is unpredictable.
Hitherto noise was the sole source of unpredictability, suddenly we are confronted with another one, chaos. In reality neither noise nor chaos exist as such in nature. Both are constructs for describing change. The role of noise is discussed in previous sections. Chaos theory is a branch of mathematics. It is characterized by a sensitivity to initial conditions. If a change is insensitive to initial conditions it is not chaotic. Like the flying canon ball.
Nature is an ongoing process devoid of any initial conditions. How can we know if a change is chaotic? We can’t. Like noise, chaos makes little sense when applied to change associated with life.
We are back to square one. Our tool remains the Babylonian association between events and phenomena. You might wonder why all this fuss about the nature of change? Medicine is still enchanted with Laplace’s paradise and the consequences affect your daily life. What about smoking? Does it cause cancer? Or is it merely associated with cancer. Think of your genes. Some diseases are manifested by genetic changes. Do these changes (mutations) cause disease, or are they merely associated with a disease? It is the interpretation of change which today plagues medicine.
The organism is a strange attractor in a multi-dimensional chaotic space
The electric activity (EEG) of the brain may be viewed as a chaotic attractor since its oscillations occupy a relatively narrow frequency domain. Its behavior however depends not only on neurons and glia but also on the entire body. When I raise my hand my EEG shifts to a new attractor. Experiments with biofeedback show that one can learn how to shift ones EEG at will from attractor to attractor.
However there is more to it. Despite the ongoing turnover in the body it maintains its appearance. In other words our appearance is a strange attractor in a multidimensional chaotic space.
CA provide a new tool to investigate chaotic attractors like those observed in the organism. I developed such a system. It is chaotic and when perturbed it proceeds from one chaotic attractor to another.
Chaos and creativity
Although creativity is linked with complexity. Not every complexity may be regarded as creative. Take for instance the evolution of the logistic equation and its progression to chaos. Some chaotic regions reveal structure, while other resemble noise. (http://www.pha.jhu.edu/~ldb/seminar/logdiffeqn.html)
Wolfram’s book depicts evolving chaotic CA
which might be regarded as creative, yet their structures appear and vanish.
Creativity involves more than a turnover of unexpected structures. In order
to be relevant these creations ought to persist for a while. When
this happens creativity becomes an innovation.
The growing embryo displays both kinds of creativity. Areas of intense cell turnover and fleeting structures are embedded in regions of innovation where the limbs are formed.
I developed a CA system in which rapid turnover and innovation occur side by side. As the CA evolves its cells (bits) continually change. Despite being chaotic it ultimately settles down and maintains its appearance, whereupon it becomes a bounded chaos, which is also innovative.
A river illustrates the notion of bounded
chaos. Its water changes chaotically, while its banks are relatively
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