Tuesday, July 10, 2007

A brief interruption of the timeline...

Before I finish reporting on Worm, I have to pause and catch up on some earlier stuff, before I forget everything, so this entry will be on Katherine Hayles' keynote speech at the Re-mediating Literature conference that I covered very generally a few posts back.

Ok, she had a really clearly laid out talk with started with an explanation of emergent complexity and what conditions produce it. Here is an overview of her points, closely paraphrased from her slides (finally, someone who did a simple PPT presentation with no bugs):

--The universe is fundamentally computational (Wolfram)
*examples of cellular automata, fractals
--Emergence, complex behaviors arising spontaneously and unpredictably from simple computational rules
*example cute program with 24 independent agents to which various rules can be applied (I wonder if she coded that herself?)

But, digital mechanisms can't be the whole story; digital and analog cooperate, for example in DNA strand replication, which is digital, only creates a practical or concrete result when it is expressed through protein-folding, which is an analog process. Analog is good at transferring information while digital is good at error control and both are essential in the case of DNA.

But these two processes affect each other and we see evolving complexity across levels--"dynamic heterarchies."

Feed forward and feedback loops in dynamically interconnecting media. In other words, First level primitives interact and the results of those interactions become second level primitives, and so on. For example, the interaction of sub-atomic particles make atoms, the atoms interact to form molecules, and the molecules interact to form proteins. But, activity on any level reaches not just those right about or below, but may reach through levels as well.

Another example is pregnancy; the mother is producing the fetus, but at the same time, the fetus is re-engineering the mother. --This example really struck me because it's really quite interesting the way developments in the fetus trigger further changes in the mother, and at the same time the fetus is reacting to changes in the environment (the mother) who mediates changes in the external environment, such as what is present in the air or the water or the food she takes in.

So intermediation has these crucial components:

--Different levels of complexity
--Different media
--Heterarchical dynamics

all of which lead to emergent complexity. Damn, still 4 pages of notes left, but I will pause here. So remember, emergent complexity comes from dynamic intermediation.

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