Tuesday, August 22, 2006

postal scrotum: Gord Sellar on telos

Gord of Eclexys writes:


Re: your post here:


What you say about thermodynamics is true, but I've read in a couple of places (most memorably in George Johnson's (admittedly somewhat dated) Fire in the Mind that there's an emerging, and I should say quite tentative, understanding that while the laws of thermodynamics hold, there may also exist a tendency towards increasing complexity in the universe. It's not just the cosmic anthropic principle nutters that think so, either...

This doesn't even need to be ascribed to any kind of underlying, universal [telos]; it could be that rather than life and the increasing types of complexity we observe in all kinds of systems arising from something basically stochastic, that maybe the wacky digital-physics people are correct (I know only a little about them, from conversations with Vernor Vinge mostly) and underlying all that physics we think we understand right now is a kind of computation-like process. Rudy Rucker, though I'm not a total cheerleader for some of his more New Age ideas, has said some interesting things about "gnarly computation" that seem to make sense in terms of algorithms that would lead to complexity, as opposed to pure entropy or just endless repetitions of the same self-replicating structure. Imperfect self-replication (aided by mostly slow-acting environmental factors) could arguably be an algorithm by which, over geological time, a sort of gnarly computation occurs. And there's no saying that this might not just happen to be a basic feature of the universe we find ourselves in, though heaven forbid this be used to promote Intelligent Design.

Anyway, cool to see someone else around here thinking about this stuff.

Off to dig through the library stacks and find out whether the issues of Nature are in English or, to my chagrin and some really long shot I think unlikely except karmically, translated into Korean.


Perhaps Carl Sagan got it right in his novel Contact: the universe was designed, and the "artist's signature" is inscribed-- and ready for decoding-- in irrational numbers like pi.

You will, of course, have seen Malcolm Pollack's reply to my telos post.


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