The Evolution of Complexity - Abstracts.

Involution: On the Structure and Process of Existence

By David M. Keirsey

  • Affiliation: Hughes Research Labs
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    Using systematic analysis of phenomena across levels of complexity of existence enables a clearer understanding of the underlying structure and evolutionary process of the universe. The concept of "major levels of complexity" provides a framework for explaining the interaction between two adjoining levels of complexity. This interaction is a form of information feedback. This feedback is analogous to biological evolution but appears in simpler levels of complexity that do not involve life. In addition, at higher levels of complexity, the feedback is at multiple levels thus adding to the confusion of the evolutionary mechanisms of life. Extending the recent developments in the "science of complexity," the analogous concepts of birth, growth, and death are shown to be fundamental processes that necessary at all levels of increasing complexity. The word "involution" is used to represent the process and structure of existence which creates this increasing complexity. The understanding of this generalized evolution at each major level of complexity enables a more refined picture of how life evolved from a physical basis, and why it is difficult to recognize how life arose naturally. Lastly, the future increase of complexity points to what could be in store in the future of man and the universe.

    There are many different complex phenomena in each field of science. Until now it has been difficult to compare phenomena between fields of science, such as physics, chemistry, biology, anthropology, and economics, in a systematic manner because it has appeared that the properties and processes of these phenomena are radically different. On the other hand, there seems to be some vague similarity between radically different phenomena of universe, such the evolution of stars and planets to the evolution of life.

    Indeed, the science of complexity[Prigogine84][Kauffman93][Langton90][Gell-Mann] is beginning to shed some light on this similarity, and it appears there is some important commonalty between the sciences. A building of this commonalty in terms of a scientific theory could profoundly change our understanding of all the sciences and ultimately our understanding of the universe. Yet, communication between different sciences in regards to this fundamental commonalty at best at its beginnings. Scientists from different fields have difficulty in communication because they view their scientific fields as very different and effectively they speak different "languages". Nevertheless, the history of science shows us that ideas of science evolve similar to biological evolution[Prigogine][Kuhn]. In keeping with of evolution of scientific ideas, this building of a commonalty now seems possible because each field of science has a great deal of knowledge accumulated and can serve as a solid basis that can be used to analyze analogous phenomena, in terms of this new scientific world view.

    In understanding the structure and process of the universe there are three important descriptive parts to the analysis in terms of the science of complexity. First part of the descriptive analysis is the naming and defining of each level of complexity of existence. This is an ambitious task, but in the process of trying to delineate and define each level, a better understanding of the fundamental commonalties between all levels will occur. In defining the levels, we must first characterize what it a level of complexity means and how one can recognize it. In this paper, the notion of major levels of complexity is introduced and used to provide an initial framework for understanding the information feedback between the major levels in time as the universe evolves. The proposed major levels of complexity are the universe, galaxy systems, star, systems, planet systems, biological systems, organism systems, societal, systems, and cybernetic systems. In addition, there are successive minor levels of complexity that are between the major levels but are harder to define and discover because dependency of parts on the whole and the evolutionary process destroys a great deal of the evidence how the parts evolved in relation to the whole.

    The second part of this descriptive analysis is the process description of each level of complexity. In this process description it is important to show the commonalty between levels. This common process description, hereby called "involution," will represent the common theory on how levels of complexity arise and what is the underlying structure and process of the universe. For starters there seems to be three basic views on this process. The analogous notions of birth, growth, and death appear to common to all levels of complexity from galaxies and stars to human society and cyberspace. For example, it appears that catalysts in chemistry has a similar role of birth as genomes have in biology, and as memes have in sociology. Included as part the major levels of complexity are the major methods of communication and how they effect the structure of levels of complexity. Mapping seemly different processes into precise analogies between these processes at different levels of complexity will clarify the underlying common process. This mapping involves making explicit the information feedback between levels. The mapping is again an ambitious task, and requires the deep understanding of the each level of complexity. On the otherhand, there is a great deal of knowledge accumulated at each level of complexity by the respective sciences and vast amount of work has been performed in the sciences that staddle the levels of complexity, such as molecular physics, biochemistry, and ethology.

    Hand-in-hand with the process description is the structural description. One approach to devise a structural description, and the approach taken here is to first catalog the major organizational entities of each level and the current major species, and if possible the history of dominant species at each level. Analogous to the drive to catalog "life" by Linnaeus, this catalog can serve as lingua franca to generalize and unify the disparate phenomena that occur in the different fields of science. Just as there is no perfect classification scheme in biology[Dawkins], there will not be a perfect scheme in the science of complexity. On the otherhand, just as wrong classifications served as a counterpoint foundation for discovery of better explanations in biology, so can this catalog serve to framework of scientific inquiry for the science of complexity.


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