Predictable Emergence

Here’s a quote from the Neil Gershenfeld article I linked to in the previous entry that I find particularly intriguing:

The kind of taxonomy that biologists do has to turn into predictive design theories. Shannon did that once. He showed that the channel capacity, that threshold I was talking about, is equal to bandwidth times the logarithm of 1 plus the signal-to noise ratio. That let you suddenly take these disparate attributes and, independent of the details of a particular design, learn how to price them and trade them off. We don’t know how to do that yet for hierarchy and adaptation and emergence, but there are compelling hints of an answer lying at the intersection of statistical mechanics, control theory, and geometry, mixed in with a bit of inference.

It seems to me that some really radical transitions are about to happen and this little excerpt points out a couple of places that people should be looking. In particular scientists and technologists, but for that matter pretty much everyone – definitely the investment banking community – should be taking an interest in this “field.”

Part of the problem, though, is that there currently isn’t a “field” to speak of. In fact the whole idea of forming a field of study around this area is almost absurd. This hits right up against the idea (so well developed by Mr. Buckminster Fuller) that the really critical developments are going to come together from a synthesis of knowledge. The people who makes these things happen are going to have to be, in some sense at least, generalists. No one particular area of study is going to give you the tools to anticipate nor instigate this kind of development.