Random walks and the complexity of life
By Casey Dunn
Random walks and the complexity of life
By Casey Dunn
Welcome To The Entanglement
July 15, 2016
It’s not just that the more we know, the more we realize how much more there is to know. It’s that the more we know, the less we seem to understand.
An earlier generation, before Galileo and Newton and Descartes, might have taken it for granted that there are realities — life, morality, freedom, God — that are simply beyond our comprehension.
What greater proof that we can understand and master reality than our ability, for example, to build a rocket, shoot it into space and hit the moon?
We have entered the Entanglement — the phrase is due to computer scientist Danny Hillis — an era in which our technologies themselves are so complex as to exceed what any of us can really grasp. It used to be thought that a “Renaissance Man” could know everything that was known. If Arbesman is right, no person alive today can even really understand everything that we human beings make.
The book is full of examples from the recent history of technology: from “correctly functioning” medical equipment administering lethal doses of radiation, to software instabilities wreaking havoc with global financial markets, to self-accelerating Toyotas.
We are like map-makers (a la Borges) whose maps are so complicated that we get lost in them
14:20 What controls satisfaction:
– spending time with people we like
what perplexes every man today in every walk of life is the extraordinary complexity of modern life as compared with the life in the midst of which our grandfathers found themselves, as compared with the life in the midst of which the generation immediately preceding ours found itself.
The life of the present day is incalculably complex, and so many of its complexities are of recent rise and origin that we haven’t yet had time to understand just what they are or to assess the values of the new things that have come into our life.
Not only is life infinitely complex in our day as compared with the previous age, but learning is correspondingly complex.
philosophers from the beginning have said of this complex and interesting game we are playing. That is the field of philosophy.
You cannot tell whether he can do it until he has made the effort. I do not know of any other way of bringing out a mind than by obliging the person who is alleged to have one to use it; that is the only way in which you can determine whether he has one.”
The Meaning of a Liberal Education (1909)
by Woodrow Wilson
Papers of Woodrow Wilson, 18:593-606
Economics Claims a Precision Rarely Found
Thanks for Mr. Roberts’s views on how dismal the science is in the dismal science.
May 24, 2016
Regarding Kyle Peterson’s “The Weekend Interview with Russ Roberts: When All Economics Is Political” (May 14): … reliance on regression analysis to find confirmation of our preconceptions
… all systems, and especially economic systems, are highly nonlinear in how they respond over time to any disturbances to the system, especially human, but also natural, disturbances.
It is effectively impossible to include all effects in any model of such a system, so we simplify for the sake of obtaining a computational forecast estimate in our lifetime.
Unfortunately, any nonlinear system unwinds over time in ways not exactly predictable given the limits of our computational model.
It is hubris to think that more data can make predictions of large material, human, environmental and econometric ensembles more reliable.
This is commonly known in chaos theory as the butterfly effect.
Even meteorologists …
this is a letter to:
When All Economics Is Political
The dismal science has too much junk science, says Russ Roberts, an evangelist for humility in a discipline where it is often hard to find.
By Kyle Peterson
May 13, 2016
Chapter 1: System Complexity
The overall goal of this module is to introduce the learner to the complexity of the healthcare delivery system that contributes to patient harm despite best intentions and efforts.
Specifically, this module will define characteristics of complex systems and describe a framework for examining the nature of real work in complex systems.
A Virtual Outbreak Offers Hints Of Ebola’s Future
August 14, 2014
“I’ve spent a lot of time doing computer models of disease transmission, but rarely does it involve something in Africa. Africa is often overlooked,” says Bryan Lewis, a computational epidemiologist at Virginia Tech.
“Some of those factors are the ones that are hard to measure,” he says. “You’ve got to choose how much of this complexity you care to explicitly represent.”
“At the moment, these models — at least for Sierra Leone and Liberia — we aren’t putting in any mitigating factors.
Given that all this modeling is as much an art as a science, different groups working on the problem have been comparing notes. They’ve also been fielding calls from government officials and policymakers.
Martin Meltzer, who heads up the unit at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that’s been creating computer models of the outbreak, says that people always ask him the same two questions: “How many people are going to die, and when is this going to end?“