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Err, sorry but complexity is what happens when you lose track of the cause-effect chain.

Every "pattern" you see emerging from that situation just speaks of the limit of the observing eye. It's a description of the ERROR of perception, of the heuristic closure. So complexity can't be "revealing", it only reveals the limits of observation.

"Emergence" is controversial because it's merely the horizon of vision. A description of the screen. So yes, epistemic, because it doesn't pertain to the truth of the object, but to the illusion or limit of the description we can manage to obtain.

Self-organization is recursion, that when applied to an already complex system makes things obviously much worse. Just a multiplier, or accelerator, of complexity.

The origin of all contradictions happens when complexity+recursion is applied also to an observing system. And so you get the split between subject observing and object being observed, that due to the nature of the thing, is self-observation.

Do we agree? :)

Marcus Arvan

MrSkimpole: I can't purport to speak for Louie, but most of what you say seems to me consistent with Louie's claims about complexity science.

After noting that complexity science does not have a clear, widely-accepted definition, Louie suggests that it can perhaps be best understood by reference to two methodological commitments:

(1) Emergence: which he understands to be an epistemic notion ("systems have collective behaviors that are difficult to predict based on knowledge of the constituents"), and

(2) Self-organization: which he understands to be ontological.

Louie's notion of emergence seems to me more or less what you say both about complexity and emergence (viz. "losing track of the causal chain"). Louie's point is that when we "lose track of the chain" (not knowing precisely how all parts fit together), we need to utilize different methodological principles and techniques--and that those techniques are what makes complexity science an interesting and unique area of inquiry.

Similarly, Louie's notion of self-organization seems to me consistent with your analysis (as a "multiplier" of complexity).

The one point you raise which appears to me in tension with Louie's claims is your suggestion that "all contradictions happens [sic] when complexity+recursion is applied also to an observing system."

But why think this is true? First-order contradictions do not require complexity or recursion. All they require is first-order inconsistency.

Louie Favela

Please forgive the reposting of my previous reply. The hyperlinks did not show up, so I reposted with the full URLs listed at the bottom. Rookie blogger mistake, I know.

Dear MrSkimPole: Thanks for the comments. I am very sympathetic to what you’re saying, namely, that “complexity” refers to phenomena that we as observers have lost track of the cause-effect chain. I think this is probably true of many cases and is consistent with what many refer to as a form of “weak emergence” (1). Termite nest building is likely a case of complexity qua weak emergence in that as observers we do not have a clear perception of the causal chain—which is something like tracking the pheromone patterns of the termite “doo-doo” (technical term for feces) that eventually lead to mounds, which eventually leads to more complex tunnels, etc. In that case, I think more suitable terms that ‘self-organization’ is indeed recursion or feedback.

Nonetheless, I think there are some cases of self-organization that are more ontological and are congruent with ideas like “strong emergence” (2), whereby the emerging properties are novel in relation to the properties of the constituents in isolation or as linearly related (e.g., additive causal powers). I think these kinds of “strongly” emergent properties that arise via self-organization can be epistemically novel (i.e., from the point of view of observers like us) and/or ontologically novel (i.e., not merely the sum of the parts). A classic example of such self-organization is the Rayleigh-Bénard convection (3).

A way I’ve started to think about emergence in relation to complex systems is via the concepts “component dominance” and “interaction dominance.” In short, systems are component dominant when the properties of that system reduce to the properties of the parts and the linear and additive interactions among the parts. Systems are interaction dominant when properties resulting from the dynamics of the whole system override the properties of the parts. Some excellent papers that discuss component and interaction dominance include: Ihlen & Vereijken 2010 (4), Van Orden et al. 2003 (5), Van Orden et al. 2010 (6), and Wagenmakers et al. 2005 (7).

In the end, MrSkimPole, I think we are mostly in agreement. Were I a gambler, I’d bet that much of our disagreements are merely verbal disputes. Thanks again for the comments.

(1) http://www.iep.utm.edu/emergenc/#SSSH2ai2
(2) http://www.iep.utm.edu/emergenc/#SSSH2ai1
(3) http://www.scholarpedia.org/article/Rayleigh-B%C3%A9nard_convection
(4) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20677894
(5) http://web.haskins.yale.edu/Reprints/HL1319.pdf
(6) http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.1080/10407410903493145
(7) http://www.ejwagenmakers.com/2005/pileofsand.pdf

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