Ming the Mechanic:
Order vs. orderliness of data

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 Order vs. orderliness of data2004-01-19 15:30
picture by Flemming Funch

Ray Kurzweil on the nature of order, via SynEarth:
The concept of the "order" of information is important here, as it is not the same as the opposite of disorder. If disorder represents a random sequence of events, then the opposite of disorder should imply "not random." Information is a sequence of data that is meaningful in a process, such as the DNA code of an organism, or the bits in a computer program. Noise, on the other hand, is a random sequence. Neither noise nor information is predictable. Noise is inherently unpredictable, but carries no information. Information, however, is also unpredictable. If we can predict future data from past data, then that future data stops being information. We might consider an alternating pattern ("0101010. . . .") to be orderly, but it carries no information (beyond the first couple of bits). Thus orderliness does not constitute order because order requires information. However, order goes beyond mere information. A recording of radiation levels from space represents information, but if we double the size of this data file, we have increased the amount of data, but we have not achieved a deeper level of order. Order is information that fits a purpose. The measure of order is the measure of how well the information fits the purpose. In the evolution of life-forms, the purpose is to survive. In an evolutionary algorithm (a computer program that simulates evolution to solve a problem) applied to, say, investing in the stock market, the purpose is to make money. Simply having more information does not necessarily result in a better fit. A superior solution for a purpose may very well involve less data. The concept of "complexity" is often used to describe the nature of the information created by an evolutionary process. Complexity is a close fit to the concept of order that I am describing, but is also not sufficient. Sometimes, a deeper order—a better fit to a purpose—is achieved through simplification rather than further increases in complexity. For example, a new theory that ties together apparently disparate ideas into one broader more coherent theory reduces complexity but nonetheless may increase the "order for a purpose" that I am describing. Indeed, achieving simpler theories is a driving force in science. Evolution has shown, however, that the general trend towards greater order does generally result in greater complexity. Thus improving a solution to a problem—which may increase or decrease complexity—increases order.
That's pretty profound. And obvious at the same time. Greater order, of the kind of evolving life and intelligence, typically means more complexity. But of course complexity by itself doesn't produce emergent order. Sometimes it does, and sometimes simplicity does the trick. The key is whether we get to the deeper level of order. Whether problems are being solved at a higher level.

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19 Jan 2004 @ 15:50 by maxtobin : I like this
A superior solution for a purpose may very well involve less data.

Or the data required for a more embracing solution (more simple or complex) is to be found by looking in another direction entirely.  

19 Jan 2004 @ 15:54 by bkodish : Order
"Chaos is the order destroyed at creation."
--Stanislaw J. Lec  

23 Aug 2004 @ 21:09 by nednednerb : hmmm, in life forms...
Evolution shows things proceeding in order become generally more complex.
Science seeks a simplification of theory such that description of numerous phenomena can be subsumed by an underlying simplicity that provides expanded 'order for a purpose' that previous uncoordinated theories upheld separately.
The relation between this move in theorization to simplicity and in life to complexity seems opposite, but I think it's different than that.

A corollary of complexity in biological systems is an increased metabolic flexibility, in that more complex life forms are generally adaptable to vaster living situations. Evolution of life gave us this ability to broadly access survival.

A corollary of simplicity in theoretical sciences is an insreased descriptive flexibility, in that simpler theories are generally adaptable to vaster physical situations. Evolution of thought gave us this ability to broadly assess perception.
The parallelism shows an interesting relationship between different kinds of evolution, that continually emergent order, that can make processes like metabolism or contemplation lead to either simplicity or complexity.

In the living kingdom and scientific kingdom, things aren't ALWAYS life to complexity and science to simplicity either. Roughly speaking, success is achieved when it is this way, but success is also achieved in the reverse situations.

Mitochondria's simplified genes over so many millenia have allowed life to evolve, ie to survive, because these once separate microorganisms became integrated into each species's overall metabolism. Yet it works in interesting ways, the mitochondrial simplification and the subsequent energetic devotion of this microorganism's metabolism contributed to other outbursts of complexity that began when aerobic cells came around.

Similar things happen in science. Shroedinger's equation is quite complex to look at it, but simplistically, it roughly means (to some idealists) that "you as observer are integral to the outcomes of events." As the complexity of relationships in atoms increased theoretically from classical to quantum 'order'ing, description became simpler, that we must now scientifically affirm that "intent matters" and "this physical world must be a vessel for consciousness."

Evolution, as an abstract quality of emergent order in dynamic systems, can be either to simplicity or complexity, or to both at once. Interesting. Systems are interesing!  

Other stories in
2009-11-01 16:35: Seven questions that keep physicists up at night
2008-10-14 20:33: Where are the podcars?
2008-07-05 00:08: Self-Organized Criticality
2008-05-16 13:34: The Universe as God
2008-01-11 19:00: Richard Dawkins comes to call
2007-12-02 21:10: An E8 theory of everything
2007-09-27 00:46: Parallel universes are a bit more real
2007-07-05 23:40: What happened before the big bang
2007-06-27 00:58: Naïve realism
2007-05-26 02:26: Mars cave

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