You are currently browsing the tag archive for the ‘Self-Organized Criticality (SOC)’ tag.

Video lecture by Ken Long (at the Statistics Problem Solvers blog) on Nassim Taleb‘s 4th Quadrant problems [1,2], i.e. a region where statistics not only don’t work but in which statistics are downright dangerous, because they lead you to make predictions as well as control systems that are unprepared for the kinds of systems shocks awaiting you.

Statistical and applied probabilistic knowledge is the core of knowledge; statistics is what tells you if something is true, false, or merely anecdotal; it is the “logic of science”; it is the instrument of risk-taking; it is the applied tools of epistemology; you can’t be a modern intellectual and not think probabilistically—but… let’s not be suckers. The problem is much more complicated than it seems to the casual, mechanistic user who picked it up in graduate school. Statistics can fool you. In fact it is fooling your government right now. It can even bankrupt the system (let’s face it: use of probabilistic methods for the estimation of risks did just blow up the banking system).”, Nassim Taleb, in [1].

[1] Nassim Nicholas Taleb, “The Fourth Quadrant: A Map of the Limits of Statistics“, An Edge Original Essay, Set., 2008. (link)

[2] Nassim Nicholas Taleb,”Convexity, Robustness, and Model Error inside the Fourth Quadrant“, Oxford Lecture (Draft version), Oxford, July 2010. [PDF paper]

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Video -“Sand, sand, pile of sand” by Robert Proch (2009) – Impression without an idea, about trying to catch one (music by Pinkfreud).

Complex Adaptive Systems (CAS) are dynamic developing systems which arrange themselves according to external influences and to their own inner current state. If you are familiar with Conway’s “Game of Life“, you have an example of such a system. Complex adaptive systems arrange themselves around one or more critical factors (like in a sandpile, for example, where the pile will rearrange itself when you drop additional sand grains onto it). The theory behind these systems is related to chaos theory, but the systems are said to be “on the edge of chaos“, because they have the ability to adjust themselves (around the critical factors), unlike truly chaotic systems. One interesting thing with CA-systems is that they can suddenly rearrange themselves rather violently or criticality. Like in a sandpile which has a grain added to it, which topples onto other grains, which in turn topple onto other grains, etc. In physics, the Bak-Tang-Wiesenfeld sandpile model is the first discovered example of a dynamical system displaying self-organized criticality and is named after Per Bak [1] [2] [3], Chao Tang [1] [2] and Kurt Wiesenfeld [1] [2]. While running the model, you soon then have an avalanche effect and signatures produced equivalent to those found in nature. In fact, many phenomena in daily life are complex adaptive systems, like weather, traffic, earthquakes, eco-systems, or the stock market, and many of them share this precise 1/f noise pattern. As our brains.

[1] Per Bak, Chao Tang and Kurt Wiesenfeld (1987). “Self-organized criticality: an explanation of 1/f noise“. Physical Review Letters 59: pp. 381-384.
[2] Per Bak, Chao Tang and Kurt Wiesenfeld (1988). “Self-organized criticality“. Physical Review A 38: pp. 364-374.
[3] Per Bak (1996). How Nature Works: The Science of Self-Organized Criticality. New York: Copernicus. ISBN 0-387-94791-4.

(image: Hundredth Monkey – graphic art design by Michael Paukner, 2009)

This phenomenon is considered to be due to critical mass. When a limited number of people know something in a new way, it remains the conscious property of only those people. The Hundredth Monkey Syndrome hypothesises that there is a point at which if only one more person tunes in to a new awareness, a field of “energy” is strengthened so that new awareness is picked up by almost everyone.

The Hundredth Monkey Effect was first introduced by biologist Lyall Watson in his 1980 book, ‘Lifetide.’ He reported that Japanese primatologists, who were studying Macaques monkeys in the wild in the 1950s, had stumbled upon a surprising phenomenon. Some anthropologist were studying the habits of monkeys on some islands in the ocean off the shores of Japan. They found one particularly smart little fellow, and taught it to wash its food before eating it. He learned to do this quite quickly. Soon the other monkeys in his family also began to wash their food before eating it. Later this behavior spread to other monkeys in the clan. About the time one hundred monkeys were washing their food prior to eating it, suddenly all the monkeys on all the islands, some thousands of miles away, began to wash their food before eating it. This surprising observation became known as the Hundredth Monkey Effect and has been repeatedly observed. This same phenomenon is true in humans as well. It is part of the reason we have trends in fashion, the economy, and politics, etc. Finally for those who wish for extra sources, Malcom Gladwell’s “The Tipping Point” book, will be a good start.  Other related books include Philip Ball’s “Critical Mass“. Here is a good review.

Poster design above was done by Michael Paukner, one of my favourite graphic and info design contemporary artists. Not only for the themes he chooses (for instance, his most recent work was about the Golden ratio and Leonardo’s Vitruvian man), but above all, by his incredible and powerful final design. Meanwhile and on purpose, I asked today my youngest son to draw a monkey on it’s own. He his 5 years old, and this is his drawing.

(image: António’s Monkey – 5 years old – click to enlarge, Jan. 2010)

Video – Awesome choice by Tim Burton. It fits him like a glove. Here is the official Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland teaser trailer (just uploaded yesterday). Alice in Wonderland is directed by visionary director Tim Burton, of everything from Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure to Beetlejuice to Batman to Edward Scissor hands to Mars Attacks to Sleepy Hollow to Charlie and the Chocolate Factory to Sweeney Todd most recently. This is based on Lewis Carroll’s beloved series of books that were first published in 1865. Disney is bringing Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland to both digital 3D and 2D theaters everywhere on March 5th, 2010 early next year (more). Finally, just one personal thought. Soon, Tim Burton’s will stand for cinema, as what Jules Verne represented in literature.

In 1973, under several ongoing works on Co-Evolution and Evolutionary theory, L. van Alen proposed a new hypothesis: the Red Queen effect [1]. According to him, several different species will migth propably undergo and submit themselves to a continuous re-adapation [2,3], being it genetic or synaptic, only to end themselves at the point they started. A kind of arms races between species [4], potentially leading to specialization, as well as evolutionary Punctuated equilibria [5,6].

Van Alen chose the name “Red Queen” in allusion to the romance “Alice in Wonderland”, from Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (better known as Lewis Carroll) published in 1865. Over this country (Wonderland) it was usual to run as quick as you could, just to end yourself at the same place. The dialogs between Alice and the Red Queen are sintomatic:

[…] ‘Now! Now!’ cried the Queen. ‘Faster! Faster!’ And they went so fast that at last they seemed to skim through the air, hardly touching the ground with their feet, till suddenly, just as Alice was getting quite exhausted, they stopped, and she found herself sitting on the ground, breathless and giddy. The Queen propped her up against a tree, and said kindly, ‘You may rest a little, now. Alice looked round her in great surprise. ‘Why, I do believe we’ve been under this tree the whole time! Everything’s just as it was!’ ‘Of course it is,’ said the Queen. ‘What would you have it?’. ‘Well, in our country, said Alice, still panting a little, ‘you’d generally get to somewhere else – if you ran very fast for a long time as we’ve been doing.’ ‘A slow sort of country!’ said the Queen. ‘Now, here, I see, it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place. If you want to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast as that!‘ […]

Meanwhile, since 2007 (even much earlier!) I have taken Alice into my own arms. In fact, she is not heavy at all. If you feel you should keep running, some should, have a read on “Co-Cognition, Neural Ensembles and Self-Organization“, extended abstract for a seminar talk at ISR – Institute for Systems and Robotics, Technical Univ. of Lisbon (IST), May 31, 2007. Written at Granada University, Spain, 29 May 2007.

[1] van Alen, L. (1973), “A New Evolutionary Law“, Evolutionary Theory, 1, pp. 1-30.
[2] Cliff D., Miller G.F. (1995), “Tracking the Red Queen: Measurements of Adaptive Progress in Co-Evolutionary Simulations“, in F. Moran, A. Moreno, J.J. Merelo and P. Cachon (editors) Advances in Artificial Life: Proceedings of the Third European Conference on Artificial Life (ECAL95). Lecture Notes in Artificial Intelligence 929, Springer- Verlag, pp.200-218.
[3] Cliff D., Miller G.F. (1996), “Co-Evolution of Pursuit and Evasion II: Simulation Methods and Results“. In P. Maes et al. (Eds.), From Animals to Animats IV, Procs. of the Fourth Int. Conf. on Simulation of Adaptive Behaviour, MIT Press, pp. 506-515.
[4] Dawkins R., Krebs J.R. (1979), “Arms Races between and within Species“. In Procs. of the Royal Society of London: Biological Sciences, nº. 205, pp. 489-511.
[5] Eldredge, N., Gould, S. J., “Punctuated equilibria: an alternative to phyletic gradualism“. In: Models In Paleobiology (Ed. by T. J. M. Schopf), 1972.
[6] Gould, S. J., & Eldredge, N., “Punctuated equilibria: the tempo and mode of evolution reconsidered“. Paleobiology, 3, 115-151, 1977.

[...] People should learn how to play Lego with their minds. Concepts are building bricks [...] V. Ramos, 2002.

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