Complexity Effects - August 1, 2010

Thought and consciousness may be effects of complexity. There may be no simple cause and effect behind them. Consider a wave in the ocean. It is made up of water molecules, millions of molecules, all moving in a coordinated pattern. Yet the motion of any one or two molecules is not the wave. Consider the flight of a flock of birds or the swimming of a school of fish. One bird’s darting is not the wheeling of the whole flock.

So a thought may be the result of hundreds or thousands of neurons firing. Each one adds a part of the pattern. But by examining each neuron in turn, you may not be able to see or interpret the thought. It is only the overall pattering that has meaning and duration.

There may be applications of the uncertainty principle here. If you pull out one water molecule to examine it, the molecule then ceases to be part of the wave and so is useless to your investigation. If you tag it with a dye or other marker, that molecule might act differently than it otherwise would. If you tagged a bird or fish, or otherwise interfered with its flight, it might no longer be part of the flock or school.

Some things exist only in complexity and cannot be deconstructed. Stories, novel, books—which are only compilations of words—may be such a thing.