The Coming Age of Accelerated Evolution!

What’s Driving The Evolution Of Everything?…  Back in 1994 I read a book called “Complexity – The Emerging Science at the Edge of Order and Chaos”.  In this book the author suggested that theoretically complexity should not really occur naturally because it seems to defy the Second Law of Thermodynamics (SLOT) and the concept of maximizing “Entropy”.

I had come across the SLOT as a student and knew that it was related to the concept of the spontaneous distribution of “Heat”, but could not remember much about the concept of “Entropy”.  A little research however revealed — much to my surprise — that seemingly “entropy” is generally associated with “disorder”; and that according to physicists because heat spontaneously distributes it means that everything in the universe spontaneously moves towards maximum disorder; and that means that the universe itself is in fact irreversibly decaying over time.  This I found surprising, because if this assertion is true then obviously it does indeed beg the question:   “How does Evolution manage to spontaneously generate such incredible Complexity in the face of the SLOT?”

This apparent conflict between physics and natural evolution sparked my curiosity.  I became curious to understand firstly why physicists would believe that the spontaneous distribution of heat must mean that we live in a universe of irreversible decay; and secondly, and more importantly, I began to wonder “what actually is the sourceof Evolution’s Self-Designing Complexity?”

Evolution Dynamics

“So?…” you might well ask.  Have I managed to formulate any sort of an answer to this tricky and paradoxical question?  Well yes, I think I have.  The answer to why physicists believe what they do is simply a matter of history; but the answer to what’s driving evolution is much more interesting…

In the simplest possible terms, the SLOT is about the spontaneous pull of thermal equilibrium, and so it effectively about how the SLOT operates like a natural “Negative Feedback System” (like a natural thermostat) in that it pulls (or dampens) a system to the equilibrium state.  However a fact that has been consistently overlooked about the physical behavior of the “Second Law of Thermodynamics” is that it relies heavily on the mathematical behavior of the “Law of Large Numbers (LLN)”.  The LLN essentially says that a very large number of independent things will most likely exhibit the “Most Probable Distribution” (which in thermodynamics is the equilibrium state).

Consequently a system can be held away from thermal equilibrium by two things.  Firstly, the negative feedback effect of the LLN can sometimes not be strong enough to dampen the system to equilibrium.  And secondly, the strength of the LLN can sometimes be weakened by a reduction in the independence of the elements within the system.

So these two things can in effect act as resistance to the pull of thermal equilibrium.  But moreover, and more interestingly, it is the interplay of these two types of resistance that can (without any external direction) naturally drive evolution away from a featureless state of thermal equilibrium, to some extraordinarily creative complexity.

In the simplest possible terms, Evolution is the result of the interplay of Insufficient Negative Feedback, and Strong Positive Feedback; simply the interplay of “Incompressible Dynamics”, and “Self-Reinforcing Dynamics”

  • Insufficient negative feedback allows the surfacing of creative diversity and “Incompressible Dynamics”…
  • Strong positive feedback drives local symmetry-breaking and emergent “Self-Reinforcing Dynamics”…
  • And the interplay of both drives the “self-integration of co-emergent diversity” and emergent “Complexity Dynamics”…

Matrix of Feedback Dynamics

The above matrix of feedback dynamics can be rewritten in terms of evolutionary dynamics, thereby clarifying Complexity Dynamics as simply the result of “The Nonlinear Interplay of Random Innovations and Natural Reinforcement”…

Matrix of Evolution Dynamics - Copyright - Kieran D. Kelly

Entropy Dynamics

Moreover, and this is what is really interesting, both of the above matrices can also be represented in terms of thermodynamic entropy and “Information Entropy”.

Matrix of Entropy Dynamics - Copyright - Kieran D. Kelly

Information entropy is not much known outside the domain of computer, but it is a different type of entropy to thermodynamic entropy.  Whereas thermodynamic entropy is a measure of disorder, information entropy is a measure of uncertainty and unpredictability.

[Note: The concept of information being a measure of uncertainty can sometimes confuse people.  But think of it this way.  By its very nature, to you “information” is unpredictable, otherwise it would not be “information” — it would just be stuff that you already knew…]

Information Creation

Essentially natural complexity is, in fact, “self-integrated information”.  All natural complex systems are characterized by the fact that they have “low thermodynamic entropy, but high information entropy”; consequently these systems can be considered to be highly organized but unpredictable nonetheless.

So while most people might think about evolution in terms of “an ecosystem of plants and animals”, the reality is that plants and animal (and the ecosystem itself) are really just “information structures”, and evolution simply keeps creating evermore complex information structures.

So despite what most people might think, evolution is not solely a theory about the emergence of life, but a more Generalized Meta-Theory about the Emergence of Everything (of which biological evolution is merely a special case).  In the broadest possible terms, “Evolution is Information Creation”…

Accelerated Evolution

Information is created from information.  Evolution is simply the constant integration of information.  Evolution’s progressive complexity is simply Mother Nature creating evermore complex information by “integrating stuff” as she goes along.  This constant integration means that “Nature’s complex whole is forever becoming greater than its less complex parts”

Evolution created us, and we in turn have created (and are continuing to create) evermore complex information structures.  But in these early years of the 21st century it could reasonably be argued that in our ever-more rapidly interconnecting world (in 2017), we are likely fast approaching a phase transition in human development, a transition to a whole new “Age of Accelerated Evolution and Information Creation”.  And this coming age will not be dominated by the old linear paradigm of predictable cause and effect, but by a whole New Nonlinear Paradigm of unpredictable “Integration and Emergence”…

The Century of Complexity and Creativity

In Conclusion:  Physics tell us that to understand the world we need simply to understand “the dynamics of cause and effect”; but the simple dynamics of cause and effect fail quite miserably when it comes to explaining “Natural Evolution and Emergent Complexity”...

However, understanding the “meta-concept” of evolution is going to turn out to be much more important than anyone might previously have thought.  Because although science may have spent the last 400 years honing its understanding of The Linear Dynamics of Cause and Effect, the reality of life in the 21st century is that the really interesting stuff will increasingly result from the “Universal Creative Dynamics” of “Adaptive Integration and Emergent Complexity”…Matrix of Universal Dynamics - Copyright - Kieran D. Kelly