The origin of emergent properties

Discussion in 'General Philosophy' started by Magical Realist, Nov 5, 2012.

  1. Magical Realist Valued Senior Member

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    How do new emergent properties arise in a universe where everything is made up of the same basic components?
     
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  3. wlminex Banned Banned

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    IMPO, the Casimir Effect, perhaps is one example of an emergent "process" that taps subquantum energetic sources (components?) to create emergent and observable properties . . .
     
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  5. arfa brane call me arf Valued Senior Member

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    What does "new" mean in the context of emergent properties?

    Do you consider life an emergent property of the universe, and then is that "new"?
    Of course, you realise that observers decide that "emergent properties" exist in the first place, so in second place we have a universe where life evolved.
    Or maybe the other way around, the universe is first, we're in second place. If so, who or what decided which came first? Was it us?
     
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  7. Sarkus Hippomonstrosesquippedalo phobe Valued Senior Member

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    I think the key is that there are indeed components - or at least at the most fundamental level there is variability - so even if a single fundamental substance, there is a level of variability in one (or more) properties... e.g. strings and their vibration (as one theory might suggest).
    This variability at the most fundamental level seems to allow for combinations - via the laws that the universe operate under - and these combinations can become increasingly complex and behave and have properties not found in the more fundamental levels.
     
  8. C C Consular Corps - "the backbone of diplomacy" Valued Senior Member

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    Probably not much unlike how countless songs / instrumentals are composed from a limited number of notes and rhythmic elements.

    But really, just how "new" are these higher-level novelties in terms of escaping the broadest, already posited categories? Unfamiliar complex organizations and dynamics are still just more spatially arranged structures and motion occurrences. An interpretation of "radical new properties" arising is often the result of a human POV / interpretation rather than a change in basic components, characteristics, and forces at a more primal substrate. For instance, a dense river of people running through the streets during a city-wide marathon might look as if they had changed into a flowing liquid from a very elevated skycam view, but they're still discrete and unaltered at their own substrate. A black hole developing from a collapsed star with sufficient mass is a pretty remarkable item to emerge from macroscopic circumstances, but was nevertheless predicted or fell out of existing gravity-related quantitative descriptions before there was ever evidence for such entities (i.e., it followed from how the elemental world hangs together).

    Conscious or qualitative experience seems to be the only candidate that emerges late in the universe which "escapes" from classification as yet another interpersonally accessible organization and active system constituted of pre-available components located in space; but still tethered to a case of the latter by either what it is correlated to or what causes it. Or, even the claim that manifestations (visual, auditory, etc) are identical to brain states introduces the truly extreme novelty of physical systems brutely acquiring private appearances that they otherwise would not possess, or acquiring any appearance at all for that matter. Since "what it is like" to extrospectively be neural tissue / electrochemical relations (which includes probe / scan measurements) is dependent upon the former arising -- the "outer" is part of the "inner's" exhibited content. ("Brute" = lacking deeper explanation [it just happens] or does not follow [at least in understanding] from the known or currently allowed properties of biochemical / electrical entities and their connections / relations.)
     
  9. Magical Realist Valued Senior Member

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    Is there enough variability at the bottom, say in the 6 kinds of quarks or in the frequencies of the strings, to result in what appear to be irreducible and novel properties at the macro level? I think some of this is addressed in complexity theory, where the complexity of the system itself imposes a creative influence on the components that they don't discretely possess. Take the property of water wherein it becomes less dense as it freezes. Is there anything in the H20 molecule or some variability within its structure that could explain how such a trait could emerge? Or is the trait more a result of a higher level structure or complexity of macromolecular lattices?
     
  10. Magical Realist Valued Senior Member

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    Crucial point about the "blurring together" effect of our human pov on fine structure. I stand two feet in front of Seurat's famous pointilistic painting and see little more that randomly related colored dots. I stand back from it and suddenly the picture snaps into place. Is the picture emergent from the nature of the dots? Tosome exent yes, but not entirely. The blue dots pass up their blue into the homogenous perception of "sky". But there is also at play a dynamic interaction of macrostructures in the painting itself--the sharp contrast of dark patches with light patches. The gestaltic coherence of various geometrical shapes formed from these contrasts. So at least some of the origin of the emergent properties here seems to arise out of the macrostructure iself, which cannot really be reduced to the given properties of the discrete dots. Point here being, the limitations of a diminished perspective seem to at time free us up for a more macrolevel perception of forms and substances. A really striking case of this is how certain variations in the merest wavelength of light can result in the perception of color. Who could possibly have inferred the emergence of color from these slight variations in wavelength? This then gets into qualia I guess and where THEY come from.
     
  11. Yazata Valued Senior Member

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    It might help to define the phrase 'emergent property'. This is from the 'Oxford Guide to Philosophy' (p.239):

    A property of a complex system is said to be 'emergent' just in case, although it arises out of the properties and relations characterizing its simpler constituents, it is neither predictable from, nor reducible to, these lower-level characteristics. According to emergentism, which flourished during the first half of this century, many properties of wholes are emergent in that sense, and hence 'genuinely novel' features of the world in which the wholes have evolved.

    I think that idea is plausible. We see what appear to be examples of it everywhere. A television exhibits behaviors that would seem to be unpredictable from individually examining the properties of all of the atoms that make up the system. A triangle has a whole set of geometrical properties that aren't present in lines or space in isolation. Biological life would seem to be an example, as would intelligence.

    I'm not really sure how to explain or account for it.

    But it seems clear that we can't describe all of the properties of electronic components one by one, summing them together with 'and', and hope to arrive at a description of the properties of a completed electronic device. There's lots of vital information that's still missing from that summation, such as the circuit diagram of the completed device. In other words, it appears that how the parts of a whole are arranged to form a whole, and how the parts interact once they are so combined, might arguably have new properties of its own that are unpredictable by those who are only familiar with the properties of the individual parts.
     
  12. Rav Valued Senior Member

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    But isn't this just a matter of limited perception and mental processing power? If a person was intimately familiar with atomic structure and particle interaction, and was able to hold every property and variable in their mind simultaneously for analysis, why wouldn't they be able to accurately predict the behaviour of the larger system as a whole?
     
  13. C C Consular Corps - "the backbone of diplomacy" Valued Senior Member

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    Christof Koch (neuroscientist; neurophilosopher): "I argue that qualia symbolize, in a compact manner, the vast amount of explicit and implicit information that is contained in the penumbra of the winning coalition sufficient for one particular conscious percept."

    What Koch is grazing here is the engendering of non-linguistic concepts: How do synoptic symbols arise for representing a complexity of events and relations that would otherwise be too bulky for transmission? Imagine what the idea of "galaxy", as either term or picture, would involve if everything subsumed under it literally had to be relayed along with it; or if the entire specifics of the scheme underlying a "computer" (not just the artificial diagram and structure but the microphysical substrate allowing the components to work) could not be semantically compressed as the label of "computer".

    It's easy enough to trace or uncover how humans invent and utilize words as such symbols, but how natural, compact, manifesting "signs" like qualia would emerge from certain convergences of scattered electromagnetic-enabled activities seems to have the consequence of tumbling into panexperientialism. That is, there's nothing THAT special about the brain; it is composed of conventional matter / forces. So that attributing the origin of a "qualitative summary of preceding neural processes" to ultra-rare instances of dynamic electrical configurations that occur nowhere else (ever!) but this biological organ borders on its own brand of ridiculousness.

    In turn, these naturally arising synoptic symbols (qualia, etc) would explain how the "actual" way the world works becomes obscured in pre-scientific cultures, or how the supposed "real world" became hidden in the deceptive nature of these non-artificial concepts (their lack of transparency in regard to what they represent, at least when minus any effort to penetrate to what they summarize / generalize).
     
  14. Yazata Valued Senior Member

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    (The theists say that God knows everything.)

    But I persist in my suspicion that when we are talking about any complex structure composed of parts, we can't fully describe all the properties of the whole by describing each part in turn, summed together with repeated use of the word 'and'. At the very least, we would have to know how the parts are arranged, and that introduces something new, some knowledge about the whole, in addition to the properties of the parts themselves.

    That reminds me of philosophy's old intrinsic/extrinsic relation problem.

    http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/intrinsic-extrinsic/

    We have some of our properties purely in virtue of the way we are. (Our mass is an example.) We have other properties in virtue of the way we interact with the world. (Our weight is an example.) The former are the intrinsic properties, the latter are the extrinsic properties.

    So... one of the questions in this thread (certainly not the only one) might be whether it's possible to derive extrinsic properties purely from intrinsic properties, without introducing more global information about the rest of the world (the whole).
     
  15. Magical Realist Valued Senior Member

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    I wonder if there isn't a certain necessary arbitrariness to these synoptic symbols, qualia, or codes whose primary function seem only to trigger certain intraneural processes. That for the purposes of survival it was only necessary for us behave in a certain way in response to these variations of light wavelength created by material surfaces. That red could've been blue as far as getting us to react in certain way is concerned. That would certainly explain WHY qualia seem to have no causal connection to the information they represent. Because the qualia are only genetically passed down programs for us to respond in certain typical and advantageous ways--ie. distinguishing a red berry and black one being at one time the difference between nutrition and self-poisoning.
     
  16. Magical Realist Valued Senior Member

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  17. C C Consular Corps - "the backbone of diplomacy" Valued Senior Member

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    Even in terms of arbitrary variability from person to person, a fragment of the scientific community now seems to be offering support for those mutable or inverted qualia hypotheses of philosophy:

    http://www.lifeslittlemysteries.com/2612-color-red-blue-scientists.html

    "One person's red might be another person's blue and vice versa, the scientists [Carroll and Neitz] said. You might really see blood as the color someone else calls blue, and the sky as someone else's red. ... An experiment with monkeys suggests color perception emerges in our brains in response to our experiences of the outside world, but that this process ensues according to no predetermined pattern."
     
  18. universaldistress Extravagantly Introverted ... Valued Senior Member

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    As Rav pointed out, the processing power of the assessor is of paramount importance. The nature of the intrinsic is enough to corrollarise of the outcome system. The 3D positioning and interactions of any given components can be part of a multiple-simulation-ary process where all possible interactions of components are ascertained within mind or computer etc. (all possible extrinsic properties explored and narrowed down to the likely and functional (those that bestow talents/capabilities)). The only limit is the mind carrying out the questing . . ?
     
    Last edited: Nov 8, 2012
  19. Rav Valued Senior Member

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    The aspect of all this that I'm most interested in is the question of whether or not any new properties emerge that can't be explained by properly considering the nature of the constituent elements. Unless I've misinterpreted you, this is a somewhat different question from the one you've posed. I hope you'll permit me to concentrate on it instead, using your comments as a springboard.

    It's true that you can't find the essence of a Lego house in just a single block. But is a Lego house more than the sum of it's parts? Where that sum includes not just the number of blocks, but the type and perhaps most critically the manner in which they are arranged, I don't think so. I would say that it is exactly the sum of it's parts. As CC pointed out earlier, I think that the idea that such things have new properties is a product of the human mind. At the very least, I don't think it is any more substantive than the same constituent elements sitting in a random pile. When constructing a Lego house, you don't need Lego + pixie dust, just Lego.

    Of course Lego isn't really a good analogy because you can't create dynamic interactive systems that give rise to emergent behaviours. But I think the principle is always the same. Subatomic particles have properties that govern how they interact with other particles. In accordance with these properties, some of these particles group together and collectively exhibit behaviour that individual particles don't. But just like a Lego house, an atom is no more substantive than the sum of the components it contains.

    But you can't just invoke the human mind to explain away the apparent emergent properties of a Lego house without accounting for the emergence of the mind itself, can you? Surely the existence of the seemingly unphysical dimension of conscious experience serves as an example of an emergent phenomenon that is greater than the sum of the components of which the substrate of the brain consists? Well, certainly such a thing has defied quantification in those terms for a long time, but the problem only seems insurmountable if one restricts the scope of physicality merely to what it is currently understood to be*. Allow for the possibility that matter has the necessary properties, and in principle it's just another example of the right Lego blocks, put together in the right way, manifesting emergent properties, but properties that emerge from exactly the sum of the constituent components.

    *History has shown us, in no uncertain terms, that the true scope of physicality always turns out to be greater than we think it is.
     
  20. Pete It's not rocket surgery Registered Senior Member

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    Emergent properties arise because of relationships, which are potentially complex properties of a pair or group of things.
    Relationships themselves can have properties (eg the displacement between two things has the property of length).
    Properties can have relationships (eg relating mass to volume gives density)
    Relationships can have relationships (eg the relationship between two different displacements gives us the concept of direction).
     
  21. Pete It's not rocket surgery Registered Senior Member

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    I think that the answer is yes, there are emergent properties that can't be explained by examining the constituent elements in isolation.

    But, I suspect that all emergent properties can be potentially explained by examining the consituent elements and the relationships between them.

    Which is essentially what Yazata said:
     
    Last edited: Nov 12, 2012
  22. Rav Valued Senior Member

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    Sure. I pointed that out myself. But it's not what the bulk of my post was about.
     
  23. universaldistress Extravagantly Introverted ... Valued Senior Member

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    But isn't the mind/computer capable of taking constituent elements and placing them into an imagined construct, and from this the "emergent properties" be explained? If one has ultimate knowledge of the physical world, understands all the constituents and their physical properties, isn't a mind/computer able to place them into plausible simulations that could find all possible emergent properties?

    Can we find an example of a truly emergent property that we are 100% sure is not supported/caused by the physical properties of its constituent parts?

    The mind is capable of choices, but the mind is a physical being and restricted, no matter how complexly, by its physical being (I suspect). Or are we talking about soul . . .
     

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