Monday, April 29, 2013

Lessons learned from a Chaos and Comlexity seminar.

For ~ 15 years I have participated in the weekly Chaos and Complexity seminar at the Univ. of Wisconsin organized by physics professor Clint Sprott, and have given ~5 lectures to the group during that period.  I want to pass on this link to Sprott's summary comments  presented at the final meeting of the spring term on 5/7/2013. Here I would like to pass on his closing comments:
We have heard many speakers over the years make dire predictions, especially regarding the climate and the ecology, but I am more optimistic than most about our future for five fundamental reasons: 1) Negative feedback is at least as common as positive feedback, and it tends to regulate many processes. 2) Most nonlinearities are beneficial, putting inherent limits on the growth of deleterious effects. 3) Complex dynamical systems self-organize to optimize their fitness. 4) Chaotic systems are sensitive to small changes, making prediction difficult, but facilitating control. 5) Our knowledge and technology will continue to advance, meaning that new solutions to problems will be developed as they are needed or, more likely, soon thereafter in response to the need. Whether it's fusion reactors, geoengineering, vastly improved batteries, halting of the aging process, DNA cloning to restore extinct species, or some other game changer, things may get worse before they get better, but humans are enormously ingenious and adaptable and will rise to the challenge of averting disaster.
This is not a prediction that our problems will vanish or an argument for ignoring them. On the contrary, our choices and actions are the means by which society will reorganize to become even better in the decades to follow, albeit surely not a Utopia.

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