Complexity, Creativity & Randomness

Random Reality § SEEDMAGAZINE.COM.

Marcus Chown discusses the information content of the Universe – what has pumped “information” into what began as a very simple world? Chown points out that ‘random’ sequences require more information to describe than ‘ordered’ & ‘repetitive’ sequences – think of vortices in swirling smoke versus the cubic perfection of salt-crystals. Thus ‘randomness’, at the quantum level, is the ultimate ‘source’ of information.

Doesn’t seem quite right does it? Perhaps the problem is that ‘random’ itself isn’t very well defined when we use the world. Often it’s synonymous with ‘unordered’, ‘capricious’ and ‘surprising’ – my son says “How random was that?” when struck by some surprising behaviour or event amongst his friends and in the news media.

‘Ordered’ & ‘perfect’ are also ‘repetitive’ and ‘predictable’ – in today’s world such things have a negative valuation amongst the young. Boredom – or the struggle against it – looms largest for them, whereas in previous ages ‘predictability’ – like a regular meal, bed, job and clothing – was something keenly desired and sought for.

‘Lawful’ & ‘predictable’ can co-exist in the quantum world with ‘random’ and ‘surprising’ – just because a certain quantum event is probabilistic, and thus intrinsically ‘surprising’, doesn’t mean ‘anything goes’. The evolution of the wave-equation of quantum systems is utterly deterministic, but absolutely precise pin-point prediction isn’t what it gives us.

Of course none of that explains where the ‘randomness’ comes from. I suggest we can replace it with ‘novelty’ or ‘creativity’ and get a more meaningful sense of what is meant. There is ‘novelty’ inherent in the World’s events, an irreducible ‘creativity’ that can’t be shaken out of the system of things, as much as some physicists would like it to. But I agree with Stuart Kaufmann – the world’s evolution is ‘open’ to novelty and creativity, and that’s a good thing, even a divine thing.

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