Saturday, March 10, 2007

Kevin Kelly: Out Of Control

The marvel of "hive mind" is that no one is in control, and yet an invisible hand governs, a hand that emerges from very dumb members. The marvel is that more is different. To generate a colony organism from a bug organism requires only that the bugs be multiplied so that there are many, many more of them, and that they communicate with each other. At some stage the level of complexity reaches a point where new categories like "colony" can emerge from simple categories of "bug." Colony is inherent in bugness, implies this marvel. Thus, there is nothing to be found in a beehive that is not submerged in a bee. And yet you can search a bee forever with cyclotron and fluoroscope, and you will never find the hive.

This is a universal law of vivisystems: higher-level complexities cannot be inferred by lower-level existences. Nothing -- no computer or mind, no means of mathematics, physics, or philosophy -- can unravel the emergent pattern dissolved in the parts without actually playing it out. Only playing out a hive will tell you if a colony is immixed in a bee. The theorists put it this way: running a system is the quickest, shortest, and only sure method to discern emergent structures latent in it. There are no shortcuts to actually "expressing" a convoluted, nonlinear equation to discover what it does. Too much of its behavior is packed away.

That leads us to wonder what else is packed into the bee that we haven't seen yet? Or what else is packed into the hive that has not yet appeared because there haven't been enough honeybee hives in a row all at once? And for that matter, what is contained in a human that will not emerge until we are all interconnected by wires and politics? The most unexpected things will brew in this bionic hivelike supermind.

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